America Has Lost Its Way
The source of health is biodiversity. The more participants in any ecosystem, the healthier it is. And this extends past organic gardens and farms to society at large. Inclusivity is healthy. Community is healthy. Compassion is healthy.
Now more than 50,000 Central American women and children have come to us for shelter when their home countries turned into gang-ruled narcostates, where mothers have been told that the gangs are coming for their teenage girls so they can be “girlfriends” for the gang members, when bullets threaten the lives of even very young children.
These people have been met with shrieking, hate-filled Americans who want them deported back to their home countries. We have truly lost our way. Who was it who said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me”? Is it really going to destroy America to give 52,000 refugees in desperate straits a safe haven? I heard some of the protestors say these poor, frightened children and their mothers are bringing lice, scabies, disease, and crime to our land. Ew—cooties! What is this? Middle school? The real crime is the callous, inhuman hearts of the protestors.
The protestors call them “illegals.” The subtext is that they have brown skins and speak Spanish. And it’s the most sickening display of heartlessness I have witnessed in this country since the days of Jim Crow. These are people, people—our brothers and sisters. We should welcome them, adjudicate their cases, deport them if there’s no danger to them if they go back, but give them refugee status if they would return into harm’s way. I mean, put yourself in their shoes.
But that’s not the only instance of how this once-proud country is showing its mean-spirited and callous heart. Over 100,000 impoverished people in Detroit have had their water turned off. And American cities have sought to eradicate homelessness not so much by giving people shelter, but by making it illegal to be homeless. Citywide bans on things that homeless people need to do to survive are on the rise, according to a new report by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. Key findings: camping bans are up 60 percent since 2011, begging bans up 25 percent, loitering bans up 35 percent, sitting bans up 43 percent, and vehicle-sleeping bans are up 119 percent, according to The Huffington Post.
It looks like our endless wars and violence have curdled our spirit. Once we were a generous, open-hearted, optimistic people. Now we have lost our way. I remember on the night when Barack Obama was elected, he stood on a platform in Chicago and proclaimed, “Change has come to America.” How horribly sad that the change is in the wrong direction.
WHO WOULDA THUNK? ORGANIC FOOD IS PURE AND NUTRITIOUS
From The New York Times, July 12, 2014:
“Adding fuel to the debates over the merits of organic food, a comprehensive review of earlier studies found substantially higher levels of antioxidants and lower levels of pesticides in organic fruits, vegetables, and grains compared with conventionally grown produce.
“’It shows very clearly how you grow your food has an impact,’ said Carlo Leifert, a professor of ecological agriculture at Newcastle University in England, who led the research. ‘If you buy organic fruits and vegetables, you can be sure you have, on average, a higher amount of antioxidants at the same calorie level.’”
My take on this? This is news? Haven’t we known this for 60 years?
ATTENTION YOUNG FARMERS
Here are two websites you should be aware of. 1) http://agrilicious.org/
2) www.thegreenhorns.net. If you are a small-scale organic farmer or want to be one, you’ll find a lot of great info and friends galore on these sites.
CONGRESS THINKS IF YOU’RE ANTI-GMO, YOU’RE AN IGNORAMUS
Mike McAuliff, writing in The Huffington Post, makes this report:
WASHINGTON – It’s pretty rare that members of Congress and all the witnesses they’ve called will declare out loud that Americans are just too ignorant to be given a piece of information, but that was a key conclusion of a session of the House Agriculture Committee this week.
The issue was genetically modified organisms, or GMOs as they’re often known in the food industry. And members of the subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture (which, by the way, is the subcommittee in charge of promoting organic farming), as well as four experts, agreed that the genetic engineering of food crops has been a thorough success responsible for feeding the hungry, improving nutrition, and reducing the use of pesticides. (All nonsense, by the way.)
People who oppose GMOs or want them labeled so that consumers can know what they’re eating are alarmists who thrive on fear and ignorance, the panel agreed. Labeling GMO foods would only stoke those fears, and harm a beneficial thing, so it should not be allowed, the lawmakers and witnesses agreed.
“I really worry that labeling does more harm than good, that it leads too many people away from it and it diminishes the market for GMOs that are the solution to a lot of the problems we face,” said David Just, a professor at Cornell University and co-director of the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs. (You might want to give Professor Just your feelings on the idea that GMOs are “the solution to a lot of the problems we face.” He might enjoy hearing from some of the ignorant people who oppose GMOs. His email is email@example.com).
Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) agreed with Just and asked him, “What is the biggest drawback? Is it the ignorance of what the product is, just from a lack of education?”
“It is ignorance of the product, and it’s a general skepticism of anything they eat that is too processed or treated in some way that they don’t quite understand,” Just said. “Even using long scientific-sounding words makes it sound like it’s been grown in a test tube, and people get scared of it,” Just added.
There are terms for Professor Just’s casual put-down of anti-GMO people as uneducated, ignorant, frightened luddites who don’t understand the value of genetic engineering and are confused by long, scientific-sounding words. I think the terms are condescension, superciliousness, arrogance, and conceit. God knows that people who are skeptical “of anything they eat that is too processed or treated in some way that they don’t quite understand” need a good education by the learned professors at Cornell. They’ll set us straight for sure. Well, I’ll say this: Professor Just wins my 2014 award for arrogant moron of the year.
Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) agreed with another witness, Calestous Juma, an international development professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School, that political leaders had been cowed by misinformed populaces into bending on GMOs, especially in the European Union, where Juma said hundreds of millions of euros have been spent on studies that have found GMOs safe. (He didn’t mention the studies that found GMOs to be harmful.)
“It’s obvious that while the science in the EU is incontrovertible about the health and safety benefits of genetically modified hybrid crops, that because of politics, people are afraid to lead, and inform consumers,” Schrader said. (Rep. Schrader shows his own ignorance here. The science is far from incontrovertible—in fact, one meta study that looked at hundreds of studies of the effect of GMO crops on biological systems in animals concluded that Roundup, the herbicide used in conjunction with GMO corn and soybeans, “may be the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment.”)
Also, entirely missing from the hearing was any suggestion that there are real concerns about the impact of genetically engineered food, such as the growth of pesticide-resistant “super weeds,” over-reliance on single-crop factory farming, decreased biodiversity, evidence of inflammatory disease in animals fed GMO feed, and a lack of a consistent approval process.
The issue may soon gain fresh relevance on Capitol Hill, where a bill backed by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) prevents states from requiring GMO labeling. It could get marked up as early as September. The bill also would allow genetically engineered food to be labeled “100 percent natural.”
The idea of the bill brought Ben and Jerry’s co-founder Jerry Greenfield to Capitol Hill to push back, along with Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who backs labeling.
Greenfield told HuffPost that labeling is a simple, inexpensive matter of letting people know what’s in their food, and letting them decide what they want to support and eat.
The upshot is that the “experts” and members of Congress concluded that Americans should be denied GMO labels because they are too ignorant.
TIME FOR A NEW ‘DIRTY DOZEN – PLUS’ LIST
The Environmental Working Group’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ plus annual list of most contaminated fruits and vegetables is out. Print it out and push-pin it to your kitchen bulletin board.
CORNELL UNIVERSITY: PROPAGANDIST FOR BIG FOOD
The following information is from Bettina Elias Siegel, a former lawyer, freelance writer, and school food advocate. She now blogs about children and food policy at The Lunch Tray. She writes:
A new study by Dr. Brian Wansink, a professor of consumer behavior at Cornell University and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, seeks to determine why people — mothers in particular — develop so-called “food fears” about certain ingredients (such as sodium, fat, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, MSG and lean finely textured beef otherwise known as pink slime) and what the food industry and government can do about it.
The study’s ultimate conclusion, that “food fears” can be addressed by “providing information regarding an ingredient’s history or the other products in which it is used,” is hardly controversial. But some other things about this study raise red flags, starting with the fact that what might be entirely legitimate concerns about particular ingredients are uniformly (and patronizingly) characterized as “food fears,” and that the study was funded in part by the Corn Refiners Association, the trade group representing manufacturers of the very “food fear” examined; i.e., concerns about high-fructose corn syrup.
But of greatest concern is how the study’s findings have been mischaracterized not just in the media but in Dr. Wansink’s own public statements about his data. Here’s a sampling.
From the New York Daily News
Fear of food containing controversial ingredients may be fueled by Facebook. A new study suggests that people who avoid additives like MSG, sodium benzoate, and pink slime get most of their information from what they see on social media sites and elsewhere on the Internet.
“Soy causes cancer.” “Gluten may lead to autism.” “There’s yoga mat material in your sandwich!” “Sugar feeds cancer!” Are your Facebook friends making you afraid to eat? New research in the journal Food Quality and Preference identifies who fears food the most –and it’s probably those of us most addicted to social media.
Despite a troubling lack of scientific support, Wansink seems intent on using his study to paint an unflattering portrait of those who obtain information about food ingredients online. These moms are militant “haters” of soda, candy, and chips. They’re so uninformed that they’re misled by inaccurate online sources, yet they share this false information on social media out of a need for approval.
Wansink is equally critical of the Internet itself, going so far as to say in his promotional video that “Reading about food ingredients on the Web is one of the worst things you can do if you want the facts…”
Why does Wansink seem so intent on demonizing the Internet and social media and those who rely on those outlets for food information? In the end, who benefits from these characterizations?
To the great consternation of the processed food industry, it is becoming ever more apparent that the Internet and social media are extremely powerful tools for advancing various food-related causes, from aiding grassroots activism to spreading viral videos promoting sustainable agriculture or decrying junk food, to making possible online petitions like the one I (Bettina) started in 2012, which garnered a quarter of a million signatures and within nine days led the USDA to change one of its school food policies. Indeed, since my petition victory, online petitions have become a favored tool among some food activists.
The junk food industry would no doubt prefer a return to the days when it alone controlled the narrative about food ingredients and food processing. Now, though, for better or worse, anyone with a computer can write a blog post, post a video or start an online petition about a food-related issue. If I ran a food company these days, I’m sure I would be lying awake at night, worried that the next Internet food campaign could have one of my own products in its sights.
So what better way to combat this growing threat than to delegitimize both the message (concerns about ingredients are “crazy food fears”) and the medium (seeking food information on the Internet is “the worst thing you can do”). It doesn’t hurt to also create an unflattering cartoon of the message’s recipient, the hapless, freaked out “mom.”
But unfortunately for food companies, the Internet genie is out of the bottle and there’s no turning back. So instead of commissioning studies that demonize the Internet, social media and/or “moms with food fears,” food companies should pocket that money and instead take to heart the one simple lesson to be gleaned from the many recent successes in Internet food activism: Consumers want transparency.
If a food corporation is currently engaging in any practice or using any ingredient which would not survive public opinion should it ever come to light, that company is taking a serious public relations risk in this new Internet age. And that, in my view, is the real “food fear” lurking behind Wansink’s latest study.
Now this note from Jeff Cox: Thanks to Ms. Siegel for this enlightening look at the Cornell study. What’s really troubling to me is that Cornell, a highly respected university, jeopardizes that respect when it supports so-called “science” whose obvious intent is to promote the propaganda of Big Food. People have food fears for a legitimate reason. It’s not the researcher’s job to take industry’s side against the public’s legitimate concerns. A more useful route might be to investigate the public’s food fears to see why they exist, in a fair, impartial, and transparent manner. Perhaps Mr. Wansink could have looked at the mounting evidence for the disastrous human health effects of glyphosate herbicide used in the production of GMO crops, rather than impugning the intelligence and education of the people who are reporting these studies.
PRENATAL PESTICIDE EXPOSURE LEADS TO LOWER IQ IN KIDS
Children born to a group of 265 mothers living in low-income, public housing were studied. By age seven, children born to mothers in the group most exposed to pesticides scored 5.5 percent lower on a common test of working memory and 2.7 percent lower in terms of IQ, compared to children born to mothers in the low-exposure group.
A study carried out by U.C. Berkeley scientists, in cooperation with the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas, measured urinary metabolites of insecticides during pregnancy, and then from children at six months of age, and periodically through age five. A variety of intelligence and learning tests were used to measure the mental abilities of 329 children at age seven. Children born to the most heavily exposed mothers had an IQ deficit of seven points, or about 7 percent, compared to the low exposure quintile.
The senior author of this study, Brenda Eskenazi, told CNN.com that the impacts on intelligence found in their study were similar in magnitude to the adverse impacts associated with high lead exposures, in the 1960s and 1970s, and were comparable to a child performing six-months behind average in a school population.
If you want to know more, here are the studies:
Rauh, V., et al., “7-Year Neurodevelopmental Scores and Prenatal Exposure to Chlorpyrifos, a Common Agricultural Insecticide,” Environmental Health Perspectives, online April 21, 2011
Bouchard, M.E., et al., “Prenatal Exposure to OP Pesticides and IQ in 7-Year Old Children,”Environmental Health Perspectives, online April 21, 2011
Engel, S.M., et al., “Prenatal Exposure to OPs, Paraoxonase 1, and Cognitive Development in Children,” Environmental Health Perspectives, online April 21, 2011
BUSH TAX CUTS GUTTED AMERICANS’ INCOMES $6.6 TRILLION
The following isn’t strictly about organic food and its production, but we are all folks who have to spend money to eat, and money seems in short supply these days.
Remember when George W. Bush took office and instituted the “Bush Tax Cuts” that were supposed to promote prosperity?
According to an analysis by Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter David Cay Johnston, formerly of The New York Times, the Bush tax cuts, touted as a harbinger of prosperity by the Republican Party, actually robbed each American taxpayer of $48,000 in pre-tax personal income during the 12 years of their existence, for a total of approximately 6.6 trillion dollars.
This is more than enough to pay for every student loan, car loan, and credit card debt in the U.S, while still leaving 2.4 trillion dollars in the pockets of Americans. It is the equivalent of an extra 11 dollars a day lost to each American taxpayer over the last 12 years.
Johnston analyzed rates of long term average personal incomes as reported by American taxpayers from 2000-2012, adjusting for inflation and population growth. In 10 of the 12 years when the Bush tax cuts were in effect, the average income shown on tax returns was lower than in 2000. In the two upside years, average income rose modestly, up $504 for 2006 and $1,744 for 2007.
Total those 12 years and the net shortfall per taxpayer comes to $48,010.
He notes that after 12 years of tax cuts, average real hourly wages are now 6 percent less than they were in 1972-1973.
Less than they were 40 years ago! Where did the money go?
Of the total national increase in income in 2012 over 2009, an astonishing one third went to just 16,000 households, almost 95 cents of each dollar went to the top 1 percent, while the bottom 90 percent lost ground.
Lest we forget.
CNN: a Mouthpiece for Big Ag and Big Food Lies
On July 3, 2014, CNN’s website featured a news story about organic food, calling organics “a scam.” The story included the usual talking points from Big Agriculture, the chemical manufacturers, and the big food processors—organic agriculture will mean starvation, there’s no benefit in organic food, organic claims are unproven—talking points that they’ve been using for many decades.
The article’s source was a report by Academics Review, which calls itself “an independent 501©(3) nonprofit organization.” Smelling a familiar rat, I looked up Academics Review and discovered that it is affiliated with the American Council on Science and Health.
Consumer advocate Ralph Nader once said of the American Council on Science and Health, “ACSH is a consumer front organization for its business backers. It has seized the language and style of the existing consumer organizations, but its real purpose, you might say, is to glove the hand that feeds it.”
And who feeds it? According to Mother Jones magazine, “ACSH donors in the second half of 2012 alone included Chevron ($18,500), Coca-Cola ($50,000), the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation ($15,000), Dr. Pepper/Snapple ($5,000), Bayer Cropscience ($30,000), Procter and Gamble ($6,000), agribusiness giant Syngenta ($22,500), 3M ($30,000), McDonald’s ($30,000), and tobacco conglomerate Altria ($25,000). Among the corporations and foundations that ACSH has pursued for financial support since July, 2012, are Pepsi, Monsanto, British American Tobacco, DowAgro, ExxonMobil Foundation, Phillip Morris International, Reynolds American, the Koch family-controlled Claude R. Lambe Foundation, the Dow-linked Gerstacker Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, and the Searle Freedom Trust.” Oh, and Mother Jones didn’t mention the Koch Foundation, but it has contributed generously in the past.
It’s not surprising that these corporations and foundations would produce propaganda against organics. They’ve been doing it for nearly half a century. They perceive organic farming and food as a threat to their bottom line—and they’re right in perceiving that threat.
What’s frustrating and infuriating is that CNN, which many people think of as an honest and trusted news organization, would put out this industry propaganda and release it to the public as news. It took me about 10 minutes at the computer to find out all about Academics Review and who’s behind it. Does CNN even have editors? What do they do—just correct spelling and punctuation? With a performance like this, CNN should be ashamed of itself. It is not practicing journalism. It is simply being a mouthpiece for Big Business’s lies.
A few years ago, the American Council on Science and Health issued a report stating that organic farming was dangerous to human health because of the use of raw manure to fertilize farm fields. This was picked up and reported in newspapers around the country with headlines like, “Organic Food Can Kill You.”
No newspaper editor, to my knowledge, bothered to check the USDA’s National Organic Program rules for using raw animal manures as fertilizer. Organic farmers not only don’t use it, but have strict rules against it. Even as far back as 1945, J.I. Rodale, the founder of the organic movement in America, in his book, “Pay Dirt,” wrote the following:
“Manure should never be used raw. If you cannot compost it, let it rot under conditions that will preserve most of the nutrients. But for superior crops, make compost of it.”
If so-called news organizations simply print boiler plate propaganda by Big Ag’s PR firms as if it is fact, it’s no wonder people are confused about the value of organic food. I wish I could look every American in the eye and say this simple sentence to them: “Organic farming is just nature’s way of doing things, given a helping hand by people who understand her.”
LET’S ALL PLAY “WHO’S THE MOLE?”
This recent story in The New York Times is attracting a lot of attention, and many in government are “shocked — shocked…”
“WASHINGTON — Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot (murdered) 17 civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007, the State Department began investigating the security contractor’s operations in Iraq. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat: ‘that he could kill’ the government’s chief investigator and ‘no one could or would do anything about it’ because they were in Iraq, according to department reports.
“An internal State Department memo, filed in August, 2007, by Jean Richter, a special agent for diplomatic security, described the hands off manner in which government officials who nominally supervised Blackwater actually deferred to it and approved invoices without question.
“Blackwater—renamed Xe and then Academi, with offshoot businesses like Total Intelligence and Terrorism Research Center–has been branching out into the field of political and social intelligence and attempting to infiltrate activist groups and trying to sell those services to Monsanto, among others.”
Hmmm. “…attempting to infiltrate activist groups and trying to sell those services to Monsanto…” Now that’s interesting. Then I read this in The Nation:
“Over the past several years, entities closely linked to the private security firm Blackwater have provided intelligence, training and security services to U.S. and foreign governments as well as several multinational corporations, including Monsanto…according to documents obtained by The Nation. One of the most incendiary details in the documents is that Blackwater, through Total Intelligence, sought to become the ‘intel arm’ of Monsanto, offering to provide operatives to infiltrate activist groups organizing against the multinational biotech firm.
“According to internal Total Intelligence communications, biotech giant Monsanto—the world’s largest supplier of genetically modified seeds—hired the firm in 2008–09. The relationship between the two companies appears to have been solidified in January, 2008, when Total Intelligence chair Cofer Black traveled to Zurich to meet with Kevin Wilson, Monsanto’s security manager for global issues.”
And Monsanto wonders why it has a bad reputation when it allies itself with murdering thugs. You’d think that Monsanto doesn’t care about the public’s safety. Oh wait…
GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD TO DIE FOR
New York City’s Upper East Side has given America many wonderful things—including the Marx Brothers and Orwasher’s Bakery, established 100 years ago on East 78th Street just east of Second Avenue in the heart of what was once a thriving German, Czech, and Hungarian enclave. And if you have been to any or all of those countries, you know that their breads are beyond delicious. In fact, a bread called Landbrot (country bread) that I had in Berlin continues to be my personal standard for how good bread can be.
Orwasher’s, now owned by bread aficionado Keith Cohen, is that kind of bakery. He makes his breads by hand, without compromise, and uses organic ingredients. One whiff of the heavenly bakery’s fresh products will convince you that Orwasher’s bread is worth the trip to the bakery.
But what if East 78th Street is far from where you live? How can you enjoy its bread? The answer is to get a copy of a truly great book, “Artisan Bread—100 Years of Techniques and Recipes,” by Keith Cohen himself. Century-old recipes from Orwasher’s like kosher rye and challahs, but also crusty loaves of all kinds, are adapted specifically to facilitate home baking. There are techniques for making bread from artisan starters, like wine and beer yeasts and indigenous starters. This means you can bake Orwasher’s-type breads at home. The book is filled with photos showing you exactly what to do and photos of what the process looks like at every stage.
It’s available on Amazon, of course, but if you’d like to support your local bookstore, , the ISBN # is 978-1-93799-442-6. It costs $30.
SCIENTISTS ORDERED TO RENOUNCE THEIR SCIENTIFIC CONCLUSIONS
As those who read this blog know, I’m a firm believer that biodiversity is the nature of good health. The more species in the ecosystem, the healthier it is. Especially when the top predators are protected and encouraged. There is no predator more “top” than the wolverine—or any animal much smarter. So the following article from the Center for Biological Diversity at Ecowatch is deeply disturbing.
“According to a leaked memo obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity, scientists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been ordered to reverse their own conclusions and withdraw last year’s proposal to protect American wolverines under the Endangered Species Act.
“Fewer than 300 wolverines remain in the lower 48 states, and global warming over the next 75 years is predicted to wipe out 63 percent of the snowy habitat they need to survive, government scientists have said. In fact changes due to climate warming are ‘threatening the species with extinction,’ the Fish and Wildlife Service said in last year’s announcement of its protection proposal.
“Now the memo—signed by Noreen Walsh, director of the Rocky Mountain Region of the Fish and Wildlife Service—tells federal scientists to set aside those conclusions, even though there has been no new science casting doubt on those findings.
“’The Obama Administration’s own scientists have said for years that global warming is pushing wolverines toward extinction, and now those conclusions are being cast aside for political convenience,’ said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is a bizarre and disturbing turn, especially for an administration that’s vowed to let science rule the day when it comes to decisions about the survival of our most endangered wildlife.
“Fish and Wildlife Service scientists proposed Endangered Species Act protection for the wolverine in February, 2013. Subsequently state officials in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming raised questions about the degree to which wolverines are dependent on persistent snow and about the degree to which warming will impact their habitat. In response, Fish and Wildlife convened a panel of scientists to review the science behind the proposal, resulting in a report in which ‘nine out of nine panelists expressed pessimism for the long-term (roughly end-of-century) future of wolverines in the contiguous U.S. because of the effects of climate change on habitat.’
“Based on the conclusions of the panel, scientists from the Montana field office of the Fish and Wildlife Service recommended that protection be finalized, but, as shown in the leaked memo, were overruled by agency bureaucrats.
“’The decision to overrule agency scientists and deny protection to the wolverine is deeply disappointing and shows that political interference in what should be a scientific decision continues to be a problem under the Obama Administration, just as it was under George W. Bush,’ said Greenwald. ‘Wolverines and the winter habitats they depend on are severely threatened by our warming world. Only serious action to reduce fossil fuels can save the wolverine, tens of thousands of other species, and our very way of life.’”
TAKING SEEDS OUT OF THE HANDS OF MONSANTO
The social and environmental activist organization Avaaz reports that just 10 agro-chemical firms own 73 percent of the commercial seed market, and 93 percent of seed varieties are no longer widely planted, if at all. In the U.S. alone, 85 percent of apple varieties have disappeared.
“Farmers are resisting,” Avaaz says, “by saving seeds in banks across the world. Now they have devised a revolutionary project–the first ever, nonprofit ‘eBay of seed’ where any farmer, anywhere, can source a wide variety of seeds cheaper than from the chemical companies. This global online store could re-flood the market with all kinds of seeds and slowly break the monopoly that is putting our food future at risk!
“For thousands of years, agriculture was driven by farmers selecting, replanting, and breeding seed varieties. Then the agro-chemical companies persuaded our governments to promote a corporate system of single crop farms. Companies promise farmers higher yields and bigger earnings, and lure them into multi-year contracts with expensive GMO seeds and pesticides. Then they use patent laws to strong-arm farmers to abandon their traditional practices of seed saving and innovation.
“There isn’t clear evidence this has improved farmers incomes, but it has driven small independent farmers out of business and into becoming corporate seed slaves.
“And the dire consequences go way beyond the farmers. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, more than three-quarters of the genetic diversity of our crops has been lost due to seed consolidation and industrial practices. This matters because when we cover large swaths of land with just one variety, it is wholly vulnerable to a disease of that variety; a field of diverse varieties would not be totally devastated by that disease. Without seed diversity to confront changing environmental conditions our global food security is at risk.
“But this crisis isn’t insurmountable. The takeover is only decades old, farmers have saved seed everywhere, and if supported widely, this online seed market could help. Here’s how:
“By directly supporting seed-saving initiatives in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
“By creating a world class website for the online store that connects farming communities everywhere, allowing them to legally sell seeds and share best practices globally.
“By helping fund legal defense of this non-profit seed market from legal attacks by Monsanto and others.
“By marketing and advertising the exchange so that farmers all over the world join up.”
Contact Avaaz at the following URL if you’d like to contribute or help.
HILLARY CLINTON’S TIES TO MONSANTO
According to the Organic Consumers Association, Hillary Clinton spoke at a recent Biotech conference where she said that the GMO industry simply needs to put a positive spin on the science behind genetic engineering to relieve the public’s anxieties about the practice. Then that pesky public will stop clamoring for GMOs in food to be labeled. Polls show that 93 percent of the public wants GMOs to be labeled. I don’t know about you, but her support for Monsanto where she had once sold her lawyerly skills, for the Biotech industry, and for GMOs, is a deal breaker. She just lost my vote.
Oh Elizabeth? Elizabeth Warren? Where are you?
SPEAKING OF MONSANTO…
It has come to light that the U.S. government is withholding $277 million in aid money from El Salvador in order to pressure it to accept Monsanto’s GM seeds, according to Sustainable Pulse, a worldwide anti-GMO organization, which published the following:
The President of the El Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technologies (CESTA), Ricardo Navarro, has demanded that the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, Mari Carmen Aponte, stop pressuring the government of El Salvador to buy Monsanto’s GM seeds rather than non-GMO seeds from domestic suppliers.
“I would like to tell the U.S. Ambassador to stop pressuring the Government (of El Salvador) to buy ‘improved’ GM seeds,” said Navarro, which is only of benefit to U.S. multinationals and is to the detriment of local seed production, Verdad Digital recently reported.
The U.S. has been pushing the El Salvadoran Government to sign the second Millennium Challenge Compact. One of the main conditions on the agreement is allegedly for the purchasing of GM seeds from Monsanto.
At the end of 2013 it was announced that without ‘specific’ economic and environmental policy reforms, the U.S. government would not provide El Salvador with $277 million in aid money through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).
It is now clear that by ‘specific reforms’ the MCC means reforms that allow GM crops and their associated pesticides to be forced on El Salvador’s Government and citizens.
Is it a coincidence that the MCC delayed its initial agreed aid payments following the announcement by the El Salvador Government that they were banning the use of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide and 52 other dangerous chemicals in September, 2013?
Sales of glyphosate, the active killing agent in Roundup, are the main money earner for the Biotech industry worldwide and the chemical is also the base of the whole system that allows GM Crops to be grown. It is also a potent endocrine disruptor that causes havoc with the hormonal system that instructs the human embryo and fetus how to grow.
The El Salvadoran government’s decision came amidst a mysterious kidney disease that is killing thousands of the region’s agricultural laborers. Central America’s health ministries signed a declaration in March, 2013, citing the ailment as a top public health priority and committing to a series of steps to combat its reach, the Center of Public Integrity has revealed.
Over the last two years, the Center for Public Integrity has examined how a rare type of chronic kidney disease (CKDu) is killing thousands of agricultural workers along Central America’s Pacific Coast, as well as in Sri Lanka and India. Scientists have yet to definitively uncover the cause of the malady, although emerging evidence points to toxic heavy metals contained in hard water or pesticides as a potential culprit.
Sri Lankan scientist, Dr. Jayasumana, recently released a study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health that proposes a link between Roundup and CKDu. Here’s the link to the story:
“There is a harmful corporation on the planet called Monsanto…it is truly disturbing that the U.S. is trying to promote them…” concluded Navarro, who hopes that the El Salvadoran Legislative Assembly does not accept any manipulation by the U.S.
Monsanto reminds me of Bogart’s private eye in The Maltese Falcon who tells Peter Lorre, as Bogey is slapping the crap out of him, “You’ll take it and you’ll like it.”
Why It’s So Important to Eat and Grow Organic Food
Many people think it’s important to eat organic food for their personal health. The food is clean, produced without chemicals. It’s more nutritious in many cases. It tastes better. All those reasons are valid.
But the chief reason is much broader than that.
Look around the world. We’re wrecking the place. Species are going extinct at a rate that’s not been seen for 65 million years, when a huge asteroid killed off the dinosaurs and huge numbers of other species. Farmland around the world is being drenched with life-destroying chemicals. Our pollinators, like the honeybees on which our food supply depends, are dying. Our blood contains well over 100 toxic chemicals. Pesticides are causing autism and birth defects. Farms are places where only a single crop may grow—everything else, animal and vegetable, must die. We’re mucking about in the control panel of life, creating organisms never before seen in nature, creating superweeds and superbugs. Our antibiotics are causing the evolution of hard-to-treat diseases. Animals are raised in cruel conditions and treated with sex hormones that are delaying puberty in boys and advancing it in girls. The list goes on and on.
The problem is simply stated: we think we know better than nature how to grow our food. But we’re part of nature, not her overlord. Can the part be greater (or smarter) than the whole?
Believe it or not, natural methods of farming and growing food not only work, but they work best. Organic farming and gardening teaches that we should simply learn nature’s methods and follow them. She doesn’t destroy life. She encourages it. Have you ever seen pristine wilderness, like up in Alaska? You can’t imagine a healthier or more beneficent landscape. The streams jump with fish. The meadows are loaded with ripe berries. The hills are trod by sheep, moose, elk, and bear. The birds are so thick they darken the sky. This is nature in her climax ecosystemic fullness. Our farms and gardens could be as fecund as wilderness—nature’s farm and garden–if we follow her laws, tendencies, suggestions, and methods.
So why aren’t we following her?
Greed, primarily. You can’t sell nature like you can Roundup. You can make a profit selling chemical fertilizers, but not to farmers who recycle farm wastes into compost and use it to stimulate the life in the soil. The rapacious desire for money, and power, and control of nature: that’s one big reason we don’t follow nature’s rules on our conventional farms.
And don’t forget fear—fear of insects, fungus, plant diseases, weeds; loss of money, influence, and power; hunger and starvation. “You can’t feed the world with organic farms,” goes the Big Lie. “Which 50 percent of humanity do you want to see starve if we go organic?” This is sheer rubbish. Many studies, including a 30-year study at the Rodale Institute’s 300-acre organic farm in Maxatawny, Pennsylvania, have shown that organic yields are close to, equal to, and in many cases surpass conventional yields of major crops—cleanly and with improvement to the soil and the farm ecosystem as an added benefit.
Another negative aspect of fear is that it drives people away from their humanity. As fear builds in people, so do atrocities. A fearful populace is always under the control of a police state. The Iraq War after 9/11 was sold to the American people on the basis of fear. Weapons of mass destruction! Mushroom clouds on the horizon! It was America’s huge misfortune that the administration in Washington at the time was controlled by neocon sociopaths. They read history. They knew how to gin up fear. And look what followed: nearly 5,000 American dead and 100,000 Iraqis. Torture at Abu Ghraib and black sites around the world. Blackwater running amok. Mass surveillance in total secrecy by the NSA. The militarization of America’s hometown police forces. And most disheartening of all, the destruction of America’s reputation for being fair and decent people who root for the underdog.
The destructive methods of conventional farming are set up to maximize profit for large corporations, using fear as the tactic for strategic control of the world’s food supply, and therefore its people.
As Hermann Goering, second in command to Adolph Hitler, famously remarked, and I’m paraphrasing, “It’s easy to control people. Just tell them they are under attack and you will protect them. They’ll do anything you want.” Remember the technique that Big Food used to defeat GMO labeling laws in California and Washington State? “Labeling GMOs will cause food prices to rise.” Like the Big Lie about organic farms, this is nonsense. What it is, is scary talk. Famine! Hunger! Death!
But we are fast approaching our environmental and ecological limits. Climate change has us at a tipping point. Sea temperatures are rising. Feedback loops threaten human life. Oceans are rising. Intense weather of all kinds is predicted to be on the way—and we’ve seen a lot of it already.
It looks like human beings are going to have to rediscover nature and her laws. Reconnect. Clean up our act and stop fouling the planet. And how do we do that when we live in a downtown duplex and work all day to make the money to buy crap that we don’t need? How do we find nature when we eat the contaminated food produced by Big Ag and Big Biotech and spend our few hours of leisure watching HBO? Where is nature in this American life?
She’s right where she’s always been—in the garden. That might be a little patch in your backyard. Or, if you don’t have a backyard, in a community garden. Or, if there’s no community garden, there may be a local arboretum or botanical garden or even a municipal park that could use a volunteer—especially an organic-minded volunteer.
Gardening organically is about nurturing things, not killing things. This is good for the soul. This is about giving yourself away to small, innocent plants that need you to help them grow big and strong so that they can nurture you. Take off your shoes and socks and feel the earth on your feet and in your hands. Feed the soil and watch it turn from worn out dust into dark, crumbly, sweet-smelling, humusy loam. Say hi to the earthworms that will come back. Watch that robin tugging a worm out of the rich garden soil. Eat a ripe tomato that you planted and helped into fruitful life. Now your cogs and wheels are turning with nature’s wheels. It doesn’t have to be on a grand scale. The whole is present in each of its parts.
The point is that nothing else is going to save us from environmental disaster except a universal consciousness of our connection to nature—and that doesn’t even mean going into the wilderness to commune with nature. It can also mean going within ourselves to see that nature’s laws are operative there, too. How could they not be? We are built by nature. We embody nature and all her rules. Not only that, but there is within us a fundamental consciousness from which nature arises. It is the dispassionate, unchanging, eternal, silent, uncritical witness of our lives. We all have a superficial consciousness focused on and bound up with the circumstances of our daily existence. It changes as we age, maybe it grows in wisdom, maybe it figures out how to enjoy life. But deeper than that is our true self that has been with us since we were born, that witnesses and observes our lives as they progress. When the surface consciousness that’s enthralled with the world reconnects to this true self, it puts solid ground under our feet. Our true self is divine and it sees the divine in everything we encounter, especially other living creatures. When we make this reconnection, it is that crucial moment in any life when a person suddenly knows who they are.
That’s the great internal gift that makes us human: when we know who we truly are, we feel the impulse toward compassion, kindness, and devotion to our fellow creatures. Anyone who has loved and cared for a dog or cat knows they will return that love a thousand-fold. Yes, it’s important to connect with the natural world outside of our bodies, but inside, in our hearts and souls, we can also find the freedom of the wilderness, the natural warmth of love, the tender inclusiveness for those who are different from us and the steadfast caring that characterizes the best part of our human nature. Our true nature is what we must connect with. When that connection is made, we can see how precious our mother, nature, is, and how devoted we should be to her welfare. Then we’ll know to put away the pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, antibiotics, chemical fertilizers produced from and by fossil fuels. We’ll stop swapping genes willy nilly among different classes of plants and animals and leave evolution to the natural rules that have brought us here.
Can you imagine if all farming was organic, what that would mean for all life on earth? It would mean fields safe for all life to enter, waterways without poisons, babies developing in a clean environment, the return of all organic waste to the soil as life-giving compost, and the humane treatment of farm animals so we can regain our humanity. We can reorganize our societies in a more natural way, not only in farming, but in all aspects of our lives.
Will this mean that the oligarchs, the one percenters, the banksters, and the captains of industry will be left behind? I think these people will disappear through natural attrition, although their money will continue to wreak havoc as it passes down through the succeeding generations. But they are the dinosaurs, and the great extinction we are passing through now will carry them off eventually.
THE GMO-CCD CONNECTION
The following is a transcription of the radio program Living On Earth for June 28, 2014. Host Steve Curwood interviews Professor Alex Lu of the Harvard School of Public Health about Colony Collapse Disorder of beehives.
CURWOOD: Well, pesticide exposure isn’t just a problem for humans. Many scientists think that their widespread use could be contributing to the collapse of honeybee populations around the globe. Professor Alex Lu of the Harvard School of Public Health recently published a paper in the Bulletin of Insectology probing the connection between pesticides called neonicotinoids and honeybee die off. He noticed that the first signs of Colony Collapse Disorder corresponded perfectly with the rise in 2005 of these new pesticides, the neonicotinoids.
They can save money for farmers, as there is no need to spray. Instead the chemicals can be used to coat seeds or added to irrigation water, making these insecticides systemic in plants and residual in plant products.
LU: The link is high fructose corn syrup. GMO corn (whose seed is treated with neonicotinoids) is used to make high fructose corn syrup, and the pesticide residues show up in high fructose corn syrup that those beekeepers use to feed their hive–and that led to CCD.
CURWOOD: Colony Collapse Disorder?
LU: Colony Collapse Disorder. Yes. So we used this observation in the field to formulate our hypothesis, and then we designed a scientific study to see whether we can replicate CCD in our experimental site.
CURWOOD: So what you did was that you took sugar-water and in some cases you added neonicotinoid to that and in others you didn’t.
LU: That’s correct.
CURWOOD: And what did you find?
LU: So we found for those hives that we didn’t give neonicotinoids, they survived. They survived over the winter. One hive actually died, but died from disease, like mites or nosema parasites. Wheres in our first year study, fifteen out of sixteen colonies that we treated wth neonicotinoids died. And the post-mortem observations are consistent with CCD, which is the abandonment of the hive by the adult bees.
CURWOOD: So what happens? The bees just leave the hive in the middle of the winter?
LU: This is a very interesting scientific question because the pesticide fundamentally changed their neurological behavior. By the time winter arrives, bees don’t go outside. The cold temperature actually kills the bees right away, so they form a cluster inside the hive so they survive through heat generation by each individual bee. Somehow the neonicotinoids change this aspect of the biology of honeybees, so by the time the beekeeper finds out their hive is empty, it’s too late.
CURWOOD: So it changed the behavior of the bees.
LU: Exactly. At least, that’s the hypothesis so far.
CURWOOD: Now, Professor Lu, you mentioned that you came to the Harvard School of Public Health to study human health and exposure to pesticides. What does this research about neonicotinoids tell us about possible risks to humans from this?
LU: Well, I think the direct impact to human health is the shortage of food, if we keep losing those bees. One-third of the agricultural production relies on honeybee pollination. And those foods are the foods that we all like, and very important to our health because of nutrition. So not having enough bees to pollinate definitely will affect the price of food and eventually will harm people’s health. The second effect to human health, which is unknown at this moment, is the impact of those residues in the environment over a longer period of time. Neonicotinoids are almost identical to DDT that we had in the 60’s and 70’s. So we now know that 20 to 30 years later, DDT affected reproductive systems. And whether neonicotinoids have other health affects to human beings we don’t know, because they are still relatively new. But I’m sure down the road, we will find out exactly how human health could be impacted by a little bit of residue in the environment—in the water, in the food and so on.
CURWOOD: President Obama recently announced that he’s going to start a pollinator task force—take a whole bunch of federal agencies and departments to come together to deal with the pollinator crisis. What’s your understanding of what the task force would do?
LU: Well, I think they’re going to set up a habitat or gardens in the Midwest states, so the bees can get their food from those clean gardens or habitats so they can survive. The other aspect of the initiative, as you said, is to gather experts across the agencies to have independent review within the next six months to see whether neonicotinoids do actually cause CCD. But I have to say, though, the initiative might be ill-advised.
LU: Because if you think about it, why would you only set up those habitats in the Midwest states? Why not in California? Why not in Florida? So already we can see there’s a problem with the Midwest states. What do we grow in those Midwest states—nothing but GMOs. So obviously the government knew that the relationship between the GMOs and the use of neonicotinoids in those GMO seeds has something to do with the Colony Collapse Disorder. But they don’t want to say that. Instead they say, “We’re going to set up those gardens or habitats in the Midwest states.” They are not really looking at the fundamental question that caused the CCD.
CURWOOD: So, what do we need to do then to save bees?
LU: We need to take these pesticides away from where bees go. Bees don’t know which plant or flower has been treated with neonicotinoids. They go after nectar; they go after pollen. So, if neonicotinoids have been used in those areas, then those bees will be exposed. So the only way to prevent bees from being exposed to those pesticides, is not to use those pesticides. Throughout my career, I never called for a ban of any pesticides because I do value pesticides in public health. But for neonicotinoids, I think we are looking at the situation we faced with DDT right now. I mean, the way we dealt with DDT was to ban it. I think neonicotinoids fall into the same category.
A recent study found that “bee-friendly” plants sold at major garden centers in the U.S. were contaminated with neonicotinoid pesticides.
NO MORE NATIONAL ORGANIC STANDARDS BOARD?
The Organic Consumers Association reports:
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is at it again, chipping away at the integrity of organic standards. This time, it looks as if he may be setting the stage to get rid of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).
Twenty organizations, including Beyond Pesticides, the Organic Consumers Association, and the Cornucopia Institute, are trying to stop him. They’ve filed a legal petition asking that Vilsack reverse changes made May 8, 2014, by the USDA, to the NOSB charter—changes that undermine the authority of the NOSB and suggest that the USDA may dismantle it altogether.
The NOSB was created by Congress under the Organic Foods Production Act and enacted under Title 21 of the 1990 Farm Bill. The 15-member advisory panel is made up of independent farmers, environmentalists, consumer/public interest advocates, food handlers, one retailer and one scientist. The board meets twice a year to vote on recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture (that would be Vilsack) regarding the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP).
But apparently, Vilsack thinks he doesn’t need any advice. So little by little, he’s undermining the NOSB’s authority. Last month, the USDA made a change in the organic law that makes it more difficult to get synthetics off the list of materials allowed in organic production. It’s all part of a power grab that threatens organics. And it’s just plain illegal.
NEWS FROM THE ORGANIC CENTER IN WASHINGTON, DC:
The American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a resolution in June calling for the ban of antibiotics used in animal farming for growth promotion. This large-scale, inappropriate use of antibiotics has led to the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which are quickly becoming a devastating epidemic. “Use drives resistance, and overuse drives resistance even faster,” said David Wallinga, a physician on the Keep Antibiotics Working steering committee, adding, “As much as 70 percent of the use in agriculture is unnecessary or overuse.” Last year the Center for Disease Control released a report showing that antibiotic resistance was responsible for over 2 million illnesses and 23 thousand deaths, and the World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared that antibiotic resistant superbugs have reached global epidemic proportions. Currently, the only way to ensure that the animal products you consume were not raised with antibiotics is by choosing organic!
Organic agriculture is better for the birds
A new article published in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment shows that organic farming could be beneficial for songbirds. Many bird species have been experiencing population declines due to intensive conventional farming practices. One of the reasons linked to these declines is the lack of food for young songbirds unable to leave their nests, or “nestling food.” Researchers found that because organic farming does not use synthetic pesticides and has longer, more diverse crop rotations, organic farms result in higher availability of nestling food than conventional farms. This publication adds to the body or research showing that organic agriculture plays an important role in the maintenance of biodiversity, and may be key in preventing populations of farmland birds from continuing to decline.
Nutritional benefits of organic tomatoes reaffirmed
Tomatoes are well known for being a vegetable with high antioxidant capacity. They contain carotenoid pigments including lycopene, associated with such health benefits as bone health, reduced risk of prostate cancer, and decreasing sun damage by UV radiation. Several studies have shown higher antioxidant levels in organic tomatoes when compared to conventional tomatoes. A new study published in the IOSR Journal of Agriculture and Veterinary Science supports these previous findings by showing that organic tomatoes have significantly higher antioxidant ability than conventional tomatoes.
Herbicide exposure linked to non-Hodgkins lymphoma
Researchers at the International Agency for Research on Cancer recently published a study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health documenting three decades’ worth of epidemiological research on the relationship between occupational exposure to pesticides and non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Examining 44 studies from high-income countries covering 80 active ingredients in 21 pesticide groups, the scientists found several strong links between pesticide exposure and development of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. For example, phenoxy herbicides, carbamate insecticides, organophosphorus insecticides and lindane (an organochlorine insecticide) were all associated with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The organophosphorus herbicide glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide, was associated with the non-Hodgkins lymphoma subtype called B cell lymphoma, as were phenoxy herbicides. These findings are especially worrisome because the use levels of several of these pesticides have dramatically increased over the past decade, and may continue to increase with expanded planting of herbicide-resistant genetically modified crops. Make sure to limit your exposure by choosing organic!
DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE ‘DARK’ ACT?
The Center for Food Safety reports:
We alerted you back in April when the Grocery Manufacturers Association, along with allies like Monsanto and Dow, teamed up with Koch-backed Congressman Mike Pompeo of Kansas to introduce a federal bill that would deny your right to know what is in your food.
This bill, (HR 4432), which has been called the “Denying Americans the Right-to-Know Act” (DARK Act), is on the march and has just gained 20 new Republican co-sponsors, bringing the total up to 25. That’s 25 members of Congress who stand with industry in an effort to keep consumers in the dark.
This backwards bill would prevent states from adopting their own GE labeling laws, block any attempt by states to make it illegal for food companies to put a “natural” label on products that contain GE ingredients, and prevent the Food and Drug Administration from requiring companies to label GE ingredients and instead continue a failed “voluntary” labeling policy.
GE labeling is important to Americans, with over 90 percent of those polled consistently supporting transparency in the marketplace through mandatory GE labeling. In 2013 and 2014 there were over 70 GE labeling bills and ballot initiatives introduced across 30 states, with laws being passed in Maine, Connecticut and Vermont. The DARK Act would shut down these efforts and replace them with an undemocratic, hollow “voluntary” labeling scheme. In the 13 years that FDA has allowed companies to voluntarily label GE foods, a total of zero companies have done so. This is not the solution consumers have been demanding.
Even though Americans overwhelmingly support labeling, there is a disastrous momentum behind the DARK Act. Instead of joining the 64 countries across the world that require GE labeling, these 25 co-sponsors are actually promoting consumer confusion. While countries like South Korea, Japan, China, Brazil, South Africa and the entire European Union care about their citizens’ right to know what is in their food, some in Congress are instead working on keeping Americans in the dark.
Here are the sponsors and cosponsors of this bill. See if you are represented by one of them. If so, as voters, don’t you think it’s time to give these people the heave-ho?
Rep. Butterfield, G. K. [D-NC-1]
Rep. Matheson, Jim [D-UT-4]
Rep. Blackburn, Marsha [R-TN-7]
Rep. Whitfield, Ed [R-KY-1]
Rep. Stutzman, Marlin A. [R-IN-3]
Rep. Campbell, John [R-CA-45]
Rep. Cramer, Kevin [R-ND-At Large]
Rep. Schock, Aaron [R-IL-18]
Rep. Long, Billy [R-MO-7]
Rep. Latham, Tom [R-IA-3]
Rep. Cook, Paul [R-CA-8]
Rep. Luetkemeyer, Blaine [R-MO-3]
Rep. Ellmers, Renee L. [R-NC-2]
Rep. Rogers, Mike D. [R-AL-3]
Rep. Byrne, Bradley [R-AL-1]
Rep. Terry, Lee [R-NE-2]
Rep. Rokita, Todd [R-IN-4]
Rep. Barr, Andy [R-KY-6]
Rep. Ross, Dennis A. [R-FL-15]
Rep. Nunes, Devin [R-CA-22]
Rep. Shuster, Bill [R-PA-9]
Rep. Valadao, David G. [R-CA-21]
Rep. LaMalfa, Doug [R-CA-1]
Rep. Crawford, Eric A. “Rick” [R-AR-1]
Rep. Simpson, Michael K. [R-ID-2]
Lie and Get Time on National TV; Tell the Truth and Go to Jail
As Iraq began unravelling last week, did you notice who got serious national air time in the mainstream media?
There was Dick Cheney and his daughter telling America just how badly President Obama has mucked up the Iraq situation. There Cheney sits, in his comfy home, while George Bush paints at his cushy ranch (he’s about as good an artist as he was a President), and Don Rumsfeld—well, I don’t know where he is, but I’d guess he’s poolside in this hot weather with a mojito near at hand.
So the architects of America’s illegal and immoral invasion of a sovereign country are all okay and doing fine.
And what about the people who alerted our country to their illegal actions? I’m thinking of Chelsea Manning. She’s serving a 35-year sentence in Federal prison. And Edward Snowden? He’s in exile in Russia because if he came back to this country, he’d join Ms. Manning in a lengthy sentence in the pokey. And Julian Assange, the director of Wikileaks? Hiding out in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, unable to leave; a nice prison, but a prison nevertheless.
These were the people who told the truth about America’s unjustified invasion of Iraq and many other instances of our country’s crimes—like torture, indefinite detention without trial, mass surveillance of everyone, etc.
So the criminals get air time on TV and the folks who blew the whistle on them get sent to prison. But I suppose this shouldn’t be too surprising, since the banksters who almost destroyed our economy with toxic financial instruments they created to fleece the public are still walking free and many are still collecting obscene salaries. And the jerks at Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Nevada who pointed loaded weapons at Federal agents still walk free, except for the few who went on to murder police officers. Oh, and Bundy, who refuses to pay the government a million bucks in grazing fees he chalked up is still at his ranch.
Eric Holder, where are you?
FOOD SAFETY IS INSEPARABLE FROM ORGANIC FARMING
The following is excerpted from a recent post by Ralph Nader in Reader Supported News.
Across the country, consumers are demanding the right to know what is in their food, and [demanding the] labeling of genetically engineered food. It’s a vibrant and diverse coalition: mothers and grandmothers, health libertarians, progressives, foodies, environmentalists, main street conservatives and supporters of free-market economics. Last year, a New York Times poll found that a near-unanimous 93 percent of Americans support such labeling.
This is no surprise. Genetically engineered food has yet to be proven safe. In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) admitted in court that it had reached “”no dispositive scientific findings” about the risks of genetically engineered foods.
There is no scientific consensus about the risks of eating genetically engineered food, according to a statement last year signed by nearly 300 scientists. The scientists agree that “Concerns about risks are well-founded and that a substantial number of animal feeding studies and reviews of such studies…found toxic effects and signs of toxicity in animals fed genetically engineered food, compared with controls. Some of the studies give serious cause for concern,” the scientists write.
For example, a review of nineteen studies on mammals, published in Environmental Sciences Europe, found that the “data appear to indicate liver and kidney problems” arising from diets of genetically engineered food.
According to Consumers Union senior scientist Michael Hansen PhD, the ability of genetically engineered crops to induce allergic reactions is “a major food safety concern.”
When it comes to genetically engineered food, there are questions about risks, but no convincing answers. There is no mandatory pre-market safety testing for genetically engineered food.
These questions of risks and safety have festered for years because the big agrichemical companies use their intellectual property rights to deny independent scientists the ability to test genetically engineered crops, or to report their results. Scientific American called these restrictions on free inquiry “dangerous.” In a number of cases, the magazine reports, “experiments that had the implicit go-ahead from the seed company were later blocked from publication because the results were not flattering.”
When scientists do publish studies adverse to the interests of the big agrichemical companies, they are met with vicious attacks on their credibility, their science and even their personal lives.
Sixty-four nations have already required labeling of genetically engineered food, including the members of the European Union, Australia, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa, even Russia and China.
The food industry is feeling the pressure. Paul Bulcke, CEO of Nestle, the world’s largest food and beverage company, said that “It is not business as usual anymore. Pressure is mounting from all sides and angles.”
Despite the overwhelming popularity of labeling, Congress refused to act, so citizens took up the cause in their own states.
Under heavy corporate lobbying and deceptive TV ads, ballot initiatives for labeling of genetically engineered food were narrowly defeated by 51 percent to 49 percent in both California and Washington State. In May, legislation in the California Senate led 19-16, but failed without the 21 vote majority needed for passage.
Finally, on May 8, in a major victory, Vermont approved the first unconditional statewide labeling law for genetically engineered food. “Vermonters take our food and how it is produced seriously, and we believe we have a right to know what’s in the food we buy,” said Gov. Peter Shumlin.
Since then, the food and agrichemical industries have escalated to a full panic.
On June 13, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and three other trade associations — the heart of the junk food industry — filed a lawsuit in federal court to block the new Vermont labeling law. The good news is that people are rushing to Vermont’s defense, including Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, which will re-name one of its flavors “Food Fight! Fudge Brownie” to help fund a vigorous legal defense of Vermont’s new labeling law.
Elsewhere, industry is spending lavishly against the food movement. In New York State, the Daily News reported that “Trade organizations, farm groups and corporate giants such as Coca-Cola and Kraft have spent millions of dollars on lobbyists and campaign contributions to defeat” labeling of genetically engineered food.
The food industry is quick to scare consumers with the canard that labeling of genetically engineered food will raise food prices. But manufacturers change their labels often, so their claim doesn’t make sense. It has been debunked in an study by Joanna Shepherd Bailey, a professor at Emory University School of Law, who found that “consumers will likely see no increases in prices” as a result of labeling genetically engineered food.
In Congress, U.S. Rep Mike Pompeo (R-KS) introduced a bill at the behest of the Grocery Manufacturers Association–dubbed by its consumer opponents “the Deny Americans the Right-to-Know (DARK) Act”–to block any federal or state action for labeling of genetically engineered food. Sometimes, politics is drearily predictable: Can you guess Rep. Pompeo’s largest campaign contributor? You got it: Koch Industries.
But the shame is fully bipartisan: sleazy Democratic lobbyists like former US Senator Blanche Lincoln and Steve Elmendorf are plying their trade for Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association to keep you from knowing what’s in your food.
Meanwhile, the food disclosure movement is going full speed ahead with ballot initiatives for GMO labeling in Oregon and Colorado, as well as legislative efforts in many other states.
Perhaps most alarming is the corporate control of agriculture in the hands of the world’s largest agrichemical companies — Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Dow, Bayer, and BASF. “The Big 6 chemical and seed companies are working diligently to monopolize the food system at the expense of consumers, farmers and smaller seed companies,” said Philip H. Howard, an associate professor at Michigan State University.
These companies may be meeting their match in the mothers and grandmothers who have powered the movement for labeling of genetically engineered food. Like Pamm Larry, the pioneering grandmother who came up with idea reflected by the California ballot initiative for labeling.
Mothers know that food is love. Certainly, my mother did. She taught me early and often about how important it is to eat healthy food. She even wrote about these values in the book, It Happened in the Kitchen.
I’d like to think that she’d feel right at home with the mothers and grandmothers of today’s food movement. I sure do. In some ways, that’s the point: a movement that makes you feel at home: no wonder it’s so popular.
OBAMA SETS UP TASK FORCE TO PROTECT POLLINATORS
Beyond Pesticides is reporting that during the close of National Pollinator Week, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum on pollinator health to the heads of federal agencies requiring action to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels.” The President is directing agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, and to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy, including a Pollinator Research Action Plan. Beyond Pesticides applauds this announcement and action that recognizes and elevates the plight of pollinators in the U.S.
The memorandum recognizes severe losses in the populations of the nation’s pollinators, including honey bees, wild bees, monarch butterflies and others. In accordance with these losses and acknowledging the importance pollinators have to the agricultural economy, the memorandum directs federal agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, to be chaired by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), develop a pollinator health strategy within 180 days, and support and create pollinator habitat. This federal strategy will include a pollinator research action plan, with a focus on preventing and recovering from pollinator losses, including studying how various stressors, like pesticides, pathogens and management practices contribute to pollinator losses.
Federal agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and USDA have been slow to respond to pollinator losses and must take immediate action, especially on pesticides known to be toxic to bees and other pollinators.
The President highlights many factors that contribute to pollinator decline; however it is the neonicotinoid class of pesticides that have been receiving the most scrutiny from beekeepers and scientists. These pesticides are not only highly toxic to bees, but studies find that even at low levels neonicotinoids impair foraging ability, navigation, learning behavior and suppress the immune system, making bees more susceptible to pathogens and disease.
While EPA announced that it has released two tools in an effort to protect pollinators–its new Pollinator Risk Assessment Guidance, and new Residual Time to 25 Precent Bee Mortality (RT25 Data)–the agency still falls short of restricting the harmful systemic pesticides that are linked to bee decline, Beyond Pesticides reports.
Though the science very clearly points to neonicotinoids as a main culprit behind bee-deaths, and while successful organically managed systems prove that these pesticides are not necessary, the EPA has yet to take meaningful action to reduce exposure to these harmful chemicals. According to advocates, bee deaths in Oregon last week from the use of a neonicotinoid and mounting scientific evidence require an urgent response that necessitates removing these chemicals from the market. With continued incidents like these, beekeepers and many other concerned groups and citizens continue to urge the EPA to suspend the use of neonicotinoids.
As the EPA continues to stall, Beyond Pesticides, along with other groups are working to BEE Protective. Last year, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, and others filed a lawsuit against the EPA on its continued registration of these chemicals. The groups are also working to pressure on lawmakers in Congress to take action to protect pollinators. H.R. 2692, the Saving America’s Pollinators Act (SAPA), introduced last year by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D- OR), would suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until a full review of scientific evidence and a field study demonstrates no harmful impacts to pollinators. Three new co-sponsors signed on Friday, including Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-CA), bringing the total number of cosponsors to 68. With one in three bites of food reliant on pollinators, it is imperative that solutions be found quickly to protect bees and other pollinators.
STUDY LINKS AUTISM AND ORGANOPHOSPHATE PESTICIDES
The following report is by Lindsey Konkel, writing in Environmental Health News.
Babies whose moms lived within a mile of crops treated with widely used pesticides were more likely to develop autism, according to new research.
The study of 970 children, born in farm-rich areas of Northern California, is part of the largest project to date that is exploring links between autism and environmental exposures.
The University of California, Davis research – which used women’s addresses to determine their proximity to insecticide-treated fields – is the third project to link prenatal insecticide exposures to autism and related disorders.
“The weight of evidence is beginning to suggest that mothers’ exposures during pregnancy may play a role in the development of autism spectrum disorders,” said Kim Harley, associate director of University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health. She was not involved in the new study.
One in every 68 U.S. children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder – a group of neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by difficulties with social interactions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This study does not show that pesticides are likely to cause autism, though it suggests that exposure to farming chemicals during pregnancy is probably not a good thing,” said Dr. Bennett Leventhal, a child psychiatrist at University of California, San Francisco who studies autistic children. He did not participate in the study.
The biggest known contributor to autism risk is having a family member with it. Siblings of a child with autism are 35 times more likely to develop it than those without an autistic brother or sister, according to the National Institutes of Health.
By comparison, in the new study, children with mothers who lived less than one mile from fields treated with organophosphate pesticides during pregnancy were about 60 percent more likely to have autism than children whose mothers did not live close to treated fields. Most of the women lived in the Sacramento Valley. This class of pesticide was developed by the Nazis in the 1940s.
When women in the second trimester lived near fields treated with chlorpyrifos – the most commonly applied organophosphate pesticide – their children were 3.3 times more likely to have autism, according to the study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Chlorpyrifos, once widely used to kill insects in homes and gardens, was banned for residential use in 2001 after it was linked to neurological effects in children. It is still widely used on crops, including nut trees, alfalfa, vegetables and fruits.
“The study also is the first to report a link between pyrethroids and autism. Application of pyrethroids just prior to conception meant an increased risk of 82 percent, and during the third trimester, the risk was 87 percent higher.
That finding is particularly concerning because “pyrethroids were supposed to be better, safer alternatives to organophosphates,” said the study’s senior author, Irva Hertz-Picciotto, an epidemiologist who leads the UC-Davis project to investigate environmental and genetic links to autism.
Use of pyrethroids has increased in recent years, both on farms and in the home, due to bans of other insecticides. Some studies now suggest pyrethroids may carry risks for developing fetuses.
The autism risk that could be attributed to an individual pesticide is likely slight, said Alycia Halladay, senior director for environmental and clinical sciences at the nonprofit Autism Speaks. “We need to understand how multiple exposures interact with each other and with genetics to understand all that is involved in the causes of autism,” she said.
But while the risks reported in the study pale in comparison to some hereditary factors, Hertz-Picciotto said they are comparable to other risks for autism, such as advanced parental age or not taking prenatal vitamins.
“In any child who develops autism, a combination of genetic and environmental factors are at work. There’s an accumulation of insults to the system. What we’re seeing is that pesticides may be one more factor that for some kids may push them over the edge,” she said.
For the study, researchers obtained the women’s addresses and compared them to a state database that provides details about where, when and how often specific commercial pesticides were used. About one-third of the women lived within approximately one mile of pesticide-treated fields.
In 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency required buffers around fields near homes and schools to help reduce exposure to chlorpyrifos.
“Provided that pesticides are applied responsibly and according to federally mandated label instructions, people, including expectant mothers, should not be concerned about exposure to agricultural pesticides,” said Clare Thorpe, senior director of human health policy for CropLife America, which represents pesticide manufacturers.
More than 1.1 million tons of chlorpyrifos were applied to 22,000 California farms in 2012, down from 2 million pounds on 40,000 farms in 2005, according to the database from the state Department of Pesticide Regulation.
Most of the mothers lived near fields treated with several different pesticides over their pregnancies, so it’s difficult to tease apart the potential risk of individual chemicals, said epidemiologist Janie Shelton, the lead study author. Shelton is now a consulting scientist to the United Nations.
The study also reported an increased risk of developmental delays, but not autism, in kids whose moms lived near fields where carbamates, including methomyl and Sevin, were applied.
The researchers said that pesticides could impair brain development and signaling in a way that affects social interactions, learning and behavior.
Previous studies have also linked pesticide use in California to autism spectrum disorders. In 2007, Harley and colleagues found a two-fold increase in pervasive developmental disorders (the larger group to which autism belongs) among 531 children in California’s Salinas Valley whose mothers’ urine had higher levels of organophosphate pesticides. Another study from 2007 found that mothers who lived near fields with the highest applications of two now-banned pesticides – endosulfan and dicofol – were six times more likely to have kids with autism spectrum disorders.
In recent years, rates of autism have been on the rise in the United States. Between 2012 and 2014 alone, rates jumped 30 percent. The increase has largely been attributed to changes in diagnostic criteria for autism.
“Many children that we used to call intellectually disabled and many more with social deficits are now recognized as being on the autism spectrum,” said Kathy Katz, a pediatric psychologist at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC.
But some experts suggest that environmental exposures may also be contributing to the climbing rates. In California alone, autism diagnoses were up 600 percent between 1990 and 2001. Yet researchers found that only about one-third of the rise could be explained by changing diagnoses or kids being diagnosed at increasingly younger ages.
Earlier this year, scientists examining more than two million births in Sweden reported that inherited genes make up about 50 percent of a child’s autism risk, while environmental factors make up the other half.
It’s tempting to tie the increase in prevalence to environmental factors, said Halladay, but it’s hard to know for sure what’s going on, since some environmental risks have increased over the past few decades while others have decreased.
“Use of pesticides has gone up, so has autism. But air quality has also improved, and we know that air pollution plays a role in autism spectrum disorder risk,” she said.
Some studies are starting to look how environmental exposures may act differently in people whose genetics make them more susceptible. Earlier this year, researchers showed that people with a gene variant associated with autism and high exposure to air pollution had an increased risk of autism over people with the same gene variant but lower exposure to air pollution.
Next, Shelton hopes to look for autism risk from pesticide exposure among mothers with certain genetic variations.
“We need to know if some moms are at higher risk than others and what that risk is. Knowing who is most vulnerable is key to understanding how to better protect them,” she said.
STUDY LINKING GMO CORN AND CANCER REPUBLISHED
French scientists who in 2012 wrote a contested study linking pesticide-treated, genetically-modified corn with cancer in lab rats returned to the attack on Tuesday, republishing their work online, The Guardian reports.
Denying accusations of bad science, the team said the work, which was withdrawn by the journal that first printed it, had been republished in Environmental Sciences Europe, owned by Germany’s Springer group. The raw data has also been placed in the public domain for others to scrutinize, the researchers said.
“Censorship of research into the risks of a technology so intertwined with global food safety undermines the value and credibility of science,” the team said in a statement.
The research kicked up a hornet’s nest when it was first published in September 2012. Its authors, led by Gilles-Eric Seralini, a professor at the University of Caen in Normandy, said rats fed NK603 corn and Roundup herbicide developed liver and kidney disease and mammary tumors. NK603, made by Monsanto, has been genetically engineered to be immune to Roundup. As a result, farmers can spray their fields to kill weeds without harming their crops.
The authors stood by their original research and lashed out at the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology for withdrawing it–a great humiliation in the scientific world. The authors allege that the retraction derives from the journal’s editorial appointment of biologist Richard Goodman, who previously worked for Monsanto for seven years. (The timeline is that the study was published, then the journal brought the Monsanto employee on board, and then the paper was retracted.)
“Roundup formulations and Roundup-tolerant GMOs should be considered as (hormonal) disruptors and their present assessments on health are drastically deficient,” they wrote. Open publication in the Springer journal provides a forum “so that science can reclaim its rights against the pressures of the industry seeking to suppress whistle-blowers,” they said.
Why ‘Open Carry’ Is an Abomination
If you read The Federalist Papers—an account of how our forebears reasoned out the Constitution of the United States—you’ll find that they were deeply concerned about the establishment of a standing Army overseen by the Commander-in-Chief. This was, most of them thought, a prescription for trouble down the road in the form of foreign entanglements and general military truculence. Rather, they thought that we simply had to guard our land and people by organizing civilian militias, very much the way Switzerland has done. In Switzerland, each male citizen is required to own, but not necessarily use, a rifle. Just in case those crazies in Germany, France, or Austria came barrelling over the border with the lust for conquest in their eyes.
That was the idea in 18th Century America, and why the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights states, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” In other words, if we’re not to have a standing Army, then we need the people to organize themselves into militias to defend ourselves.
In those days, “arms” were single-shot muskets that required wadding, ball, flint, tinder, gunpowder, and a ramrod. It was pretty much a rifle that could fire a shot and take another couple of minutes to reload. The framers of the Constitution could not have envisioned clips of many rounds, semi-automatic and automatic weapons, hollow-point bullets designed to tear up flesh and shatter bone, and all the rest of our sophisticated weaponry in long rifle and short handgun form.
These weapons that can fire off dozens of rounds in a few seconds are easily capable of cutting a human being in half—as was proven at Sandy Hook. School shootings have now become as common as postal shootings were in the 1990s. Remember “going postal?” Now parents are outfitting their kids with bullet-proof backpacks. And Joe the Plumber, bless his benighted soul, delivered the line that should be engraved over the entrance to the National Rifle Association: “Your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.”
I remember sitting on a quiet beach in Tobago about 30 years ago, hanging out with my good friend Osbert Mander, a local guy who took pity on me having to eat the greasy food served at my beach-side resort and invited me to his modest shack for fish stew: fish, potatoes, an onion, and some local herbs for flavor. There was no market in the tiny village of Black Rock where he lived, and I asked him where he got the fish. Here’s what he said:
“Every morning some of the village men go down to the beach and swim out to the boats anchored offshore. We have purse seines on those boats, and they pull them out across the mouth of the bay. They stay open all day until about five o’clock, when the men come back to the beach and swim out to the boats and draw up the purse seines, catching whatever swam in there during the day, hauling them to shore and dumping them on the beach.
“If someone in Black Rock is sick, we look through the catch for a shark and if there’s a shark, we cut out its liver and give it to the sick person. That will help. And then everyone in our village comes down to the beach to buy a fish for dinner, just for a few pennies, to keep up the nets. They cut the fish open and dump the guts on the beach. Then the men swim the nets back out to the boats, fold them up, and store them for the night.
“The dogs and cats and wild birds know of this ritual, and after everyone has taken their fish home, the animals come to the beach to eat the guts and waste—hundreds of birds, all the village dogs and cats. It’s very pretty to see and peaceful, and within 15 minutes after the people have left, the beach is perfectly clean.”
Osbert’s fish soup was delicious. But as we ate, he told me something. “I’d like to come to America—to Los Angeles—but I’m afraid. People are always getting shot and killed there,” he said.
Now I think of my friend Osbert and the gentle society of Black Rock in Tobago, where if you’re sick you get the shark liver, and where all the life there partakes of the daily catch in the purse seine. And I think, this is the way human life should be, and society should be organized.
And then I think of the men carrying loaded assault rifles into Target stores and restaurants, in an era where children are mowed down by the very same assault rifles and automatic weapons. And these men have the attitude, “You’ll take it and you’ll like it. Don’t mess with me. Your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.” And I realize what a sick sick sick sick sick society we have become.
MONSANTO SUES VERMONT OVER ITS GMO LABELING LAW
Tiny Vermont this month boldly went where no US state had gone before, enacting a law to require food producers who use genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to let consumers know of it on the packaging, according to a report by Gram Slattery of The Christian Science Monitor.
Now the state is going, perhaps just as boldly, to court.
A lawsuit filed recently challenges Vermont’s GMO-labeling law on grounds that it usurps federal regulatory authority and negatively affects interstate commerce. The new law, argues the coalition of industry groups that brought the federal suit, including the Snack Food Association (SFA) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), is arbitrary given the dearth of scientific evidence that GMOs have negative health effects. (Actually, there’s plenty of evidence that GMOs have frightening health effects. The SFA and GMA are really just fronting for Monsanto and the biotech industry.)
The labeling measures could pose a definite burden for industry: About 75 percent of processed foods available on supermarket shelves in the US contain GMOs, as well as 85 percent of unprocessed corn and 91 percent of unprocessed soybeans.
DEALING WITH INSURGENCIES—ALWAYS A MESSY BUSINESS
Bob Garcia writes:
If King George III had Obama’s mindset, he would have labeled the Colonists as terrorists and would have killed Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and Revere with drones — seizing Franklin in Europe to torture indefinitely.
I think King George had that mindset. He sent his Army here to put down the rebellion and would have hung the lot of the founders if he could have caught them. Remember Franklin’s saying, “Gentlemen, we must hang together or surely we will hang separately.”
IF FISH IS BRAIN FOOD, THEN FISH ARE BRAINY
According to a new paper scheduled for publication in the forthcoming issue of the esteemed journal Animal Cognition, “fish perception and cognitive abilities often match or exceed other vertebrates.” In fact, “fish have a high degree of behavioral plasticity and compare favorably to humans and other terrestrial vertebrates across a range of intelligence tests.”
The author of the paper, Dr. Culum Brown, is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Dr. Brown’s article, which is the first to distill for journal publication the voluminous research that exists into fish behavior and cognition, reviews the full range of ethological aptitudes, detailing dozens of studies and extrapolating from those results to determine what we do and do not know about fish. The areas considered include: evolution and biological complexity; sensory perception; cerebral lateralization; pain; and cognition (including learning and memory, social learning, social intelligence, tool use, and numerical competency).
With intriguing examples and reviewing all of the scientific literature to date, Dr. Brown concludes that “fish compare well to the rest of the vertebrates in most tasks,” differing little in cognitive and behavioral complexity from primates. For example, they:
• can “perform multiple complex tasks simultaneously” due to cerebral lateralization, a trait that was until recently thought to be uniquely human;
• can recall the location of objects using feature cues, a capacity developed by humans at approximately the age of six;
• “have excellent long-term memories” (including time-place, spatial, social, and aversive experiences);
• “live in complex social communities where they keep track of individuals and can learn from one another, a process that leads to the development of stable cultural traditions … similar to some of those seen in birds and primates”;
• “cooperate with one another and show signs of Machiavellian intelligence such as cooperation and reconciliation”;
• can use tools, another “in a long list of skills that was supposed to be unique to humans”;
• “use the same methods for keeping track of quantities as we do” (numerosity is another of the capacities that scientists once thought unique to human beings).
Unsurprisingly, considering their wide array of complex capacities, Dr. Brown also notes that of course fish feel pain, since “it would be impossible for fish to survive as the cognitively and behaviorally complex animals they are without a capacity to feel pain.” In the paper, he points out that pain perception is essential to animal survival, and that it has deep evolutionary origins across all vertebrate species.
This is the first paper produced with grant money from The Someone Project, an endeavor aimed at raising the public’s understanding of farm animal cognition and behavior.
DECIMATION IN THE PIG POPULATION
Did you know that over the past year, nearly 10 percent of the entire swine population in the US has been wiped out by a highly lethal virus? The virus, called Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv), has been—at least in part—traced back to pig’s blood used in piglet feed, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola’s website.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has announced that a federal order has been issued, requiring swine farmers to notify the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) if they suspect PEDv on their farm. The USDA is also allocating $4 million for research, and the development of a vaccine against the disease.
Dried blood plasma is a relatively new pig feed ingredient, described as a “unique protein source for early-weaned pigs” in a paper on swine nutrition by Professor Gary Cromwell.
In recent years, it’s been employed as an immune booster, and to enhance the growth rate and feed intake during the postweaning phase. In his paper, Professor Cromwell explains the process as follows:
“Most of the dried plasma is produced by American Protein Corporation, whose headquarters are in Ames, Iowa. This company collects and processes blood from a number of large hog slaughter plants throughout the country. At these plants, blood is collected in chilled vats and transported by insulated trucks to processing plants where the plasma is separated from the red blood cells. The plasma is then carefully spray dried. It is then shipped to ingredient suppliers and feed manufacturers throughout the feed industry for use in pig starter feeds. The red blood cells are also dried and shipped to ingredient suppliers and feed manufacturers.”
Okay—here’s the deal. Whenever you take body material from a large group of animals, you are very likely to be taking some disease from a few sick individuals with it. By then feeding it back to large groups of those same animals, what you are doing is spreading the disease as widely as possible. This is how mad cow disease was spread. It was the basis of the “Bug Juice” method of insect control I wrote about in the 1970s on Organic Gardening magazine, where a Florida entomologist said the way to control any pest is to collect a large number of them, whiz them up in a blender, strain out the juice, dilute it, and spray it on your crops. A few sick individuals then infect the whole population. It worked then, it works now, and it’s no different with blood-borne sickness with pigs.
STANDING UP FOR THE INTEGRITY OF THE ORGANIC MOVEMENT
Twenty organic farm and consumer groups have filed a legal petition with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to protect the authority and permanence of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The petitioners object to recent changes to the NOSB charter, renewed on May 8, 2014, that undermine the mandatory and continuing duties of the Board as established by Congress under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.
USDA mistakenly—or maybe not so mistakenly–re-categorized the NOSB as a time-limited Advisory Board subject to USDA’s discretion and a narrowing of responsibilities.
“These changes to the NOSB Charter are significant and directly controvert the specific mandates of Congress that NOSB is a permanent, non-discretionary committee that must fulfill a long list of statutorily mandated duties integral to the organic program,” said Aimee Simpson, policy director and staff attorney for Beyond Pesticides.
The NOSB, appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, is comprised of a wide swath of organic interests, including farmers, consumers, environmentalists, processors, a retailer, and a certifier. It is charged with a number of specific duties, including establishing and renewing the list of synthetic and non-organic materials allowed to be used in organic production, known as the National List.
“Congress created the Board so that a balance of organic interests, from consumer to industry, would have an irrevocable seat at the table in defining, maintaining and enhancing organic standards. That independent voice is now seriously jeopardized,” noted Paige Tomaselli, senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety.
In response to one of several recent moves by USDA to reclassify the NOSB’s role as a purely advisory and discretionary committee, petitioners urge USDA to reverse what they consider missteps. The petition finds that to comply with organic law, USDA must immediately revise the most recent NOSB Charter to accurately reflect the mandatory non-discretionary duties and ongoing status of the NOSB.
“The independence of the NOSB is the backbone of the system of organic governance that Congress set up to prevent the industry from being corrupted by undue agribusiness lobbying influence, a dynamic all too common in Washington,” stated Will Fantle, Research Director at The Cornucopia Institute. “It is questionable whether the law being debated in the 1990s would have received overwhelming organic community support if the powerful NOSB buffer, to prevent future corruption by moneyed interests, was not established.”
The groups signing the petition include: Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Cornucopia Institute, Food & Water Watch, Equal Exchange, La Montanita Co-op (New Mexico), Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Northwest Organic Farming Association (NOFA) Interstate Council, NOFA Connecticut, NOFA Massachusetts, NOFA New Hampshire, NOFA New Jersey, NOFA New York, NOFA Vermont, Organic Consumers Association, Organically Grown Company, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, and PCC Natural Markets.
As a lifelong Rodale employee, I ask why isn’t Rodale and the Rodale Institute in that group? C’mon people!
Public interest groups overwhelmingly condemn the “power grab” by the USDA, and contend that there is little doubt that the regulatory agency is now blatantly violating the will of Congress in regards to undermining the statutory power vested in the National Organic Standards Board.
In a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon strongly criticized the USDA actions and asked for their reversal.
“One of the most unique things about organic is that consumers can get involved in setting the standards behind the label. For that to remain true, we need to have a strong National Organic Standards Board process,” said Patty Lovera of Food & Water Watch.
Good Ideas Are a Dime a Dozen
The President of a company where I once worked gave me a piece of wisdom that stuck with me.
“Good ideas are a dime a dozen,” he said. “What’s rare is someone who can take a good idea and realize it—make it into something worthwhile in the real world.”
Yeah. Good ideas are just “talk,” but doing something with them is “do.” In other words, you can talk the talk, but what counts is when you walk the walk.
That’s why I like Severine von Tscharner Fleming so much. Yes, she talks the talk about the need for young farmers, but then she walks the walk by being one herself. And a vigorous, energetic one at that.
She’s the director of The Greenhorns, a group of organic-minded young farmers and communicators in the Hudson Valley. Here’s how the organization defines its mission:
“The Greenhorns is a non-traditional grassroots non-profit organization made up of young farmers and a diversity of collaborators. Our mission is to recruit, promote and support the new generation of young farmers. We do this by producing avant-garde programming, video, audio, web content, publications, events, and art projects that increase the odds for success and enhance the profile and social lives of America’s young farmers.
“The news is in from urban, suburban and rural districts alike: America needs more young farmers and more young farmers want a piece of America. It will take millions of rough and ready protagonists of place to care for our ecosystems and serve our country healthy food in the years to come. The Greenhorns enable this critical meeting of minds, bodies, and land by helping young and aspiring farmers to navigate career paths, build skills, and connect with each other. Our multifaceted approach includes on-the-ground organizing of events and workshops, media production, and online coalition building.”
You can find out more by visiting www.thegreenhorns.net.
DROP A PILL INTO A GLASS OF WATER
TO SEE IF YOU’RE DRINKING PESTICIDES
It’s no secret that unwanted chemicals lurk in our food and drinks. But what if a little pill could warn us before we gulp down pesticide-laced water? Kristina Bravo of TakePart.com explains:
Researchers have been experimenting with an unlikely drugstore buy: dissolvable minty breath strips. A team from McMaster University in Canada discovered that pullulan, the same slimy fungus used to make the breath freshener strips, could also be used to make pills that contain pesticide-detecting enzymes. Just drop the pill in a glass of water, let it dissolve, and watch for any color changes.
“If the water doesn’t have any pesticides, [the water] actually forms a very strong blue. If it’s transparent at the end, it’s very contaminated,” said Carlos Felipe, the chemical engineering professor who led the study.
He said that testing water this way is a much cheaper alternative than other contamination screening processes. According to Felipe, producing 1,000 pills in one day would only cost a dollar. Countries such as India, where a large pesticide market compromises the water supply, could benefit from this quick and affordable technology.
Sana Jahanshahi-Anbuhi, the student who came up with the breath strip idea, will start a field test in Kerala, India, by the end of this year. The researchers are now looking into more applications. They said the pills could possibly contain vaccines, which otherwise need refrigeration, and E. coli–detecting molecules as well.
“We are currently working on detection of other contaminants [metals and E. coli] and starting on vaccine stabilization and delivery, which would have a tremendous impact for society,” Jahanshahi-Anbuhi said..
WHY IS THE FDA SO IGNORANT?
Perhaps you’ve heard that the FDA wants to ban wooden shelves for ripening cheese. Here’s a link to the story.
And now for comment by our Frencyh correspondent: “There is nothing new in cheese production – some years ago a European directive instructed the producers of Reblochon to abandon their traditional pine shelves and move to plastic, which was perceived as being easier to sterilize.
Disastro! The cheese did not ripen; moreover, it spoiled. Back to the lab-–the bacteria in pine resin are antiseptic and prevent the wrong bacteria developing in the cheese. Now pines shelves are solidly reinstated.”
That’s in France. Here in America, the FDA has, in an ignorant fit of trying to be helpful, attacked a fundamental technique of cheesemaking. I’m betting the wooden boards will be kept, because “Blessed are the cheesemakers.”
CALIFORNIA’S COTTAGE FOOD ACT GETS IT RIGHT
As opposed to the FDA getting it exactly wrong on cheese boards, California gets it exactly right on allowing people to make food for sale from their home kitchens.
On September 21, 2012, Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Homemade Food Act into law. This law amends the California Health and Safety Code to create a new category of food facility operation, which unlike other food facilities, can be operated out of a home kitchen.
This new category, known as a Cottage Food Operation (CFO), will allow home kitchens to make and sell non-potentially hazardous foods. Non-potentially hazardous foods are foods that are unlikely to grow harmful bacteria or other toxic microorganisms at room temperature.
The California Department of Public Health has established a list of current approved foods that meet the definition as non-potentially hazardous. Additional foods may be added and removed through a 30-day process. The list of current approved foods includes the following:
• Baked goods without cream, custard or meat fillings
• Candy, including chocolate covered nuts and dried fruit
• Dried fruit and pasta
• Dry baking mixes, granolas, cereals, and trail mixes
• Fruit pies, fruit empanadas, and fruit tamales
• Honey, jams, jellies and fruit butters
• Nut mixes, nut butters and popcorn
• Vinegar and mustards
• Roasted coffee and dried tea
• Waffle cones and pizelles
CFOs are required to obtain an annual registration or annual permit to operate through Sonoma County Environmental Health and Safety. CFOs may sell directly and indirectly to the public, depending on their class of operation.
Class A CFOs may sell cottage foods directly from their homes, certified farmers’ markets, bake sales, and community events. Class A operations will be required to complete a self-certification process and obtain an annual registration from Sonoma County Environmental Health and Safety.
Class B CFOs will be required to obtain an annual permit from Sonoma County Environmental Health and Safety and will be inspected annually. In addition to direct sales from home, they are also permitted to sell cottage foods indirectly from local shops, restaurants and other third party sales.
For more information, visit
The Most Important 90 Days of the Year
One of the most common complaints about organic food that I hear is, “It costs too much. I can’t afford to eat organic food.” And I say, “You can’t NOT afford to eat organic food. The conventional and processed food you eat is really a delivery system for a host of toxic chemicals.” Besides, we are entering the season when organic food is cheaper than most conventional food sold in a supermarket—if you know where to look.
June, July, August, and early September is the time when organic fruits and vegetables from your own garden, from an organic farm, or a Farmers’ Market are cheapest, locally grown, and at their most nutritious and flavorful.
These 90 days come and go quickly, so we all need to act just as quickly to preserve as much as we can of this bounty to have for the other nine months of the year—you know, the months when the tomatoes don’t have much flavor, the fruits are coming from South America, and the vegetables are grown a thousand miles away in California or Florida.
First of all, these 90 days are the only time of the year when the seasonal fruits that are locally grown are available. This is especially true of the stone fruits—cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines—and berries—blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, huckleberries, blackberries, and others. Not only are these fruits horribly expensive in the off season, the varieties are usually limited to those that ship well, and that quality trumps flavor and nutrition. When the local fruits are in season, it’s much more likely that they will be a variety that’s been selected for flavor and nutrition because they don’t need to be shipped long distances.
And don’t forget wild foraged foods in the summer. Have you ever heard of wineberries? They are a brambleberry so fragile that they can’t be shipped and can barely be picked and sold at a roadside stand—even in areas where they grow wild. And yet they are as delicious a berry as you can imagine. If you live in a rural area of the Mid-Atlantic States, you’ll undoubtedly know wineberries. Pick them and freeze them in a single layer on trays in your freezer, then when they’re hard, transfer them to a freezer bag for adding to fruit compotes during the 50 weeks when you can’t otherwise get them at all.
The best way to handle those stone fruits and wild-foraged berries is by making a couple of quarts of honey-lemon syrup by mixing a half cup on honey with the juice of four or five lemons and dissolving this in two quarts of filtered or spring water. Place the mixture in a large bowl. Peaches should be freestone varieties and need to be peeled by plunging them in boiling water for a minute, then rinsing under cold water. The peel will strip off easily. Hold the peach in one hand, slice off segments with a knife with the other hand, and let the slices fall into the syrup. Nectarines, apricots, and cherries just need to be de-stemmed, pitted, and sliced as you wish. Add them to the liquid. Add any summer berries that you like, including wild-foraged wineberries and black cap raspberries. Ladle peaches, fruits, and berries into freezer bags—but not zip-lock bags—with just enough syrup to insure they’re covered when the bag is closed. Get freezer bags that you close with a twist tie. This is because you’re going to tighten the top of the bag so all air is excluded and the fruits are entirely under the syrup. Then freeze. When you want to use a bag, float it in a bowl of hot water from the tap, but don’t add more hot water later. In about 40-50 minutes, the fruits will be just thawed and really tasty.
If you’re into live-culture, probiotic, fermented foods, now’s the time to make your own pickles, chow-chow, sauerkraut, kim chee, pickled beets, and other pickled veggies. If you have room in your freezer, store them in there when they’re ready to eat, and when you thaw them out in the off months, they’ll still be ready to eat. Or, can them in a boiling water bath. This will kill the live cultures, but you can then store them on your cellar’ or pantry shelves, and they’ll still contain the enhanced flavors and nutrition that natural fermenting gives them.
Some foods store well in a cool cellar or storage room with no processing. Put down newspaper on the floor and lay winter squash like Butternut or Hubbard with thick skins on the paper so they don’t touch. They’ll keep through the cold months. Garlic and tight-necked yellow onions can be braided if you have their tops still attached, or in mesh bags in not. Just tie a piece of string tightly around the bag between each onion—again, so they don’t touch. Hang them from a rafter or pole in the storage room and they’ll keep well through most of the winter.
Root vegetables like carrots, beets, rutabagas, turnips, and potatoes can be stored in clean plastic garbage cans. Put in six inches of dry peat moss in the bottom, then cover this with a layer of the vegetables arranged so they don’t touch, then cover with another layer of peat moss. Add more root veggies and more moss until the can is full. Store this in as cool a place as you have, but one that won’t freeze. You can store a lot of root vegetables this way. When you retrieve some for dinner, wash them well to remove any moss.
Don’t forget drying. The Pennsylvania Dutch always made “schnitz,” the word means “cuts,” when the apples came ripe. They were made by coring and cutting apples into slices that were then strung on a long string and hung in the warm kitchen until dry. They could be eaten plain like fruit chews or re-hydrated in water. Make and can apple sauce with no added sugar. Invest in a food dryer and dry summer fruits.
And of course in high summer, when the tomatoes are perfect, buy some flats, plunge the tomatoes in boiling water, peel them and cook them down to sauce, then can the sauce. Some people simply put whole ripe tomatoes into freezer bags and freeze them, then thaw them out in winter as needed.
And the corn. It’s ripe and organic in high summer and as cheap as it will ever be. Don’t be tempted to freeze corn on the cob. It doesn’t work. When you try to thaw it out, the kernels turn to mush before the cob thaws out. Best to boil the corn just until it’s blanched, about two minutes, then cut it off the cob and freeze the kernels in meal-sized freezer bags. Before a winter dinner, thaw out the kernels by placing the bag in a bowl of water hot from the tap. When thawed, gently finish heating the kernels in a saucepan over low heat on the stove. You’ll be surprised how much they’ll taste summer fresh.
The same holds true for garden or English peas. Blanc them in their pods in boiling water for a minute or 90 seconds, drain, and freeze them in their pods. Thaw them in hot tap water when you’re ready to use them. The pods will have turned to mush, so discard them, but the peas inside will be lightly cooked. Finish cooking them with just a minute’s low heat in a sauce pan with a little water on the stove. They’ll also taste summer fresh.
If all this sounds like work, it is. But it’s pleasant work and valuable, because you’ll be eating the best organic food at its peak of flavor and nutrition all through the other nine months. It will cost you less than what you’d pay for conventional food at the store. And if you grow these foods yourself in your own garden, you’ll pay far less.
Paint Additive Being Used in Your Food
Titanium dioxide is widely used around the world as an additive to white paint because its chemical make-up renders it very reflective of light. But it’s also being added to food for the same reason. But one molecular form of titanium dioxide is the shape called nanotubes—miniscule tubes that could pose a great danger to human health.
Right up front I’m going to give you the following URL:
This URL will take you to a website developed by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies that lists 96 common food products that add titanium dioxide to their processed foods. You know many of them: Fiber One, Trix, Good and Plenty, Hershey’s syrup.
Here is the first batch of products containing titanium dioxide, according to the Project. You can find all 96 products by following the URL.
Albertson’s: American Cheese Singles, Cheddar Cheese Stick, Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, Chocolate Syrup, Coffee Creamer, Cream Cheese, Golden Sandwich Cookies, Italian Cheese Blend, Mini-Marshmallows, Mozzarella Stick, Swiss Cheese Singles, Vanilla Pudding, and Whipped Cream.
Best Foods Mayonnaise, Betty Crocker: Mashed Potatoes and Whipped Cream Frosting, Blue Diamond Almond Beverage, Breathsavers Mints, Cadbury Milk Chocolate Bar, Carnation Breakfast Essential, Daisy Low Fat Cottage Cheese, Dannon Greek Plain Yogurt, Dentyne Fire Spicy Cinnamon and Ice Peppermint Gum.
That’s just under a quarter of the processed food products. And this chemical compound isn’t listed as an ingredient. Why? Good question. Let’s take a closer look at titanium dioxide:
Titanium dioxide accounts for 70 percent of the total production volume of pigments worldwide. It is widely used to provide whiteness and opacity to products such as paints, plastics, papers, inks, foods, and toothpastes. It is also used in cosmetic and skin care products, and it is present in almost every sunblock, where it helps protect the skin from ultraviolet light.
Many sunscreens use nanoparticle titanium dioxide (along with nanoparticle zinc oxide) which, despite reports of potential health risks, is not actually absorbed through the skin. Other effects of titanium dioxide nanoparticles on human health are not well understood. Nevertheless, allergy to skin application has been confirmed.
Titanium dioxide dust, when inhaled, has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as an IARC Group 2B carcinogen, meaning it is possibly carcinogenic to humans.
The safety of the use of nanoparticle sized titanium dioxide, which can penetrate the body and reach internal organs, has been criticized. Studies have also found that titanium dioxide nanoparticles cause inflammatory response and genetic damage in mice. The body of research regarding the carcinogenicity of different particle sizes of titanium dioxide has led the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to recommend two separate exposure limits.
There is some evidence the rare disease yellow nail syndrome may be caused by titanium, either implanted for medical reasons or through eating various foods containing titanium dioxide.
Yellow nail syndrome is characterized by marked thickening and yellow to yellow-green discoloration of the nails often associated with systemic disease, most commonly lymphedema and compromised respiration.
WE ARE MADE FROM SOIL, AIR, WATER, AND SUNLIGHT
The following is an excerpt from an essay by eco-activist Vandana Shiva, who understands our relationship to the soil.
“The claim that the Green Revolution or genetic engineering will feed the world is false. Intrinsic to these technologies are monocultures based on chemical inputs, a recipe for killing the life of the soil
“We are made up of the same five elements — earth, water, fire, air and space — that constitute the Universe. We are the soil. We are the earth. What we do to the soil, we do to ourselves. And it is no accident that the words ‘humus’ and ‘humans’ have the same root.”
And that’s why in organic farming and gardening, it’s axiomatic that we feed the soil and the soil feeds the plant. What we’re really doing is feeding the microbial life in the soil so it increases in biodiversity and health. It is these microscopic bits of life that do the work of imparting health to all the creatures that live from the plants that grow in healthy soil. Including us.
THE GRAS LIST: HOW THE LOOPHOLE SWALLOWED THE LAW
The Natural Resources Defense Council has sent the following press release and it’s well worth reading:
When President Eisenhower signed the Food Additives Amendment of 1958, he established a regulatory program intended to restore public confidence that chemicals added to foods are safe. In the intervening 56 years, the basic structure of the law has changed little. However, the regulatory programs the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) established to implement the law have fallen behind over time as the agency strived to keep up with the explosion in the number and variety of chemicals in food, and to manage its huge workload with limited resources.
The 1958 law exempted from the formal, extended FDA approval process common food ingredients like vinegar and vegetable oil that are “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). It may have appeared reasonable at the time, but that exemption has been stretched into a loophole that has swallowed the law.
The exemption allows manufacturers to make safety determinations that the uses of their newest chemicals in food are safe without notifying the FDA. The agency’s attempts to limit these undisclosed GRAS determinations by asking industry to voluntarily inform the FDA about their chemicals are insufficient to ensure the safety of our food in a global marketplace with a complex food supply. Furthermore, no other developed country in the world has a system like GRAS to provide oversight of food ingredients.
Because of the apparent frequency with which companies make GRAS safety determinations without telling FDA, NRDC undertook a study to better understand companies’ rationale for not participating in FDA’s voluntary notification program. First, we built a list of companies and the chemicals they made. Then we reviewed public records, the company websites, and trade journals to identify chemicals that appear to be marketed in the U.S. pursuant to an undisclosed GRAS determination, i.e. without notification to the FDA.
All told, we were able to identify 275 chemicals from 56 companies that appear to be marketed for use in food based on undisclosed GRAS safety determinations. This is likely the tip of the iceberg — we previously published in an industry journal an estimate that there have been 1,000 such undisclosed GRAS determinations. For each chemical we identified in this study, we did not find evidence that FDA had cleared them.
In addition, using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), we obtained from the FDA copies of communications between the agency and companies who voluntarily sought agency review of their GRAS determinations. We found that this glimpse into the review process shows that often the agency has had serious concerns about the safety of certain chemicals, and that companies sometimes make safety decisions with little understanding of the law or the science. As discussed later, companies found their chemicals safe for use in food despite potentially serious allergic reactions, interactions with common drugs, or proposed uses much greater than company-established safe doses.
On those occasions when the FDA is asked to review a GRAS determination, the agency rejects or triggers withdrawal of about one in five notices. Moreover, the public has even less information about the many substances with GRAS determinations that are never submitted to the agency in the first place — and which may pose a much greater danger. It is often virtually impossible for the public to find out about the safety — or in many cases even the existence — of these chemicals in our food.
NRDC believes that “Generally Recognized as Secret” rather than “Generally Recognized as Safe” is a better name for the GRAS loophole. A chemical cannot be generally recognized as safe if its identity, chemical composition, and safety determination are not publicly disclosed. If the FDA does not know the identity of these chemicals and does not have documentation showing that they are safe to use in food, it cannot do its job.
In an increasingly global marketplace where many additives and foods are imported into the United States, this loophole presents an unsettling situation that undermines public confidence in the safety of food and calls into question whether the FDA is performing its duty to protect public health.
The problem is rooted in a law adopted in 1958 when Eisenhower was president and Elvis was drafted. It is time for the FDA and Congress to fix the problems. In the meantime, consumers need to demand that their grocery stores and their favorite brands sell only those food products with ingredients that the FDA has found to be safe.
USDA APPROVES DOW’S ‘AGENT ORANGE’ GMO CROPS
The EPA is currently reviewing an application from the biotech giant, Dow Chemical Co., to approve Enlist Duo, a dangerous mix of glyphosate (the main ingredient in RoundUp) and the even more toxic weed killer, 2,4-D. Dow is hoping to be able to use Enlist Duo on the next generation of genetically modified crops, which Dow has engineered to withstand 2,4-D.
In other 2,4-D news, Pesticide Action Network’s Marcia Ishii-Eiteman sends this disquieting information:
“USDA has presented Dow AgroSciences with a bountiful gift: a virtual green light for the pesticide company’s new genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybean seeds. These crops are designed specifically to be used with Dow’s infamous herbicide, 2,4-D, which, along with 2,4,5-T made up Agent Orange, the toxic and carcinogenic defoliant used during the Vietnam War.
“Dow had been waiting two years for the go-ahead from USDA to start marketing its 2,4-D-resistant corn and soy. And it now appears the corporation will get what it wants, despite strong opposition from farmers, healthcare professionals and concerned communities across the country.
“Agricultural scientists warn that introduction of 2,4-D resistant crops is a very bad idea, and could lead to as much as a 25-fold surge in 2,4-D use across the country over the next six years. This would result in severe damage to vulnerable crops, loss of farm businesses, and harm to rural communities’ health.
“Still, prospects for agency support have always looked promising to companies like Dow and Monsanto, and USDA approved a whopping nine new GMO seeds in 2013 alone. But to date, nearly half a million Americans — including outraged farmers, sustainable agriculture, local food and environmental advocates, concerned doctors and public health professionals — have voiced their strong concern about the possible approval of 2,4-D seeds.
“Surprised perhaps by the vehement public opposition, USDA acknowledged last year that these 2,4-D crops could in fact cause “significant environmental harm,” and agreed to prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). But in the draft EIS released last week, USDA simply shrugged away all of the public’s concerns and announced its intention to approve both of Dow’s 2,4-D resistant crops.
“Given the agency’s track record, I wasn’t all that surprised to see USDA dodge its responsibility. But as I dug deeper into the 200+ page EIS, my jaw dropped. In the final paragraph at the end of the executive summary, USDA seemed to go off the rails.
“Apparently abandoning scientific rigor, USDA launched into a bizarre narrative that should the agency fail to approve Dow’s 2,4-D crops, farmers are “expected” to aggressively increase their tillage. This in turn “could” cause increased erosion, negative impacts on soil quality, worsening air and water quality, release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, exacerbation of climate change and finally, threats to biodiversity. Wow. And to think, all this could happen if we don’t get 2,4-D crops in the ground ASAP!”
NOTES ON THE BENEFITS OF ORGANIC PRACTICES
The Organic Center sends these tidbits along:
Eating Organic Reduces Pesticide Exposure: a new study published in the journal Environmental Research found that eating an organic diet for a week can reduce pesticide exposure. The research was led by Dr. Liza Oates, who examined pesticide metabolites in the urine of 13 individuals who consumed a diet of at least 80 percent organic over seven days, and a diet of conventional food for seven days. Dr. Oates’ team found that the total pesticide metabolite levels were reduced by up to 96 percent by eating organic, with an average reduction of 50 percent.
Study finds that Organic Food Consumption Benefits Public Health: a new study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health concluded that eating an organic diet can contribute to human well-being. The research was led by a Dr. Johansson of The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, who reviewed current research on the effect of organic agriculture and crops on public health. Finding a clear health advantage of consuming organic, her team states that “both animal studies and in vitro studies clearly indicate the benefits of consumption of organically produced food instead of that conventionally produced.”
Higher Pollinator Biodiversity in Organic Farms: several studies have shown that organic farming is beneficial for bees, but a recent study published in Animal Conservation takes a new perspective on ways that organic farming contributes to pollinator health. The study looked at the interaction between plants and pollinators, to see if insect-flower interactions were higher on organic farms. Specifically, they looked at the number of visits pollinators made to flowers in organic vineyards compared with conventional vineyards. They found that organically managed vineyards had significantly higher numbers of interactions between pollinators and flowers than those managed conventionally.
Organically Managed Soils Could Reverse Effects of Climate Change: The Rodale Institute has done some amazing science supporting the benefits of organic agriculture, and its new report, entitled “Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change,” maintains this high quality of investigation. Findings in the report include a decrease of annual greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent if management of all current cropland transitioned to regenerative organic agriculture. Transitioning global pasture would add to carbon sequestration by 71 percent. “We could sequester more than 100 percent of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices,” the report states.
AND NOW FOR SOME PROPAGANDA FROM THE SOYBEAN INDUSTRY
The following is from a press release from the Soyfoods Council:
“American consumers are discovering that soy ingredients offer not only a better-for-you nutrition profile, but also combine the characteristics of versatility and quality protein. Tofu and edamame are enjoying growth, including in prepared meals, while soymilk is found in energy drinks and other beverages. The Mintel study was conducted by tracking more than 30 soy ingredients and products in the Global New Products Database (GNPD) for retail food and beverage products in the U.S.
“Environmental awareness, the diet-and-health connection, and lifestyle considerations are all areas where soyfoods are an ideal fit today’s food preferences. Soy energy drinks, tofu, and soy protein-based meat substitutes are affordable, convenient ways to eat more healthfully. These products are readily available in retail stores.”
Watch out for that “environmental awareness” stuff, Soyfoods Council. People might discover that over 90 percent of soy produced in America is genetically modified to withstand heavy applications of toxic Roundup herbicide.
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR PALMYRA JAGGERY
Jaggery is a natural sweetener used in Asia and especially on the Indian and Pakistani subcontinent. It’s mostly made by rural farmers for home use, and it’s made by boiling down the sap of sugar cane, date palms, coconut palms, or palmyra palms until the sap congeals into a hard paste that’s then ground into fine particles.
Jaggery has many advantages over white sugar, and many more over chemical substitutes like Splenda and Sweet N Low. It leaves no unpleasant aftertaste like stevia, and has orders of magnitude more nutritional elements than agave nectar. It has a low glycemic index, contains important minerals like iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium, plus many vitamins. It’s one of the only bioavailable plant sources of vitamin B12.
In cooking and as a sweetener, only half as much palmyra jaggery is needed to rqual the sweetness of white sugar. It hasn’t been available in the U.S. except in Asian ethnic markets, but this fall, the Conscious Food Company in the UK is introducing it to the American market through the Kier Group (email: firstname.lastname@example.org). And yes, Conscious Food’s palmyra jaggery is certified organic.
George Orwell’s Words to Live By
“It’s a mistake to think you are an activist, championing some movement. That’s the path to mental stagnation. The job is just to try to understand what’s going on.” –George Orwell
Right! Being an activist for a movement may have merit, but it presupposes that the movement is cut and dried, and any deviation from the movement’s principles is heresy. Trying to understand what’s going on means getting past this rigid understanding to the heart of the matter. It means considering new ideas and concepts and being able to change your opinion as necessary. It means focusing on what you think is the truth. And the truth is never set in stone, but is fluid, ever-changing lightning that can’t be put in a bottle.
Seeing the truth reveals the meaning of things. And when you understand meanings, you can see the value of those things in proper perspective. Once you know the real value of things, you can prioritize your energy and activism for maximum efficiency. Simply championing someone else’s movement is just thumping a Bible. Think critically. Understanding results in developing your own version of the movement. If there’s an organic movement to change the way we grow food, your part in it will be much more effective if you aren’t blindly following a rulebook but are creatively working on some aspect that has risen in your priorities because of your deep understanding of the problem.
So the first step is seeing the truth, and that means having accurate information. You’d think there would be trusted sources of accurate information, but they are not to be found on national TV. I usually watch CNN when I eat lunch, and lately there’s been an advertisement by the American Petroleum Institute celebrating the fact that the USA has become the world’s leader in the production of natural gas and—with any luck—soon we will lead the world in the production of oil. “So let’s all,” the ad proclaims, “Republicans, Democrats, and Independents,” get behind the production of gas and oil. Of course it doesn’t mention that the natural gas is produced by poisoning the earth with toxic, cancer-causing chemicals that fracture deep rock layers, or that the extra oil is going to come from environmentally irresponsible drilling in the arctic, or from oil shale deposits in the lower 48 that have been over-estimated by as much as 96 percent according to the latest figures, and from Alberta’s dirty tar sands petroleum shipped here through the Keystone XL pipeline. Or that much of these fuels will be sold overseas to enrich the coffers of the Petroleum Institute’s members and pour millions into the bloated bank accounts of the Koch brothers and the top 0.1%. The ad—and much else on TV—is pure propaganda. The most credible truth-teller on TV is a comedian: Jon Stewart.
Providing information so readers can see the truth is what this blog attempts to do. Yes, it champions the organic food movement, but it also strives to understand what’s really going on. Is the organic movement just about clean food?
The answer is, “of course not.” It’s really about protecting the world’s biodiversity, on which the health of nature depends, because biodiversity is the nature of health. The more biodiverse the ecosystem, the healthier it is. The healthier it is, the better it functions in the ways nature intends. And the better world it presents for us to live in. Increasing biodiversity produces an unforeseen confluence of benefits. If setting up a bat house on your property brings in a family of bats, they can reduce the number of mosquitoes and lessen the chance that you’ll contract the West Nile Virus. Allowing a patch of diverse weeds to grow near the garden provides nectar for adult green lacewings—beneficial insects whose larvae will keep the aphids off your roses.
Ecosystems are systems of interconnected trophic niches; that is, a trophic niche is a food source that may support one or more plants or animals, or both. Some call it the web of life, and that’s accurate. The internet is a digital version of the natural web of life—the world-wide web. The more websites in the system, the more powerful and useful the system. That’s why net neutrality is so important. The FCC’s current proposal to destroy net neutrality by allowing internet service providers to create a fast lane for Big Media is exactly akin to the destruction of natural ecosystems in order to create a fast lane for Big Ag, Big Chem, and Biotech to control the food supply. You can see the hideous results on any big conventional farm that plants GMO crops, and in the aisles of your local supermarket.
My college degree is in Journalism—a profession I take seriously. The essence of my education was that skepticism is healthy. You can’t see the truth if you’re blinded by your own preconceptions or by someone’s ideology that you’ve swallowed whole. After I’d graduated and was working on a large daily newspaper, this lesson was driven home to me in a particularly brutal way.
Nobody was covering the county courthouse in a systematic way, so I self-assigned the courthouse as my beat. I knew it would be good to have an insider as a source, and I reasoned that the county treasurer, who handled the funds for all the county’s offices, would be the best source, so I made it my business to visit him three times a week to see what I could find about misappropriations of funds. I struck gold. He began steering me toward county offices that were raking off small sums of money from their activities. One week he told me about how the office of animal control was skimming money off its income from the sale of dog licenses. Another week, it was that a contractor was substituting cheaper building materials for more expensive ones mandated by the building code and pocketing the difference. I wrote one of these stories every week for a couple of months and the editors thought I was a genius. I thought so, too. But then I had a falling out with the editor-in-chief over his refusal to print a story I wanted to write about racism at the local country club, and I quit.
About six months later, they had evidently hired a much better reporter than I was, because the main headline on the front page one day read, “County Treasurer Indicted for Embezzling $10 Million.” The treasurer had played me like a violin. By steering me toward the small-change operators, he was really steering me away from himself. As Orwell says, “The job is just to try to understand what’s going on.”
The lesson was learned. And this blog strives to present information that I think is reliable enough for you to try to make sense of what’s going on with food and farming, biodiversity and environmentalism, and the machinations of the corporate oligarchy that has replaced the precious system of Constitutional checks and balances that was once the pride of America.
SEE WHAT FAMILY FARMERS CAN DO
You’re undoubtedly aware that two counties in Oregon recently passed ordinances banning the planting of GMO crops within their borders. One of those counties is Jackson County. Here is a short video—very heartwarming—of family farmers in action a few days before the successful vote.
GUESS WHICH OIL IS BEING USED IN CHINESE RESTAURANTS?
A reader of this blog has done a little freelance investigation about the cooking oil used in Chinese restaurants in his neighborhood and shared the results with me.
He says he asks a waiter which oil is used for cooking and the waiters invariably come back and say “vegetable oil.” So he asks, “What kind of vegetable oil?” And the waiter comes back and says, “cottonseed oil.”
This is extremely valuable information because we don’t want to be eating cottonseed oil. From now on, I will ask that same question of every Chinese restaurant I visit and if the answer is cottonseed oil, I’ll thank them and walk out.
Almost all the cotton grown in America is genetically modified to withstand heavy applications of Roundup. It is also one of the crops most heavily sprayed with pesticides. So it’s the trifecta of garbage: its genes have been altered, which increasingly is shown to have negative health effects; its cells, seeds, and oil are contaminated with disease-causing Roundup (glyphosate), and it is likely to contain pesticide residues.
Cottonseed oil is used for salad oil, mayonnaise, salad dressing, and similar products, as well as bread, pastries, and cookies. Crisco is cottonseed oil—hydrogenated to boot, which makes it a trans-fatty acid. It’s used because it’s cheaper than canola or other oils. That’s probably why it’s used in cost-conscious Chinese restaurants.
HOW MUCH MONEY DOES A KOCH BROTHER MAKE?
Please sit down before you read this. According to news sources, Charles and David Koch EACH make $1.8 million AN HOUR. ‘Nuff said.
BOYCOTT THESE “TRAITOR BRANDS”
What are traitor brands? They are brands of food that Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association has identified as being owned by members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association—the processed food industry’s political and propaganda arm that spends many millions of dollars, contributed by you when you buy these brands, to prevent you from knowing whether your food contains genetically modified ingredients.
Although these brands purport to be organic—and may actually be organic—they have been gobbled up by big food corporations that use their profits to keep you in the dark. Boycott them!
Natural/Organic Traitor Brand Owned By/Parent company
Naked Juice PepsiCo
Simply Frito-Lay PepsiCo
Starbucks Frappuccino PepsiCo
Honest Tea Coca-Cola
Gerber Organic Nestle
Sweet Leaf tea Nestle
Boca Burgers Kraft/Mondelez
Green and Black’s Kraft/Mondelez
Cascadian Farm General Mills
Larabar General Mills
Muir Glen General Mills
Pam organic cooking sprays ConAgra
Bear Naked Kelloggs
Morningstar Farms Kelloggs
Plum Organics Campbells
Wolfgang Puck organic soups Campbells
RW Knudsen Smuckers
Santa Cruz Organic Smuckers
Smuckers Organic Smuckers
Earthgrain bread Bimbo Bakeries
Simply Asia McCormick
Thai Kitchen McCormick
HOW FOOD SYSTEMS AFFECT BIODIVERSITY
Kumi Naidoo, writing on EcoWatch, has the following, very enlightened, ideas to share:
On today’s United Nations biodiversity day, we are being asked to focus on small islands and their unique ecology and fragility in times of globally pervasive threats such as climate change.
But, the whole planet is a small island in the vast sea of space, capable of producing food for all as a consequence of rich biodiversity. That diversity is under threat; our actions can strengthen it or weaken it. Our agriculture systems can help mitigate climate change and feed us, or they can accelerate the change and contribute to hunger.
The food system we choose has a direct impact on which type of world we will have. It’s the difference between a field that hums and is robust with life, or one which is dusty, dry and dead. It’s the difference between a place where ecological farming has been used or where a cocktail of industrial chemicals has soaked into the soil where the same crop is grown, decade after decade.
Our current food and farming system is creating more and more of these dry, dead ends. It is agriculture characterised by three things: the industrial-sized growing of a single plant, or “monoculture,” genetically engineered (GE) crops, and repeated toxic chemical infusions of pesticides and the application of synthetic fertilisers. All of these harm people and the farming ecosystems they depend on.
Just one example of the consequences of the current flawed agricultural system is the current catastrophic bee decline. Bees are being decimated in Europe and North America by the intensive use of chemical pesticides. In recent winters bee mortality in Europe has averaged at about 20 percent. A third of the food that we eat every day depends on bees and other insect pollinators.
This dead-end road sees large multinational corporations persuading farmers to buy GE seeds based on the premise that they will increase yields, despite studies suggesting otherwise. Instead, they only increase farmers’ indebtedness by failing to deliver the promised return on investment–turning them into slaves to a pesticide treadmill as superweeds develop. This is the ugly story behind the majority of the food we consume.
This cycle increases our dependency on fossil fuels and contributes to climate change, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) study recently reported. In fact, climate change affects this broken food system. Among other impacts, climate shocks cause food prices to rise, with deadly consequences in developing countries.
Climate change is estimated to have increased the amount spent on food worldwide by $50 billion a year. Climate change is also making food less nutritious according to a study published in Nature, with important staple crops such as wheat and maize containing fewer essential nutrients like zinc and iron. Projections show that up to 21 percent more children globally will be at risk of hunger by 2050.
Industrial agriculture does not rely on diversification but on the standardisation and homogenisation of biological processes, technologies and products. It promotes off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all solutions to food and farming around the world and in so doing undermines local and natural diversity, which are essential for resilience to climate change.
Ecological farming increases resilience to climate shocks. It is based on the diversity of nature to produce healthy food for all: diversity of seeds and plants; diversity of many different crops grown in the same field; diversity of insects that pollinate (like bees) or eliminate pests; and diversity of farming systems that mix crops with livestock.
Scientists from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, for example, recently found that certain beans greatly improve poor soils, increase productivity of maize when grown together, and respond well to drought. They can be used for food, animal feed, and soil fertility. Researchers found that growing maize and beans at the same time increased farmers’ income by 67 percent without the use of any chemical fertilisers.
Ecological farming also relies on the innovations of farmers that enable adaptation to local conditions. It’s the redeployment of traditional knowledge to counteract the impacts of climate change. In northeast Thailand, jasmine rice farmers have been adapting to increased drought by finding creative ways to use water resources—stock ponds for storage and simple wind-powered pumps made with locally available materials—which have been shown to increase yields and provide a safety net when drought strikes.
Ecological farming effectively contributes to climate change mitigation. Industrial farming is a massive greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter. Agriculture, in fact, accounts for between 17 percent and 32 percent of all the emissions caused by humans, according to research for Greenpeace. Stopping chemical nitrogen fertiliser overuse and shifting to organic fertilisers (to increase soil fertility), improving water management in paddy rice production and increasing agro-biodiversity through agroforestry are just a few examples of how ecological farming practices and diversity could directly contribute to GHG reduction and help agriculture reduce the effects of climate change.
Agriculture is now at a crossroads: we can pursue the dystopian dead-end road of industrial chemical-intensive farming or choose diverse and resilient ecological farming.
Governments, donors, philanthropists and the private sector must start shifting funds towards research to generate new knowledge on biodiversity-rich ecological farming and services to disseminate diversified practices that are locally relevant. We must reject the dead-end trap of industrial agriculture and choose instead a food system that celebrates biodiversity and is healthy for people and the planet.
GLOBAL MARCHES AGAINST MONSANTO DRAW HUGE CROWDS
Hundreds of thousands people have united across the world to voice concern over the spread of GMO foods and crops and to raise awareness over the biotech giant Monsanto’s growing grip on the global food supply chain. Activists on five continents around the globe, comprising 52 nations, joined the fight under the March against Monsanto umbrella.
It was not only the fear of genetically modified organisms in foods that knows no boundaries. Organized worldwide, peaceful family protests spoke out for the need to protect food supply, health, local farms and environment. Activists also sought to promote organic solutions to food production, while “exposing cronyism between big business and the government.”
With anti-GMO rallies having taken place in around 400 cities across the globe it’s still hard to estimate how many people participated in the event. Last year over 2 million people in 436 cities in 52 countries worldwide marched against the largest producer of genetically engineered seeds.
EPA SHINES ON MOMS ACROSS AMERICA
The following is from Moms Across America, a group that’s been working hard to expose the dangers of glyphosate herbicide to families of child-bearing age.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine sitting down with the EPA in Washington DC with a team of esteemed PH.D scientists, lawyers and moms just as passionate as I am, about a chemical called glyphosate, which is sprayed on GMOs and our food crops.
“But there we were. Because of your support, your generous donations, your phone calls, your posts about and emails to the EPA to recall Roundup, they took us seriously. 9 members of the pesticide Re-Review board listened to 11 of us for 2 hours instead of 1. They listened to your testimonials and the statistics of our health crisis in America. It was intense.
“Their eyes displayed dismay, understanding and even searched for more. I saw that we have EPA members on our side. They may not be able to act now, but they want to. They want us to push on and give them the reason to make a bold change. They want their children to be safe as much as you and I.
In other eyes, I saw denial, refusal and resistance. Their resignation weighed heavily in the air. I heard reasons, explanations and infuriating avoidance. I saw fear of change.
“Some of the board members refused to see just how urgent this is. They refused to see that we are breastfeeding our babies RIGHT NOW, today and we need for them to be safe. NOW.
“Despite our compelling binder of studies and undeniable evidence through testimonials of mothers of risk of harm, they did not agree to our request to recall Roundup, or revoke the license of glyphosate. They did not agree to issue a simple statement advising mothers to eat organic.
“They did agree however, to continue working with us, to give us the protocol for the upcoming scientific study of glyphosate in breast milk which was funded as a result of our preliminary testing, supported by Sustainable Pulse. They did agree to ask Monsanto for their breast milk testing that we have word they are conducting. They did agree to include include that study in their review of glyphosate, which happens only once every 15 years. I hope you understand how profound your support is in turning their decision from one that supports the profits of corporations to one that protects the health of our children.”
I’m sorry, Moms Across America, but I think EPA politely shined you on. The EPA said they’d ask Monsanto for its breast milk study and include it in their once-every-15-years review of glyphosate? Guess what the outcome of that study will be.
A NEW WRINKLE FROM THE BIOTECH INDUSTRY
Dana Perls of Friends of the Earth sent out this report:
Two Mondays ago, I sat in a room of some of the most powerful agribusiness, food and synthetic biology companies in the world. The goal of this industry meeting was to discuss how to get the public to accept synthetic biology, a new and unregulated set of genetic engineering methods, as the “foundation for the future of sustainable food.” It was meant to be a closed door and off-the-record industry meeting, in contrast to the open public forum on synthetic biology in our food which I helped organize the week before. But after some of the companies caught wind that Friends of the Earth was going to expose the leaked meeting information, we were cordially urged to attend by the meeting organizers.
Although there is no agreed upon definition of synthetic biology, it is a term that encompasses a variety of new, and many would say, “extreme” genetic engineering approaches, including computer generated DNA, directed evolution, and site specific mutagenesis. It’s faster and uses more powerful methods to engineer new genetic sequences than “traditional” genetic engineering. Engineers can even create entirely new DNA and organisms that do not exist in nature.
The meeting was under Chatham House rules – which means I can’t disclose who said what. However, I can say that the meeting was an alarming insight into the synthetic biology industry’s process of creating a sugar-coated media narrative to confuse the public, ignore the risks, and claim the mantle of “sustainability” for potentially profitable new synthetic biology products.
Over the course of the day, primarily CEOs, directors and PR people from powerful chemical and synthetic biology companies, bounced around tales of promise, discussed how to position synthetic biology as a “solution” to world hunger, and made blithe claims of safety that were not backed up by any actual data.
One problem, explained a participant, is that investors are Googling synthetic biology and finding activist blogs instead of media stories about how synthetic biology would help “feed starving people in poor nations” — how can they change the narrative? That seemed to be the point of the meeting.
Topics not discussed included risks to the environment; potential impacts on hundreds of thousands of small, low-income farmers; the lack of independent, transparent health and environmental assessments; and the lack of federal and international regulations. When I brought up these glaring omissions, my concerns were generally dismissed.
We were asked to brainstorm stories that paint biotech applications to food in a positive light. When I asked how biotech companies will protect small farmers who are producing the truly natural products, I was met with a hard cold stare, silence and a non-answer about needing to meet “consumer demand.”
Another person boiled it down that the industry’s most important task is to reassure the public and potential investors that these synthetic biology ingredients are regulated, safe, “natural,” and not new.
They Warned Us the USDA Would Wreck the Organic Movement
Mark Kastel at The Cornucopia Institute writes, “In a move truly deserving of the comment ‘You can’t make this stuff up,’ illustrating the widening divide in the organic community, the USDA’s National Organic Program announced this week that they would require public interest groups, educators, and the public to get their blessing before using the USDA organic logo in media coverage.
“After months of pointed criticism, and press coverage, of a series of allegedly illegal power grabs by the USDA, stripping authority Congress vested in the the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the USDA has figured out a way to resolve the dispute.
“Its quarterly newsletter recapped the recent NOSB meeting in San Antonio, Texas. It was one of the most contentious meetings in the history of the organic movement. It included a protest that initially shut down the proceedings and a parliamentary challenge to the illegal power grab by NOP staff director Miles McEvoy.
“The protest ended after police came in for an arrest and the challenge, under Roberts Rules of Order, endorsed by a number of board members, only ended after a long adjournment where Mr. McEvoy conferred with his staff (and superiors and lawyers in Washington by phone) and subsequently threatened to shut the entire meeting down and send everyone home if the parliamentary motion challenging his authority wasn’t withdrawn.
“But if you read the USDA’s Organic Integrity Quarterly you might question the accuracy of their story. There’s not a word of any dispute at the meeting even though, besides the protests, numerous citizens and public interest groups, in formal written and oral testimony, condemned the USDA’s actions. And this meeting came on the heels of a letter written to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack by the two primary authors of the Organic Foods Production Act, the law that gave the USDA the authority to establish the NOP in the first place. Senator Patrick Leahy and Representative Peter DeFazio clearly stated that the USDA moves were a violation of congressional intent and requested their immediate reversal.
Not a word about any of this in the USDA’s quarterly organic newsletter.
“But now the USDA wants to read anything The Cornucopia Institute, a corporate and governmental watchdog in the organic arena, or any other public interest group intends to publish if we want to use the USDA organic logo. This logo is owned by the citizens of the United States of America.
“Now don’t get me wrong. Their advice to commercial interests, to have their certifiers review labels where they might use the USDA seal, for compliance with the law, is sound. But stifling constitutionally protected free speech? No, that’s a gross overstep of power.
“Cornucopia’s Board President, a third-generation certified organic farmer from Durand, Wisconsin, Helen Kees, after reading this newsletter instructed Cornucopia staff to ‘Give ‘em hell’ and included a referral to an experienced constitutional lawyer. We doubt it that will be necessary. Someone at the USDA will be wise enough to not kick that hornet’s nest.”
My take? Don’t count on it.
AND NOW FOR THE POSITIVE NEWS
Fighting Big Ag and Biotech is one thing, but the other side of the coin is about those who are working on truly sustainable farming methods by getting out from behind the computer and actually farming in an eco-friendly, life-supporting, and positive way.
Such a group is the Hudson Valley Greenhorns, led by a charismatic young woman. Here’s an article about the group. Here is the future of American farming, albeit in embryonic form.
GROCERY MANUFACTURERS AIM TO BLOCK
ANY ATTEMPT TO LABEL GMO FOODS
Ronnie Cummins, that indefatigable food warrior at the Organic Consumers Association, reports that “Vermont isn’t the only state up against the multi-billion dollar lobbying group (called the Grocery Manufacturers of America). The GMA, whose 300-plus members include Monsanto and Dow, Coca-Cola, and General Mills, is pushing a bill in Congress that would preempt all states from passing GMO labeling laws.
“It’s time for consumers in every state to band together to defeat the GMA’s full-on assault, not only on Vermont, not only on consumers’ right to know what’s in our food, but on states’ rights and on our basic freedoms to protect our health and our communities.
“Here’s how we do it. We boycott every product, including the natural and organic brands, owned by members of the GMA. We flood their Facebook pages, tarnish their brand names. We pressure financial institutions, pension funds and mutual funds to divest from Monsanto and the other GMA companies.
“Our motto for Monsanto and GMA products must become: Don’t buy them. Don’t sell them. Don’t grow them. And don’t let your financial institution, university, church, labor union or pension fund invest in them.
“As soon as the GMA files a lawsuit against Vermont, the Organic Consumers Association, joined by a growing coalition of public interest groups, will launch a boycott and divestment campaign directed against all of the 300 GMA companies and their thousands of brand name products—including foods, beverages, seeds, home and garden supplies, pet food, herbicides and pesticides.
“Monsanto and the GMA have until now successfully blocked popular GMO labeling legislation in over 30 states. They’ve defeated, by a razor-thin margin, two high-profile ballot initiatives, in California (2012) and Washington (2013). And they’ve intimidated Connecticut and Maine into including trigger clauses in those states’ GMO labeling laws, successfully delaying their implementation.
“Funding for this anti-consumer, anti-right-to-know lobbying and advertising effort topped $100 million in 2012-2014, including $12 million in illegally laundered donations to I-522, the Washington State GMO labeling ballot initiative of 2013. All of that money has come from the 300 chemical, seed, supermarket, grain, pharmaceutical and food corporations, including Monsanto and the other Gene Giants, who make up the GMA.
“Until now the GMA colossus has ruled, not only in Washington D.C., but in all 50 states. But now that Vermont has passed a trigger-free GMO labeling law, and Oregon is poised to do the same in November, the balance of power has shifted.
“Monsanto, the GMA and their allies are in panic mode. Because they know that when companies are forced to label or remove GMOs, and also are forced to drop the fraudulent practice of labeling GE-tainted foods as ‘natural’ or ‘all natural,’ in one state, they will have to do it in every state. Just as they’ve been forced to do in Europe, where mandatory GMO labeling has been in effect since 1997.
“GMA members and corporate agribusiness hate labeling, because it forces them to reveal all of the hazardous GMOs, chemicals and drug residues lurking in the billions of dollars of foods, beverages, seeds, grains and pesticides they sell. It’s no wonder that Monsanto and GMA’s bill in Congress–a bill they’ve named the Orwellian ‘Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014’—has been renamed the ‘DARK’ (Denying Americans the Right to Know) Act.
“We absolutely must defeat the impending GMA lawsuit against Vermont. This will require us to raise money and provide legal help to the state.
“Equally important, we need to intensify our mass education, grassroots lobbying and marketplace pressure so we can defeat Monsanto and the GMA Big Food/Chemical lobby in the court of public opinion, too. But there are other ways we can use our dollars to defeat the GMA. We can refuse to invest, even indirectly through retirement and mutual funds, in those companies. We can pressure institutional investors like Fidelity, Vanguard and State Street to dump their stock in these companies.
“And we can boycott all of the 300 GMA companies and their more than 6,000 brand name products—including foods, beverages, seeds, home and garden supplies, pet food, herbicides, and pesticides
“Where to start? As part of this Great Boycott, pro-organic consumer groups will put a special emphasis on boycotting the ‘Traitor Brands,’ those organic and so-called ‘natural’ brands owned and marketed by GMA members.
“Health-conscious and green-minded consumers often inadvertently support the GMA when they buy brands like Honest Tea, Kashi, Odwalla and others whose parent companies, all members of the GMA, have donated millions to defeat GMO labeling initiatives in California (Prop 37) and Washington State (I-522).
“These Traitor Brands include, among others:
• PepsiCo ($4.8M donated to defeat GMO labeling) – IZZE, Naked Juice, Simply Frito-Lay, Starbucks Frappucino
• Coca-Cola ($3.2M) – Honest Tea, Odwalla
• Nestle ($3M) – Gerber Organic, Sweet Leaf tea
• Kraft/Mondelez ($2.4M) – Boca Burgers, Green and Black’s
• General Mills ($2.1M) – Cascadian Farm, Larabar, Muir Glen
• ConAgra Foods ($2M) – Alexia, Pam organic cooking sprays
• Kelloggs ($1.1M) – Bear Naked, Gardenburger, Kashi, Morningstar Farms
• Campbells ($980k) – Plum Organics, Wolfgang Puck organic soups
• Smuckers ($900k) – R.W. Knudsen, Santa Cruz organic, Smuckers Organic
• Hershey’s ($880k) – Dagoba
• Bimbo Bakeries ($560k) – Earthgrains bread
• McCormick ($400k) – Simply Asia, Thai Kitchen
“Let’s be clear. Junk Food and beverage companies who are members of the GMA are gobbling up organic and ‘natural’ brands because they recognize the huge profit potential in the fast-growing organic and natural markets. They want our business. If we stop buying their brands, they know there’s a good chance we’ll find alternative brands. And we might never look back.
“There are about 50 popular organic and natural ‘Traitor Brands’ (owned by GMA members). It’s easy for most of us to boycott those brands. But how do we boycott the entire 6,000-product inventory of GMA member-owned brands, especially those of us who don’t shop for those brands in supermarkets?
“Here are seven ways to fight back against Monsanto and all the Corporate Bullies of the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
1. Stop buying all non-organic processed foods. Even if they are certified organic, don’t buy any Traitor Brand processed foods or beverages. Ninety percent of the foods Americans buy or consume are heavily processed, deliberately laced with sugar, salt and unhealthy fats, contaminated with dyes, preservatives, pesticides, GMOs, and drug residues. If you want to be healthy, if you want to avoid cancer, heart attacks, or obesity, build your diet around whole foods, especially raw fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, (coconut oil, avocadoes, pastured meat, dairy, and eggs, nuts, and whole grains) and nuts.
2. Patronize grocers, coops and community restaurants that serve organic, cooked-from-scratch, local food. Many restaurants, especially chain restaurants (Chipotlé is a rare exception), sell many of the brands owned by GMA members.
3. Cook at home with healthy organic ingredients.
4. Buy only heirloom, open-pollinated, and/or organic seeds.
5. Boycott all lawn and garden inputs (chemicals, fertilizers, etc.) unless they are “OMRI Approved,” which means they are allowed in organic production.
6. Read the labels on everything you buy. If a GMA member company owns the product, don’t buy it. Given the greed and reckless disregard for public health and the environment typical of GMA corporations, chances are these products aren’t good for you and the environment anyway.
7. Download the Buycott app for your smartphone and join OCA’s new campaign, ‘Buy Organic Brands that Support Your Right to Know’ so you can scan products before you buy them.
“In this age of the Internet and social media, consumer boycotts, divestment campaigns and other forms of marketplace pressure are more powerful than ever. Please join and support the Organic Consumers Association’s ‘Great Boycott’ of Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association today. Let’s show Monsanto and the GMA we mean business.
TWO OREGON COUNTIES BAN PLANTING OF GMO CROPS
Two Oregon counties—Jackson and Josephine—soundly defeated the biotech industry on May 20. Voters there, led in Jackson County by a grassroots group called Our Family Farms Coalition, passed countywide bans on growing GMOs.
The wins send a clear signal to the biotech industry that their GMO crops are not wanted. And an equally clear signal to politicians that communities will take a stand to protect their democratic right to local home rule.
The Organic Consumers Association noted that this time, Monsanto’s money and lies didn’t work. Monsanto and the rest of biotech industry spent a cool $1 million—a new record for a county ballot measure in Oregon—in Jackson County alone.
This time, ordinary citizens and community rights prevailed over corporate and political corruption. This time, we’re celebrating. This week’s victories are all the more sweet, coming just weeks after Vermont signed into law this country’s first stand-alone bill requiring mandatory labeling of GMOs.
The grassroots anti-GMO movement, always a force to be reckoned with, is now a bigger-than-ever threat to corporations that have poisoned and polluted with impunity, for decades.
However, we need to defend Josephine County’s initiative, at risk because of a controversial law passed last year in Oregon preempting county GMO bans. (Jackson County got on the ballot before Oregon SB 863 passed). And we have to defend Vermont’s new labeling law, because the Grocery Manufacturers Association is suing in federal court to overturn it.
ROUNDUP READY BLUEGRASS IS READY FOR YOUR LAWN
Genetically engineered grass could soon be coming to a lawn, or a park or a golf course or an office complex—or an organic pasture—near you.
In July, 2011, Scotts Company and Monsanto convinced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to give the companies a free pass to market their genetically engineered Roundup-Ready Kentucky Bluegrass. No testing required.
Now, employees of the Marysville, Ohio-based company are set to begin testing new GMO grass on their lawns. The company says it plans to sell the product commercially in 2015. Sales to consumers will start in 2016. Where would you rather your kids play? On a lawn with a little crabgrass and some dandelions? Or a lawn drenched in Monsanto’s toxic Roundup?