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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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Color Blind

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What with all the hideous gunning down of unarmed black people by police in recent days, the subject of race is back, front and center. The other day I read someone’s comment that we, as a society, need to become color blind.

Nonsense. No way will we ever, or should we ever, become color blind. Are you going to look at black person and pretend they’re not black? Or look at a white person and pretend they’re not white? That’s just stupid.

Color blind is simply the wrong term. What we want is to become color tolerant. Then any black person will have all the rights, excuses, advantages, forgivenesses, acceptances, and equality as everyone else.

If anything, we should celebrate our divergent ethnicities. Where would this country be without our black folks? They are the backbone of America. They did the heavy lifting for centuries. They have kept the soul of this country alive. They have insisted on the righteousness of tolerance. They have shown us the way of non-violence. They have mightily enriched our arts, especially in the area of music, and in the field of athletics. They should be cherished and celebrated every day of every year. We would not be the country we are without the contribution of all our citizens, black or white.

Our African-American countrymen and women (and children) are owed a great deal, not only because of their contributions to our society and culture, but also and maybe most importantly, because how badly they and their progenitors have been used and abused in this country.

The fact that white police forces feel they have a license to kill black people with impunity is a horrible blot on our people, our culture, and our nation. Right now, I don’t say God bless America. I say God, please make it stop.

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NO IT WASN’T

“It is easy to forget that once upon a time all agriculture was organic, grassfed, and regenerative.” — Courtney White, The Carbon Pilgrim, Nov. 16, 2014.

People say this all the time, as if farming in the centuries and millennia before the advent of organic farming in the 1930s was equivalent to the organic method. But no, it wasn’t. True, farmers way back didn’t have modern agricultural chemicals, but the organic method is a lot more than the absence of chemicals. It’s a holistic way of thinking about farming, about the farm as an ecosystem. Ecology wasn’t even recognized as a science until the mid-20th Century. Yes, cattle in bygone eras were pastured, but they were also fed silage and grains to fatten them up. And regeneration as a concept to advance farming was introduced by Bob Rodale in the late 1970s. So stop saying that pre-industrial agriculture was organic, because it wasn’t.

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WE CAN’T BE ORGANIC IF WE’RE RADIOACTIVE

The cumulative amount of radiation released from Fukushima already exceeds that of the infamous 1986 Chernobyl disaster, says a new study published in the journal Nature — and the damage, of course, is still ongoing. In fact, according to some news sources, the radiation plume in the Pacific Ocean has reached the shores of Alaska and is heading down the coast toward California.

Scientists from Japan, after testing radiation concentrations in various spots throughout the Pacific Ocean and on land, found that at least 120 petabecquerels (PBq), or 120 quadrillion becquerels (Bq), of radioactive cesium-134 (Cs-134) and cesium-137 (Cs-137) have been released by Fukushima into the ocean.

This figure is 11 percent higher than the total amount of radioactive cesium released by Chernobyl on both land and water, illustrating the true severity of the Fukushima disaster that the mainstream media is concealing from the public.

Even worse is the fact that the 120 PBq figure does not take into account all the other radioactive isotopes like strontium, plutonium and uranium that have been spreading through the air and water since 2011 when the disaster occurred. Taking all these other contaminants into account paints an even more dire picture of what the world has to look forward to.

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MORE BAD NEWS ABOUT FUKUSHIMA

The following are 28 signs that the west coast of North America is being threatened with nuclear radiation from Fukushima. Some of this seems anecdotal, some seems a little hysterical, but there’s no doubt that the Pacific is being contaminated and it’s heading our way.

1. Polar bears, seals and walruses along the Alaska coastline are suffering from fur loss and open sores. Wildlife experts are studying whether fur loss and open sores detected in nine polar bears in recent weeks is widespread and related to similar incidents among seals and walruses. The bears were among 33 spotted near Barrow, Alaska, during routine survey work along the Arctic coastline. Tests showed they had “alopecia, or loss of fur, and other skin lesions,” the U.S. Geological Survey said in a statement.

2. There is an epidemic of sea lion deaths along the California coastline. At island rookeries off the Southern California coast, 45 percent of the pups born in June have died, said Sharon Melin, a wildlife biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service based in Seattle. Normally, less than one-third of the pups would die. It’s gotten so bad in the past two weeks that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared an “unusual mortality event.”

3. Along the Pacific coast of Canada and the Alaska coastline, the population of sockeye salmon is at a historic low. Many are blaming Fukushima.

4. Something is causing fish all along the west coast of Canada to bleed from their gills, bellies and eyeballs.

5. A vast field of radioactive debris from Fukushima that is approximately the size of California has crossed the Pacific Ocean and is starting to collide with the west coast.

6. It is being projected that the radioactivity of coastal waters off the U.S. west coast could double over the next five to six years.

7. Experts have found very high levels of cesium-137 in plankton living in the waters of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and the west coast.

8. One test in California found that 15 out of 15 bluefin tuna were contaminated with radiation from Fukushima.

9. Back in 2012, the Vancouver Sun reported that cesium-137 was being found in a very high percentage of the fish that Japan was selling to Canada. The radioactive isotope was found in 73 percent of mackerel tested, 91 percent of the halibut, 92 percent of the sardines, 93 percent of the tuna and eel, 94 percent of the cod and anchovies, 100 percent of the carp, seaweed, shark and monkfish.

10. Canadian authorities are finding extremely high levels of nuclear radiation in certain fish samples. One sea bass sample collected in July, for example, had 1,000 becquerels per kilogram of cesium.

11. Some experts believe that we could see very high levels of cancer along the west coast just from people eating contaminated fish. “Look at what’s going on now: They’re dumping huge amounts of radioactivity into the ocean — no one expected that in 2011,” Daniel Hirsch, a nuclear policy lecturer at the University of California-Santa Cruz, told Global Security Newswire. “We could have large numbers of cancers from ingestion of fish.”

12. BBC News recently reported that radiation levels around Fukushima are “18 times higher” than previously believed.

13. An EU-funded study concluded that Fukushima released up to 210 quadrillion becquerels of cesium-137 into the atmosphere.

14. Atmospheric radiation from Fukushima reached the west coast of the United States within a few days back in 2011.

15. At this point, 300 tons of contaminated water is pouring into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima every single day.

16. A senior researcher of marine chemistry at the Japan Meteorological Agency’s Meteorological Research Institute says that “30 billion becquerels of radioactive cesium and 30 billion becquerels of radioactive strontium” are being released into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima every single day.

17. According to Tepco, a total of somewhere between 20 trillion and 40 trillion becquerels of radioactive tritium have gotten into the Pacific Ocean since the Fukushima disaster first began.

18. According to a professor at Tokyo University, 3 gigabecquerels of cesium-137 are flowing into the port at Fukushima Daiichi every single day.

19. It has been estimated that up to 100 times as much nuclear radiation has been released into the ocean from Fukushima than was released during the entire Chernobyl disaster.

20. One recent study concluded that a very large plume of cesium-137 from the Fukushima disaster will start flowing into U.S. coastal waters early next year.

21. It is being projected that significant levels of cesium-137 will reach every corner of the Pacific Ocean by the year 2020.

22. It is being projected that the entire Pacific Ocean will soon “have cesium levels 5 to 10 times higher” than what we witnessed during the era of heavy atomic bomb testing in the Pacific many decades ago.

23. The immense amounts of nuclear radiation getting into the water in the Pacific Ocean has caused environmental activist Joe Martino to issue the following warning:
“Your days of eating Pacific Ocean fish are over.”

24. The Iodine-131, Cesium-137 and Strontium-90 that are constantly coming from Fukushima are going to affect the health of those living in the northern hemisphere for a very, very long time. Iodine-131, for example, can be ingested into the thyroid, where it emits beta particles (electrons) that damage tissue. A plague of damaged thyroids has already been reported among as many as 40 percent of the children in the Fukushima area. That percentage can only go higher. In developing youngsters, it can stunt both physical and mental growth. Among adults it causes a very wide range of ancillary ailments, including cancer. Cesium-137 from Fukushima has been found in fish caught as far away as California. It spreads throughout the body, but tends to accumulate in the muscles. Strontium-90’s half-life is around 29 years. It mimics calcium and goes to our bones.

25. According to a recent Planet Infowars report, the California coastline is being transformed into “a dead zone.”

26. A study conducted last year came to the conclusion that radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster could negatively affect human life along the west coast of North America from Mexico to Alaska “for decades.”

27. According to the Wall Street Journal, it is being projected that the cleanup of Fukushima could take up to 40 years to complete.

28. Yale Professor Charles Perrow is warning that if the cleanup of Fukushima is not handled with 100 percent precision, humanity could be threatened “for thousands of years.”

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NOT TO WORRY SAYS RESPECTED MAINSTREAM SCIENCE JOURNAL

From Science magazine:

After a two-and-a-half year ocean journey, radioactive contamination from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan has drifted to within 160 kilometers of the California coast, according to a new study. But the radiation levels are minuscule and do not pose a threat, researchers say.

Shortly after the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in March, 2011, Tokyo Electric Power Co. estimated that the facility had released a staggering 7000 trillion becquerels—a measure of emitted radiation—of radiation into nearby seawater. Meanwhile, Japan’s Ministry of the Environment reported readings of 45.5 million becquerels per cubic meter of water, high enough to cause reproductive problems in fish.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed that the power plant’s radiation dissipated quickly as it spread from the coast, however. It arrived at this conclusion by measuring cesium-134, a kind of radiation “fingerprint” unique to Fukushima because of its relatively short two-year half-life. By June, 2011, cesium-134 was found 600 kilometers offshore from Japan producing 325 becquerels per cubic meter. Building models based on early readings, the World Health Organization and public health departments in California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska all forecast that Fukushima radiation would not pose a human health risk in North America.

But antinuclear groups like Beyond Nuclear, a Maryland nonprofit that advocates against nuclear power, questioned those predictions, citing concerns about continuing releases of radioactive isotopes from Fukushima since the 2011 meltdowns. In addition, nonprofits like the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership, which monitors and works to improve watersheds in Oregon, wanted more concrete data to present to their communities.

So marine chemist Ken Buesseler of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts convinced an eclectic group of organizations to collect water samples up and down the west coast of North America. Following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, Buesseler had tracked radioactive contaminants in the Black Sea, the closest major water body to the accident site. To pay for similar research in the much larger Pacific Ocean, he turned to crowdfunding—the increasingly popular method of using the Internet to bring multiple people together to fund costly endeavors. Government bodies such as the Umpqua Soil and Water Conservation District, universities, and conservation groups joined in, offering both to collect water from more than 50 sites in the Pacific Ocean near U.S. shores and to pay to ship and test those samples in Buesseler’s lab.

The findings are reassuring, Buesseler says. He measured a high of just 8 becquerels of radiation per cubic meter in the samples. Of that, he says, less than 2 becquerels came from cesium-134 traced to Fukushima. The remainder is largely from strontium-90 and cesium-137: Some of that is fallout from mid-20th century atomic bomb tests in the Pacific, and some may have come from Fukushima—these isotopes lack the half-life fingerprint that ties cesium-134 to the Japanese disaster. The total level of radiation is hardly worth worrying about, Buesseler says: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for drinking water allow up to 7400 becquerels per cubic meter. Buesseler is presenting his latest findings Thursday at the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry North America’s annual meeting.

“There are people here in California who are worried they could get fried by going to a beach, and this research confirms that those fears are wrong and inappropriate,” says Daniel Hirsch, a nuclear policy researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who was not involved in the study. But he also cautions that Fukushima may bring other risks to North America beyond ocean radiation levels, particularly related to seafood. Oregon State University researchers found that radiation levels in tuna caught off the Oregon coast tripled after the Fukushima meltdown—though levels remain too low to risk human health, they said. Hirsch predicts seafood radiation levels could climb as fish higher on the food chain eat and absorb radiation from smaller animals.
Although his results may not have public health implications, Buesseler says he hopes his work leads to a better informed populace. “People were making irrational decisions about spending time at the coast, or attributing starfish deaths to Fukushima,” he says. “Dental x-rays and airplanes have greater exposures than what we are measuring.”

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REPORT FROM ANOTHER RESPECTED SCIENCE JOURNAL

From Nature magazine:

Pressure continued to mount on the owner of Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on 1 September after it admitted that recent leaks of contaminated cooling water contained 18 times the levels of radiation previously reported.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said that one hot spot was found to be giving off 1,800 millisieverts per hour — much more than the 100mSv initially quoted and enough gamma radiation to kill a human within four hours. It also emerged that the pipe from which the water was leaking had been sealed with plastic tape.

The company vowed to launch an investigation of the leak and “take any appropriate countermeasures immediately”, adding that only 1mSv of the radiation was made up of gamma rays, with the rest being less penetrating beta radiation.

But the new revelations will heap pressure on the Japanese government to intervene in the clean-up of Fukushima after experts voiced fears that TEPCO is unable to cope with the operation, which has seen hundreds of tons of radioactive water escape into the Pacific Ocean. Analysts warned that if the government fails to act, prime minister Shinzo Abe’s pro-nuclear stance may be jeopardized.

“It’s clear that TEPCO is unable to solve the problems on its own,” said Tsutomu Toichi, managing director and chief economist at the Institute of Energy Economics in Tokyo. “The government has to step in to ensure these problems are solved quickly. It is going to have to provide funds, as well as a plan for moving forward, and explain this to the public in a way that is easy to understand.”

Wiktor Frid, a nuclear expert with the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority in Stockholm, added, “That water leaked from a tank unnoticed for several days is alarming and extremely embarrassing for TEPCO”.

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U.S. NUCLEAR WHISTLEBLOWER IS FIRED FOR HER EFFORTS

As the official in charge of overseeing safety compliance for the nation’s largest nuclear waste cleanup project, Donna Busche was simply doing her job. Federal contractors running the Hanford nuclear site suddenly saw her routine safety concerns as roadblocks to meeting deadlines regardless of quality, and terminated Busche in February, 2014. The companies have even stonewalled the Department of Energy Inspector General’s investigation into her case, putting into question who is supposed to regulate whom.

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AND NOW FOR SOME GOOD NEWS

After spending years trying to make good French fries at home, I’ve finally run across the trick.

It’s important to start with the right kind of potatoes. The best kind of potato to use for making fries is a Kennebec or Yukon Gold.

The best way to prepare the potato is to hand cut into 1/4 inch strips, skin on, then soak overnight in cold water. Then fry in Pure Canola oil first at 225 degrees for 4 minutes, then refrigerate overnight, then fry again at 375 degrees for 2 minutes.

Making good fries requires precise fryer oil temperature management. Thought has to go into how many fries to place in the fryer at once, how long they should cook, and then how long to wait before putting in the next batch to be fried.

Well, okay. Maybe next week. Just make sure the spuds are organic.

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COKE TO INTRODUCE NEW IMPROVED “MILK”

Coca-Cola is poised to take advantage of growing demand for better-for-you products among American consumers, with its new Coke Life product that launched nationally this month in mini-cans, Coca-Cola North American President J. Alexander M. Douglas said. “And our belief is that that trend will continue and that we have to be in a competitively-advantaged place, a solution for consumers who want to make positive changes but also want to treat themselves to the best-tasting drinks,” he said.

Americans have been cutting back on soda for years, and that’s dealt a blow to sales and profit at Coca-Cola.

Now, the company is making a bold move into a completely different beverage: milk.
Coca-Cola is planning to bring a new kind of milk to stores nationwide in late December. The milk, called Fairlife, has 50 percent more protein and 50 percent less sugar than regular milk. It also has 30 percent more calcium.

“It’s basically the premiumization of milk,” Sandy Douglas, a senior vice president at Coca-Cola’s North American operation, said recently at an investor conference. (Is that like the gentrification of a neighborhood?) “Our ambition there is to create the Simply of milk.” He was referring to the company’s Simply juice line, which has seen strong growth even as the overall fruit juice industry has been in decline. Coca-Cola advertises its Simply juices as healthier, never frozen and never sweetened, which plays well with grocery shoppers.

My question is this. In order to get a fabulously well-paying job like Coca-Cola North American President, do you have to have a name like “J. Alexander M. Douglas?”

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NEONICOTINOID (BEE-DESTROYING) SEEDS HAVE NO BENEFIT

Mounting scientific literature regarding neonicotinoid pesticides is finding they contaminate our rivers and streams, and likely play an important role in causing colony collapse disorder among honeybees.

One of the primary ways these pesticides enter the environment is through genetically modified soybean seeds coated with the pesticide prior to planting. Now, a new peer-reviewed report by the Biological and Economic Analysis Division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has concluded these seed treatments do not provide any significant benefit, with data indicating that there was no difference in yield when comparing treated and untreated seeds. Also, as currently used, the pesticides are present in the soybean leaf during a time when most destructive pests are not active. “U.S. soybean growers derive limited to no benefit from neonicotinoid seed treatments in most instances,” the report says, adding, “Usage of neonicotinoid seed treatments does not protect soybean yield any better than doing no pest control.”

Oh, and by the way, Monsanto has announced that despite this mounting evidence of no benefit and honeybee die-offs, it will not stop coating seed with the chemicals. So there, America and your damn honeybees. As Bogey said when he was slapping Peter Lorre around in The Maltese Falcon, “You’ll take it and you’ll like it.”

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POLLINATORS INCREASE WITH BIODIVERSITY ON ORGANIC FARMS

In a recent study published in Agriculture Ecosystems and the Environment, scientists found that pollinator services to crops on organic farms increased when habitat heterogeneity was increased, but this same trend was not seen on conventionally farmed land.

Researchers compared pod development in beans on conventional farms and organic farms surrounded by varying amounts heterogeneous habitat depending on the amount of surrounding land set aside to grow hay or grass. Pots of beans were then placed in each field and monitored for indicators of successful pollination in the number of bean pods that developed as well as the total number of beans per pod.

Overall, organic farms had more pods per plant than conventional fields, suggesting that more successful pollination occurred in organic fields. Also, as the amount of habitat heterogeneity increased, so did the number of beans in each pod—demonstrating that pollination services in organic fields also increased as the landscape became more diverse. “Surprisingly,” the report on the study said, “this increase in pollination services with habitat heterogeneity was not observed in conventional farms. The authors hypothesized that it may be that organic farming is simply friendlier towards pollinators because it does not use synthetic herbicides or fertilizers.”

Duh!

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What If?

Organic Lifestyle Comments (0)

Organic farming and gardening represents a shift in thinking that can apply broadly to all the activities of life, bringing life-supporting perspective to actions by individuals, groups, and institutions.

It really involves moving beyond a human-centered point of view to a holistic view. The big problem with the human-centered point of view is that the end (human improvement of some sort) justifies the means. For example, in conventional farming and gardening, human beings have mastery over the farm and garden and all the creatures that affect them.

And that means lots of killing. Look at the words we use for the levers conventional agriculture applies to nature to grow our crops: pestiCIDES, herbiCIDES, fungiCIDES, ANTIbiotics. In other words, we kill off every life form except the desired crops.

The holistic view means that we study the way nature works and then try to emulate her in our farming and gardening, using the most benign methods first, and harsher methods only up to the point that we don’t cause damage to the web of life. The organic grower knows that if it takes wholesale slaughter to grow a crop, it’s best to find another crop to grow. And emulating nature means that the entire force of natural law is brought in to strengthen the process. Killing everything except the crops does exactly the opposite—it tries to defeat nature.

Instead of killing everything but the crops, organic growers promote biodiversity—nature’s system of checks and balances that produces natural good health. The soil is not just material that props up crops until we can flood them with soluble chemical fertilizers and plant and animal poisons. It is a living system that we enrich so that it too has a huge biodiversity that feeds plants what they want, in the amounts they want, when they want it. That’s what nature does. That’s a healthy ecology whether on the farm, in the garden, or out in wild nature.

Okay—that works for farming and gardening. Can it work in another area of life, such as social interaction? Lately, we’ve seen some horrific examples of the police function. A frightened cop is a very dangerous cop. I just saw a YouTube video of a guy pumping gas into his truck who was approached by a cop who challenged him. The guy reached into his truck for his ID, and the cop shot him down.

Michael Brown maybe gave Darren Wilson some lip or even tried to turn his gun away (who knows?), but Wilson unloaded his service revolver on the unarmed kid and you know the rest of the story. Killing. Over and over and over. Even right here in Santa Rosa, California, not more than 12 miles from me, a Latino kid with a plastic rifle was murdered by a Santa Rosa cop who thought maybe that thing was real.

What does the organic approach tell us about law enforcement? What, for instance, might Darren Wilson have done when an unarmed teenager displeased him? Now Wilson says he feared for his life, and that Brown was trying to wrest the gun from his hand. And that the next thing Wilson saw happening was that he was going to be murdered by this kid. I personally don’t believe a word of it, but let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Wilson’s telling the truth.

Let’s back up here. Let’s say Michael Brown and friends were walking down the street, blocking the roadway, and maybe giving the officer typical teenage attitude.

Let’s say Officer Wilson asked them to move off the street to legitimately open the roadway to traffic. Let’s say Michael Brown told him to shove it. Maybe at that point, Officer Wilson might have told young Mr. Brown that he was going to get a ticket for blocking a public roadway. Maybe Mr. Brown told Officer Wilson, “Yeah? Let’s see you give me a ticket.”

I’m not saying Brown actually said this, I’m just saying that sometimes teenagers can be a handful of badass.

Maybe Officer Wilson could have seen the big picture. Brown lives in his town. He knows where to find him. Brown was ignoring a lawful request by the cop to clear the street. The cop’s options were many. He could have gone to Brown’s parents and given them the summons. He could have called for backup and arrested Mr. Brown for non-cooperation with a law enforcement officer’s legitimate request, taken him to the cop shop, and arraigned him. It was, after all, a misdemeanor. In other words, Wilson could have used the least violent strategy first, then moved, step by careful step, to achieve the lawful aim of preventing blockage of a street to public traffic.

Why was Wilson’s gun even out in the first place? But it was out and, Wilson says, he and Brown were wrestling for control of it. So Officer Wilson shot and killed young Mr. Brown, an unarmed teenager, in what was obviously an emotional flareup. Isn’t that a lot like producing food by killing everything in the field except the crop?

What makes the situation so gut wrenching is the response of the prosecutor and the grand jury. It’s just so pitifully and painfully obvious that the white powers that be rigged the game from the outset, to make sure that the white cop walked.

Think I’m exaggerating? In addition to his duties as the St. Louis County prosecutor in charge of prosecuting Officer Darren Wilson, Robert McCulloch is also the President of The Backstoppers, an organization used to fundraise for police men and women in both Missouri and Illinois. Last August, his organization was affiliated with a T-shirt drive featuring a picture of Missouri and the statement, “I SUPPORT OFFICER D. WILSON,” which was set up to raise money for the Darren Wilson Defense Fund as well as The Backstoppers. So, the prosecutor charged with discovering whether Officer Wilson is guilty of murder is raising money for the cop being investigated.

Any parallels with the agricultural powers that be called Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, and the other dealers in agricultural poison? You decide. The organic solution would have been to leave the gun in the holster and give Mike Brown a ticket, not fire 12 bullets into him for a misdemeanor.

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‘NO GMO’ CHIPS TURN OUT TO BE LOADED WITH GMOS

Xochitl, a company that makes tortilla chips, has gained a foothold in grocery stores across the United States in large part because of two words added to its package to reassure consumers: “No GMO.”

Its website shows that the chips are now in grocery stores across the country, and both organic and non-organic varieties are offered (both say “No GMO” on the bag). But according to a recent test conducted by Consumer Reports, the company has been lying about that important distinction. The recent Consumer Reports investigation found that the non-organic (but supposedly non-GMO) varieties of the chips actually contained over 75 percent GMO corn, based on tests of six different packages.

This is why we need mandatory GMO labeling with fully defined standards and verification. Anything less is unacceptable. Food manufacturers need to be held accountable and we need to know if it’s GMO.

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FOOD GIANTS TURN HEALTHY YOGURT INTO JUNK FOOD

A new report called “Culture Wars: How the Food Giants Turned Yogurt, a Health Food, into Junk Food,” issued by The Cornucopia Institute, accuses Dannon, Yoplait, Chobani and other major marketers of misleading parents, who are looking for healthier foods for their families, into purchasing yogurts loaded with sugar and containing a myriad of questionably safe artificial sweeteners, colors, and emulsifiers.

The group alleges that agribusiness, in its marketing approach, has capitalized on yogurt’s historic, well-deserved, healthful reputation while simultaneously adulterating the product, sometimes illegally, to gain competitive advantage and popular appeal.

In addition to The Cornucopia Institute’s comprehensive report on the yogurt industry, they also released a related buyer’s guide rating 114 brands and separating the truly healthy options from those that would be found on any dietitian’s shortlist of foods to avoid.

You can read Cornucopia’s report at http://www.cornucopia.org/yogurt/
and see its buyer’s guide at http://www.cornucopia.org/yogurt-scorecard/

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SAN JOSE TAKES THE LEAD IN SMART WASTE TECHNOLOGY

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and City of San José officials have toured the city’s Zero Waste Energy Development anaerobic digestion facility where food scraps are turned into renewable energy and compost for local farms.

The facility’s state-of-the-art anaerobic digesters use bacteria to break down food waste in an oxygen-free environment, converting it into methane biogas that’s burned to generate electricity. The facility can digest and compost 90,000 tons of food waste and produce 1.6 megawatts of electricity per year. San José aims to achieve zero waste by 2022 and diverts 74 percent of materials from landfills through reuse, recycling, composting, and anaerobic digestion.

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INDIAN FILMMAKER DOCUMENTS GMO ABUSES

In his documentary, “Poison on the Platter,” Indian filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt examines how multinational corporations and government regulators have conspired to spread GE foods across India, reports Dr. Joseph Mercola’s website.

The film provides an insightful perspective about the global impact of GMOs. If you don’t believe contamination of our food supply by GMOs holds the potential for planetary disaster, you might change your mind after seeing this film. Mahesh Bhatt warns:

“In their mad rush to capture the multi-billion dollar Indian agriculture and food industry, the biotech multinational companies are bulldozing warnings by scientists about the adverse impact of GMO foods on health and the environment. This is hurtling mankind toward a disaster, which will be far more destructive than anything the world has seen so far, simply because it will affect every single person living on this planet.”

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JUDGE BLOCKS MAUI’S LAW BANNING GMO CULTIVATION

A federal judge has ruled that Maui County, Hawaii, may not implement a new law banning the cultivation of genetically modified organisms until he considers arguments in a lawsuit against the measure.

Monsanto Co. and a unit of Dow Chemical Co. sued the county to stop the law. Employees of the companies and local Maui County businesses joined the lawsuit. They argue that the law would harm the economy and their businesses. They said the court has already ruled in another case involving a Kauai law regulating genetically engineered crops, that the state, and not the county, has jurisdiction over the issue.

Maui voters created the law with a ballot initiative. The measure was to take effect after officials certified the election results, which was expected later this month. Now both sides have agreed to delay the date the law goes into effect, U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren said in his ruling.

Kenneth Robbins, an attorney for the companies, said Kurren was saying in his ruling the plaintiffs have shown they could potentially suffer irreparable harm if the law goes into effect.

Michael Carroll, an attorney for the ballot initiative’s authors, plans to ask Kurren to hold off from deciding this case until a state court on Maui rules on a separate lawsuit his clients filed Wednesday. That lawsuit seeks to compel the county to implement the law. Carroll said Friday he’s hopeful the federal court will ultimately agree the issues should be decided in a Maui court.

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Does ‘Gluten Allergy’ Really Have Anything to Do with Gluten?

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All of a sudden, my supermarket has a whole shelf of gluten-free products. Seems like everything now comes in a gluten-free version. But it wasn’t that long ago that most people had never heard of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, except that it was a necessary part of good, chewy, wholesome bread. What happened? Why so much gluten intolerance all of a sudden?

Well, why so much autism all of a sudden? So much diabetes? So much obesity? Could the allergic reaction to bread be attributed to something other than gluten? I mean, human beings have been eating wheat since the dawn of agriculture 10,000 years ago, and were probably gathering einkorn, modern wheat’s predecessor, for many years before that. All of a sudden everyone’s got a wheat allergy?

An intriguing blog called The Healthy Home Economist made a recent post that is astonishing, and it concerns wheat allergy. In the post, the author, who calls herself Sarah, with no last name, claims that just before harvest, most of the wheat used in our foods is sprayed with Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide and that what people are actually experiencing is a response to this toxic chemical.

“According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as of 2012, 99 percent of durum wheat, 97 percent of spring wheat, and 61 percent of winter wheat has been doused with Roundup as part of the harvesting process,” Sarah claimed, though a link to these USDA statistics was not provided. But a chart from a USDA database indicates that these wheats do receive applications of Roundup, even though there is no Roundup-resistant wheat that is approved for mainstream use in the United States.

I checked the Monsanto website regarding the application of Roundup to crops just before harvest (which means the herbicide residues are not only in every cell of the crop’s tissues, but also on the surface as a residue). Monsanto recommends spraying three or four days before harvest. You can check it yourself at http://roundup.ca/_uploads/documents/MON-Preharvest%20Staging%20Guide.pdf. At the site, farmers are encouraged to apply Roundup to many crops just before harvest, not just wheat but also barley, oats, canola, flax, peas, lentils, and dry beans.

One of the reasons to spray these food crops, Monsanto says, is to kill weeds that may have grown with the crop or will grow post-harvest. “Preharvest is the best time for controlling Canada thistle, quackgrass, perennial sowthistle, dandelion, toadflax, and milkweed. A preharvest weed control application is an excellent management strategy to not only control perennial weeds, but to facilitate harvest management and get a head start on next year’s crop,” Monsanto says.

And another reason to spray is to promote uniformity of ripening of the seeds to be used for human or animal food. And finally, when the wheat or other stalks die, they dry quickly and are easier on the farmers’ equipment, such as combines.

The Manitoba Pulse Growers’ literature warns farmers in that Canadian province to be aware that some countries require crops to contain “less chemical residue” than others. It states that, in the U.S., there are no marketing issues with excess Roundup residue on plants. The maximum residue level allowed is set, and provided farmers follow the directions on their Roundup labels, they don’t need to worry. Selling to Japan is a bit more difficult if farmers use pre-harvest Roundup treatments, because the maximum residue level of Roundup that Japan will tolerate on beans is “set at a rigidly low level.”

Preharvest spraying of this toxic chemical might help explain the results from a study released earlier this year that found higher than expected levels of glyphosate in breast milk samples. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup. Despite the herbicide being found in breast milk, urine, streams and waterways, and even rain, Monsanto maintains that the use of Roundup on feed crops and food crops alike is safe for animals and people under “present and expected conditions of use.”

Also, a new report by ConsumerReports.org points out that a gluten-free claim doesn’t mean the product is necessarily more nutritious, it may actually be less so; that consumers may increase their exposure to arsenic by going gluten-free, and a gluten-free diet might cause weight gain—not weight loss. And, most gluten-free foods cost more than their regular counterparts.

Still, a new survey of more than 1,000 Americans conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center found that about a third of people buy gluten-free products or try to avoid gluten. Among the top benefits they cited were better digestion and gastrointestinal function, healthy weight loss, increased energy, lower cholesterol, and a stronger immune system.

“While people may feel better on a gluten-free diet, there is little evidence to support that their improved health is related to the elimination of gluten from their diet,” said Trisha Calvo, deputy content editor, health and food, at Consumer Reports. “Before you decide to ride the wave of this dietary trend, consider why it might not be a good idea.”

Unless someone has a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease – an autoimmune condition in which gluten causes potentially life-threatening intestinal damage – Consumer Reports says there is little reason to eliminate gluten, and doing so may actually be a disservice to one’s health. Less than seven percent of Americans have these conditions.

A quarter of the people CR surveyed thought gluten-free foods have more vitamins and minerals than other foods. But CR’s review of 81 products free of gluten across 12 categories revealed they’re a mixed bag in terms of nutrition. Many gluten-free foods aren’t enriched or fortified with nutrients such as folic acid and iron as many products that contain wheat flours are.

And according to CR’s survey, more than a third of Americans think that going gluten-free will help them slim down, but there’s very little evidence that doing so is a good weight-loss strategy; in fact, the opposite is often true. Ditching gluten often means adding sugar, fat, and sodium, which are often used to pump up the flavor in these foods; these foods also might have more calories and consuming them could cause some people to gain weight.

If going gluten free means cutting down on the toxic load of glyphosate you’re getting, then it is a good thing. But you don’t have to give up eating healthy whole grain breads. Just choose organic.

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THE TROUBLE WITH GLYPHOSATE

Shall we take a closer look at Roundup and glyphosate to see if it really is safe, especially if sprayed on crops just before harvest?

Glyphosate kills by inhibiting an enzyme (CYP 450) involved in the synthesis of amino acids. It’s absorbed through foliage and transported by the plant to growing points. Unable to make the amino acids necessary for life, the plant dies. Because of this mode of action, it is only effective on actively growing plants. It is not effective as a pre-emergence herbicide; that is, before the crop seeds sprout and start to grow.

Glyphosate may be the culprit behind many of the so-called “diseases of civilization” that have plagued humanity since the chemical was introduced into agriculture in the last third of the 20th Century, diseases that are escalating at alarming rates today. These diseases and conditions include birth defects, autism, gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, infertility, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and more.

That’s the conclusion of two scientists who looked over 286 studies of the biological effects of glyphosate and published their findings in the peer-reviewed journal Entropy in mid-April, 2013. These findings are a bombshell that, if confirmed by further scientific studies, could—and should–lead to a total worldwide ban on glyphosate. Women of child-bearing age, who plan to become pregnant, who are pregnant, or are rearing young children should pay close attention to the following information.

In their search of the literature, environmental scientist Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff, Senior Research Scientist at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, found a great deal of evidence that glyphosate suppresses and inhibits a human enzyme called cytochrome P450, known in scientific shorthand as CYP. Inhibiting enzymes is exactly how glyphosate works as an herbicide, because enzymes are catalysts for all sorts of functions in plants, and when they are suppressed, the plants die for lack of the ability to function properly. Something of the same effect may be at work in humans who ingest glyphosate from their food.

“Glyphosate’s inhibition of CYP enzymes is an overlooked component of its toxicity to mammals,” they write. “CYP enzymes play crucial roles in biology, one of which is to detoxify any foreign substances not normally found in living creatures, such as pesticides, industrial chemicals, pollutants, and drugs. Thus, glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. The negative impact on the body is insidious, and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems within the body.”

The authors show how glyphosate harms three crucial bodily functions. First, it interferes with CYP enzymes. Second, it disrupts our intestinal flora’s ability to construct important amino acids that build and repair the body’s cellular tissues.

Third, it impairs the movement of sulfate compounds in the blood. These compounds are especially important in the growth of infants, young children, and the developing fetus in pregnant women due to their role in forming and assigning jobs to hormones that direct normal fetal growth. Hormones are the body’s messaging system, telling tissues like stem cells how to grow and what to grow into. Endocrine disruptors like glyphosate impair the body’s hormonal messages. It’s as if your cell phone connections were garbled and mostly incoherent.

Glyphosate’s enzyme inhibition acts synergistically with the other two damaging effects—that is, it produces a more serious health effect than the sum of the individual effects.

In conclusion, the study’s authors write: “Given the known toxic effects of glyphosate reviewed here and the plausibility that they are negatively impacting health worldwide, it is imperative for more independent research to take place to validate the ideas presented here, and to take immediate action, if they are verified, to drastically curtail the use of glyphosate in agriculture. Glyphosate is likely to be pervasive in our food supply, and contrary to being essentially non-toxic, it may in fact be the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment.”

What the authors have done in this study of the scientific literature on glyphosate is to connect the dots, with each dot being one of the 286 studies.

Author Anthony Samsel is an environmental scientist with a long list of achievements in pollution control. He’s a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, and an organic farmer to boot. “Now that I’m retired, it’s time to help those who are victimized by industrial polluters,” he says. Now his work focuses on charitable community investigations of industrial polluters of air and water by hazardous chemical materials; agricultural pollution by pesticides, biocides, and genetically engineered materials, and their effects on public health and the environment.

He says that the information about glyphosate’s disastrous effects on human health have not been reported to the public before. “As far as I know, I have never seen CYP 450 enzymes referred to in a non-technical magazine,” he says.

“I started reading Organic Gardening magazine as a child in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I have owned and operated several commercial farm operations in New England. I now grow five acres of organic produce in New Hampshire, most of which is donated to the needy in this area.”

Author Stephanie Seneff told me that “I became interested in glyphosate through my research on autism. I have been alarmed by the recent increases in the incidence of autism in the U.S., and I am determined to figure out what environmental toxins may be at play. I have now become convinced that glyphosate plays a major role, although it is not the entire story.” The incidence of autism in America has risen by 30 percent just in the past two years.

“We did not do any new research other than predict the likely consequences of glyphosate, given the evidence available in the papers we reviewed. I don’t think anybody else has put together the story that’s in this paper, regarding how glyphosate can be linked up to syndromes like obesity, depression, and autism directly through its known actions on biological systems. So I would say that our findings and conclusions are new, rather than just a summary.”

Are there any other indications that glyphosate may be causing harm?

Three rivers come together and run through the Yakima Valley of Washington State. The Valley is home to a large portion of Washington’s fruit growing industry, and so in the 1960s, noxious weed control boards were established to keep weed competition with the fruit industry’s crops in check.

Barbara H. Peterson, writing in her informative blog, Farm Wars, details what happened next:

“Three Washington counties – Yakima, Benton, and Franklin – experienced an unusually high number of birth defects (800 percent higher than the national average) at around the same time as glyphosate was being used extensively for several years to eradicate noxious weeds on land and in the water. That birth defect is called anencephaly, or failure of the neural tubes that form the brain to develop. It’s almost always fatal. Could there be a connection?

“It appears that Yakima, Benton, and Franklin counties just happen to have three things in common – the Yakima River, a noxious weed eradication program using copious amounts of glyphosate for years on both land and in the river, and an increase in anencephaly, which glyphosate just happens to be suspected of causing.

“Considering the government’s propensity to ignore any connection between Monsanto’s glyphosate and health effects, and the fact that the EPA just raised allowable glyphosate levels, I think we can safely assume that the correlation between increased usage and these brain damaged babies will not be adequately investigated.”

Worldwide, annual use of glyphosate is projected to reach 1.35 million metric tons by 2016, according to Global Industry Analysts, Inc.

Now let’s look at some studies about glyphosate’s toxicity.

The headline in the Journal of Environmental and Analytical Toxicology reads: “Teratogenic Effects of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides: Divergence of Regulatory Decisions from Scientific Evidence.” Put in simpler terms, the headline means that the people responsible for making the safety rules for glyphosate are ignoring the evidence of its harm in animal development. This article cites a number of scientific studies showing that the chemical causes birth defects by interfering with retinoic acid, a signaling molecule derived in the body from vitamin A that guides embryonic development in all animals with backbones, from fish to humans. Despite many studies showing reproductive problems and birth defects in animals like frogs and rats, officials in the German Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety and European Union food safety officials minimized the potential for harm by relying primarily on studies paid for by Monsanto, Dow, and Syngenta that downplayed the problems.

The conclusion of the article’s eight scientists states, in part, “A substantial body of evidence demonstrates that glyphosate and Roundup cause teratogenic (a teratogen is an agent affecting an embryo or fetus) effects and other toxic effects on reproduction, as well as genotoxic effects (a genotoxin causes mutations by damaging an organism’s DNA)…Attempts by industry and government regulatory bodies to dismiss this research are unconvincing and work against the principle that it is the responsibility of industry to prove that its products are safe and not the responsibility of the public to prove that they are unsafe.”

Researchers in a French study exposed live human liver cells to glyphosate at lower levels than found in agriculture and reported that all the cells’ normal functions were disrupted within 24 hours. DNA damage was found at just five parts per million of the herbicide. The researchers concluded, “A real cell impact of glyphosate-based herbicides residues in food, feed or in the environment has thus to be considered, and their classifications as carcinogens/mutagens/reprotoxics discussed.” The title of their paper in Toxicology for August 21, 2009, is not weasel-worded: “Glyphosate-based herbicides are toxic and endocrine disruptors in human cell lines.”

A September, 2013, study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, is titled, “Glyphosate Induces Human Breast Cancer Cells Growth Via Estrogen Receptors.” In other words, when scientists added glyphosate to a petri dish with living human breast cancer cells, the cells started reproducing like crazy, an action that is the definition of cancer.

A French study found that very low doses of glyphosate reduced testosterone levels in male rats by 35 percent and caused cell death at higher levels. A study published in the journal Archives of Toxicology showed Roundup is toxic to human DNA even when diluted to concentrations 450-fold lower than used in agricultural applications. Industry regulators and long-term studies look at glyphosate in isolation, instead of looking at Roundup’s full formulation, which includes secret added ingredients. These “confidential” and unlabeled ingredients, when measured as a whole, affect all living cells, including human cells.

A study in Environmental Health Perspectives for June, 2005, tested glyphosate alone and as an ingredient in Roundup, which contains other chemicals beside glyphosate, on living placental cells—you know, those cells whose job it is to interface with the mother’s bloodstream to secure nutrients for the developing baby. Here’s the upshot, translated from the scientific jargon: “Here we show that glyphosate is toxic to human placental cells within 18 hours with concentrations lower than those found with agricultural use, and this effect increases with concentration and time or in the presence of the other ingredients in Roundup. Surprisingly, Roundup is always more toxic than its active ingredient (glyphosate). We tested the effects of glyphosate and Roundup at lower nontoxic concentrations on aromatase, the enzyme responsible for estrogen synthesis. We conclude that endocrine and toxic effects of Roundup, not just glyphosate, can be observed in mammals. We suggest that Roundup enhances glyphosate bioavailability and/or bioaccumulation.” In other words, the other ingredients in Roundup make it more toxic than glyphosate alone.

The other way that newborn babies can get glyphosate from their moms is through breast milk. A group called Moms Across America did research on glyphosate in American mothers’ breast milk at several locations across the country and found that indeed, it was in the milk at levels around 700 parts per billion. This is 700 times higher than allowed in Europe’s drinking water. And while 700 ppb is a lot, it is still less than the maximum allowable by the Environmental Protection Agency. And since the research was preliminary and not a rigorous scientific study, we need to make sure we don’t overstate the case here. And yet 700 ppb is frightening, because glyphosate at almost any level causes concern.

Moms Across America released the breast milk report to EPA in April, 2014. More recently, the group gave EPA a three-inch-thick binder full of studies showing harm to humans and other mammals, Here are just a handful of the many studies EPA was given:

Glyphosate was recently connected to increases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Peer reviewed studies show rats fed diets as low as 2 ppm of glyphosate were 70 percent to 80 percent more likely to develop tumors than rats not fed the chemical. Infertility, affecting both the sperm and the egg, was documented in animals subjected to glyphosate residue levels as low as .05 ppm. Birth defects in frog and chicken embryos resulted after being subjected to glyphosate residues of just 2.03 ppm.

The chemical is a chelator, making certain nutrients unavailable in foods.

Glyphosate has an antibiotic effect that kills gut bacteria at one-tenth parts per million. One of the levels found in breast milk was one-third greater than that. “Therefore we can surmise that many of our babies’ gut bacteria are being destroyed, weakening their immune systems,” the organization writes. And remember that study by Samsel and Seneff mentioned earlier? The study’s full title is, “Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases.” Some of the studies cited in this review connect glyphosate with autism. That’s a connection, not a cause-and-effect conclusion, but it should throw up a big warning flag for the EPA.

EPA, however, has said only that it will include Mothers Across America’s breast milk information in its review, which will take until sometime in 2015. During this wait time, MAA points out, the U.S. will continue to be Number One in the industrialized world for infant death on the baby’s first day. “Fifty percent more babies die in the U.S. on day one than all of the other industrialized nations combined,” MAA says.

About a million metric tons (about 2 billion, 205 million pounds) of Roundup are used on farms, gardens, and lawns worldwide every year in the most recent calculations. And so it’s found everywhere—in the air, water, and soil; in the plants grown in that soil, in the animals who eat those plants, and in the people who eat those plants and animals.

Glyphosate was detected in more than 75 percent of air and rain samples in the Mississippi delta region in a 2007 study.

The EPA in July, 2013, announced a final ruling to increase, yet again, the allowed residue of glyphosate in food and animal feed. Under the ruling, the allowed glyphosate level in animal feed has risen to 100 parts per million and 40 ppm in oilseed crops.

The EPA ruling defies sound science and undermines public health, yet the EPA claims glyphosate is only “minimally toxic” to humans, and 40 ppm is nothing to worry about.

But if Roundup is so toxic, why is everyone using so much of it? And why all around the world?

Roundup has been around since the 1970s, but it really became a super problem when the science of genetic engineering was perfected in the mid-1990s. Monsanto’s scientists—and its marketing executives—reasoned that if they could find a gene for glyphosate resistance and put it into major crop seeds, then farmers could pour on enough Roundup to kill weeds without harming the major crops. This would open up vast new markets for the herbicide.

As early as 1982, the scientists were looking for ways to make crops resistant to the herbicide, but first, they had to find the genetic key to that resistance. Remember that Monsanto had been making Roundup since the early 1970s, and waste water involved in the processing was stored in its waste ponds. Now, when you assault an organism—especially a microorganism—with a death-dealing chemical, you kill off most of a population, except for a few mutants who can resist the assault. These reproduce and soon you have a colony of resistant bacteria, or weeds, or insects, or what-have-you. It was then that Monsanto discovered the gene for glyphosate resistance in its waste water ponds, where they had inadvertently created the conditions nature needed to develop the gene in bacteria through mutation and natural selection. At the same time, genetic engineering—the swapping of genes among different orders of plants and animals—was a developing science, and by 1996, GMO soybeans were dubbed Roundup Ready and offered for sale on the market. Today soy, corn, canola, alfalfa, cotton, sorghum, potatoes, and wheat (under development) are Roundup Ready.

What this means to pregnant women and parents of young, developing children and those kids entering puberty is that those crops are not only GMOs (genetically modified organisms)—you know, the GMOs that Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, Syngenta, and other biotech firms don’t want you to know about on food labels—but they have also been grown with systemic Roundup. Remember, this chemical mixture is systemic. It’s in every cell of the plant. You can’t wash it off. It survives cooking, freezing, and canning. It goes into you and your offspring.

Monsanto says that by using Roundup Ready crops, farmers can reduce the use of this herbicide. But that’s nonsense. Farmers lavish Roundup on their crops and fields, as we’ve seen. Roundup use has quadrupled since the GMO crops were introduced.

Remember also that nature responds to death-dealing chemical assaults by creating mutations to counter the assaults. And so the use of Roundup on these GMO crops has resulted in races of superweeds that Roundup now can’t kill. In Monsanto’s version of the arms race, it suggested that Roundup be paired with Dow’s 2,4-D—another very toxic herbicide and one of the components of Agent Orange, the defoliant used to kill forests in Vietnam so our planes could see where to bomb.

The USDA was asked to approve the use of this double-whammy, supertoxic herbicide, and in the fall of 2014, did so. Will it kill the superweeds? Experience tells us that it will kill some of them—but not all. A few resistant weeds will survive, breed, and produce the next generation of super superweeds. And so on ad infinitum, with Monsanto, Dow and the rest laughing all the way to the bank, leaving farmers, the environment, and all of us out here in a world poisoned by glyphosate, holding the bag. And trying to learn how to protect our children.

Be aware that glyphosate-containing GMO corn and soy are almost ubiquitous in conventional processed foods like breakfast cereals, soft drinks, cookies, pastries, and so on. Read labels. If it contains corn and soy, it almost assuredly contains glyphosate.

So, given all this information, let me ask you two questions:

Do you think it’s wise to trust Monsanto when it says that Roundup is safe?

Do you need any more incentive to eat organic?

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MAUI VOTES AGAINST GMOS, IS PROMPTLY SUED BY MONSANTO

Despite outspending citizens 87 to 1, the biotechnology industry, led by Monsanto, was defeated in Maui when that Hawaiian island’s citizens passed a GMO moratorium calling for a complete suspension of the cultivation of genetically engineered crops until studies conclusively prove they are safe.

Monsanto has announced it will file a lawsuit to challenge the moratorium. It is already suing the state of Vermont after that state passed a law requiring GMO foods to be labeled.

Ballot initiatives to label GMOs narrowly failed to pass in Oregon and failed miserably in Colorado on November 4 after the biotech industry and junk food makers spent many tens of millions of dollars to tell people—falsely—that labeling GMOs would raise their food prices, that anyone who is anti-GMO is anti-science, and that all of it, Roundup included, is perfectly safe.

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I FOUND THIS GOOD IDEA ON FACEBOOK

From Klyda White: Instead of an oil sands pipeline, build a water pipeline from the Midwest and northern states to California. Same number of jobs created. Limit some of the flooding in these Midwest states. Help rebuild California’s water tables and irrigate all the fresh vegetables the country needs. And if it springs a leak, it would just be FRESH WATER spilling into rivers, lakes and the aquifer. Seems like win-win-win to me.

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USDA Approves New GMO Potato, Alfalfa

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The Organic Consumers Association reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved a new GMO potato.

The “Innate” potato is made by the J. R. Simplot Company—the largest supplier of potatoes to McDonald’s restaurants. The USDA has also recently approved a new genetically engineered alfalfa.

Simplot wants consumers to believe that its new GMO potato is not only harmless, but the potato is bruise-resistant (which is really a benefit to commercial buyers and growers, not consumers), and that when heated to a temperature required for frying, the potato produces less asparagine, a naturally occurring amino acid that at high temperatures reacts with some sugars to oxidize into acrylamide. Acrylamide is recognized as a potential carcinogen.

In other words, the maker of the Innate GMO potato says it’s not only safe (the same claim Monsanto and Dow make about their GMO corn and soy products), it’s actually better for you than a non-GMO potato.

What Simplot doesn’t tell you is that the technology used to create the Innate potato—RNA interference, or RNAi—is considered by some scientists to be even more dangerous than the DNA manipulation technology used to create Roundup Ready and Bt crops.

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INTERNATIONAL STUDY WILL INVESTIGATE GMOS, ROUNDUP

On Tuesday, November 11, a $25-million international study was launched that will put an end, once and for all, to the question of whether or not Monsanto’s Roundup is “safe,” the Organic onsumer’s association reports.

The study, the first of its kind, will be based on a variety of herbicide-resistant corn. Three independent scientists–from the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation in Moscow, from the University of California in Irvine, and from the Maltoni Cancer Research Center in Bentivoglio, Italy–will investigate the answers to these questions:
1. Is the GM food (or its associated pesticide; i.e. Roundup herbicide) toxic to organ systems over the long-term?
2. Does the GM food (or its associated pesticide) cause cancer?
3. Does the GM food (or its associated pesticide) reduce fertility or cause birth defects?
4. Is the mixture of chemicals present in Roundup herbicide more or less toxic than its active ingredient glyphosate?

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PESTICIDES LINKED TO DEPRESSION IN FARMERS, FARM WIVES

Earlier this fall, researchers from the National Institute of Health finished up a landmark 20-year study of about 84,000 farmers and spouses of farmers since the mid-1990s to investigate the connection between pesticides and depression, a connection that had been suggested through anecdotal evidence for far longer, Modern Farmer magazine reports.

Dr. Freya Kamel, the lead researcher on the study, told Modern Farmer that “There had been scattered reports in the literature that pesticides were associated with depression. We wanted to do a new study because we had more detailed data than most people have access to.” That excessive amount of data includes tens of thousands of farmers, with specific information about which pesticides they were using and whether they had sought treatment for a variety of health problems, from pesticide poisoning to depression. Farmers were surveyed multiple times throughout the 20-year period, which gives the researchers an insight into their health over time that no other study has.

There’s a significant correlation between pesticide use and depression. The two types that Kamel says reliably moved the needle on depression are organochlorine insecticides and fumigants, which increase the farmer’s risk of depression by a whopping 90 percent and 80 percent, respectively. The study lays out the seven specific pesticides, falling generally into one of those two categories, that demonstrated a categorically reliable correlation to increased risk of depression.

These types aren’t necessarily uncommon, either. Malathion was used by 67 percent of the tens of thousands of farmers surveyed. Malathion is banned in Europe, but is a common pesticide not only on farms but around homes and gardens.

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DR. MERCOLA’S FIVE FACTORS CAUSING OBESITY EPIDEMIC

Two out of three Americans are now either overweight or obese, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola (www.mercola.com).

Obesity has become the number one form of malnutrition in the country, and no group has been hit harder than children. Childhood obesity in the U.S. has nearly tripled since 1980, and one in five kids is now overweight by age six; 17 percent of children and adolescents are obese.

As noted in a recent article by investigative health reporter Martha Rosenberg, the weight of the average American increased by 24 pounds in the four decades between 1960 and 2000.

Contrary to popular belief, obesity is not simply the result of eating too many calories and not exercising enough. While those are part of the equation, there are a number of other environmental and lifestyle factors that are likely to play a much more significant role because most people don’t realize they’re affected by them, and therefore fail to address them. They are:

#1: Antibiotics in Food and Medicine. Eighty percent of all antibiotics used in America are fed to farm animals, which we eat. These antibiotics harm our gut bacteria, an essential part of a strong immune system and obesity control.

#2: Growth Enhancing Drugs and Hormones used on Farm Animals. They are used to fatten livestock and have the same effect on us.

#3: Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals. These are pervasive in food and the environment. The endocrine system is the master hormonal system, directing all kinds of processes in our bodies that keep us healthy and at a normal weight. When these chemicals disrupt the body’s messaging system, obesity is just one of the bad results.

#4: Artificial Sweeteners. The lure of artificial sweeteners is the idea that no- or low-calorie sugar substitutes will help you lose weight. But research has repeatedly shown that artificially sweetened foods and beverages tend to stimulate your appetite, increase cravings for carbs, and stimulate fat storage and weight gain.

#5: Junk Food Marketing. Not only are processed foods a direct cause of obesity, but they are aggressively marketed, especially to children. According to a 2013 report by the Institute of Medicine, children aged 2-11 now see an average of more than 10 television food ads per day. And 98 percent of these are for products that are high in fat, sugar, and/or sodium.

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WHAT MAKES YOU THINK YOUR HALIBUT IS REALLY HALIBUT?

Oceana and Food and Water Watch reports that fraud is rampant at the fish market.

When grouper, halibut, and red snapper were DNA tested, they sometimes turned out to be king mackerel and tile fish, two types of fish the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises pregnant women and other sensitive groups to avoid due to high mercury content.

According to Oceana, more than 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, yet only one percent of these imports are inspected for fraud. Evidently, no one is minding the store. You can protect yourself by visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s website (seafoodwatch.org) to see what seafood choices are wise and to download a free app for your iPhone or Android device.

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PEOPLE’S PARK REVISITED: NOW IT’S PEOPLE’S FARM

On an April morning in 2012, hundreds of people broke the lock on a fence surrounding the Gill Tract, a 14-acre plot of land owned by the University of California. They set about planting thousands of vegetable seedlings.

This was to protest the university’s plans to convert part of the Gill Tract into a commercial development. But the protestors also had bigger things on their minds, such as malnutrition among the poor. The Gill Tract protest, which has evolved and persisted for more than two years, has become a symbol of the subversive possibilities of urban agriculture.

There’s now a documentary about events at the Gill Tract called Occupy the Farm. The director of the film, Todd Darling, told National Public Radio that “What surprised me when I first got there was how much fun everybody was having. All these kids were running around. People from the neighborhood were there. I realized that doing this as a group, in a piece of open land, was fulfilling people in a way that everyone was surprised at. When people talk about growing food as community, as a way of building communities, I realized that it’s not just rhetoric, it actually is true. There’s something magical about that activity.”

Darling’s film highlights many of the big issues that motivated the protest’s organizers. “It certainly was a protest against the university’s plans to essentially privatize it by paving it over and leasing it out to commercial operations, but at the heart of it is the story of food and malnutrition in urban areas,” he says.

At the end of the first summer, the impromptu farmers harvested two tons worth of food. Darling says he was startled by the amount. “I came to realize how much food you could really grow in a small area,” he says.

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Groups Against GMO Labeling: ‘Science Wins’

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The good citizens of Colorado have voted to keep themselves free of the knowledge of whether their food contains genetic modifications, and it looks like the good citizens of Oregon are following suit, although Prop 92—the ballot measure requiring such labeling–is trailing by a very slim margin in balloting that is, at this writing, still too close to call.

Funny—but in preliminary polling before the vote, the measure to label GMO food was leading by 30 percentage points. My, how tens of millions of dollars in propaganda money from Monsanto, Coke, Pepsi, et al, can turn a race around. What must they have told the folks in Oregon to make that poll lead evaporate? Let me guess.

How about, “Labeling GMOs will make your food cost more!” It’s an outright lie, of course. All Prop 92 required is a little more ink on the already-existing label.

Some sources are calling the defeat of the measures a win for science, as if the measures were a confrontation between “science” and…what? Sorcery? Witchcraft? Druidism?

The confrontation wasn’t between those things at all. The confrontation was between huge corporations that have found diabolically clever ways to sell toxic herbicides and plants modified to produce pesticides in every bite, and folks who want to avoid these things.

“Diabolically clever?” Isn’t that hyperbole, Jeff? No. The Environmental Protection Agency just declared that the neonicotinoid pesticides used to coat GMO seeds—pesticides that kill honeybees and cause declining bird numbers (see story later in this blog)—do not increase yields or save farmers money. Despite this, Monsanto has announced that it will continue to sell neonic-treated seeds. That’s diabolical, if not clever.

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USDA APPROVES GMO POTATO

A potato genetically engineered to eliminate a potentially harmful ingredient that emerges in the high heat required for French fries and potato chips has been approved for commercial planting, the Department of Agriculture has announced, according to Andrew Pollack writing in The New York Times.

The potato’s DNA has been altered so that less of a chemical called acrylamide is produced when the potato is fried. Acrylamide has been shown to cause cancer in rodents and is a suspected human carcinogen. The newly designed potato also resists bruising.

The potato was developed by the J. R. Simplot Company, based in Boise, Idaho, one of the nation’s largest potato producers and a major supplier of frozen French fries to McDonald’s. The resistance to bruising is a characteristic long sought by commercial users of potatoes because the damage — which usually occurs during storage and shipment — makes them unusable.

Simplot is also applying for approval of another genetically modified potato that is resistant to late blight, the cause of the Irish potato famine. The U.S.D.A. is considering that application.

The approval applies only to growers in the United States. Other nations have their own rules — some of them much more stringent — on the growing of genetically modified foods. The European Union, for example, has been much more reluctant to approve the modified crops.

Potatoes are the latest genetically engineered crop to get approval in the United States. Others include corn, soybeans, alfalfa, canola, sugar beets, certain types of yellow squash and zucchini.

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CLIMATE CHANGE DENIER TO LEAD ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE

Rebecca Leber, writing in The New Republic, points out that in handing Republicans control of the Senate, Americans effectively voted for the party’s hostile plans against President Barack Obama’s environmental legacy. Their votes also put the Senate’s environment and climate policy into the hands of the worst science-denier in national politics: Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, who is almost certainly the next chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Inhofe claimed in 2003 that global warming might help humanity. “It’s also important to question whether global warming is even a problem for human existence. Thus far no one has seriously demonstrated any scientific proof that increased global temperatures would lead to the catastrophes predicted by alarmists. In fact, it appears that just the opposite is true: that increases in global temperatures may have a beneficial effect on how we live our lives.”

Inhofe refuted climate change science in 2012 by citing the Bible. “[T]he Genesis 8:22 that I use in there is that ‘as long as the earth remains there will be seed time and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night.’ My point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”

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ORGANIC FARMING SUPPORTS BIODIVERSITY
A recent meta-analysis published in the Journal of Applied Ecology compared biodiversity under organic and conventional farming methods by studying the findings from 94 studies, according to The Organic Center.

After confounding factors were accounted for, the results showed that organic farms had 30 percent more species than conventional farms, and this trend was seen consistently across literature published over the past 30 years. The majority of research comparing conventional and organic farming systems has taken place in developed countries, particularly Europe and North America, leaving a large gap in our knowledge and a need for more research on the effects of organic farming on diversity in tropical and sub-tropical areas.

“This analysis affirms that organic farming usually has large positive effects on average species richness compared with conventional farming. Given the large areas of land currently under agricultural production, organic methods could undoubtedly play a major role in halting the continued loss of diversity from industrialized nations,” the authors conclude.

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NEONICOTINOID USE LINKED TO DECLINING BIRD POPULATIONS

Research has demonstrated that exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides is harmful to non-pest insects such as bees. Now, a new study published in the journal Nature demonstrates that the negative effects of these unintended exposures may reach much further up the food chain than scientists previously suspected.

Researchers from Radboud University in the Netherlands demonstrated that bird populations declined in areas where surface water contained concentrations of the neonicotinoid pesticide imidacloprid at 20 nanograms per liter. These declines were observed even when habitat destruction due to changing land use was accounted for.

The study also demonstrates insectivorous bird populations did not begin declining until the mid-1990s, when farmers in the region began using imidacloprid. The authors suggest that bird populations are not likely to be declining due to direct toxicity of the pesticide but in response to their declining food source—namely insects particularly sensitive to the chemical. Future pesticide regulation should take into account that more wildlife is at risk due to neonicotinoid use in conventional agriculture than was previously anticipated.

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LOOK FOR CASCADE ICE SUGARLESS THIRST QUENCHER

A company in Washington State is marketing a product it calls Cascade Ice, and it carries the USDA Organic seal. It is water from a municipal water supply—actually a lake—in the foothills of the Cascade mountains, that is filtered and given a tiny drop of organic fruit essential oil for flavoring and a charge of carbon dioxide to make it bubbly. No sugar. No artificial sweetener. No high fructose corn syrup. Just water and that drop of organic essential fruit oil. It’s what you want to quench your thirst rather than a can of something bad for you from Coke or Pepsi.

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Frankenfish, Just in Time for Halloween

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Scientists have genetically engineered a new kind of GMO salmon by inserting DNA from an eel-like organism into the fish’s DNA to make the fish grow abnormally fast, the Yes on 92 campaign in Oregon has announced.

And the scary part? This franken-salmon is on track for approval by the FDA, meaning it could be sold unlabeled alongside natural salmon in grocery stores across the country.

“Here in Oregon,” the Yes campaign writes, “salmon is part of our heritage, and it’s important to us to know whether the salmon we’re eating has been genetically altered in a lab. In the closing days of this campaign, we’ll be airing a powerful new TV spot about this creepy GMO salmon.”

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MOROCCAN COOKING GOES SO WELL WITH ORGANIC INGREDIENTS

It should be easy enough to make sure that all the ingredients in this marvelously tasty dish are organic. The recipe is from Ruth Barnes’ book, “Sharing Morocco,” from Greenleaf Group Press in Austin, Texas. Ruth’s heritage is in the Maghreb and it comes through beautifully in her recipes.

6 lamb shanks
½ tsp. salt plus more for seasoning the lamb shanks
½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning the lamb shanks
6 Tbl. olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. (or 2 16-ounce cans) tomatoes, diced
2 Tbl. Tomato paste
1 tsp. paprika
½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. allspice
3 bay leaves
3 cups low sodium beef stock
½ bunch Italian parsley, chopped, for garnish
1 package Mediterranean couscous

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F.
2. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the lamb shanks
3. In a large Dutch oven on medium heat, add three tablespoons olive oil. Sear three lamb shanks on all sides for three minutes, remove to a platter and sear the other three shanks for the same amount of time.
4. In the same pot, add the remaining three tablespoons of oil and sauté the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic until tender, about 5-7 minutes.
5. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, paprika, cumin, allspice, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and bay leaves. Stir well. Return the lamb shanks to the pot, add the beef stock, cover, and bring to a low boil for 3-4 minutes.
6. Remove the pot from the heat and place, covered, in the oven. Cook for two hours, until the lamb is very tender.
7. Just before the lamb is done, prepare the couscous according to the package directions.
8. Place the couscous on a platter, top with the lamb, vegetables, and contents of the Dutch oven, and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately. Serves 4-5.

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WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN ORGANIC PET FOOD

Do you know that Newman’s Organics pet foods aren’t necessarily made with organic ingredients? That’s because “Newman’s Organics” is the trade name of the company and not a description of the contents of the can.

Confusing?

Well, now the kind folks at G2CPartners, a California PR firm, have sent information about pet food labels that define exactly what the labels mean. The definitions are very similar to those used for human food, but it’s good to be reminded. Here’s what they wrote:

It’s kind of scary that people trust pet food manufacturing companies and the government regarding the labeling of pet foods. Knowledge is power; and knowing what the ingredients are and what the labels mean will help you to keep your pets healthy.

Pet Foods with Organic in the Name or Trademark – A brand name or trademark is merely the name that a person or company chooses to call itself. A pet food company named something like Big Bob’s Organic Pet Foods can be filled with nasty and disgusting animal by-products, but people may think that they are buying healthy and organic pet foods for their dogs and cats. The word organic in the brand name is usually fiction.

Pet Foods Displaying the Word Organic Outside of the Brand Name – Pet foods labeled organic must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients. Synthetics that are necessary during the practice of manufacturing are acceptable.

Pet Foods Labeled 100 Percent Organic – These pet foods must contain all organic ingredients, other than salt and water. Again, synthetics that are necessary to follow good manufacturing procedures are acceptable.

Pet Foods Stating Made with Organic Ingredients – This can be tricky for pet owners, as it implies that all of the ingredients are organic. This is not the case as those labeled Made with Organic Ingredients need only contain 70 percent organic ingredients. Each organic ingredient must be listed as organic on the package.

Pet Foods with the USDA Certified Organic Seal – Pet foods bearing the USDA Certified Organic seal offer a bit more appeal to consumers. These products must have at least 95 percent organic ingredients.

While organic certifying agencies like Quality Assurance Alliance operate around the world, it’s hard to trust suppliers in countries like China to have scrupulously followed organic principles in acquiring or raising food for pets. The best bet for quality assurance is to look for brands made from ingredients grown and certified in the United States by certifying agencies like CCOF, Oregon Tilth, etc.

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NEW GMO COTTON TOLERATES ‘TRIPLE WHAMMY’ HERBICIDES

The Institute for Responsible Technology cautions us that if you are still reeling from the news of the latest round of approvals for “Agent Orange” corn and soy, please sit down. More hopped up toxic combinations are on the way.

Monsanto has a new “triple stack” GMO cotton up for deregulation with tolerance to dicamba, glyphosate, and glufosinate herbicides. They call it another tool for fighting superweeds. These glyphosate-resistant weeds have more than doubled since 2009 and are currently spread over 70 million acres.

(I say it’s another tool for selling toxic chemicals. I mean, think about it. The more superweeds, the more herbicides Monsanto and Dow can sell, right? They don’t want to conquer superweeds. They want to sell herbicides. That’s their business.)

Dicamba is a strong herbicide that has been associated with a number of health and environmental effects including reproductive effects, neurotoxicity, kidney/liver damage, not to mention that dicamba, like 2,4-D, is toxic to fish, toxic to birds, and harmful to pets.

People are becoming increasingly alarmed about the escalation to greater and greater amounts of toxic chemicals, and what appears to be an extraordinary insensitivity to public opinion. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), and other members of Congress are speaking up. “Right now we are witnessing agribusiness attempt to wield its powerful influence over federal regulators. They want EPA and USDA to rubberstamp another set of genetically engineered crops rather than listen to the scientific community,” says Rep. Peter DeFazio, (D-Oregon).

Pingree and DeFazio also weighed in on EPA’s approval of Dow’s combination of glyphosate and 2,4-D herbicides for use against superweeds. “We are concerned that EPA failed to thoroughly examine all of the significant health and environmental risks of 2,4-D including that of inhalation and aggregate exposure; the risks of 2,4-D exposure to threatened and endangered species; and the risks posed by shifts in use patterns of 2,4-D as a result of the GE cropping systems. Most alarming is EPA’s failure to apply the additional 10-fold safety factor, as mandated under the Food Quality Protection Act, to protect children, who are especially susceptible to harm from pesticide exposure. The 10-fold safety factor is required by law to safeguard against the potential health risks for young children and infants that would result from the widespread use of 2,4-D on GE crops.” The 10-fold safety factor refers specifically to cumulative risk assessments which may be required to take into account potential pre- and postnatal exposure.

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Do unto Others as You Would Have Them Do unto You

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If I said that cruelty to animals is a blot on our humanity, then someone might counter by saying that what we do to each other is just as bad or worse than what we do to animals. And they’d be right.

But pointing out that the reservoir of human cruelty is plenty big enough to cover animals, other humans, and even nature herself is no reason to dismiss it as inevitable.

If the organic method teaches us anything, it’s that all of Mother Nature’s creatures—plants and animals—need to be treated with respect. And that biodiversity is healthier than limited diversity and species extinction. And that the more diverse any ecology is, whether wild or on the farm or in the garden or just in our backyards or even in our intestinal flora, the healthier it is.

The founders of the American political system knew that in the real world, especially the political world, there will be good guys and bad guys, and that the best way to insure an orderly politics is to set up a system of checks and balances, where if one branch of government steps out of line, the other branches will haul it back into line. It’s the same in nature: checks and balances are maximized in biodiverse ecosystems. The good guys eat the bad guys. The bad guys eat the weak plants. The strong plants support the good guys and the bad guys.

The point is that all creatures need to be treated with respect. As Shakespeare wrote 400 years ago, “For nought so vile that on the earth doth live, but to the earth some special good doth give.” In regards to farm animals—chickens, turkeys, ducks, fish, pigs, beef cattle, sheep, and so on—it must be recognized that each animal has a nature and an ecological purpose that needs to be respected.

What does it mean to put a chicken in a cage so tiny it can hardly turn around for its entire life? It means the same as doing that to you. It demeans us as human beings to treat animals with no regard to their ecological purpose, their meaning, or their needs.

That’s yet another reason why organic farming and culture is so benign. No antibiotics to force quick growth. No hormones to force milk production. No GMOs in the feed. And—it’s to be hoped some day—no fattening cattle on grain for the last few months of their lives. Cattle, after all, are grazing ruminants whose natural food is grass.

It would be nice to have all our food produced on family farms where all the animals are allowed to play their natural roles, like the movie “Babe.” Granted that’s not feasible. But cattle should graze, chickens should scratch, pigs should root. The organic farm should show the way forward for American farming, away from the cruelties perpetrated on our farm animals today, and toward an integrated system of farming that animals can enjoy until the time comes for us to enjoy them.

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HOW’S THIS FOR BAD GOVERNMENT?

The California Department of Food and Agriculture has published a draft of an environmental plan giving the agency authority to spray toxic pesticides anywhere in California, at any time into the indefinite future, even on organic farmland and crops. The blanket approval would allow no opportunity for affected communities or farmers to stop the spraying.

According to the plan, the state’s agency would have the right to approve new pesticides and other expansions of the spray program with no public review, notice, or analysis of the health and environmental impacts on specific locations to be sprayed.

The plan, described in the Statewide Plant Pest Prevention and Management Programmatic Environmental Impact Report (PEIR), relies on a list of 79 pesticides and other chemicals, including substances linked to cancer, birth defects, miscarriages, and reproductive system impacts. Many of the pesticides are also lethal to bees and other pollinators, fish and other aquatic life, birds, and mammals. Among the PEIR pesticides are several neonicotinoids, which many scientists believe are directly linked to the collapse of honeybee populations.

The environmental review’s cursory analysis of the health and ecological impacts of these chemicals fails to answer many essential questions, such as the effects of pesticide exposure on infants, pregnant women, and other sensitive populations;
children whose schools could be sprayed under the plan; rivers, streams, and drinking water wells.

The plan directly threatens organic farming—one of California’s fastest-growing industries—because organic farmers could be forced to spray non-organic pesticides as part of state treatment programs. Although the state’s review admits that “treated products would not command the typical premium prices demanded for organic produce in the marketplace,” it dismisses the impact of spraying on organic farmers by asserting that they could simply switch to conventional farming.

Tell CA Dept of Food & Ag you “absolutely oppose the Statewide Pest PEIR (Problematic Environmental Impact Report). Here’s where you can contact them: http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/peir/#comment

The deadline for public comments is Oct 31.

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ORGANIC TRADE ASSOCIATION—CONTROLLED BY BIG FOOD?

Over the past few years, the Organic Trade Association has received increasing criticism for lobbying efforts that have allegedly helped water down the federal standards governing organic farming and food production, according to The Cornucopia Institute, an organic watchdog group based in Wisconsin.

The latest dustup in Washington surrounding OTA activities concerns their attempt to sell Congress, and the organic farming community, on a scheme that will tax farmers and other industry participants to do research and promotional work.

“Trying to recruit farmers is an attempt by the OTA to redeem their damaged credibility and sell their agenda on Capitol Hill,” said Mark A. Kastel, Codirector at The Cornucopia Institute. “The agribusiness lobby is also attempting to dilute the influence of nonprofit groups and cooperatives that legitimately represent the interests of family-scale farmers — and frequently differ with the OTA on regulatory policy.”

Over the past two years the OTA has run into a buzzsaw of opposition from farmers, and the groups that represent them, after proposing a commodity checkoff that would create an estimated $40 million per year. “Farmers are understandably skeptical about being forced to pay into such a fund because of a long history of corruption, mismanagement and lack of effectiveness in existing checkoff programs showcasing milk mustaches, ‘incredible edible eggs,’ and ‘the other white meat’ (pork),” Kastel said.

The OTA is held in low esteem by many farmers and organic food advocates because of its past history and alleged duplicity in dealing with other interests in the organic food movement. “This move is consistent with a long pattern of agribusiness executives treating family farmers as ignorant and naïve,” said Richard Parrott, a Buhl, Idaho, organic beef and crop producer who has been certified since 1992. “Why should farmers trust corporations that buy organic commodities from factory farms, and have pitted U.S. farmers, like me, against Chinese exports, when they tell us they are looking out for our interests?” One of the crops Parrott produces is dried beans, an organic commodity that has been dominated by imports for a number of years.

The trade-lobby group is also looked at as a major political force behind recent highly controversial moves at the USDA that significantly water down the independent power of the National Organic Standards Board, an expert advisory panel Congress set up to protect organic rulemaking from undue corporate influence.

When the OTA started out, during the 1980s as the Organic Foods Production Association of North America (OFPANA), the organization was widely recognized as an umbrella group with many farmers, organic certifiers, nonprofits and processors (all of which, at the time, were independently owned). Since then, the OTA has morphed into what The Cornucopia Institute calls “just another powerful, trade-lobby group funded and controlled by multibillion-dollar, multinational food corporations.”

The OTA is now controlled and funded by large corporate agribusinesses such as Smucker’s, General Mills, Hershey, and Kellogg’s. Unlike the majority of organic farmers, many of the most active and influential members of the OTA earn the majority of their revenue selling non-organic food.

In recent years, there have been virtually no working farmers as OTA members (other than a few that are affiliated with the corporate participants), and a large percentage of the nonprofits were given, unsolicited, free memberships.

“When they doubled their dues a few years ago they lost most of their farmers and other individual members,” added Kastel. OTA membership now costs between hundreds of dollars a year to $35,000 per year, on a sliding scale (and many corporate members make additional contributions in the tens of thousands of dollars).

The OTA just created a new class of membership, with $50 a year dues, for small farmers with gross annual revenue of under $250,000. The farmers also have to be members of one of the organizations represented on the OTA’s Farmer Advisory Council.

Smaller farmers as OTA members would be in stark contrast to existing members such as Aurora Organic Dairy, a giant vertically-integrated operation with a number of facilities in Texas and Colorado milking thousands of cows each. Aurora was found by USDA investigators to have been “willfully” violating organic standards, one of the largest scandals in the industry’s history, but they continued as OTA members and Aurora executives even subsequently served as spokespersons for the group.

Cornucopia, a 10,000-member, nonprofit, farm policy research group characterized the lobby group’s recent public relations push as “a not-so-veiled attempt by the OTA to greenwash their corporate approach to organics.”

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GMO SOY USED TO MAKE INFANT FORMULA

The Center for Food Safety recently announced that GMO soy engineered by Monsanto for heavy pesticide exposure has been found in infant formula purchased in Portland, Oregon.

Finding soy in infant formula that has been genetically engineered by Monsanto specifically to survive high levels of toxic pesticides is exceptionally troubling– and it makes a powerful case for the GMO labeling that would happen under Oregon’s Measure 92, which seeks to have GMO foods labeled as such.

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FUKUSHIMA RADIATION REACHING NORTH AMERICA

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution reported that an August sample of ocean water taken off the coast of Vancouver, British Columbia, tested positive for cesium-134, one of the radioactive elements released as a result of the Fukushima disaster. This same group also found traces of Fukushima radiation as far down the Pacific coastline as California.

In the almost four years since the Fukushima meltdown and disaster, the ruined nuclear plant has been releasing 300 tons of highly radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean every day.

Is it time to think about avoiding Pacific seafood harvested from Alaska to Mexico? We have this report from the non-governmental organization, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute on Cape Cod, but have you heard anything from the Federal agencies tasked to protect our food supply? FDA? Nothing. EPA? Nada. USDA? Bupkis.

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The Least We Can Do Is the Best We Can Do

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Yes, it’s infuriating to know that the biotech and pesticide industries are out there spreading lies, poisoning the food supply, killing the bees, polluting the soil and water, and on and on and on.

We can rage against the machine—and I often do in this blog—but there’s something else we can do, something positive. We really have no control over Big Ag and its tentacles, so what do we have control over? Where do we call the shots?

At home, in our personal lives. It’s here, in our real world, where what we do has real consequences. Tonight I mentioned to Susanna that on a visit to my son and daughter-in-law, I tasted a cup of Keurig coffee—you know, the machine where you put a pre-measured plastic cup of ground coffee beans in the machine and it brews a cup for you on the spot. I allowed that it was actually a pretty good cup of coffee.

“I wouldn’t want that machine,” she said. “All those plastic cups going into the trash.” Right. When you brew a cup in your stainless coffee pot, nothing gets thrown away but the coffee grounds—and they don’t actually get thrown away, either. They are an excellent ingredient in the compost. Or, in our case, in the bucket of vegetable kitchen slops that I feed to our three worm beds.

The grody kitchen slops—only vegetable waste, no animal products, no onion family members, no hot chili peppers—go into the bins, and within a week or two, our indefatigable red wiggler worms turn it into the most sweet-smelling, nutrition-packed worm castings ready to nourish something in our garden that will nourish us.

On our acre and a half, we grow prune plums, ‘Santa Rosa’ plums, red peaches, three kinds of cherries, ‘Hachiya’ persimmons, ‘Snow Queen’ nectarines, black ‘Mission’ figs, ‘Wonderful’ pomegranates, Asian pears, ‘Bartlett’ pears, ‘Golden Delicious’ apples, ‘Gravenstein’ apples, ‘Rome Beauty’ apples, almonds, grapes, ‘Meyer’ lemons, ‘Bearss’ limes, ‘Marsh’ grapefruit, and a slew of ornamentals too numerous to mention.

Our eight raised beds this summer grew ‘Sparkle’ strawberries, spinach, ‘Little Gem’ lettuces, ‘Crane’ melons, butternut squash, okra, cowpeas, English peas, tat soi, lacinato kale, curly leafed kale, borage, cucumbers, two kinds of zucchini, crookneck summer squash, ‘Detroit Dark Red’ beets, ‘Danvers Half-Long’ carrots, ‘Early Girl’ and ‘San Marzano’ tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, and jalapeno peppers.

The fruit became jams and preserves, peaches became sliced peaches frozen in honey-lemon syrup, wild-picked blackberries became blackberry jam, tomatoes became canned tomato puree, the beets became pickled beets, the cucumbers became pickles, all to be consumed when the cold weather shuts down the trees and gardens. And all organic and packed iin re-useable Mason jars and plastic Zip-Loc freezer bags.

Since we do everything organically, and eat only organic food, the wildlife that visits our property is safe. The birds are safe, the insects thrive, the soil is improved with compost as it yields its bountiful crops, the deer need not worry (although they are not given access to the gardens), the wild turkeys and the quail and mice and occasional country rat and the foxes, bobcats, and mountain lions do their dance of life and death. The gophers are troublesome, but what would paradise be without trouble? Still, we cohabit this property with the little buggers. We see red-tail and red-shouldered hawks, barn owls, great horned owls, kites, the occasional golden eagle, pileated woodpeckers, phoebes, and other marvelous birds—and we know all of them are welcome and safe here.

As for ourselves and our pets—Mishka the dog, Tiki the cat, and Petunia the chinchilla—we all eat only organic food and so are not poisoning ourselves and the earth with the toxic products of the ugly conventional food system.

When we do shop at Whole Foods and our local organic farmers markets, we buy grass-fed, organic beef, local organic lamb, local organic cage-free chicken and turkey, and our eggs are from an egg lady whose hens run among the goats and peck out fly eggs to enrich their yolks.

In other words, we take care that what we do supports nature and does the least harm possible. It’s the least we can do. If everyone did it, that would be the best we could do.

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EPA APPROVES DOW’S TWICE-AS-TOXIC HERBICIDE

On October 15 the Environmental Protection Agency approved Enlist Duo, a toxic herbicide made from Agent Orange ingredient 2,4-D and Monsanto’s Roundup. This noxious mix of chemicals will now be used on Dow’s new herbicide-resistant GMO corn and soy seeds, which have already been approved by the USDA.

Dow now has permission to unleash up to 176 million more pounds (according to the USDA, though scientists predict much more) of 2,4-D into the environment, according to the Organic Consumers Association.

And that will mean about another $1 billion in sales for the Gene Giant.
It’s enough to make you sick. Literally. But it’s also reason to keep up the fight. The National Resources Defense Council immediately sued the EPA, and other groups have suggested they’ll do the same.

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PROTECT THE GMOS AND TO HELL WITH THE CHILDREN

Children living on the Hawaiian island of Kaua‘i are being threatened by exposure to chlorpyrifos, a synthetic insecticide that is heavily sprayed on fields located near their homes and schools.

For decades, researchers have been publishing reports about children who died or were maimed after exposure to chlorpyrifos, either in the womb or after birth. While chlorpyrifos can no longer legally be used around the house or in the garden, it is still legal to use on the farm. But researchers are finding that children aren’t safe when the insecticide is applied to nearby fields.

In 1995, the EPA found that Dow had violated federal law by covering up its knowledge of these health problems for years. In 2004, then-New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer found that Dow had been lying about the known dangers of the pesticide in its advertising for nearly as long. Together, the EPA and the State of New York have levied fines against the company approaching $3 million.

On Kaua‘i, subsidiaries of four transnational chemical companies—Dow Chemical, DuPont, Syngenta, and BASF—spray chlorpyrifos and several other potent pesticides to protect their experimental genetically engineered crops (GMOs) against a wide variety of bugs and weeds. Because of the heavy pesticide use, Kaua‘i’s GMO testing fields are among the most toxic chemical environments in all of American agriculture.

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Dr. Joseph Mercola recently posted these functions of curcumin—the bioactive compound in turmeric. Curcumin is available through Dr. Mercola’s website (http://shop.mercola.com) or elsewhere online and at organic supermarkets like Whole Foods and Wegman’s. It will pay to shop around.

Curcumin, a bioactive ingredient in the curry spice turmeric, exhibits over 150 potentially therapeutic activities.

Curcumin is capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier, which is one reason why it holds promise as a neuroprotective agent.

Recent animal research suggests another bioactive compound in turmeric called aromatic-turmerone can increase neural stem cell growth in the brain by as much as 80 percent at certain concentrations.

The findings suggest aromatic-turmerone may help in the recovery of brain function in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and stroke.

Previous research has also shown that curcumin may help inhibit the accumulation of destructive beta-amyloids in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients, as well as break up existing plaques.

Curcumin also has the most evidence-based literature supporting its use against cancer of any other nutrient studied, including vitamin D.

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‘LOCAL’ FOOD MAY STILL BE CONVENTIONAL AND GMO,
AND ‘NATURAL’ MEANS NOTHING AT ALL

The following is by Ronnie Cummins and Katherine Paul of the Organic Consumers Association:

In 2011, we wrote an article exposing the then-popular trend in food marketing—promoting local foods as sustainable, healthy, or natural, even when they weren’t.

As we wrote at the time, “local” often means nothing more than food that has been sourced from within a prescribed geographic area. (According to Walmart and Big Food, “local” refers to anything produced within a 400-mile radius). But because a growing number of conscientious consumers actively seek out the “local” label—and are willing to pay a premium for it—corporations routinely co-opt the term so they can sell more product, at higher prices, in order to increase profit margins by promising (but not actually delivering) added value.

Fast forward a couple of years, and we see that sales of “local” food are still on the rise, as are sales of “natural” and more recently, “Non-GMO” foods. And today, just as they were a few years ago, consumers are still being duped by corporations that use these labels to pass off products as something they aren’t.

The fact is, none of these labels—local, natural or non-GMO—on its own provide a guarantee that the food behind the label is either healthy, sustainable, or natural.

There is only one food label that provides that guarantee: USDA Organic. And because organic food sourced locally is not only healthy, sustainable, and natural, but also supports small farmers and contributes to strong communities, today’s Gold Standard for the health-conscious and environmentally and socially concerned consumer is USDA organic and local.

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HARVARD STUDY IMPLICATES HFCS IN OBESITY EPIDEMIC

Fructose, a sugar widely consumed in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, may promote obesity and diabetes by overstimulating a hormone that helps to regulate fat accumulation, reports New York Times writer Anahad O’Connor.

The study, carried out at Harvard Medical School, marks the first time that scientists have identified a hormone that rises sharply and consistently in response to eating fructose. The finding suggests that people may vary in their sensitivity to the sugar, and that eventually it may be possible to test an individual for susceptibility to illnesses linked to weight gain.

When ingested—and it’s not only found in sweet drinks but in products as diverse as English muffins and chocolate pudding–the vast majority of fructose goes to the liver, where it stimulates the production of triglycerides, some of which are packaged into lipoproteins with cholesterol and secreted into the bloodstream.

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WEALTH OF THE LAND AND POWER OF THE PEOPLE

The following was written by Willie Nelson for Reader Supported News:

“Last month at Farm Aid 2014, I was lucky to meet Phillip Barker, a Black farmer who, like many minority farmers, lost much of his farmland as a result of discriminatory lending practices by banks and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Today, Phillip and his wife Dorathy farm the 20 acres they were able to hold on to in Oxford, North Carolina. Their farm is one of two Black dairy farming operations in the state of North Carolina. They also operate a nonprofit organization, Operation Spring Plant, which provides resources and training to minority and limited resource farmers, including a program that introduces young people to farming and provides youth leadership training. Phillip said one of his goals is to provide tools for the next generation and to help young people ‘come back to the farm to understand the wealth of the land.’

“Wealth of the land.” That’s a powerful phrase.

“Phillip believes the next generation must see a sustainable livelihood from the land, but the wealth he refers to can’t be measured only in dollars. It is measured in the experience of working on the land, tending the soil, and caring for the animals and crops that grow from it. It’s measured in the ability to be independent, to feed himself and his family. It’s measured in the way he and Dorathy sustain and strengthen their community. It’s measured in being rooted to a place and passing something valuable to the next generation.

“It seems to me that understanding the real wealth in the land is key to a sustainable future for all of us.

“Our greatest challenge is in re-visioning how the majority see “wealth.” The wealth of the land cannot be boiled down to the investors’ return on investment. It cannot be gauged by the commodities it returns to us — in gallons of oil and bushels of corn.

“The drive to extract as much value from the land as possible — to maximize production without regard to whether we’re exhausting the soil, to give over our farmland to Wall Street investors, to seize land held by families for generations for corporate profit — bankrupts the land, our food, our nation and our future.

“We need to redefine wealth as the ability to make a decent living from the land and sustain it for the next generation. To grow crops for food and fuel while simultaneously enriching the soil upon which future crops depend. To support a family and a community. To work in partnership with nature to protect our health and the health of our planet. As caretakers of our soil and water, this has been and always should be the essential role of the family farmer.

“Today, fewer than two percent of us live on farms. Clearly, we can’t all be family farmers, but we can all shift our priorities to ensure we’re doing our best to support them and encourage new farmers to get started on the land. Playing music to bring awareness is how I started Farm Aid in 1985, and it’s how I continue to support the people who best know how to care for the land: our family farmers. Each and every one of us has the power to do what we can to support and sustain family farmers. Our common wealth depends on it.”

I would only add this to Willie’s wise statements here: it’s our organic family farmers, certified or not, who “work in partnership with nature to protect our health and the health of our planet.”

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U.S. Foreign Policy and the Gordian Knot

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If you’re wondering what discussion of U.S. foreign policy has to do with organic food, just bear with me.

The Gordian Knot—a legend from antiquity–was a knot in a rope that tied an oxcart to a post, a knot so intricate that no one could untie it because they could not find its ends. That is, until Alexander the Great came along and, presented with the challenge of untying the knot, drew his sword and with one stroke cut the knot in two, after which it became easy to untie.

There’s the warrior for you: decisive, thinking outside the box, goal-oriented.

Cut to today where President Obama is faced with his version of the Gordian Knot: the U.S. needs to fight and defeat the Islamic State (ISIS), which right now is in a pitched battle with Syrian and Iraqi Kurds. To defeat ISIS, he needs to help the Kurds with troops, but he has pledged not to send American “boots on the ground.” Turkey is right there with a mighty military that, if it joined forces with the Kurds, could defeat ISIS, but Turkey has been fighting Kurdish separatists for four decades. The sight of Kurds and Islamic jihadists slaughtering each other is much to Turkey’s liking, so the Turks are so far sitting this one out, which is alienating its American allies, who are desperate for it to join the fight. Meanwhile, America is trying to assist “moderate” Syrian rebels who are trying to oust the Syrian government of President Bashir Assad. But it was the rebel movement that spawned ISIS and Al Qaeda-affiliated groups, along with more moderate rebel groups. Al Qaeda and Isis are our sworn enemies. Meanwhile, Iraq is slowly being devoured by ISIS. Iraq’s military, despite a trillion dollars of our support, is feckless. Meanwhile, Iran is allied with Assad’s government, and so is Hezbollah in Lebanon—and this troika is bombing the moderate rebels as well as the civilian population of Syria. And it’s these rebels we need to fight ISIS. Turkey, meanwhile, would love to see Assad gone and many in that country are urging it to join with the Kurds and rebels to defeat the Assad regime, so far without success. And so we are in the middle of the shifting sands of Middle Eastern politics, blood feuds, religious sectarianism, ancient animosities, tribal hatreds, and murderous barbarians. It’s indeed a Gordian Knot.

Alexander would have waded into this hot mess and killed them all. Not an option for Obama. How does Obama cut this Gordian Knot? Turkey has suggested establishing a neutral zone along its border with Syria and Iraq with a no-fly zone overhead. But so far we’ve rejected it. However, we could begin to cut that knot if we accepted Turkey’s proposal. We have put together a coalition of Arab and European states to fight ISIS. The coalition could also establish that zone and stock it with enough troops to prevent ISIS’s incursions. There’s reason for Palestinians and Israelis to join that humanitarian effort, too. All refugees—those fleeing ISIS, Syrians, Iraqis, Kurds, all the polyglot religious adherents of the region—welcome and cared for. Many countries could provide food, medicine, shelter, and educational services for the children. And IFOAM—the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements—in addition to being an advocacy organization—could organize organic food aid for the dispossessed. Just look at the slaughter going on: Assad has killed 200,000 of his own citizens. Iraq has lost hundreds of thousands. ISIS seems intent on pursuing religious and ethnic genocide. Certainly a safe haven is needed. Certainly the organic community could make a big difference with food aid.

Am I a dreamer here? Well, I’m not the only one.

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EPA APPROVES HERBICIDE THAT COMBINES ROUNDUP WITH 2,4-D

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ignoring more than 60 members of Congress and a half a million citizens, has approved a deadly new herbicide, Dow’s Enlist Duo, made from a combination of Monsanto’s Roundup and Dow’s “Agent Orange” 2,4-D, the Organic Consumers Association reports.

The new herbicide will be used on Dow’s newly approved corn and soy crops, engineered to withstand massive doses of the new “Deadly Duo” herbicide.
And why are these genetically re-engineered corn and soybeans needed? To withstand the new Enlist Duo herbicide from Monsanto and Dow. And why is Enlist Duo herbicide needed? Because Roundup alone has caused the emergence of super-weeds that have developed resistance to it. So in the twisted logic of Monsanto, Dow, and the EPA, the way to defeat herbicide-resistant weeds, whose development was caused by the use of herbicide to begin with, is to come up with even more toxic herbicide. It’s really less about weed control and more about having product to sell to farmers, isn’t it?

Where will the vast percentage of these new crops go? To feed animals on factory farms.

With the approval of Dow’s Enlist crops and Deadly Duo herbicide, the EPA, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which also signed off on the crops, have signaled that they have no intention of ending the rampant escalation of the use of increasingly toxic poisons by industrial agriculture.

The only way to stop them is by shutting down demand for GMO crops. That will take millions of consumers switching to organic, non-GMO food at the supermarket—and that means boycotting meat, eggs and dairy from factory farms. It also means labeling GMO foods so we can boycott them.

The profits to be gained for Monsanto and Dow from sales of the new seeds and double-dose herbicide does reveal why Big Ag, Biotech, and the pesticide industry has ponied up $100 million to defeat GMO labeling laws in Oregon and Colorado next month.

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FARM USE OF ANTIBIOTICS KEEPS GROWING

Remember how the federal government recently decided to finally take on the major threat that antibiotic resistance poses to human health, yet somehow failed to address the meat and poultry industries’ routine overuse of antibiotics—despite acknowledging that said overuse is definitely contributing to the problem? Well, new data out from the FDA shows just how big of an oversight this is. The gist: more antibiotics are being fed to livestock than ever. And you can bet that humans are going to pay the price. So writes Lindsay Abrams in Salon.

Between 2009 and 2012, the FDA report finds, the amount of antibiotics deemed medically important for humans that were given to farm animals increased 16 percent. More than two-thirds of those were tetracyclines, which humans depend on to treat everything from acne to Lyme disease to chlamydia, and which are already becoming less useful as resistance takes hold. Also increasing in use, The New York Times notes, are cephalosporins (used for pneumonia, strep throat and skin and urinary infections, they’re “particularly popular among pediatricians”), despite the fact that the FDA moved to restrict their use in 2012.
The antibiotic industry’s go-to excuse—that they’re mostly using the drugs for disease prevention—continues to ring false. In 2012, the FDA data shows that “antibiotics with a proven use for growth-promotion outsold antibiotics with only a therapeutic use by a ratio of 2.2:1.”

“We know that the overuse of antibiotics on the farm is leading to more antibiotic resistant pathogens that threaten humans–-and FDA’s own figures show that the agency’s inaction is making the problem worse,” said New York Congresswoman Louise Slaughter in a statement. “Until the FDA enacts a mandatory regulation that puts human health before industry profits, Americans will continue to live under an increased threat of untreatable infection.”

And who are the major players in this industry? They include Archer-Daniels-Midlands, Bayer, Elanco, Novartis, and 22 others—many of them also manufacturers of agricultural pesticides.

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GMO CONTAMINATION PUTS MONTANA FARMERS AT RISK

Experimental genetically engineered (GMO) wheat was discovered in July, 2014, at a Montana research facility that has not legally grown the variety since 2003, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has revealed.

“Once again, USDA and the biotech industry have put farmers and the food supply at risk,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for Center for Food Safety. “Coexistence between GMO and non-GMO crops is a failed policy that fundamentally cannot work. Genetic contamination is a serious threat to farmers across the country.”

In the same announcement, USDA closed its investigation into a May, 2013, GMO wheat contamination episode in Oregon without any explanation for the incident. That contamination episode led to closures of vital export markets and a class action lawsuit against Monsanto by wheat farmers.

“Just as USDA closes one fruitless investigation, it tries to bury the story of yet another contamination. USDA cannot keep treating these as isolated incidents; contamination is the inevitable outcome of GMO crop technology,” said Kimbrell. “It’s time for Congress to take definitive action.”

Monsanto is currently in the process of settling a class action lawsuit brought by wheat farmers impacted by the Oregon contamination episode, which forced exports to several Asian and European markets to be suspended and cost farmers millions of dollars. USDA records reveal that Monsanto has conducted 279 field tests of herbicide-resistant wheat on over 4,000 acres in 17 states since 1994. Monsanto has received at least 35 notices of noncompliance from 2010 through 2013, more than any other company.

“Farmers, not the biotech industry, are on the hook for these contamination episodes. There must be accountability for Monsanto,” said Kimbrell. “USDA should, at a minimum, immediately place a moratorium on open-air field testing of genetically engineered crops.”

After a decade of field trials, Monsanto dropped efforts to introduce Roundup Ready GMO wheat in 2004 in the face of intense international opposition from consumers, farmers, wheat millers, and food companies. However, after a six-year hiatus, Monsanto once again began extensive field-testing of GMO wheat in 2011.

Opponents of GMO wheat have long argued that it would contaminate conventional wheat, making it unsellable to many markets that reject GMO products. The U.S. is the world’s biggest exporter of wheat, an $8 billion business. A 2005 study estimated that the wheat industry could lose $94 to $272 million if GMO wheat were introduced. Past transgenic contamination episodes involving GMO corn and rice have triggered over $1 billion in losses and economic hardship to farmers.

In late 2005, the USDA’s own Inspector General issued a scathing report detailing numerous violations of agency rules in regulating genetically engineered crop field trials. USDA officials did not know the locations of many field trials it was charged with regulating, and did not conduct required inspections of others. In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences also criticized serious deficiencies in USDA’s regulation of genetically engineered crops.

In 2013, Center for Food Safety joined over 150 organizations and businesses in a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack calling on the agency to protect the wheat industry by implementing necessary protections from GMO contamination.

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ROUNDUP LINKED TO CANCER–AGAIN

There is a disturbing parallel between the exponential growth of biotech agriculture and the spread of a cancer in the human body, writes Jeff Ritterman, M.D. in Truth-Out.

Cancers are cells that reproduce rapidly and haphazardly with no regard for the greater good of the organism. Cancer cells consume valuable energy, starving out normal cells. They grow so wildly and so quickly that they crowd out their neighbors. They send off emissaries to start new cancer colonies. They make harmful substances that damage healthy cells. They spread relentlessly. In the final sad irony, when the cancer cells reach their growth peak, they kill their host and die in the process.

Like a cancer, biotech agriculture has crowded out its neighbors and is spreading relentlessly. Also like a cancer, it makes harmful substances. Roundup is one of them. As more acreage comes under GM cultivation, we can expect Roundup use to continue to increase. Roundup kills plants, causes birth defects in vertebrates, and is linked to cancer. Can a living planet withstand the continuous assault from this poison any more than the human body can withstand the attack from an aggressive cancer?

Read the whole article at http://truth-out.org

Jeff Ritterman, M.D. is vice president of the board of directors of the SF Bay Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. He is the retired chief of cardiology at Kaiser Richmond and a former Richmond, California, city councilman.

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FRACKING WASTE BEING DUMPED INTO DRINKING WATER

Almost 3 billion gallons of oil industry wastewater have been illegally dumped into central California aquifers that supply drinking water and farming irrigation, according to state documents obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The wastewater entered the aquifers through at least nine injection disposal wells used by the oil industry to dispose of waste contaminated with fracking fluids and other pollutants.

The documents also reveal that Central Valley Water Board testing found high levels of arsenic, thallium, and nitrates—contaminants sometimes found in oil industry wastewater—in water-supply wells near these waste-disposal operations.

“Clean water is one of California’s most crucial resources, and these documents make it clear that state regulators have utterly failed to protect our water from oil industry pollution,” said Hollin Kretzmann, a Center attorney. “Much more testing is needed to gauge the full extent of water pollution and the threat to public health. But Governor Brown should move quickly to halt fracking to ward off a surge in oil industry wastewater that California simply isn’t prepared to dispose of safely.”

The state’s Water Board confirmed beyond doubt that at least nine wastewater disposal wells have been injecting waste into aquifers that contain high-quality water that is supposed to be protected under federal and state law.

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