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The Stench of Slavery Lingers in the Contemporary GOP

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How is it that despite the fact that most Americans are peace-loving, hard-working, generous, tolerant people who believe in the ideals expressed in the Constitution, we have become a nation of almost constant warfare whose Congress is currently dominated by right-wing zealots, a nation that oppresses its minorities, devalues its women and LGTB communities, declares war on science, spies on its own citizens, fails to prosecute war criminals and bank fraud, destroys its environment by practicing ruthless agriculture and exploitative energy extraction, and gives enormous wealth to a handful of people while its middle class sinks beneath a tidal wave of debt and income inequality?

The answer, I think, is that our country’s original sin of slavery still corrupts us. Slavery in the antebellum South was anything but an expression of the American ideals of fair play, equality, and justice for all. It was a brutal system of repression where a handful of people had all the money and respect, while slaves did all the work and were treated like chattel.

Although the South lost the Civil War, it’s now come to pass that the ethos of the Old South has enjoyed a recrudescence and infected our society anew. The examples are everywhere. In Wisconsin, original home of American socialism, Republican Governor Scott Walker has effectively eliminated collective bargaining. Anti-science ignorance blooms within the so-called Christian community, where children are taught that the world was created 6,000 years ago and humans and dinosaurs lived together. Like ISIS in the Middle East, whose goal is to establish a caliphate across the Muslim world and pluralism is disallowed, fundamental Christian evangelicals believe that America is a Christian nation, despite the insistence of the Founding Fathers that it not only isn’t a sectarian nation, but church and state should remain forever separate. Our police forces have morphed into paramilitary and gun down unarmed minority children. There’s a war on women’s reproductive rights that’s essentially a re-establishment of male dominance over females. Ignorance reigns in the Republican legislator in Idaho would wondered at a hearing whether a woman could swallow a camera to facilitate a gynecological exam; in the Republican legislator who wanted to jail women who wear yoga pants; in the intolerance of those who would uproot families and deport them instead of offering them a way to citizenship. I could go on.

And how is all this attributable to slavery? I will now quote extensively from “How a Brutal Strain of American Aristocrats Have Come to Rule America,” written by Sara Robinson on AlterNet about three years ago. It is as trenchant a piece of political and historical analysis into our current predicament as can be imagined. Here it is:

“It’s been said that the rich are different than you and me. What most Americans don’t know is that they’re also quite different from each other, and that which faction is currently running the show ultimately makes a vast difference in the kind of country we are.

“Right now, a lot of our problems stem directly from the fact that the wrong sort has finally gotten the upper hand; a particularly brutal and anti-democratic strain of American aristocrat that the other elites have mostly managed to keep away from the levers of power since the Revolution. Worse: this bunch has set a very ugly tone that’s corrupted how people with power and money behave in every corner of our culture. Here’s what happened, and how it happened, and what it means for America now.

“Much of American history has been characterized by a struggle between two historical factions among the American elite — and that the election of George W. Bush was a definitive sign that the wrong side is winning.

“For most of our history, American economics, culture and politics have been dominated by a New England-based Yankee aristocracy that was rooted in Puritan communitarian values, educated at the Ivies and marinated in an ethic of noblesse oblige (the conviction that those who possess wealth and power are morally bound to use it for the betterment of society). While they’ve done their share of damage to the notion of democracy in the name of profit (as all financial elites inevitably do), this group has, for the most part, tempered its predatory instincts with a code that valued mass education and human rights; held up public service as both a duty and an honor; and imbued them with the belief that once you made your nut, you had a moral duty to do something positive with it for the betterment of mankind. Your own legacy depended on this. Among the presidents, this strain gave us both Roosevelts, Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, and Poppy Bush — nerdy, wonky intellectuals who, for all their faults, at least took the business of good government seriously. The core impulse to improve the world is a good one — and one that’s been conspicuously absent in other aristocratic cultures.

“Which brings us to that other great historical American nobility — the plantation aristocracy of the lowland South, which has been notable throughout its 400-year history for its utter lack of civic interest, its hostility to the very ideas of democracy and human rights, its love of hierarchy, its fear of technology and progress, its reliance on brutality and violence to maintain ‘order,’ and its outright celebration of inequality as an order divinely ordained by God.

“The elites of the Deep South are descended mainly from the owners of sugar, rum and cotton plantations from Barbados — the younger sons of the British nobility who’d farmed up the Caribbean islands, and then came ashore to the southern coasts seeking more land. The culture they created in the crescent stretching from Charleston, SC, around to New Orleans was a near-carbon copy of the West Indian slave state these Barbadians had left behind, a place notorious even then for its inhumanity. From the outset, Deep Southern culture was based on radical disparities in wealth and power, with a tiny elite commanding total obedience and enforcing it with state-sponsored terror. Its expansionist ambitions would put it on a collision course with its Yankee rivals, triggering military, social, and political conflicts that continue to plague the United States to this day.

“These elites have always feared and opposed universal literacy, public schools and libraries, and a free press. They have historically been profoundly anti-technology as well, far preferring solutions that involve finding more serfs and throwing them at a problem whenever possible. Why buy a bulldozer when 150 convicts on a chain gang can grade your road instead? Unlike the Puritan elites, who wore their wealth modestly and dedicated themselves to the common good, Southern elites sank their money into ostentatious homes and clothing and the pursuit of pleasure — including lavish parties, games of fortune, predatory sexual conquests, and blood sports involving ritualized animal abuse spectacles.

“But perhaps the most destructive piece of the Southern elites’ worldview is the extremely anti-democratic way it defined the very idea of liberty. In Yankee Puritan culture, both liberty and authority resided mostly with the community, and not so much with individuals. Individuals were expected to make sacrifices for the betterment of everyone. In return, the community had an inescapable moral duty to care for its sick, educate its young and provide for its needy — the kind of support that maximizes each person’s liberty to live in dignity and achieve his or her potential. A Yankee community that failed to provide such support brought shame upon itself. To this day, our progressive politics are deeply informed by this Puritan view of ordered liberty.

“In the old South, on the other hand, nobody had the authority to tell a Southern gentleman what to do with resources under his control. In this model, that’s what liberty is. If you don’t have the freedom to rape, beat, torture, kill, enslave, or exploit your underlings (including your wife and children) with impunity — or abuse the land, or enforce rules on others that you will never have to answer to yourself — then you can’t really call yourself a free man.

“When a Southern conservative talks about ‘losing his liberty,’ the loss of this absolute domination over the people and property under his control — and, worse, the loss of status and the resulting risk of being held accountable for laws that he was once exempt from — is what he’s really talking about. In this view, freedom is a zero-sum game. Anything that gives more freedom and rights to lower-status people can’t help but put serious limits on the freedom of the upper classes to use those people as they please. It cannot be any other way. So they find Yankee-style rights expansions absolutely intolerable, to the point where they’re willing to fight and die to preserve their divine right to rule.

“Once we understand the two different definitions of ‘liberty’ at work here, a lot of other things suddenly make much more sense. We can understand the traditional Southern antipathy to education, progress, public investment, unionization, equal opportunity, and civil rights. The fervent belief among these elites that they should completely escape any legal or social accountability for any harm they cause. Their obsessive attention to where they fall in the status hierarchies. And, most of all — the unremitting and unapologetic brutality with which they’ve defended these ‘liberties’ across the length of their history.

“The current conservative culture war is the Civil War still being re-fought by other means. After the Civil War, the rise of Northern industrialists and the dominance of Northern universities and media ensured that subsequent generations of the American power elite continued to subscribe to the Northern worldview — even when the individual leaders came from other parts of the country.

“Ironically, it was that old Yankee commitment to national betterment that ultimately gave the Southern aristocracy its big chance to break out and go national. It was easy for the Northeast to hold onto cultural, political and economic power as long as all the country’s major banks, businesses, universities, and industries were headquartered there. But the New Deal — and, especially, the post-war interstate highways, dams, power grids, and other infrastructure investments that gave rise to the Sun Belt — fatally loosened the Yankees’ stranglehold on national power. The gleaming new cities of the South and West shifted the American population centers, unleashing new political and economic forces with real power to challenge the Yankee consensus. And because a vast number of westward migrants came out of the South, the elites that rose along with these cities tended to hew to the old Southern code, and either tacitly or openly resist the moral imperatives of the Yankee canon. The soaring postwar fortunes of cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Houston, Dallas, and Atlanta fed that ancient Barbadian slaveholder model of power with plenty of room and resources to launch a fresh and unexpected 20th-century revival.

“These post-WWII Southerners and Westerners drew their power from the new wealth provided by the defense, energy, real estate, and other economic booms in their regions. They also had a profound evangelical conviction, brought with them out of the South, that God wanted them to take America back from the Yankee liberals — a conviction that expressed itself simultaneously in both the formation of the vast post-war evangelical churches (which were major disseminators of Southern culture around the country); and in their takeover of the GOP, starting with Barry Goldwater’s campaign in 1964 and culminating with Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980.

“They countered Yankee hegemony by building their own universities, grooming their own leaders and creating their own media. By the 1990s, they were staging the RINO hunts that drove the last Republican moderates (almost all of them Yankees, by either geography or cultural background) and the meritocratic order they represented to total extinction within the GOP. A decade later, the Tea Party became the voice of the unleashed id of the old Southern order, bringing it forward into the 21st century with its full measure of selfishness, racism, superstition, and brutality intact.

“From its origins in the fever swamps of the lowland south, the worldview of the old Southern aristocracy can now be found nationwide. Buttressed by the arguments of Ayn Rand — who updated the ancient slaveholder ethic for the modern age — it has been exported to every corner of the culture, infected most of our other elite communities and killed off all but the very last vestiges of noblesse oblige.

“It’s not an overstatement to say that we’re now living in Plantation America.

“To the horror of his Yankee father, George W. Bush proceeded to run the country exactly like a Barbadian slavelord. And Barack Obama has done almost nothing to roll this victory back. We’re now living in an America where rampant inequality is accepted, and even celebrated.

“Torture and extrajudicial killing have been reinstated, with no due process required.
The wealthy and powerful are free to abuse employees, break laws, destroy the commons, and crash the economy — without ever being held to account.
The rich flaunt their ostentatious wealth without even the pretense of humility, modesty, generosity, or gratitude.

“The military — always a Southern-dominated institution — sucks down 60 percent of our federal discretionary spending, and is undergoing a rapid evangelical takeover as well.

“Our police are being given paramilitary training and powers that are completely out of line with their duty to serve and protect, but much more in keeping with a mission to subdue and suppress. Even liberal cities like Seattle are now home to the kind of local justice that used to be the hallmark of small-town Alabama sheriffs.

“Segregation is increasing everywhere. The rights of women and people of color are under assault. Violence against leaders who agitate for progressive change is up. Racist organizations are undergoing a renaissance nationwide.

“We are withdrawing government investments in public education, libraries, infrastructure, health care, and technological innovation — in many areas, to the point where we are falling behind the standards that prevail in every other developed country.

“Elites who dare to argue for increased investment in the common good, and believe that we should lay the groundwork for a better future, are regarded as not just silly and soft-headed, but also inviting underclass revolt. The Yankees thought that government’s job was to better the lot of the lower classes. The Southern aristocrats know that its real purpose is to deprive them of all possible means of rising up against their betters.

“The rich are different now because the elites who spent four centuries sucking the South dry and turning it into an economic and political backwater have now vanquished the more forward-thinking, democratic Northern elites. Their attitudes towards freedom, authority, community, government, and the social contract aren’t just confined to the country clubs of the Gulf Coast; they can now be found on the ground from Hollywood and Silicon Valley to Wall Street. And because of that quiet coup, the entire US is now turning into the global equivalent of a Deep South state.

“As long as America runs according to the rules of Southern politics, economics and culture, we’re no longer free citizens exercising our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as we’ve always understood them. Instead, we’re being treated like serfs on Massa’s plantation — and increasingly, we’re being granted our liberties only at Massa’s pleasure.

“Welcome to Plantation America.”

I agree with Sara Robinson’s analysis, but remember we’re talking about elites and those Christian evangelical conservatives and Tea Party zealots who are married to the plantation worldview, not every person in the Sun Belt. I see much hope in the establishment of organic farms and gardens across this region. It’s hard to turn from protecting biodiversity and cherishing life on your organic farm or in your garden and then start de-valuing the lives of minorities, throwing up roadblocks to voting, and stripping women of their reproductive rights.

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KRUGMAN ON CONQUERING INCOME INEQUALITY

Sara Robinson’s Plantation America piece does help illuminate current events. See how it throws light on what Paul Krugman wrote about income inequality in The New York Times on February 23, 2015: “As for wages and salaries, never mind college degrees — all the big gains are going to a tiny group of individuals holding strategic positions in corporate suites or astride the crossroads of finance. Rising inequality isn’t about who has the knowledge; it’s about who has the power.

“Now, there’s a lot we could do to redress this inequality of power. We could levy higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and invest the proceeds in programs that help working families. We could raise the minimum wage and make it easier for workers to organize. It’s not hard to imagine a truly serious effort to make America less unequal.”

Right—if the old Yankee values mean anything to you. But fat chance the right wing ideologues who run Congress will pass the laws that Krugman suggests.

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CONSERVATIVE SCIENCE IS NOT REALLY SCIENCE AT ALL

For years, Republican politicians wanting to block legislation on climate change have bolstered their arguments by pointing to the work of a handful of scientists who claim that greenhouse gases pose little risk to humanity.

One of the names they invoke most often is Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who claims that variations in the sun’s energy can largely explain recent global warming. He has often appeared on conservative news programs, testified before Congress and in state capitals, and starred at conferences of people who deny the risks of global warming.

But newly released documents show the extent to which Dr. Soon’s work has been tied to funding he received from corporate interests.

He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.

Now, The New York Times reports, Democratic lawmakers in Washington are demanding information about funding for other scientists who publicly dispute widely held views on the causes and risks of climate change.

Prominent members of the United States House of Representatives and the Senate have sent letters to universities, companies and trade groups asking for information about funding to the scientists.

In letters sent to seven universities, Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat who is the ranking member of the House committee on natural resources, sent detailed requests focused on funding sources to the academic employers of scientists who had testified before Congress about climate change.

In the letters, Representative Grijalva wrote, “My colleagues and I cannot perform our duties if research or testimony provided to us is influenced by undisclosed financial relationships.” He asked for each university’s policies on financial disclosure and the amount and sources of outside funding for each scholar, “communications regarding the funding” and “all drafts” of testimony.

Three Democratic members of the Senate sent 100 letters to fossil fuel companies, trade groups and other organizations asking about their funding of climate research and advocacy. The letters were signed by Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, Barbara Boxer of California and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. The senators asked for responses by April 3.

“Corporate special interests shouldn’t be able to secretly peddle the best junk science money can buy,” Senator Markey said, denouncing what he called “denial-for-hire operations.”

Buying junk science to support corporate chicanery is not confined to the issue of climate change. This is exactly how Big Ag, Big Chem, Big Biotech “prove” that conventional agriculture is harmless. Funding for those scientists who produce studies supporting the safety of pesticides and herbicides should also be examined. If the research is legitimate, and the findings are accurate—even if they support the safety of these chemicals—then all right. Nobody’s suggesting witch hunts. But if the funding comes from the companies like Monsanto that benefit from the sale of these chemicals, then there is obviously a conflict of interest. Academic freedom does not mean the right to game the pursuit of scientific truth in order to obtain funding for your research.

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THE NETHERLANDS BANS SALE OF ROUNDUP

It’s official, the Netherlands beat Monsanto in a long-debated motion to ban the sale of glyphosate-based herbicides. The Dutch Parliament passed the law prohibiting private parties from buying Monsanto’s toxic herbicide, Roundup, and is expected to go into effect in late 2015. While the Dutch Lower House had initiated the law to ban glyphosate from non-agricultural use years ago, it seems Monsanto’s grip on the government was firm until just recently, when the evidence of the harm that Roundup causes became overwhelming.

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HOUSE BILL PREVENTS EPA FROM GETTING EXPERT ADVICE

The GOP-dominated House has passed a bill that effectively prevents scientists who are peer-reviewed experts in their field from providing advice — directly or indirectly — to the EPA, while at the same time allowing industry representatives with financial interests in fossil fuels to have their say. Perversely, all this is being done in the name of “transparency.”

H.R. 1422, also known as the Science Advisory Board Reform Act, passed 229-191. It was sponsored by Representative Chris Stewart (R-UT). The bill changes the rules for appointing members to the Science Advisory Board (SAB), which provides scientific advice to the EPA Administrator. Among many other things, it states: “Board members may not participate in advisory activities that directly or indirectly involve review or evaluation of their own work.” This means that a scientist who had published a peer-reviewed paper on a particular topic would not be able to advise the EPA on the findings contained within that paper. That is, the very scientists who know the subject matter best would not be able to discuss it.

In response, the White House has issued a statement indicating it would veto the bill if it passed, noting: “H.R. 1422 would negatively affect the appointment of experts and would weaken the scientific independence and integrity of the SAB.” Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) was blunter, telling House Republicans on Tuesday: “I get it, you don’t like science. And you don’t like science that interferes with the interests of your corporate clients. But we need science to protect public health and the environment.”

Director of the Union of Concerned Scientists Andrew A. Rosenberg wrote a letter to House Representatives stating: “This [bill] effectively turns the idea of conflict of interest on its head, with the bizarre presumption that corporate experts with direct financial interests are not conflicted while academics who work on these issues are. Of course, a scientist with expertise on topics the Science Advisory Board addresses likely will have done peer-reviewed studies on that topic. That makes the scientist’s evaluation more valuable, not less.”

Two more bills relating to the EPA are set to go for a vote, bills that opponents argue are part of an unrelenting partisan attack on the EPA and that demonstrate more support for industrial polluters than the public health concerns of the American people.

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PEACEFUL BELLY FARM PLANT SALE VIDEO GOES VIRAL

Oh, them organic hippies! God bless ‘em:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvBr-qPAGwI

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The Propagandizing of America

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“The War on Science” screams the 72-point headline on the cover of the March, 2015, issue of National Geographic, accompanied by the following lines defining the war:

Climate change does not exist.
Evolution never happened.
The Moon Landing was fake.
Vaccinations can lead to autism.
Genetically Modified Food is evil.

What?!?! Good old National Geo lumps opposition to GMOs in with climate change deniers and moon landing truthers? If you think GMOs are an environmental threat, you are a foot soldier in the war on science? How is this possible, for a respected magazine to fall prey to agribusiness propaganda?

It’s possible because the editors at National Geo have swallowed the biotech industry’s lies. This propaganda masquerades as journalism, but it isn’t journalism at all. It is a mask behind which is an agenda so incredibly cynical that it truly is evil. And that agenda is the complete corporate control of agriculture—from the patented GMO seeds that farmers are not allowed to save and plant next growing season, to the profits from the sale of agricultural chemicals. The thrust of the propaganda is that not only are GMOs safe and entirely equivalent to regular crops, but that they are key to feeding the world’s burgeoning population in the future.

This propaganda is spread so widely and so often that it swamps fair and objective real journalism. Big Ag in all its forms is willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to cover up the truth. The truth can’t get out. Silence reigns while the lies are broadcast through bullhorns. And those bullhorns are the media, including the National Geographic. And of course Fox “News,” but also the Washington Post and The New York Times, among many other outlets.

And now the propaganda comes through the internet and digital social media on smart phones. For example, a couple of days ago, I got an email from The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food. It encouraged me to “choose science over hysteria” when it comes to making food choices. Translated, this means stopping my hysterical worrying about GMOs and start chowing down on them instead, because the scientists have everything firmly in hand and they have your health and best interests at heart.

Let me quote from the website of the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food:

“American food and beverage companies have led the world in safe, quality food production for generations. Over the last two decades, the food industry has used genetically modified (GM) technology to produce these same products. Today, foods that have been genetically modified make up 70-80% of the foods we eat. Ingredients grown using GM technology are not only safe, but they also have a number of important benefits. GM crops are more plentiful, better for the environment and keep production costs down for farmers, ultimately lowering costs for consumers across the country.
We will continue to advocate for the continued safe and effective use of agricultural biotechnology to increase the food supply while lowering cost. And we will continue to engage in an informative dialogue with policy makers so that they understand the safety, prevalence and benefits of GM technology.”

And who is paying “to engage in an informative dialogue with policy makers” (read lobbying)? Here’s who:

The American Association of Cereal Chemists
Agricultural Retailers Association
American Agri-Women
American Bakers Association
American Beverage Association
American Farm Bureau Federation
American Feed Industry Association
American Frozen Food Institute
American Fruit and Vegetable Processors and Growers Coalition
American Seed Trade Association
American Soybean Association
American Sugarbeet Growers Association
Biotechnology Industry Organization
CropLife America
Corn Refiners Association
Council for Responsible Nutrition
Flavor & Extract Manufacturers Association
Global Cold Chain Alliance
Grocery Manufacturers Association
Independent Bakers Association
International Dairy Foods Association
International Franchise Association
National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance
National Association of Manufacturers
National Association of Wheat Growers
National Confectioners Association
National Corn Growers Association
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
National Grain & Feed Association
National Fisheries Institute
National Milk Producers Federation
National Oilseed Processors Association
National Potato Council
National Restaurant Association
National Turkey Federation
North American Millers Association
Pet Food Institute
Snack Food Association
U.S. Beet Sugar Association
U.S. Canola Association

Do you see any scientific organizations in this list? I see agribusiness trade associations, lobbying groups, and propaganda machines. Let’s look more closely at one organization that just might have a foot in science. Let’s examine the Council for Responsible Nutrition, number 16 on this list.

According to Sourcewatch, a non-profit that exposes the powers behind propaganda outlets, “the Council for Responsible Nutrition is a Washington-based trade association/lobby group. In 2009, it spent $470,000 on lobbying. Its members include ingredient suppliers and manufacturers in the dietary supplement industry, and other entities such as Archer Daniels Midlands Company, Bayer Corporation, Cargill Health & Food Technologies, Cadbury Schweppes, Novartis and Covance Laboratories, Inc., a toxicity testing lab that is controversial for performing tests on animals. CRN advocates self-regulation of the supplement industry.”

Of course, the propagandist-in-chief is Monsanto, which has been flooding TV, the internet, and digital media with click-throughs asking folks to “join the conversation.”
If you click through, a friendly-looking website comes up with pictures of ordinary folks asking Monsanto tough questions about the safety of GMOs and agricultural chemicals like Roundup herbicide. In other words, Monsanto is recognizing that people are becoming aware of the problems with GMOs and Big Ag. So here’s an example of “The Conversation,” taken from Monsanto’s online site:

Karen O. asks, “Is it safe to feed my kids GMOs?”

Monsanto’s answer is “Absolutely Karen! Many of us here at Monsanto are parents – we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and studying GMOs, and we feel confident feeding them to our kids. A big part of that confidence comes from knowing about all the independent experts who’ve looked at GMOs and concluded that they’re as safe as other foods. That includes groups like the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization, as well as government agencies like the FDA.”

Well, isn’t that special. Monsanto lets the public express their fears so that it can feed them deliberate lies about the safety of GMOs. It’s called propaganda. But is it fair to call Monsanto’s response to Karen O. “deliberate lies?”

Well, Monsanto’s reply to Karen included this: “…all the independent experts who’ve looked at GMOs and concluded that they’re as safe as other foods.”

So let’s look at an article recently sent out by the Center for Food Safety. But first, we need to check on the Center for Food Safety. I mean, who can you trust these days? Here’s what Sourcewatch says about this organization: “The Center for Food Safety, founded in 1997 by the International Center for Technology Assessment, describes itself as a U.S. non-profit organization ‘that works to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic foods and other forms of sustainable agriculture. Among the issues the organization works on are: genetically modified foods, organic food standards, aquaculture, animal cloning, food irradiation, synthetic hormones (such as rBGH), and mad cow disease.’ The organization received a four-star (‘exceptional’) rating from the charitable oversight organization Charity Navigator.” If any group is legit, it’s the Center for Food Safety.

Here’s the article, the gist of which directly refutes Monsanto’s claim about all the experts who’ve concluded that GMOs are as safe as any other food:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the heels of USDA deregulation of the Arctic® apple — the first genetically engineered apple — leading consumer, food safety and environmental groups issued a response to widespread media reports wrongly characterizing the science on GMOs as settled.

The groups, including Consumers Union, Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth and Pesticide Action Network, pointed to a January 24 report in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe — signed by 300 scientists, physicians and scholars — that asserts there is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs.

The claim of scientific consensus on GMOs frequently repeated in the media is “an artificial construct that has been falsely perpetuated,” the peer-reviewed statement said.

“Preeminent science bodies like the National Research Council have recognized that some engineered foods could pose considerable risk. It is widely recognized by scientists that those risks depend on the particular engineered gene and crop. It is unfortunate that self-appointed advocates for the technology have selectively cited the literature and organizations to suggest that GE crops, generally, present no risks that warrant concern,” said Doug Gurian-Sherman, PhD, senior scientist and director of sustainable agriculture at the Center for Food Safety.

“Not one independent, public safety study has been carried out on the Arctic® apple, and yet some media stories have reported it is ‘safe,’” said Michael Hansen, PhD, senior scientist at Consumers Union. “We call on the press to accurately report on the science of GMOs, particularly the health and environmental concerns raised by scientists and the lack of required safety studies that leave questions about the safety of genetically engineered foods.”

The journal statement cites a concerted effort by GMO seed developers and some scientists, commentators and journalists to construct the claim that there is a “scientific consensus” on GMO safety, and that debate on the topic is “over.”

That claim “…is misleading and misrepresents or outright ignores the currently available scientific evidence and the broad diversity of scientific opinions among scientists on this issue,” according to the statement.

The statement raises the following points in objection to the consensus of safety claim:

There is no consensus in the science. A comprehensive review of peer-reviewed animal feeding studies of GMOs found roughly an equal number of research groups raising concerns about genetically engineered foods and those suggesting GMOs were as safe and nutritious as conventional foods. The review also found that most studies finding GMO foods the same as conventional foods were performed by biotechnology companies or their associates.

There are no epidemiological studies investigating potential health effects of GMO food on human health. With no epidemiological studies, claims that “trillions of GMO meals” have been eaten with no ill effects have no scientific basis. Epidemiology is the study of human populations to determine whether something is harmful or beneficial, and is the scientifically accepted means of determining impact on human health. Without such studies, which have been used to determine the effects of factors from fats to smoking, it is not possible to know whether GMOs are causing harm such as increases in known diseases, especially over the long term.

GMO studies are frequently mischaracterized as showing safety. For example, the EU Research Project, which has been internationally cited as providing evidence of GMO safety, was not designed to test safety and provides no reliable evidence of safety. Another example is the false claim that “hundreds of studies” listed on the biotechnology website Biofortified demonstrate GMO safety; in fact, many of the studies on that list do not address safety concerns at all, and several of the studies raise serious concerns.

International agreements show widespread recognition of risks posed by GMO foods and crops. The Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety and UN’s Codex Alimentarius share a precautionary approach to GMO crops and foods, in that they agree that genetic engineering differs from conventional breeding and that safety assessments should be required before GMOs are used in food or released into the environment.

Claims that government and scientific organizations endorse safety are exaggerated or inaccurate. Reports by the Royal Society of Canada and British Medical Association have noted that some GMOs could be of considerable harm. The positions of some prominent scientific organizations have been misrepresented or opposed by members, further highlighting the lack of consensus among scientists.

There is no consensus on environmental impacts of GMOs, and many concerns have been raised about increased herbicide use, potential health impacts and the rapid spread of herbicide-resistant weeds.

The joint statement concludes, “…the totality of scientific research outcomes in the field of GM crop safety is nuanced; complex; often contradictory or inconclusive; confounded by researchers’ choices, assumptions, and funding sources; and, in general, has raised more questions than it has currently answered.”

Decisions on whether to continue and expand GMO crops should “…be supported by strong scientific evidence…obtained in a manner that is honest, ethical, rigorous, independent, transparent, and sufficiently diversified to compensate for bias,” rather than based on “misleading and misrepresentative claims by an internal circle of likeminded stakeholders that a ‘scientific consensus’ exists on GMO safety.”

So, yes. Deliberate lies. That’s what propagandists do—tell lies for a living. Note that in this article, it’s stated that “most studies finding GMO foods the same as conventional foods were performed by biotechnology companies or their associates.”

Monsanto is luring the public into its propaganda machine by inviting people to “join the conversation.” The information given by Monsanto to the public when they enter “The Conversation” is a set-up, a sucker punch, quoting bogus science performed by their own bought-and-paid-for “scientists” and salting this disinformation with outright lies.

The propaganda is being disseminated and repeated by the media. But National Geo has one thing right. There is a war on science going on. It’s being waged against real, rigorous science not just by tinfoil hat evolution deniers, but also by once respected sources like National Geographic.

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OUTRAGE OVER USDA GMO APPLE APPROVAL

Documents released by the Agriculture Department suggest a secret decision to approve a genetically modified apple (the Arctic®) was essentially made almost a year ago. The genetic modification disables an enzyme that causes apple browning.

The Okanagan company that developed the apple said it thought political factors had kept the approval from being announced until just recently. The announcement caused a firestorm of outrage among food safety and environmental groups.

The Okanagan company, which had initially requested approval in 2010, finally became so frustrated that it wrote a pointed letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack last month. A spokesman for the Agriculture Department said it took time to analyze the issues and all the comments received. There were two public comment periods that together drew more than 175,000 comments, the overwhelming majority opposed to approval.

Consumer and environmental groups, who say that genetically modified crops in general are not thoroughly tested for safety, were highly critical of the decision.
“This G.M.O. apple is simply unnecessary,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch, said. “Apple browning is a small cosmetic issue that consumers and the industry have dealt with successfully for generations.”

An Okanagan spokesperson said the apples would be labeled as Arctic, not as GMO, but with links to the company’s website so consumers could figure out that the fruit was GMO. (Yeah—fat chance.) He added that labeling the fruit as genetically modified would only be “demonizing” it.

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DOES OLIVE OIL DEFEND AGAINST ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?

Dr. Gary Beauchamp is speaking these days about his discovery of the oleocanthal molecule that he found in olive oil about 10 years ago, according to our friends at Apollo Olive Oil.

The discovery, like many great discoveries, was an accident. As a sensory chemist he was searching for a way to improve the taste of ibuprofen when he experienced an olive oil tasting. To his surprise he tasted something in the olive oil that had similarities to the taste of ibuprofen. Further research revealed he had discovered the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory molecule, oleocanthal.

This molecule in olive oil does not have the side effects of ibuprofen. Beauchamp also found that oleocanthal can help remove proteins that are the main component of amyloid plaques found in Alzheimer patients.

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CELLS: They Are Who We Are

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All life is cells.

Some cells, like microbes, are singles, living unattached to others. They may act in consort—like billions of yeast cells in grape juice, all doing the same task of turning the sugar to alcohol, but they are still single cells.

Even viruses—if they are alive at all–require cells to live. Without cells to invade and conquer, viruses would not exist.

The cells of multi-cellular organisms, plant and animal, cooperate to make complex life forms. In so doing, they take on unique roles. All these cells start out as stem cells that can develop into the structures of the organism’s tissues. One cell becomes the squamous cell in the lining of the mouth, another becomes an eyelid, and so on. They are instructed as to their destinies by hormones produced by the endocrine system, one of the body’s most important systems. Once they become the cells they are destined to be, they play a role in the organization and functioning of the body that produced them.

Thus any multi-cellular organism can be thought of as an ecosystem of cells, each type of cell different, with a specific job to do, requiring cooperation to create the living organism. Any natural ecosystem, comprised of the plants and animals designed by nature, reaches full health and sustainability in its climax state. This means all the players are present and functioning, from top of the line predators down to the tiniest bacterium.

It’s the same with the “ecosystem” of the conglomeration of cells in an organism. When each cell that the organism’s DNA is programmed to produce is present and functioning, health is the result. When certain cells are either missing or malfunctioning, however, illness is the result.

We know that agricultural chemicals like pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides have deleterious effects on cells in all sorts of organisms, not only on the cells themselves, but on the body’s systems that direct their creation and functioning. Chemicals like glyphosate, found in Roundup herbicide, deactivate enzymes that allow for the production of critical proteins. Glyphosate is also an endocrine disruptor, scrambling the message that the hormones are trying to get to the stem cells. We see the results in humans and in the ecosystems of our environment: ill health, destruction, and death.

Now think about what the biotech industry is doing by splicing foreign DNA into the foods we eat, creating genetically modified organisms (GMOs). These creations are something novel in the ecosystem. Their cells have never existed before. Their functions are uncharted and unpredictable. Their effects on the world’s organisms and ecosystems are almost completely unknown. The GMOs are not sanctioned by nature and disregard nature’s systems for establishing health.

This is why organic agriculture and horticulture is so important. They, along with Biodynamic farming, stand against mankind’s hubris in creating heretofore unknown organisms and flooding our environment with untested and known toxins. They are the only sustainable forms of agriculture.

The organic method considers the health of all life on earth, from microbe to mankind. No disruptive chemicals. No deactivated systems. Proper nutrition. Health from cells to whole creatures. That’s why it’s so important to not only eat organic, but also to support organic farmers and the unbiased scientific research that helps us toward a fuller understanding of nature’s ways.

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MARK BITTMAN ASKS AND ANSWERS THE RIGHT QUESTION

Writing in The New York Times for February 11, 2015, food writer and columnist Mark Bittman wrote, “Is contemporary American agriculture a system for nourishing people and providing a livelihood for farmers? Or is it one for denuding the nation’s topsoil while poisoning land, water, workers and consumers and enriching corporations? Our collective actions would indicate that our principles favor the latter; that has to change.”

His point is that our food goals are all about protecting corporations rather than protecting the health of the environment and all the creatures in it. He’s exactly right, of course, and I’m sure he’s aware that organic farmers and gardeners, and the people who support them by buying and eating their produce, have been doing just that for decades.

As if to underscore Bittman’s point, here’s a quote by Phil Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications, made about 15 years ago: “Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food, our interest is in selling as much of it as possible.”

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CONSUMERS UNION BACKS GMO RIGHT-TO-KNOW ACT

Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, has announced its support for the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, a bill in Congress that would create a federal standard for the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods.

The legislation was introduced by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon.

Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union, said, “We applaud Senators Boxer and Blumenthal and Representative DeFazio for introducing the GE Food Right-to-Know Act today. Genetically engineered crops, created by altering crop DNA in the laboratory, are different than traditional crops, and consumers have a right to know if they are eating them. Just like food that is frozen, from concentrate, homogenized or irradiated, genetically engineered food should be required to be labeled.”

Consumers Union said the bill would help consumers make informed decisions about the food they buy and feed their families. It would also help prevent consumer confusion by prohibiting the term “natural” to be used on food packaging containing GE ingredients, because its use is misleading.

A national survey by Consumer Reports in 2014 found 92 percent of respondents wanted labeling of genetically engineered food.

A report commissioned by Consumer Union found the cost of labeling genetically engineered food would be negligible– the median cost in this analysis is $2.30 per person per year, or less than a penny a day.

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A 12-POINT AGENDA FOR DRIVING GMOS OUT OF THE MARKET

Ronnie Cummins, the international director of the Organic Consumers Association, offers this agenda for getting rid of GMOs:

1. Stop Congress from passing the Pompeo bill (HR #4432) in 2015, which would take away states’ rights to pass mandatory GMO food labeling bills, and make it legal for unscrupulous food and beverage companies to continue mislabeling GMO-tainted foods as “natural” or “all natural.”

2. Stop Congress from “fast-tracking” and passing secretly negotiated “Free Trade” agreements (the TPP-Trans-Pacific Partnership, and TTIP-Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) that would weaken consumer and states’ rights to label and safety test GMO and factory-farmed foods.

3. Pass more state laws requiring mandatory labels on GMOs.

4. Pass more bans on GMOs, neonicotinoids and pesticides at the township, city, and county levels.

5. Support Vermont, Maui (Hawaii), Jackson and Josephine counties (Oregon) in their federal and state legal battles to uphold their laws requiring labels and/or bans on GMOs.

6. Educate the public on the dangers and cruelty of GMO-fed, factory-farmed meat, dairy and egg products, and organize a “Great Boycott” of all factory-farmed foods.

7. Support mandatory state legislation to label dairy products and chain restaurant food coming from factory farms or CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations).

8. Pressure retail natural food stores and coops to follow the lead of Whole Foods Market and the Natural Grocer to label and/or ban all GMO-derived foods, including meat and animal products and deli foods, from their stores.

9. Pressure restaurants to follow the lead of organic/grass fed restaurants and ban, or at least label, all GMO ingredients.

10. Support consumer efforts to test for Roundup/glyphosate contamination in drinking water, human urine, breast milk, and in non-GMO food products such as wheat, potatoes, oats, peas, lentils and dry beans that are currently sprayed with Roundup before harvest.

11. Educate the public on the positive health, environmental, ethical and climate-friendly (greenhouse gas sequestering) attributes of organic, grass-fed, and pasture-raised food and farming.

12. Boycott the “Traitor Brand” products of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, International Dairy Foods Association, and the Snack Food Association.

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MIDDLE EASTERN COOKING OF ORGANIC INGREDIENTS: HEALTHY FOOD

In 1968, I went to work in New York City for a man of Lebanese descent who lived with his wife Ginny and two sons across the Hudson in Cliffside Park, New Jersey. After working there for a few weeks, he invited me to his house for dinner. I had never eaten Lebanese food, and was delighted to discover that I loved it.

Over the next two years, Ginny introduced me to hummus and tabouleh, kibbeh, meghli, and many other dishes. After finishing with my job in New York, I moved on to work at Organic Gardening magazine, and discovered that the healthful foods we were describing in the magazine were the very ingredients Ginny had made into her distinctive Lebanese cuisine: olive oil, fresh vegetables of all kinds, fruits, citrus, rice, bulgur, fish, lamb, beef.

I’ve just run across a wonderful Lebanese cookbook—Taste of Beirut: Over 175 Delicious Lebanese Recipes from Classics to Contemporary to Mezze and More—everything I knew from Ginny and plenty more besides. It’s written by Joumana Accad, a woman born in Lebanon and now living in Texas, and published by HCI Books. I highly recommend it.

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Why Do GMO Labeling Measures Keep Losing?

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According to The New York Times, “In poll after poll, consumers have overwhelmingly said they want labels on foods that contain genetically modified ingredients. Most recently, 66 percent of respondents to an Associated Press-GfK poll last month said they wanted foods containing genetically modified ingredients to be labeled. Only 7 percent did not want such labeling.”

So how is it that when labeling laws are put on state ballots, they are narrowly defeated, as they were in California, Washington, and Oregon, even when pre-balloting polls showed that a big majority of the citizenry of those states want labeling? Are these polls representative of the voting public, or are they self-selected for anti-GMO people? Is someone cheating? If nine out of 10 people really want GMO labeling, as the Associated Press-GfK poll suggests, how come the ballot initiatives keep losing?

Chris Mooney, writing in the Washington Post, found these answers for a story published last October:

“Americans don’t actually know a lot about genetically modified foods, and so polls suggesting they support their labeling should be taken with a major grain of salt,” Mooney wrote. He quotes a 2013 survey conducted by researchers at Rutgers University that found that 54 percent of Americans say they know ‘very little or nothing at all’ about genetically modified foods, and 25 percent have never even heard of them. Only 26 percent of Americans, meanwhile, were actually aware that GMO labeling is not currently required.

“’It’s really clear that people don’t know very much about the subject,’ says Rutgers’ William Hallman, lead researcher on the poll. ‘And when people don’t know much about a subject, how you ask them a question about it largely determines the answer you get back.’

“Indeed, Hallman’s survey also found that when you ask people in the abstract, ‘What information would you like to see on food labels that is not already there?’, most say they don’t want any more information on the label — and only seven percent voluntarily come up with GMOs as an answer. So while over 90 percent of Americans may say GMO labeling is a good thing when you actually ask them directly about it, the vast majority of people are not going around thinking that idea independently of being prompted.

“So then what happens when on GMO ballot initiative is actually up for a decision in a given state? First of all, explains John Gastil, a professor at Penn State who studies ballot initiatives, these initiatives generally do worse than initial polls suggest they’ll do. ‘The reason is that fortunately, we have an instinct which tells us, if we don’t understand something, perhaps we should vote against it,’ says Gastil.

“And what happens when voters actually get to know the GMO labeling issue, inside out? We actually have intriguing evidence on that.

“Oregon has actually created a process in which a random sample of 20 citizens hear from both sides of an initiative (and outside experts), and then come up with a report laying out the pro and con case that is then included in the state’s voter guide. Such a review was conducted for Measure 92. Pro arguments included ‘more control and transparency over our food purchasing decisions’ and that the initiative ‘could benefit Oregon family farmers that grow traditional crops by increasing public demand for crops that are not genetically engineered.’ Con arguments, meanwhile, included the assertion that ‘Existing food labels already give consumers a more reliable way to choose foods without GE ingredients if that is what they prefer, including organic and non-GMO labels. Measure 92 conflicts with these national labeling standards.’ In this case, the panel’s ultimate assessment of Measure 92 split very evenly, with nine panelists in favor of it and 11 against.

“’Even after several days of study, you had voters kind of torn in these matters,’ observes Gastil. Which is still more evidence that general polls don’t reflect how people really think about the issue of genetically modified food labeling — when they actually think about it.”

Mooney’s research should be an indication to anti-GMO balloteers on how to educate voters so they understand that the problem goes well beyond GMOs to include the biotech, agricultural chemical, and food processing industries. In a nutshell, GMOs exist to sell herbicides and pesticides that are destroying our health and the health of our environment.

This is apparent to David Schubert is professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. CNN recently reported his thoughts on the EPA’s performance in protecting Americans’ health.

“One would expect that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the best interests of the public in mind, but its recent decisions have cast serious doubt upon this assumption,” Schubert wrote.

“One decision in particular could have a dramatic impact on the safety of the U.S. food supply: It is the mandate of the EPA to regulate the use of agricultural chemicals like insecticides and herbicides, as well as to determine their allowable limits in food and drinking water.

“To accommodate the fact that weeds are becoming glyphosate resistant, thereby requiring more herbicide use, the EPA has steadily increased its allowable concentration limit in food, and has essentially ignored our exposure to the other chemicals that are in its commercial formulation. As a result, the amount of glyphosate-based herbicide introduced into our foods has increased enormously since the introduction of GM crops in the mid-1990s. Multiple studies have shown that glyphosate-based herbicides are toxic and likely public health hazards.

“Of equal importance in terms of health is the fact that herbicides are now being used to rapidly kill non-GM grain crops at the end of their growing season in order to speed up harvesting. So, a product can be labeled GM-free but still contain high levels of herbicide.”

I repeat—GMOs are a symptom of the real problem, and that is the real but unstated goal of genetic engineering and biotech in general is to sell more toxic agricultural chemicals.

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USDA SECRETLY APPROVES GM LOBLOLLY PINE

Outrage is growing over secret USDA approval of genetically engineered loblolly pine trees. The USDA has made an unprecedented decision to allow ArborGen unregulated commercial cultivation of these transgenic trees. Loblolly pines are native across 14 states throughout the US Southeast, and are grown in plantations around the world. Their pollen is known to travel for hundreds of miles. Something else to know about loblolly pines: their DNA contains more nucleotides—22 billion–than any other form of life on earth. A human being’s DNA, by contrast, contains just three billion. What’s the implication? USDA isn’t telling.

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USDA AIDS SALES OF TOXIC HERBICIDES

The Institute for Responsible Technology reports that USDA has given final approval for the commercial release of two new herbicide tolerant varieties of soybeans and cotton from Monsanto.

Non-regulated status was granted for Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, the industry’s first biotech-stacked trait with both dicamba and glyphosate herbicide tolerance, and Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton which will allow farmers to apply multiple combinations of three herbicides: dicamba, glyphosate, and glufosinate. Dicamba is noted for a tendency to drift.

Food & Water Watch Executive Director, Wenonah Hauter, calls this “simply the latest example of USDA’s allegiance to the biotechnology industry and dependence upon chemical solutions.”

Biotech seed and agrochemical companies like Monsanto and Dow, who received approval for its new Enlist Duo 2,4-D+glyphosate resistant corn and soy last fall, have developed these new generations of GMO seeds and their companion herbicides to “combat” the spread of the glyphosate-resistant Superweeds that are now estimated to infest over 70 million acres of American farm land.

That’s not the reason they developed these new herbicide resistant seeds. I repeat: the real goal is to sell more toxic herbicide, and the USDA is aiding them hand in glove.

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GOOD NEWS ABOUT ORGANIC FOOD

From Maria Rodale and her staff comes these headlines about the benefits of organic food:

1. “Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops.”

British Journal of Nutrition, 2014. Link to text: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4141693/

2. “Eating Mostly Organic Eliminates Most Pesticide Exposure.”

Environmental Research, 2014
Link to abstract: sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S001393511400067X

3. “Fruit Flies Eating Organic Diets Are More Fertile, Live Longer.”

PLoS ONE, 2013
Link to full text: plosone.org/article/info:doi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0052988

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A GOVERNMENT THAT GETS IT—WHAT A CONCEPT

The Danish government has announced a plan to double its organic farmland by 2020 and to increase demand for organic food. Read the full article at http://www.foodnavigator.com/Policy/Denmark-launches-most-ambitious-organic-plan‪‬‬‪‬‬‪‬‬‪‬‬‪‬‬‪‬‬




The Nature of Health

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We’ve all heard it a thousand times: “Your health is the most important thing. Lose your health and you’ve lost everything.”

But what is health, exactly? Some might say that it’s freedom from disease, but that’s not the right focus. As we proceed through life, we get sick from time to time. It’s how our bodies develop antibodies as defenses against diseases, so that we don’t keep getting the same disease over and over again.

Well, then maybe it’s freedom from chronic conditions like diabetes or emphysema. One can be free from chronic disease yet still be unhealthy, due to a poor diet or lack of exercise, or bad habits like smoking or doing drugs. So lack of disease is not necessarily an indication of good health. Lack of disease is just the baseline and starting point from which true health develops.

Health is something more fundamental. It’s beyond any symptoms or lack thereof. It is the birthright of every living system—whether individual creature, ecological association of creatures, or even the global web of all life—and it emerges to the degree that these systems are operating at full potential.

Too much of the way we live and do things today interferes with our ability to operate at full potential, and thus impedes our health rather than supporting it. Despite the propaganda of corporate agriculture, it’s obvious that our chemical-drenched and overly-processed food is harming us. Change is desperately needed, and not just in the matter of our food, but in just about every area of life.

Many of the needed changes are already afoot, although in early stages. More and more food is being grown organically. The problem of income inequality is getting more attention. Climate change is at least being addressed.

So, what do these systems and many others that affect global health have in common? Where is the template for change on this meta level? Let’s see if we can find it, starting with the life sciences.

Every creature is an interconnected web of life processes. Scientists over the centuries have worked to disentangle this web and study its parts and their functions. Any scientist who has studied anatomy, physiology, microbiology, cell biology, and similar fields will tell you that the interconnections are myriad, that living systems are mind-bogglingly complex.

But what if we went in the opposite direction? Instead of pulling life apart to see how it works, what if we discovered insights so deep that the welter of information about the life sciences pulls together, and what heretofore seemed to be unconnected facts are now seen as varied expressions of overarching principles? As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Our globe…is a transparent law, not a mass of facts. The law dissolves the fact and holds it fluid.”

There may have been a time when one human mind could hold all the available knowledge of the life sciences, but that time isn’t now. Ask a scientist if he or she can keep up with the tsunami of information in their field that comes at them every day, and chances are they will say, “No way.” It is time to think about synthesizing rather than simply explicating our knowledge. In this way we’ll find clues to true health.

Every individual life has a job within the context of an ecology. The wolves cull the browsers. The browsers keep down the woody plants, allowing meadows to grow. The meadows offer food and habitat for plant-eating insects. Plant-eating insects cull the weak meadow plants. All are different forms of life, but all are following nature’s ecological rule: “The interaction of predator and prey promotes the health of the whole system.”

And what is mankind’s ecological role? Genesis 2, verse 15 says, “And the Lord put the man into the Garden of Eden to dress it and keep it.” If we read this metaphorically, the world is the Garden of Eden and our job is to dress and keep it—to protect it, in other words. Not a job we’ve been doing too well of late.

Another of nature’s organizing principles might be called, “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” We see this in microbes that develop resistance to antibiotics, in the super weeds that are plaguing farmers who douse their fields with herbicides, and in insects that evolve resistance to pesticides. Setting out to kill whole populations of any organism puts evolutionary pressure on that organism to learn to live with the deadly agent. If a farmer spreads pesticide on 10,000 acres of cotton, it’s a guarantee that there will be a few mutant boll weevils that are immune to the pesticide’s killing power. They breed and you soon have a field full of boll weevils that can ignore the pesticide.

A sad corollary to this principle is that thoughtless human activity is driving many species to extinction, not by applying toxic agents, but simply through habitat loss due to human occupation and our lack of concern for a healthy environment. We might call this natural imperative to protect nature, “Think holistically and think long-term.” By thinking holistically, we take all of nature into account when we act, and by thinking long-term, we assess the consequences of our actions into the future.

There’s another natural principle that could be called, “Possession is nine-tenths of the law.” In farmland fertilized organically with bacteria-laden and nutrient-rich compost, disease-causing microorganisms have a difficult time gaining a toehold. The good guys overwhelm the bad guys. The same principle holds true in the human gut. When the gut is thoroughly colonized by probiotic cultures, such as found in kefir and sauerkraut, disease-causing bacteria are muscled out by the healthful microbes. So it behooves us to make sure we are farming in ways that support a strong, biodiverse ecology of life-giving organisms.

All living things transmit the instructions for reproduction through DNA, yet all DNA is made from just four building blocks. It’s a language with just four letters, but they are enough to make everything from a yeast cell to an elephant. All living things also use four major elements to construct their tissues: hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen.
One more principle could be called, “Waste not, want not.” Nature recycles those four major elements and a raft of trace elements in smaller amounts, and recycles them over and over. A bit of your body may once have been a dinosaur, a fish in the ocean, and a saber-tooth tiger before it got to you. The recycling starts with the modest microorganisms and soil creatures, and builds its way in increasing complexity towards the champion example of living complexity. No, not human beings, but rather the loblolly pine with 22 billion combinations of those four letters in its strands of DNA. By comparison, a human being is built from just three billion of the four letters.

From the life in the soil all other life springs. As Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet, “That which is nature’s mother is her tomb. What is her burying grave, that is her womb.” In the climax ecosystem of a virgin forest, all the nutrients are recycled. In a tropical forest where it’s always hot, almost all the nutrients are up in the trees, in the parasitic plants that grow on the trees, in the arboreal animals, birds, insects, and so on. If a leaf falls, it’s quickly decomposed by bacteria into its constituent nutrients that are hauled back up into the forest canopy to build new tissue. As life approaches the colder climates, where winter slows and then halts the recycling process, more and more of the organic matter is stored in the duff of the forest floor. Enter a forest in the Mid-Atlantic States and the duff may be less than a foot thick and the topsoil below it a couple of feet thick. But enter a Canadian forest and the duff and topsoil may be many feet thick. The environmental conditions may change, but the recycling principles are the same.

A healthy soil is one where the life in the soil has what it needs to function as it should and grow healthy plants. Healthy plants are those that have the nutrients they need to carry out their personal and ecological functions. The animals that eat those plants similarly get the nutrients they need to assume the roles nature has fitted them for. Thus health is something that comes up from the soil through the web of life to form fully functional climax ecosystems. At death, microbes return the nutrients in the once-living tissue to the soil, where they are food for the next generation of beings.
The soil, therefore, is the source and destiny of life, and the engine that churns the elements as they become an endless succession of living creatures.

Nature’s laws, then, are variations on a theme of cooperation and competition. And cooperation and competition in turn are two sides of the same coin. Cooperation promotes health, but so does competition. Symbiotic relationships in nature–such as the colonization of plant roots by fungus that scavenges phosphorus and feeds it back to the plant and the sticky sweet sap that the plant exudes to feed the fungus–is an example of cooperation promoting health. In rutting season, bucks vie with one another and the winner impregnates the does, passing his genes on to posterity—an example of competition promoting the health of the herd.

Ideally, this is how it works, and how it has worked through the vast stretches of time leading up to the Anthropocene—that is, the age of the dominance of mankind. Yet look around today and you see lots of illness and obesity, but precious little climax ecosystem. There is no question that we, an aggressive species of primate, are not only overpopulating the planet but are also on a killing spree that’s causing wholesale species extinction.

Change toward a healthier way to conduct our social, economic, political, and personal lives depends on recognizing the fundamental laws of nature, then reconstituting our ways of living to follow those principles. Nature’s basic rule that conflates all the others is pretty simple. We need cooperation and we need competition, in equal measure, for they are the yin and yang of life, the unity that transcends duality. Our current society, at least in America, puts the emphasis on competition, which throws everything out of whack.

But wait, someone might say, don’t employees cooperate at work to produce a product or a service? I’d venture to say that there is just as much competition and jockeying for position and favor among a corporation’s hourly employees as among the salaried workers. And look at our Congress: very little cooperation, overwhelming competition, a broken system. The proper balance is achieved in team sports, where the competition between teams and even between teammates for a spot on the starting line-up is fierce, but no team will be a winning team if its players don’t cooperate.

Both cooperation and competition need a goal. It may even be the same goal. But the end—the goal—doesn’t justify the means. Reaching the goal at all costs and by any means necessary is out-of-control competition. Cooperation keeps rampant competition in check, and competition whets the appetite for cooperation.

So what do we get when we set up our systems—from supplying food to building innovative technologies—to imitate nature’s imperative for cooperation and competition allied to reach a goal? We get a confluence of unforeseen benefits. The country of Denmark has come a long way in showing us how this works. Not only do the Danes reach their goals, they do so as the happiest people on earth, many studies show. Freedom from worry because of a strong, cooperative social safety net reduces stress and promotes mental and physical health. Health and happiness go hand in hand.

Just recycling nutrients on the organic farm through the agency of compost produces a huge confluence of unexpected benefits. More spongy organic matter in the soil means the soil holds more water and, as shown in recent droughts, makes the soil more drought resistant. The compost favors the growth of fungal mycelia in the soil, allowing plants to communicate with one another through a kind of living internet under the ground. And so when insects attack one plant, it signals others to start producing insect-repelling substances in their leaves, lessening the damage and thwarting the attack. Suffice it to say that by following nature’s rules, you are playing nature’s game, and that game is benign, holistic, and long-term.

A moment’s reflection will reveal that playing by any other set of rules, such as making the bottom line the most important product of any business, gives you a confluence of unexpected detriments. By using poisons to kill weeds, you encourage the development of weeds that defeat the purpose of the poisons. Did the makers of Roundup foresee that?

When how we act reflects how all of nature’s rules come together in the unity of cooperation and competition in balance, there will be enormous repercussions in all the areas of life. For instance, in any personal relationship, there’s competition for each partner’s time, there are competing demands, differences of opinion, problems that need solving, competition with yourself to prioritize needs and wants. A loving relationship will mean that cooperation is the salve that heals the wounds and the glue that holds the partners together when forces are working to pull them apart. Love is cooperation and is found at one pole of life; competition is selfishness at the other pole of life. They reside together within all of us. Strangely, they complement each other. A hill presupposes a valley.

Only by keeping this balance in mind will we reach the place where our biological and spiritual systems operate at full capacity, where these systems are whole and sound, and where true health—and happiness–are found.

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Agribusiness’ Big Lie Exposed

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In last week’s Organic Food Guy, I posted an astonishingly good piece of reporting by Jonathan Latham, PhD, executive director and co-founder of the Bioscience Resource Project, based in Ithaca, New York, that originally appeared in the Independent Science News.

In his article (you can read it by visiting organicfoodguy.com and in the upper right corner where it says “Recent Posts,” click on How the Food War Can Be Won), Latham reveals that we in America have been fed a Big Lie by agribusiness. The lie is that the burgeoning human race will outrun the world food supply within a few decades and only agribusiness and large-scale, corporate conventional agriculture can possibly feed all the people that will overrun the planet by then.

Latham points out that far from running out of food, the world is awash with food and will continue to be for as far into the future as we can see. He provides the details for this assertion in his article.

Of course it’s in the interest of agribusiness firms to scare everyone into thinking that we face imminent starvation and that they are our salvation.

As a journalist, it’s my job—and my duty—to be skeptical. Is Latham’s Big Lie true? Is there really an agribiz PR strategy to convince the country that only Big Ag can save us from the impending days of famine? I thought I’d check, so I googled “World Food Crisis,” and sure enough, within the first few items to come up was a website from Monsanto. Very slick, very friendly, and very much the scare tactic that Latham exposed.

Here are the first few paragraphs on the site:

“Our world’s food system is a balance of farmers, grocers and companies who work together to provide fresh foods year round. In the next 50 years, our society will have to produce more food than it did in the past 10,000 years combined in order to meet the needs of nearly 2 billion more people.

“It’s one of the greatest challenges facing humankind, and it’s one we’re committed to help addressing by directly working with others to help solve.

“We’re one of many organizations working towards creating a more food-secure world. Thinkers from the Global Harvest Initiative, World Economic Forum and World Food Prize Foundation agree–addressing the food challenges of tomorrow requires innovative, thoughtful action today. From Africa to Asia, and here in our own backyard, we’re putting our heads together to make this vision a reality.”

Wow—we’re going to have to produce more food in the next 50 years than all the food produced since the dawn of agriculture 10,000 years ago. Sounds like we need a miracle. Maybe the miracle will come from the institutions the Monsanto website mentions, like the Global Harvest Initiative.

According to SourceWatch, a website that parts the curtains of corporate and political front groups to see who’s really behind them, “the Global Harvest Initiative is a campaign to encourage a second Green Revolution based on a baseless claim that the world must double food production by 2050 to feed a growing population.”

The organizations that make up GHI as of 2013 include DuPont, Elanco, IBM, John Deere, and Monsanto, all agribusiness giants promoting large scale conventional agriculture and GMO seeds.

The World Economic Forum includes 1,000 of the largest corporations in the world.

The World Food Prize Foundation is an outgrowth of the Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s when an agronomist named Normal Borlaug tried to end world hunger by bringing chemical agriculture to replace the indigenous agriculture of native peoples worldwide. Borlaug was lionized as the man who saved a million lives, but this is a phony narrative. He was really the man who replaced sustainable native agriculture with conventional chemical agriculture.

University of Indiana historian Nick Cullather wrote a book called “The Hungry World” about all this in 2010. Mother Jones’ book reviewer Tom Philpott, in his review of the book, wrote, “As for Borlaug, a future Nobel laureate and putative savior of India’s famine-stalked masses who died in 1999, he learned in Mexico to see modernization as a transition from lower to higher levels of soil nutrients; i.e., energy-intensive, soil-degrading synthetic fertilizers.

“By the end of the Mexico chapter, Cullather has already shattered the Green Revolution myth and exposed it as something like a lunge, and a not very well thought-out one, to replace other societies’ farming systems with our own highly problematic one. The Mexico effort’s one unambiguous success was in creating an attractive development model: Take hybridized (or now, GMO) seeds, douse them with imported fertilizers, add water and pesticides, and get more food.”

The annual meeting of the World Food Prize Foundation was held in Iowa at the end of 2014, and dubbed “The Year of Norman Borlaug.” Speakers included Dr. Marco Ferroni of Syngenta, Dr. Catherine Feuillet of Bayer CropScience, Dr. Robert Fraley and Kerry Preete of Monsanto, Dan Glickman and Tom Vilsack, the former and current U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture respectively, Dr. Claudia Garcia of Elanco, Paul Schickler of DuPont, Tom Leech of Walmart, John May of John Deere, Esin Mete of the International Fertilizer Industry Association, and Dr. Margaret Zeigler, executive director of Global Harvest Initiative.

The speakers focused on what they called, “The Greatest Challenge in Human History:
Can we sustainably feed the 9 billion people who will be on our planet by the year 2050?”

Notice that they used the word sustainable. Anyone who knows conventional agriculture knows that it is not sustainable. Sustainable means that farms can be run efficiently forever by recycling nutrients, rather than importing chemicals that over time poison the farm environment. So what are these agribiz giants doing talking about sustainability?

Well, a quick look at Monsanto’s corporate website (Monsanto.com) reveals in its first sentence that “Monsanto is a sustainable agriculture company,” and invites visitors to click through to a three-minute propaganda film entitled, “Monsanto’s Commitment to Sustainable Agriculture.”

Of course, there are farmers and institutions that either practice or promote true sustainability: organic and Biodynamic farmers, others who may not identify with those terms but farm without using conventional methods, and then there are institutions like the International Organization of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), the British Soil Society, the Permaculture people, the Organic Consumers Association, the Rodale Institute, and many more that are working tirelessly to advance the cause of real sustainability. Note that none of them appear in the ranks of the agribusiness PR people, lobbyists, and high tech farm groups that run with Monsanto. In fact, if you examine the farming methods that are truly sustainable, you realize that organic agriculture can easily feed the world in perpetuity while improving the soil, protecting the environment, and providing livelihood to millions of folks. But none of this is in the purview of Big Ag because it is not really interested in feeding the world sustainably, it is interested in selling product and reaping profit.

Bottom line: Latham is exactly right. The notion that famine is in our future and only agribusiness can save us is a Big Lie promoted to convince people that corporate agriculture is in the best interests of the human race.

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BEWARE OF BARRON’S ‘QUICK CHECK GUIDE TO ORGANIC FOODS’

Ninety-five percent of the book is simply a listing of calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, protein, and total carbohydrates for the panoply of organic foods. The problem chapters come at the beginning of the book, where the author, Barbara Wexler, a graduate of the Yale University College of Medicine, presents the value of genetically modified foods without mention of the many studies that have shown the problems, such as direct ill effects of GMOs on the digestive system, and especially the effect of the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) used in abundance on GMO crops, which de-activates an enzyme crucial to the production of proteins in both plants and animals. She gives organic foods a general pat on the back for the cleanliness without any mention of the many studies that show their nutritional superiority and health-building consequences. All in all, the book, which purports to be a reference for those wanting to eat organic foods, seems more like an apology for conventional foods than an investigation of the health value of organic food and the benevolent agriculture that produces it.

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PARCHMENT BAG COOKING FROM SIMPLY ORGANIC

Simply Organic is selling kits for quick and easy meals when time is short and the body exhausted after a day of work. The kit is called Steam Gourmet and consists of a parchment bag and a packet of seasonings. You buy (organic) skinless, boneless chicken breasts on the way home, sprinkle them with the seasonings on both sides, place them in the parchment bag and fold it to seal, place the bag in the oven and bake according to the instructions on the kit. The bag seals in moisture and flavors, and the breasts emerge perfectly cooked and seasoned. Add organic salad and whole grain bread and the entire meal is ready. Clean-up is simple and everything is organic.

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A NEW WAY TO PREVENT GMO CONTAMINATION IN THE WILD

Could genetically modified bacteria escape from a laboratory or fermentation tank and cause disease or ecological destruction? New York Times’ science writer Andrew Pollack asks this all-important question in the January 21, 2015, newspaper.

This is not known to have occurred, he says, perhaps forgetting that several rogue genes have escaped into open fields around America, contaminating wheat crops, corn crops, wild weeds, and threatening species that rely on those plants with extinction (cue the photo of the monarch butterfly). But, he writes, two groups of scientists reported on Wednesday that they had developed a complex technique to prevent it from happening.

The scientists have given a common type of bacterium a unique genetic code that makes it dependent for survival on unnatural amino acids that must be fed to it. If such organisms escaped into the wild, where those amino acids are not available, they would die. First of all, Pollack doesn’t mention that the “common type of bacterium” is E. coli, an inhabitant of the human gut that can cause violent illness and, under certain circumstances, death.

Second, organisms tend to find their way around man-made attempts to thwart them. The more aggressively you assault an organism, the more evolutionary pressure you put upon it to find a way around the assault. How long before E. coli or other organisms that need that “unnatural amino acid” to survive learn to manufacture that amino acid or commandeer some other organism to manufacture it for them?

“It really addresses a longstanding problem in biotechnology,” said Farren Isaacs, an assistant professor of molecular, cell, and developmental biology at Yale, who led one of the research groups. He called it a “really compelling solution to engineering biocontainment, or biological barriers that limit the spread and survival of organisms in natural environments.”

Scientists are so cocksure that they have solved the GMO containment problem that they may be unpleasantly surprised at life’s ability to tenaciously evolve ways to stay alive. I certainly am not anti-science. I am anti-hubris among scientists who plunge ahead in the firm belief that they know better than nature.

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SABRA HUMMUS CONTAINS GMO SOYBEAN OIL

Green America’s GMO Inside campaign has announced a major new push to get Sabra, the world’s largest manufacturer of hummus, to drop genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from its popular hummus dip.

GMO Inside and allies will mobilize public pressure on Sabra with a call-in day of action, a petition, social media outreach and other steps. The campaign comes just one week before Super Bowl XLIX, which will prominently feature Sabra as the official hummus of the NFL.

Green America’s GMO Inside campaign is also demanding that Sabra’s parent company, PepsiCo, end its multi-million dollar funding of anti-GMO labeling campaigns around the country. Most recently, PepsiCo. spent $4 million to fight GMO labeling initiatives in Oregon and Colorado, and over $8 million in total fighting labeling.

To date, over 13,000 consumers have signed GMO Inside’s petition urging Sabra and PepsiCo to go non-GMO and for PepsiCo to certify Sabra products through a third party non-GMO-verification. Information about Green America’s GMO Inside campaign is available online at http://gmoinside.org/sabra/.

“Consumer demand for organic and non-GMO foods is growing,” said John W. Roulac, GMO Inside co-chair. “Sabra has already moved some of its products to non-GMO; doing the same for its signature dip will allow the firm to meet growing customer demand.”

“Consumers are upset that Sabra’s parent company PepsiCo has spent a total of $8.6 million to deny them their right to know about GMOs,” stated Nicole McCann, campaign director of Green America’s GMO Inside. “As awareness grows about the risks of GMOs, consumers are shifting their support away from companies and brands contributing to anti-labeling efforts, as well as products containing GMO ingredients.”

“By continuing to use genetically engineered soybean oil, produced with toxic pesticides that put humans, pollinators, and the planet at risk, Sabra is supporting an unsustainable food system that largely benefits big chemical and agribusiness corporations,” said Lisa Archer, food and technology program director at Friends of the Earth.

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WHEN A CEREAL BOX TELLS A BIG FAT LIE

General Mills’ Vanilla, Chocolate and Cinnamon Chex boxes all proudly display a label that should make many health-conscious consumers happy: “no high fructose corn syrup.”

The only problem: it’s not true, according to Credo Action.

These General Mills products all contain a super-concentrated sweetener that is made from high fructose corn syrup, and within the Big Ag industry is literally called “HFCS-90” or high fructose corn syrup-90.

But then the Corn Refiners Association changed the name to “fructose.” And now General Mills is not only disingenuously hiding their corn syrup behind this innocuous alias–the company is bragging that it’s products don’t contain any!

The “fructose” label is especially nefarious, since fructose is a naturally occurring fruit sugar, and HFCS-90 is a highly concentrated, highly processed product that is molecularly different from the fructose you would eat in your apple. The corn industry waves away HFCS-90 as a minor ingredient, stating “HFCS-90, is sometimes used when very little is needed to provide sweetness.” But that’s clearly not the case. According to the label, there is actually more HFCS-90 in Cinnamon Chex than there is actual cinnamon.

Clearly, General Mills is eager to make these claims as many consumers are increasingly avoiding high fructose corn syrup over health concerns. The drastic increase of this cheap sugar replacement in the past 40 years has coincided with skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes and other metabolic diseases. And while the science is still emerging, a number of studies – including one just released from the University of Utah – have found evidence that high fructose corn syrup is more toxic than sucrose, or traditional sugar.

Of course, both sugar and high fructose corn syrup are unhealthy in large amounts. But making healthy choices starts with understanding what we are eating. And as long as companies like General Mills are not only changing the names of ingredients, but also flat-out lying on the front of the box, informed choices are that much harder.

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JUST HOW BAD ARE MONSANTO AND FRIENDS?

Here’s the executive summary of a 60-plus pager report written by Gary Ruskin for the non-profit U.S. Right to Know, entitled, “Seedy Business.” If you’d like to read the whole report, you can find it at https://www.organicconsumers.org/sites/default/files/seedybusiness.pdf.

For anyone reading this who thinks that anti-GMO folks are hysterical anti-science nut jobs, let me just say that I’ve had my finger on this pulse since 1970, and what Ruskin writes is the absolute truth. The Big Ag companies are as bad as he says, and in my opinion, worse, because they know the death and destruction they cause, but can’t stop themselves due to the extremely lucrative results of their work. What do you call someone (or some business) that causes death and destruction for self-aggrandizing profit? Whatever your term for that kind of sociopathy, it applies here. So—here’s the summary:

Since 2012, the agrichemical and food industries have mounted a complex, multifaceted public relations, advertising, lobbying and political campaign in the United States, costing more than $100 million, to defend genetically engineered food and crops and the pesticides that accompany them. The purpose of this campaign is to deceive the
public, to deflect efforts to win the right to know what is in our food via labeling that is
already required in 64 countries, and ultimately, to extend their profit stream for as long as possible.

This campaign has greatly influenced how U.S. media covers GMOs. The industry’s PR
firm, Ketchum, even boasted that “positive media coverage has doubled” on GMOs.

Due to this influence over the media, the public hears mostly what the industries claim: GMOs are safe, and anyone who disagrees or raises questions is not trustworthy. This report will show how the industries have manipulated the media, public opinion and
politics with sleazy tactics, bought science and PR spin. It will describe fifteen things that Big Food is hiding with its slick PR campaign on GMOs.

#1: The agrichemical companies have a history of concealing health risks from the public. Time and again, the companies that produce GMOs have hidden from consumers and workers the truth about the dangers of their products and operations. So how can we trust them to tell us the truth about their GMOs?

#2: The FDA does not test whether GMOs are safe. It merely reviews information submitted by the agrichemical companies.

#3: Our nation’s lax policy on GMOs is the work of former Vice President Dan Quayle’s
anti-regulatory crusade. It was designed and delivered as a political favor to Monsanto.

#4: What the agrichemical and tobacco industries have in common: PR firms,
operatives, tactics. The agrichemical industry’s recent PR campaign is similar in some ways to the most infamous industry PR campaign ever – the tobacco industry’s effort to evade responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans each year.

#5: Russia’s PR firm runs the agrichemical industry’s big PR salvo on GMOs. We don’t
trust the PR firm Ketchum when it spins for Russia and President Putin. Why should we trust its spin on GMOs?

#6: The agrichemical industry’s key front groups and shills aren’t trustworthy. Many of
the industry’s leading advocates have records of defending the indefensible, or other scandals and conduct that inspire no confidence.

#7: The agrichemical companies have employed repugnant PR tactics. These tactics
include attacks on scientists and journalists, and brainwashing children.

#8: The agrichemical companies have a potent, sleazy political machine. They have
allies in high places, and employ their power vigorously – and sometimes corruptly — to protect and expand their markets and their profits from GMOs.

#9: Half of the Big Six agrichemical firms can’t even grow their GMOs in their own
home countries. Because of the health and environmental risks of GMOs, citizens of
Germany and Switzerland won’t allow farming of BASF, Bayer and Syngenta’s GMO seeds.

#10: Monsanto supported GMO labeling in the UK but opposes it in the USA. Although
Monsanto is based in St. Louis, Missouri, Monsanto believes that British citizens deserve stronger consumer rights than Americans do.

#11: The pesticide treadmill breeds profits, so it will likely intensify. It is in the financial
interest of the agrichemical companies to promote the evolution and spread of the most pestilential superweeds and superpests, because these will spur the sale of the greatest
quantities of the most expensive pesticides.

#12: GMO science is for sale. Science can be swayed, bought or biased by the agrichemical industry in many ways, such as suppressing adverse findings, harming the careers of scientists who produce such findings, controlling the funding that shapes what research is conducted, the lack of independent U.S.-based testing of health and environmental risks of GMOs, and tainting scientific reviews of GMOs by conflicts of interest.

#13: There are nearly no consumer benefits of GMOs. The GMOs that Americans eat are
not healthier, safer or more nutritious than conventional foods. They do not look better,
nor do they taste better. By any measure that consumers actually care about, they are not in any way an improvement. Profits from GMOs accrue to the agrichemical companies, while health risks are borne by consumers.

#14: The FDA and food companies have been wrong before: they have assured us of the
safety of products that were not safe. Many drugs and food additives that the FDA allowed on the market have subsequently been banned because they were toxic or dangerous.

#15: A few other things the agrichemical industry doesn’t want you to know about
them: crimes, scandals and other wrongdoing. The agrichemical industry’s six major firms — Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, DuPont, Bayer and BASF — have been involved in so many reprehensible activities that documenting them would require at least an entire book.

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How the Food War Can Be Won

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The following article could very well be the most important article you’ll read anywhere in 2015. I know it’s long, but settle in a comfy place and read it top to bottom. You will have your mind expanded.

It was written by Jonathan Latham, PhD, executive director and co-founder of the Bioscience Resource Project, based in Ithaca, New York, and was posted January 12, 2015, in the Independent Science News. It is so important that I am re-posting it (almost) in its entirety.

What Latham does in this article is to expose the behind-the-scenes underpinnings of how and why agribusiness has managed to take over the world’s agriculture when it obviously is detrimental to the health of nature and nature’s creatures. I have added a few parenthetical bits of information. Here it is:

Consider this: Researchers from Iowa have shown that organic farming methods yield almost as much crop as conventional methods using agricultural chemicals. Other researchers, from Berkeley, California, have reached a similar conclusion. (In fact, many studies show organic yields can exceed conventional yields.) Indeed, both of these findings met with a very enthusiastic reception. The enthusiasm is appropriate, but only if one misses a deep and fundamental point: that even to participate in such a conversation is to fall into a carefully laid trap.

The strategic centerpiece of Monsanto’s Public Relations campaign, and also that of just about every major commercial participant in the industrialized food system, is to focus on the promotion of one single overarching idea. The big idea that industrial producers in the food system want you to believe is that only they can produce enough for the future population.

Thus non-industrial systems of farming, such as all those that use organic methods or non-GMO seeds, cannot feed the world.

(They’ve been saying this for decades. If you’re old enough, you may remember Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz’s response when asked about organic farming in the 1970s. He said, “Who’s going to decide which 50 percent of the world’s population will starve if we switch to organic farming?”)

To be sure, agribusiness has other PR strategies: “Agribusiness is pro-science; its opponents are anti-science,” and so on. But the main plank has for decades been to create a cast-iron moral framing around the need to produce more food.

Therefore, if you go to the websites of Monsanto and Cargill and Syngenta and Bayer and their bedfellows: the US Farm Bureau, the UK National Farmers Union, and the American Soybean Association, and CropLife International, or The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Rockefel;l;er Foundation, USAID, or the international research system (CGIAR), and now even NASA, they very soon raise the “urgent problem” of who will feed the expected global population of nine or 10 billion in 2050.

Likewise, whenever these same organizations compose speeches or press releases, or videos, or make any pronouncement designed for policymakers or the populace, they devote precious space to the same urgent problem. It is even in their job advertisements. It is their Golden Fact and their universal calling card. And as far as neutrals are concerned it wins the food system debate hands down, because it says, if any other farming system cannot feed the world, it is irrelevant. Only agribusiness can do that.

Yet this PR strategy has a disastrous foundational weakness. There is no global or regional shortage of food. There never has been and nor is there ever likely to be. India has a superabundance of food. South America is swamped in food. The US, Australia, New Zealand and Europe are swamped in food. In Great Britain, as in many wealthy countries, nearly half of all row crop food production now goes to biofuels, which at bottom are an attempt to dispose of surplus agricultural products. China isn’t quite swamped but it still exports food and it grows 30 percent of the world’s cotton. No foodpocalypse there either.

Of all the populous nations, Bangladesh comes closest to not being swamped in food. Its situation is complex. Its government says it is self-sufficient. The UN world Food Program says it is not, but the truth appears to be that Bangladeshi farmers do not produce the rice they could because prices are too low due to persistent gluts (1).
Even some establishment institutions will occasionally admit that the food shortage concept-–now and in any reasonably conceivable future-–is bankrupt. According to experts consulted by the World Bank Institute there is already sufficient food production for 14 billion people-–more food than will ever be needed. The Golden Fact of agribusiness is a lie.

So, if the agribusiness PR experts are correct that food crisis fears are pivotal to their industry, then it follows that those who oppose the industrialization of food and agriculture should make dismantling that lie their top priority.

Anyone who wants a sustainable, pesticide-free, or non-GMO food future, or who wants to swim in a healthy river or lake again, or wants to avoid climate chaos, needs to know all this. Anyone who would like to rebuild the rural economy or who appreciates cultural, biological, or agricultural diversity of any meaningful kind should take every possible opportunity to point out the evidence that refutes it.

Granaries are bulging, crops are being burned as biofuels or dumped, prices are low, farmers are abandoning farming for slums and cities (and people in some industrialized countries throw up to a third of the food they buy into the garbage). Anyone could also point out that probably the least important criterion for growing food is how much an acre of farmland yields. Even just to acknowledge crop yield as an issue for anyone other than the individual farmer is to reinforce the framing of the industry they oppose.

The project to fully industrialize global food production is far from complete, yet already it is responsible for most deforestation, most marine pollution, most coral reef destruction, much of greenhouse gas emissions (according to The New York Times, “2014 now surpasses 2010 as the warmest year ever in a global temperature record that stretches back to 1880), the most habitat loss, most of the degradation of streams and rivers, most food insecurity, most immigration, most water depletion, and massive human health problems. Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to say that if the industrialization of food is not reversed, our planet will be made unlivable for multi-cellular organisms. Our planet is becoming literally uninhabitable solely as a result of the social and ecological consequences of industrializing agriculture. All these problems are without even mentioning the trillions of dollars in annual externalized costs and subsidies.

So, if one were to devise a strategy for the food movement, it would be this. The public already knows (mostly) that pesticides are dangerous. They also know that organic food is higher quality, and is far more environmentally friendly. It knows that GMOs should be labeled, are largely untested, and may be harmful. That is why the leaders of most major countries, including China, dine on organic food. The immense scale of the problems created by industrial agriculture should, of course, be understood better, but the main facts are hardly in dispute.

But what industry understands, and the food movement does not, is that what prevents total rejection of bland, industrialized, pesticide-laden, GMO food is the standard acceptance, especially in Western countries, of the overarching agribusiness argument that such food is to feed the world.

But, if the food movement could show that famine is an empty threat, then it would also have shown, by clear implication, that the chemical health risks and the ecological devastation that these technologies represent are what is unnecessary. The movement would have shown that pesticides and GMOs exist solely to extract profit from the food chain. They have no other purpose. Therefore, every project of the food movement should aim to spread the truth of oversupply, until mention of the Golden Fact invites ridicule and embarrassment rather than fear.

Food campaigners might also consider that a strategy to combat the food scarcity myth can unite a potent mix of causes. Just as an understanding of food abundance destroys the argument for pesticide use and GMOs simultaneously, it also creates the potential for common ground within and between constituencies that do not currently associate much: health advocates, food system workers, climate campaigners, wildlife conservationists and international development campaigners. None of these constituencies inherently like chemical poisons, and they are hardly natural allies of agribusiness, but the pressure of the food crisis lie has driven many of them to ignore what could be the best solution to their mutual problems: small scale farming and pesticide-free agriculture. This is exactly what the companies intended.

So divisive has the Golden Fact been that some non-profits have entered into perverse partnerships with agribusiness and others support inadequate or positively fraudulent “sustainability” labels. Another consequence has been mass confusion over the observation that almost all the threats to the food supply (salinization, water depletion, soil erosion, climate change, and chemical pollution) come from the supposed solution–-the industrialization of food production. These contradictions are not real. When the smoke is blown away and the mirrors are taken down, the choices within the food system become crystal clear. They fall broadly into two camps.

On the one side lie family farms and ecological methods. These support farmer and consumer health, resilience, financial and democratic independence, community, cultural and biological diversity, and long term sustainability. On the other side is control of the food system by corporate agribusiness. Agribusiness domination leads invariantly to dependence, uniformity, poisoning, and ecological degradation, inequality, land grabbing, and, not so far off, to climate chaos.

One is a vision, the other is a nightmare: in every single case where industrial agriculture is implemented, it leaves landscapes progressively emptier of life. Eventually, the soil turns either into mud that washes into the rivers or into dust that blows away on the wind. Industrial agriculture has no long-term future; it is ecological suicide. But for obvious reasons, those who profit from it cannot allow all this to become broadly understood. That is why the food scarcity lie is so fundamental to them. They absolutely depend on it, since it alone can camouflage the simplicity of the underlying issues.

Despite all this, the food and environmental movements have never seriously contested the reality of a food crisis. Perhaps that is because it is a narrative with a long history. As early as the 1940s, the chemical and oil industries sent the Rockefeller Foundation to Mexico to “fix” agriculture there. Despite evidence to the contrary, the Rockefeller scientists delivered a now-familiar narrative: Mexican agriculture was obviously gripped by a production deficit that could be fixed by “modern” agribusiness products., 2010). This story later became the uncontested “truth” that legitimized the green revolution and still propels the proliferation of pesticides, fertilizers, GMOs, and other agribusiness methods into every part of the globe.

Yet in the age of the internet it is no longer necessary to let an industry decide where the truth resides. It is possible to restore reality to the global discussion about food so that all potential production methods can have their merits fairly evaluated. Until this is done, agribusiness and chemical industry solutions will always be the default winner, alternative agriculture will always be alternative, if it exists at all.

The evidence with which to contradict the lie is everywhere; but in an unequal and unjust system truth never speaks for itself. It is a specific task that requires a refusal to be intimidated by the torrents of official misinformation and a willingness to disentangle oneself from the intellectual web of industry thinking. (That will often mean ordinary people acting alone.)

The task requires two things; the first is familiarity with the basic facts of the food system. Good starting points (apart from the links at the end of this article) are “Good Food for Everyone Forever” by Colin Tudge or “World Hunger: Twelve Myths” by Joseph Collins, Peter Rosset, and Frances Moore Lappe.

The second requirement is a shift in perception. The shift is to move beyond considering only physical goals, such as saving individual species, or specific political achievements, and to move towards considering the significance of the underlying mental state of the citizenry.

Companies and industries pay huge sums of money for public relations. PR is predicated on the idea that all human behavior is governed by belief systems. PR is therefore the discovery of the structure of those belief systems, mainly through focus groups, and the subsequent manipulation of those belief structures with respect to particular products or other goals.

Thus human reasoning, which asks questions like: Is it fair? What will the neighbors think? can be accessed and diverted to make individuals and groups act often against their own self-interests. Two important general rules are that it works best when people don’t know they are being influenced, and that it comes best from a “friendly” source. PR is therefore always concealed, which creates the widespread misunderstanding that it is rare or ineffective.

Anyone who desires social change on a significant scale should seek to understand this, and its corollary, that the food crisis lie is far from the only lie. As philosopher Michel Foucault documented for madness and also criminality, many assertions constituting supposed “reality” are best understood as establishment fabrications. Those described by Foucault mostly have deep historical roots; but others, such as the genetic origin of disease, or the validity of animal experiments, are untruths of recent origin. The function of these fabrications is always social control. As Edward Bernays, the father of modern PR, long ago wrote:

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”

The possibility of manipulating habits and opinions, which he also called “the engineering of consent” was not an idle boast. Foucault, who was concerned mostly with the power held by governments, considered that the fabrications he had identified were not conspiracies. They were emergent properties of power. Power and knowledge grow together in an intertwined and mutually supportive fashion. He argued that knowledge creates power but is also deferential to power and so is deformed by it. An example is when US newspapers decline to use the word “torture” for when torture is used by the US government, which euphemistically calls it “enhanced interrogation.” These newspapers and the US government are together doing what Foucault theorized. The US government gets to torture and gains power in the process while the public is simultaneously deceived and disempowered. In this way the preferred language of the powerful has historically and continuously evolved into the established public truth, to the disadvantage of the people.

Bernays, however, worked mainly for corporations. He knew, since some of them were his own ideas, that many of the more recent fabrications were not emergent properties but were intentionally planted.

The essential point, however, is to appreciate not only that companies and others deliberately engineer social change; but also that when they do so it begins with the reordering of the “reality” perceived by the people. The companies first create a reality (such as Mexican hunger) for which their desired change seems to the people either obvious, or beneficial, or natural. When it comes, the people therefore do not resist the solution, many welcome it.

Dictators and revolutionaries provide an interesting lesson in this. The successful ones have achieved sometimes extraordinary power. As always, they have done so first by changing the opinions of the people. The dictator, like any corporation, must make the people want them. As a general rule, dictators do this by creating new and more compelling false realities on top of older ones.

Hitler, to take a familiar example, harnessed a newly synthesized idea (German nationalism) to a baseless scientific theory (of racial genetics) and welded this to pre-existing “realities” of elitism and impugned manhood (the loss of WWI). These ideas were instrumental in his rise to power. But the important lesson for social change is that none of the ideas used by him possessed (now or then) any objective or empirical reality. They were all fabrications. It is true Hitler also had secret money, bodyguards, and so on, but so did others. Only Hitler found the appropriate combination of concepts able to colonize the minds of enough German people.

But Hitler is not known now for being just another leader of Germany. He is infamous for two events, the holocaust and World War II. The same lessons apply. Millions fought and died for almost a decade in a struggle to assert ideas that could have been destroyed by the intellectual equivalent of a feather. But that is how powerful ideas are.

The lies told in more democratic societies are not so very different to those used by Hitler in the sense that the important ones have predictable properties that can be categorized and sorted. What the food scarcity lie has in common with Hitler’s use of race, and with myths of nationalism, or of modern terrorism, and many others, is the creation of a threat, in this case of famine and possible social breakdown. The creation of an internal or external threat is thus the first category of lies.

The second category recognizes the necessity of “efficient government.” No government can issue direct and separate orders to all the people all the time. Nor can it possess the resources for physical enforcement of those orders. It must therefore find ways to cause the people to govern, order, and regiment themselves, in exquisite detail. Therefore, governments supply and support guiding principles in the form of artificial unifying but ill-defined aspirations, such as “progress” or “civilization.” Typically, they also strongly encourage the desirability of being “normal;” and especially they reinforce elitism (follow the leader), and so on.

Another structural category follows from the recognition that the effective operation of power over others, unless it is based on pure physical force or intimidation, usually requires an authoritative source of ostensibly unbiased knowledge. The population must be “convinced” by an unimpeachable third party. This function is typically fulfilled by either organized religion or by organized science. Scientific or religious institutions thus legitimize the ideas (progress, hierarchy, normality, inequality, etc.) of the rulers. These sources conceal the use of power because they combine the appearance of authority, independence and disinterestedness. These qualities are all or partly fictions.

Another category are fabrications intended to foster dependence on the state and the formal economy. These aim to undermine the ancient dependence of individuals on the land and each other, and transfer that dependence to the state. Thus the worship of competition, the exaggeration of gender differences, and genetic determinism (the theory that your health, personality, and success derive only from within) are examples of fabrications that sow enmity and isolation among the population.

Another important category, which includes the myths of papal infallibility, or scientific and journalistic objectivity, exist to reinforce the power of authority itself. These fabrications act to bolster the influence of other myths.

The above list is not exhaustive, but it serves to introduce the idea that the organizing of detailed control over populations of millions, achieved mostly without resorting to any physical force, requires the establishing and perpetual reinforcement of multiple interlocking untruths. This itself has important implications.

The first and most important implication is that if the lies and fabrications exist to concentrate and exercise power over others (and then conceal their use), then it also follows that genuinely beneficial and humanitarian goals such as harmony, justice, and equity, require retrieval of the truth and the goals will follow naturally from that retrieval.

The task of anyone who wants harmony, justice, and peace to prevail therefore becomes primarily to free the people from believing in lies and thus allowing them to attain mastery over their own minds. At that point they will know their own true needs and desires; they will no longer “want” to be oppressed or exploited.

The second implication of this entwining of knowledge with power is that, when properly understood, goals of harmony, understanding, health, diversity, justice, sustainability, opportunity, etc., are not contradictory or mutually exclusive. Rather, they are necessarily interconnected.

The third implication is that an empire built on lies is much more vulnerable than it seems. It can rapidly unravel. Think of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

Given that resources are limited, the problems of achieving broad social justice, of providing for the people, and of restoring environmental health consequently become that of discerning which of the lies (since there are many) are most in need of exposing; and perhaps in what order.

Thus the necessary shift in perception is to see that, as in most wars, the crucial struggle in the food war is the one inside people’s heads. And that the great food war will be won by the side that understands that and uses it best.

This food war can be won by either side. The natural advantages of the grassroots in this realm are many. They include the power of the internet-–which represents a historic opportunity to connect with others; second, that it takes a lot less effort to assert the truth than it does to build a lie–many people only need to hear the truth once; and thirdly, that in this particular battle the non-profit public-interest side doesn’t necessarily need a bigger megaphone because, unlike the industry, they are (broadly) trusted by the public.

Consequently, it is perfectly possible that a lie that took several powerful industries many decades to build up could be dismantled in months. It is necessary only to unleash the power of the truth and to constantly remember the hidden power of the people: that all the effort industries put into misleading them is an accurate acknowledgement of the potential of that power.

There are many writers and NGOs, such as Pesticides Action Network, IATP, EWG, Organic Consumers Association, IFOAM, the Center for Food Safety, and others, who are aligned with the grassroots, and who are doing a good and necessary job of explaining the problems and costs of industrial agriculture. But these arguments have so far proven inadequate. Agribusiness knows why that is.

But by combining these arguments with a refutation of the food crisis, they can help destroy the industrial model of agriculture forever. And when that happens, many of our worst global problems, from climate change and rainforest destruction down, will become either manageable or even negligible.

It is all in the mind.

References
(1) Billen et al (2011) Localising the Nitrogen Imprint of the Paris Food Supply: the Potential of Organic Farming and Changes in Human Diet. Biogeosciences Discuss 8: 10979-11002.
(2) Cullather, N. (2010) The Hungry World: America’s Cold War Battle against Poverty in Asia (Harvard)
(3) Foley et al (2005) Global Consequences of Land use. Science 309: 570.
(4) Foley et al (2011) Solutions for a cultivated planet. Nature 478: 337–342.
(5) Peekhaus W. (2010) Monsanto Discovers New Social Media. International Journal of Communication 4: 955–976.
(6) Pretty J. et al., (2000) An Assessment of the Total External Costs of UK Agriculture Agricultural Systems 65: 113-136.
(7) Stone GD and Glover D. (2011) Genetically modified crops and the ‘food crisis’: discourse and material impacts. Development in Practice 21: DOI: 10.1080/09614524.2011.562876

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As if to back up what Dr. Latham has to say, the U.S. Congress steps to the front with two actions that seem mystifying until you think back on Dr. Latham’s viewpoint:

CONGRESS TELLS INVESTIGATORS: DON’T LOOK AT THE IMPACT
OF PEROPLE’S FOOD CHOICES ON THE ENVIRONMENT

A government-appointed group of top nutrition experts, assigned to lay the scientific groundwork for a new version of the nation’s dietary guidelines, decided earlier this year to collect data on the environmental implication of different food choices.
Congress now has slapped them down.

Lawmakers attached a list of directives to a massive spending bill that was passed by both the House and the Senate in recent days. One of those directives expresses “concern” that the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee “is showing an interest in incorporating agriculture production practices and environmental factors” into their recommendations, and directs the Obama administration to ignore such factors in the next revision of the guidelines, which is due out next year.

The federal dietary guidelines have never explicitly considered the effects of food choices on the environment, but the idea of doing so is not new. In 1986, nutritionist Kate Clancy, then teaching at Syracuse University, co-authored an article called “Dietary Guidelines for Sustainability.” It was addressed to her colleagues, Clancy says. She wanted them “to take a broader view of what they were advising people to do, with regard to their diet. It wasn’t just nutrients.” She urged them to consider not just what foods contribute to personal health, but also what types of food “contribute to the protection of our natural resources.”

Earlier this year, after the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee decided to look at some environmental aspects of diet, Clancy finally got an invitation to make her case to the committee. “Let me say that after 30 years of waiting, that fact that this committee is addressing sustainability issues brings me a lot of pleasure,” Clancy told the committee.

Members of the advisory committee aren’t allowed to talk to the media about their work. But Timothy Searchinger, a researcher with Princeton University and the World Resources Institute, an environmental group, believes that recommendations about diet have to consider environmental impacts. Producing food, he says, already claims half of all land where vegetation can grow. Farming is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases. “That doesn’t mean that farmers are bad. It means that eating has a big impact on the environment,” he says.

The impact will grow in the future, along with the world’s population. So if people are thinking about their own personal environmental footprint, he says, “probably what you eat is more important than anything else.”

In a meeting of the panel a few months ago, Miriam Nelson, a Tufts University professor, told the rest of the committee that “in general, a dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods is more health-promoting and is associated with less environmental impact.”

This new focus has already run into criticism. The American Meat Institute, which represents meat producers, says nutritionists don’t have the expertise to take on environmental questions.

The new directive from Congress may shut down the fledgling effort completely.

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CONGRESS PREPARING TO KEEP YOU IN THE D.A.R.K.

Amanda Byrnes of Food & Water Watch points out that conservative legislators have already begun tackling their priority issues, and it’s only a matter of time before what’s known as the Deny Americans the Right to Know (or DARK) Act is re-introduced. If passed and signed into law, this act would overturn state laws that require the labeling of genetically engineered (GMO) foods.

Over 90 percent of Americans support the labeling of GMOs, a rare consensus that crosses all party lines. We have a right to know what’s in the food we eat — and a right to make informed choices about what we feed ourselves and our families.

State after state has introduced measures that would require GMO labeling, with some passing outright and others, notably in Oregon, coming within a stone’s throw of success. It’s just a matter of time before more states pass labeling laws, which is why the Grocery Manufacturers Association, representing corporations like Monsanto, Nestlé and Dow, hopes its allies in Congress will pass some version of the DARK Act and take away states’ rights to determine whether genetically engineered ingredients need to be disclosed on labels.

“Let the market decide” has long been a rallying point for politicians favoring limited regulation of corporations, so maybe it’s time to tell those members of Congress that the market has spoken, and it wants labels.

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TO SUM UP:

Looking at these two Congressional actions, or actions-to-be from Dr. Latham’s perspective, you can see the hand of agribusiness at work in two ways. First, there is a revolving door between Congress and industry. Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto PR executive, now heads up our country’s food safety mechanism. Agribusiness executives, paid large sums of money, shuttle into the government and out of the government on a regular basis.

The other way agribusiness gets Congress to do its bidding is through lobbyists with their hands full of cash making sure that Senators and Representatives vote the right way. It takes a lot of money to run for Congress and the lobbyists have the money, supplied by the agribusiness firms that count on the votes. It’s likely that most Congress people don’t even know how much they are being manipulated, but some surely do.

Thus the Golden Idea—otherwise known as the Big Lie—persists, aided and abetted by our national (and state) legislators whose salaries are p[aid for by we taxpayers. The Big Lie and its disseminators are devoted to keeping you from discovering the truth: organic farming techniques are not only able to feed the world, they are also the only farming method that will save the world.

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The Real Value of Nature

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The value of nature worldwide—that is, the services provided by ecosystems—equals $147.7 trillion per year—greater than all the GNPs of all the world’s countries put together.

But the real value is not in money, but in HEALTH. What nature’s functioning ecosystems produce is health. And would you rather have a million dollars and be in chemo, or have a pocket full of change and glowing good health?

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ALL WHO WANT MORE GMOS THAT CAN WITHSTAND HEAVY APPLICATIONS OF HERBICIDES RAISE YOUR HAND. WHY IS THE USDA’S HAND UP?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is issuing a final and a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on several genetically engineered (GE) products as part of its review to determine whether to deregulate them. APHIS is issuing a final EIS as part of its review to determine whether to deregulate GE corn and soybean plants that are resistant to several herbicides, including one known as 2,4-D. APHIS also announced it will issue a draft EIS for public comment in the coming days as part of its review to determine whether to deregulate GE cotton and soybean plants that are resistant to multiple herbicides, including dicamba.

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GUT BACTERIA EXCEL AT DISMANTLING YEAST CELL WALLS

‪‬‬‬‬‬‬‪‬‬‬‬‬‬‪‬‬‬‬‬‬‪‬‬‬‬‬‬‪‬‬‬‬‬‬‪‬‬‬‬‬‬‪‬‬‬‬‬‬‪‬‬‬‬‬‬‪‬‬‬‬‬‬‪‬‬‬‬‬‬‪‬‬‬‬‬‬‪‬‬‬‬‬‬‪‬‬‬‬‬‬‪‬‬‬‬‬‬‪‬‬‬‬‬‬‪‬‬‬‬‬‬‪‬‬‬‬‬‬
Bacteria that have evolved to help us digest the yeast that give beer and bread their bubbles could support the development of new treatments to help people fight off yeast infections and autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease, researchers report.
The study shows how microbes in our digestive tract have learned to unravel the difficult to break down complex carbohydrates that make up the yeast cell wall. It’s published by scientists from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom and the University of Michigan Medical School.
Evolving over the 7,000 years that we have been eating fermented food and drink, the ability of a common gut bacterium called Bacteroides thetaiotomicron to degrade yeasts is almost exclusively found in the human gut.
Publishing their findings in the Jan. 8 issue of Nature, the international research team says the discovery of this process could accelerate the development of prebiotic medicines to help people suffering from bowel problems and autoimmune diseases.
The new findings provide a better understanding of how our unique intestinal soup of bacteria has the capacity to obtain nutrients from our highly varied diet.
Their findings suggest yeast has health benefits possibly by increasing the Bacteroides growth in the microbiome.
Involving an international team of scientists from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, United States and Belgium, the research has unraveled the mechanism by which B. thetaiotaomicron has learned to feast upon difficult to break down complex carbohydrates called yeast mannans.
Mannans, derived from the yeast cell wall, are a component in our diet from fermented foods including bread, beer, wine and soy sauce, as well as yeasts that call the human gut home and are in some cases thought to be harmful.

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GMOS ARE CRIMES AGAINST NATURE

The following report is from the Organic Consumers Association and was written by International Director Ronnie Cummins.

“Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food,” said Phil Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications. “Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.” — New York Times, Oct. 25, 1998

The technology of agricultural genetic engineering (GE) is the controversial practice of gene-splicing and disrupting the genetic blueprints of plants and trees in a lab, to produce patented seeds. The seeds are generally one of two types. One type, which includes Monsanto’s Roundup-resistant crops, produces plants that survive the spraying of poisons, while all the other plants around them die. The other type produces a plant that manufactures its own pest-killing poison, designed to target a specific pest.

Contrary to what some in the biotech industry and the media claim, genetic engineering of plants is not the same thing as selective breeding, or hybridization. Genetic modification involves inserting foreign genetic material (DNA) into an organism. Selective breeding does not.

For two decades, Monsanto and its cohorts (Syngenta, Dow, DuPont, Bayer, and BASF) have been randomly inserting the genes of one species into a non-related species, or genetically “interfering” with the instructions of an organism’s RNA—utilizing viruses, antibiotic-resistant genes and bacteria as vectors, markers and promoters—to create gene-spliced seeds and crops. Through clever marketing, they’ve captured the loyalty of North America’s (and many other nations’) chemical-intensive farmers, grain traders and Junk Food corporations. Fortunately, in the 28 member states of the European Union, where GMOs must be labeled and independently safety-tested, there are little or no GMO crops planted, and few GMO foods or food ingredients on supermarket shelves or restaurant menus.

Although Monsanto, industry scientists and corporate agribusiness claim that GMO crops and foods, and the chemicals that accompany them, are perfectly safe and therefore need no labeling or independent safety-testing, hundreds of independent scientists, that is, those not on the payroll of Monsanto or its minions, cite literally hundreds of studies showing that GMOs and their companion chemicals, such as Roundup, are extremely toxic.

Self-appointed GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) labeling “leaders” such as Scott Faber of the Just Label It campaign (a former lobbyist for the pro-GMO Grocery Manufacturers Association) need to stop repeating Monsanto and Big Food’s lies that there is no “evidence” that GMOs are dangerous for human health or the environment. As Faber stated at a Congressional Hearing on December 10, 2014:

“We do not oppose… genetically modified food ingredients. We think there are many promising applications of genetically modified food ingredients… I am optimistic that the promises that were made by the providers of this technology will ultimately be realized…that we will have traits that produce more nutritious food that will see significant yield…”

Given the current barrage of pro-GMO propaganda in the mass media, “GMO-Free” proponents need to put far greater emphasis on the fact that it isn’t just the imprecise and unpredictable nature of gene-splicing itself—a process that produces toxins and allergens, and shuts down essential gene functions—that threatens human health and the environment. The billions of pounds of systemic toxic pesticides (herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides), especially Roundup, that are used on GMO and so-called conventional crops, are equally, if not more, hazardous to human health and the environment.

These systemic agro-toxins, for the most part, cannot be washed off before eating. These biocides end up on our dinner plates and in our drinking water. They lodge in our bodies and in the bodies of our children, slowly but surely degrading our health and killing us. The world needs a food and farming system that is organic, climate-friendly and regenerative, one that is free of pesticides, animal drugs and chemical fertilizers—not one that is merely GMO-free.

A 12-point agenda for driving GMOs off the market

The anti-GMO and organic Movement has come a long way in the past two decades. But given the dangers posed by GMOs and Roundup, it’s time to move aggressively forward. Here are a dozen crucial steps we need to take in 2015 to drive GMOs and Roundup off the market.

1. Stop Congress from passing the Pompeo bill (HR #4432) in 2015, which would take away states rights to pass mandatory GMO food labeling bills, and make it legal for unscrupulous food and beverage companies to continue mislabeling GMO-tainted foods as “natural” or “all natural.”

2. Stop Congress from “fast-tracking” and passing secretly negotiated “Free Trade” agreements (the TPP-Trans-Pacific Partnership, and TTIP-Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) that would weaken consumer and states rights to label and safety test GMO and factory-farmed foods.

3. Pass more state laws requiring mandatory labels on GMOs.

4. Pass more bans on GMOs, neonicotinoids and pesticides at the township, city, and county levels.

5. Support Vermont, Maui (Hawaii), Jackson and Josephine counties (Oregon) in their federal and state legal battles to uphold their laws requiring labels and/or bans on GMOs.

6. Educate the public on the dangers and cruelty of GMO-fed, factory-farmed meat, dairy and egg products, and organize a “Great Boycott” of all factory-farmed foods.

7. Support mandatory state legislation to label dairy products and chain restaurant food coming from factory farms or CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations).

8. Pressure retail natural food stores and coops to follow the lead of Whole Foods Market and the Natural Grocer to label and/or ban all GMO-derived foods, including meat and animal products and deli foods, from their stores.

9. Pressure restaurants to follow the lead of organic/grass fed restaurants and ban, or at least label, all GMO ingredients.

10. Support consumer efforts to test for Roundup/glyphosate contamination in drinking water, human urine, breast milk, and in non-GMO food products such as wheat, potatoes, oats, peas, lentils and dry beans that are currently sprayed with Roundup before harvest.

11. Educate the public on the positive health, environmental, ethical and climate-friendly (greenhouse gas sequestering) attributes of organic, grass-fed, and pasture-raised food and farming.

12. Boycott the “Traitor Brand” products of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, International Dairy Foods Association, and the Snack Food Association.

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Oregon Anti-GMO Measure Fails

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The “Yes on 92” campaign, supporting the labeling of GMO foods in Oregon, has ended its efforts.

“While we have accomplished much, Measure 92 will not emerge victorious in this election. But our growing movement to label genetically engineered foods is neither defeated nor discouraged,” Yes on 92 reported. The measure lost by slightly more than 800 votes out of 1.5 million cast.

“On Tuesday we went to court in a final attempt to have 4,600 uncounted ballots opened and counted in this race. The judge agreed that leaving thousands of ballots uncounted in this election will cause irreparable harm to those voters and to the Measure 92 campaign. But he ultimately ruled that Oregon law didn’t allow him to issue the order to stop the count.

“These voters did everything right; completing, signing and returning their ballots on time and yet they have been denied the right to vote. We strongly believe we would have won the election if those votes had been counted.”

Meanwhile, the House Energy & Commerce Committee is now holding hearings on H.R. 4432. Lead sponsors Mike Pomeo (R-KS) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) are calling the bill, “The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014.”

Like last year’s Monsanto Protection Act, this bill has been crafted by Monsanto and biotech lobbyists to offer protection to Monsanto and permanently hide the fact that GMOs are in 75 percent of the processed foods sold in grocery stores in America.

What H.R. 4432 will do:

Preempt states from requiring labeling of genetically engineered food; prevent FDA from requiring GMO labeling; allow “natural” foods to contain genetically engineered ingredients; creates a new GMO “review” system based on industry studies and loopholes for certain food additives and animals fed conventional food.

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CHOOSE GLASS OR CERAMIC LIQUID CONTAINERS

Chemicals can and do leach from plastic containers, thereby contaminating foods and beverages, Dr. Joseph Mercola’s website reports.

Among the most hazardous of these chemicals are bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates, both of which mimic hormones in the body. Ovarian toxicity appears to be a particularly strong feature of BPA. Harvard researchers have found that higher BPA levels in women are linked to a reduced number of fertile eggs.

In response to consumer demand for BPA-free products, many manufacturers have switched to using a different chemical called bisphenol-S (BPS), which appears to be just as toxic as BPA. Styrene, found in Styrofoam cups, can be “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” according to scientists with the National Research Council.

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SCIENCE OUT AT EPA, LOBBYISTS IN

H.R. 1422, which passed the House of Representatives 229-191, would transform the Scientific Advisory Board of the Environmental Protection Agency, effectively gagging scientists while handing power to people with direct financial interests in the industries regulated by the EPA. It now goes to the Senate.

The bill even goes so far as to forbid scientific experts from participating in “advisory activities” that either directly or indirectly involve their own work. This means that world-leading experts would be banned from sharing their expertise in their own research.

Republicans are arguing that allowing EPA to use peer-reviewed scientific studies would constitute a conflict of interest. “In other words,” wrote Union of Concerned Scientists director Andrew A. Rosenberg in an editorial for RollCall, “academic scientists who know the most about a subject can’t weigh in, but experts paid by corporations who want to block regulations can.”

So how is the GOP selling such a blatantly absurd policy?

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) sums up the logic of the Republicans, arguing
that the board’s current structure “excludes industry experts, but not officials for environmental advocacy groups.” The inclusion of industry experts, he said, would right this injustice.

Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachussets didn’t beat about the bush with his summary of the Republican position: “I get it. You don’t like science,” he told bill sponsor Rep. Chris Stewart, (R-Utah). “And you don’t like science that interferes with the interests of your corporate clients. But we need science to protect public health and the environment.”

But the fight was lost, the bill passed, and two other bills aimed at impeding the EPA are scheduled to slide through. One prevents the agency from relying on what it calls “secret science” in crafting its regulations—translation: a means to effectively block the EPA from adopting any new rules to protect public health.
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), in an editorial for The Hill, stated that this trifecta of idiocy represents “the culmination of one of the most anti-science and anti-health campaigns I’ve witnessed in my 22 years as a member of Congress.”

The White House has threatened to veto all three bills.

The role of independent scientific assessment of the environmental and health impacts of industry is the only way the EPA is of any value or credibility. Take that away, and you turn the EPA into a Trade Show where industry lackeys hard-sell the public and politicians with zero scrutiny, according to the Organic Consumers Association.

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MASSIVE FRAUD ALLEGED ON HUGE ORGANIC DAIRY FARMS

In what has been called one of the largest fraud investigations in the history of the organic industry, The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group, announced filing formal legal complaints against 14 industrial livestock operations producing milk, meat and eggs being marketed, allegedly illegally, as organic.

After years of inaction by the USDA, Cornucopia contracted for aerial photography in nine states, from West Texas to New York and Maryland, over the past eight months. What they found confirmed earlier site visits: a systemic pattern of corporate agribusiness interests operating industrial-scale confinement livestock facilities providing no legitimate grazing, or even access to the outdoors, as required by federal organic regulations.
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“The federal organic regulations make it very clear that all organic livestock must have access to the outdoors and that ruminants, like dairy cows, must have access to pasture,” said Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute. “The vast majority of these massive, industrial-scale facilities, some managing 10,000-20,000 head of cattle, and upwards of 1 million laying hens, had 100 percent of their animals confined in giant buildings or feedlots.”

“Shoppers, who passionately support the ideals and values represented by the organic label, understandably feel betrayed when they see photos of these massive CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) masquerading as organic,” Kastel added.

The organization recommends consumers consult Cornucopia’s organic brand scorecard (http://www.cornucopia.org/2008/01/dairy-report-and-scorecard/) so they can choose from the many organic brands that partner with farmers and that truly deliver on the promise of better environmental stewardship, humane animal husbandry, and economic justice for the families who produce organic food.

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ORGANIC STRAWBERRY PLANTING STOCK BEING TRIALED

Center for Food Safety (CFS), in collaboration with six organic strawberry farmers, today announced the launch of a pilot project to field test newly developed organic strawberry planting stock. Government funds and university research support for this project have been non-existent, despite repeated requests for contributions.

Currently, organic planting stock is not commercially available to organic strawberry growers, as revealed by the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR). Therefore, the farmers have no choice but to purchase non-organic planting stock from conventional nurseries, which routinely fumigate their soils with methyl bromide, chloropicrin and other toxic chemicals prior to propagation.

Organic strawberry growers have expressed dissatisfaction with being forced to grow conventional transplants, but no organic transplants or funding for nursery experiments have been forthcoming in nearly a decade.

In response, in January 2012, Center for Food Safety convened the first Organic Strawberry Summit, bringing together all sectors of the organic strawberry industry to discuss this problem. At its second meeting, Greenheart Farms in Arroyo Grande, California, agreed to produce the first-ever organic strawberry plants from tissue culture and to sell them to growers for field testing this season.

“Organic (agriculture) has consistently led the way in developing pest management strategies that do not rely on dangerous synthetic chemicals, which jeopardize both human and environmental health,” said Dr. Lisa J. Bunin, organic policy director at Center for Food Safety. “Organic farmers are ready and willing to take up the challenge in the case of methyl bromide and strawberry planting stock.”

Organic strawberries comprise 8.5 percent of California’s strawberry market and contribute more than $63 million to the state’s economy, based on 2011 figures. These figures are likely to be much higher given the tremendous, recent growth in organic strawberry production. Between 2013 and 2014, organic strawberry production increased by 21.5 percent for winter plantings and 118 percent for summer plantings, according to the California Strawberry Commission.

Methyl bromide is a neurotoxin, a carcinogen, and an ozone depleter. In accordance with the Montreal Protocol, it was slated to be banned, internationally, nearly 10 years ago. The U.S. is currently only one of three advanced industrialized countries, including Australia and Canada, that still apply for annual exemptions to this ban. European Union countries no longer use it. California strawberry growers use about 90 percent of all the methyl bromide used in the industrialized world.

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