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10 Things You Don’t Know about the Flint Water Crisis

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The following was written on January 30, 2016, by filmmaker Michael Moore, a native of Flint, Michigan, and was published in Reader Supported News. I include it in this site about organic food and lifestyle because it perfectly shows what happens when the welfare of people and the environment—the beating heart of the organic movement—is ignored. Here’s Michael’s article. Be prepared to feel sick to your stomach.

News of the poisoned water crisis in Flint has reached a wide audience around the world. The basics are now known: the Republican governor, Rick Snyder, nullified the free elections in Flint, deposed the mayor and city council, then appointed his own man to run the city. To save money, they decided to unhook the people of Flint from their fresh water drinking source, Lake Huron, and instead, make the public drink from the toxic Flint River. When the governor’s office discovered just how toxic the water was, they decided to keep quiet about it and covered up the extent of the damage being done to Flint’s residents, most notably the lead affecting the children, causing irreversible and permanent brain damage. Citizen activists uncovered these actions, and the governor now faces growing cries to resign or be arrested.

Here are 10 things that you probably don’t know about this crisis because the media, having come to the story so late, can only process so much. But if you live in Flint or the State of Michigan as I do, you know all too well that what the greater public has been told only scratches the surface.

1. While the Children in Flint Were Given Poisoned Water to Drink, General Motors Was Given a Special Hookup to the Clean Water.

A few months after Governor Snyder removed Flint from the clean fresh water we had been drinking for decades, the brass from General Motors went to him and complained that the Flint River water was causing their car parts to corrode when being washed on the assembly line. The Governor was appalled to hear that GM property was being damaged, so he jumped through a number of hoops and quietly spent $440,000 to hook GM back up to the Lake Huron water, while keeping the rest of Flint on the Flint River water. Which means that while the children in Flint were drinking lead-filled water, there was one — and only one — address in Flint that got clean water: the GM factory.

2. For Just $100 a Day, This Crisis Could’ve Been Prevented.

Federal law requires that water systems which are sent through lead pipes must contain an additive that seals the lead into the pipe and prevents it from leaching into the water. Someone at the beginning suggested to the Governor that they add this anti-corrosive element to the water coming out of the Flint River. “How much would that cost?” came the question. “$100 a day for three months,” was the answer. I guess that was too much, so, in order to save $9,000, the state government said f*** it — and as a result the State may now end up having to pay upwards of $1.5 billion to fix the mess.

3. There’s More Than the Lead in Flint’s Water.

In addition to exposing every child in the city of Flint to lead poisoning on a daily basis, there appears to be a number of other diseases we may be hearing about in the months ahead. The number of cases in Flint of Legionnaires Disease has increased tenfold since the switch to the river water. Eighty-seven people have come down with it, and at least ten have died. In the five years before the river water, not a single person in Flint had died of Legionnaires Disease. Doctors are now discovering that another half-dozen toxins are being found in the blood of Flint’s citizens, causing concern that there are other health catastrophes which may soon come to light.

4. People’s Homes in Flint Are Now Worth Nothing Because They Can’t Be Sold.

Would you buy a house in Flint right now? Who would? So every homeowner in Flint is stuck with a house that’s now worth nothing. That’s a total home value of $2.4 billion down the economic drain. People in Flint, one of the poorest cities in the U.S., don’t have much to their name, and for many their only asset is their home. So, in addition to being poisoned, they have now a net worth of zero. (And as for employment, who is going to move jobs or start a company in Flint under these conditions? No one.) Has Flint’s future just been flushed down that river?

5. While They Were Being Poisoned, They Were Also Being Bombed.

Here’s a story which has received little or no coverage outside of Flint. During these two years of water contamination, residents in Flint have had to contend with a decision made by the Pentagon to use Flint for target practice. Literally. Actual unannounced military exercises – complete with live ammo and explosives – were conducted last year inside the city of Flint. The army decided to practice urban warfare on Flint, making use of the thousands of abandoned homes which they could drop bombs on. Streets with dilapidated homes had rocket-propelled grenades fired upon them. For weeks, an undisclosed number of army troops pretended Flint was Baghdad or Damascus and basically had at it. It sounded as if the city was under attack from an invading army or from terrorists. People were shocked this could be going on in their neighborhoods. Wait – did I say “people?” I meant, Flint people. As with the Governor, it was OK to abuse a community that held no political power or money to fight back. BOOM!

6. The Wife of the Governor’s Chief of Staff Is a Spokeswoman for Nestle, Michigan’s Largest Owner of Private Water Reserves.

As Deep Throat told Woodward and Bernstein: “Follow the money.” Snyder’s chief of staff throughout the two years of Flint’s poisoning, Dennis Muchmore, was intimately involved in all the decisions regarding Flint. His wife is Deb Muchmore, who just happens to be the spokesperson in Michigan for the Nestle Company – the largest owner of private water sources in the State of Michigan. Nestle has been repeatedly sued in northern Michigan for the 200 gallons of fresh water per minute it sucks from out of the ground and bottles for sale as their Ice Mountain brand of bottled spring water. The Muchmores have a personal interest in seeing to it that Nestles grabs as much of Michigan’s clean water was possible – especially when cities like Flint in the future are going to need that Ice Mountain.

7. In Michigan, from Flint water to Crime and Murder to GM Ignition Switches, It’s a Culture of Death.

It’s not just the water that was recklessly used to put people’s lives in jeopardy. There are many things that happen in Flint that would give one the impression that there is a low value placed on human life. Flint has one of the worst murder and crime rates in the country. Just for context, if New York City had the same murder rate as Flint, Michigan, the number of people murdered last year in New York would have been almost 4,000 people – instead of the actual 340 who were killed in NYC in 2015. But it’s not just street crime that makes one wonder about what is going on in Michigan. Last year, it was revealed that, once again, one of Detroit’s automakers had put profit ahead of people’s lives. General Motors learned that it had installed faulty ignition switches in many of its cars. Instead of simply fixing the problem, mid-management staff covered it up from the public. The auto industry has a history of weighing the costs of whether it’s cheaper to spend the money to fix the defect in millions of cars or to simply pay off a bunch of lawsuits filed by the victims surviving family members. Does a cynical, arrogant culture like this make it easy for a former corporate CEO, now Governor, turn a blind eye to the lead that is discovered in a municipality’s drinking water?

8. Don’t Call It “Detroit Water” — It’s the Largest Source of Fresh Drinking Water in the World.

The media keeps saying Flint was using “Detroit’s water.” It is only filtered and treated at the Detroit Water Plant. The water itself comes from Lake Huron, the third largest body of fresh water in the world. It is a glacial lake formed over 10,000 years ago during the last Ice Age and it is still fed by pure underground springs. Flint is geographically the last place on Earth where one should be drinking poisoned water.

9. ALL the Children Have Been Exposed, As Have All the Adults, Including Me.

That’s just a fact. If you have been in Flint anytime from April 2014 to today, and you’ve drunk the water, eaten food cooked with it, washed your clothes in it, taken a shower, brushed your teeth or eaten vegetables from someone’s garden, you’ve been exposed to and ingested its toxins. When the media says “9,000 children under 6 have been exposed,” that means ALL the children have been exposed because the total number of people under the age of 6 in Flint is… 9,000! The media should just say, “all.” When they say “47 children have tested positive”, that’s just those who drank the water in the last week or so. Lead enters the body and does its damage to the brain immediately. It doesn’t stay in the blood stream for longer than a few days and you can’t detect it after a month. So when you hear “47 children,” that’s just those with an exposure in the last 48 hours. It’s really everyone.

10. This Was Done, Like So Many Things These Days, So the Rich Could Get a Big Tax Break.

When Governor Snyder took office in 2011, one of the first things he did was to get a multi-billion dollar tax break passed by the Republican legislature for the wealthy and for corporations. But with less tax revenues, that meant he had to start cutting costs. So, many things – schools, pensions, welfare, safe drinking water – were slashed. Then he invoked an executive privilege to take over cities (all of them majority black) by firing the mayors and city councils whom the local people had elected, and installing his cronies to act as “dictators” over these cities. Their mission? Cut services to save money so he could give the rich even more breaks. That’s where the idea of switching Flint to river water came from. To save $15 million! It was easy. Suspend democracy. Cut taxes for the rich. Make the poor drink toxic river water. And everybody’s happy.

Except those who were poisoned in the process. All 102,000 of them. In the richest country in the world.

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NESTLE’S CHAIRMAN: HUMAN BEINGS DON’T HAVE A RIGHT TO WATER

What good is it to eat clean, wholesome, organic food if you don’t have clean, wholesome water to quench your thirst? Across the globe, the Nestlé corporation is pushing to privatize and control public water resources. We just found out that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s chief of staff is married to a Nestle spokeswoman—not an enviable position given the Flint water crisis. But what about the corporation itself? Let’s check in with Nestle Chairman of the Board Peter Brabeck on this topic to see what he has to say.

Brabeck, has explained his position on the human right to safe water this way: “One opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs, who bang on about declaring water a public right. That means as a human being you should have a right to water. That’s an extreme solution.”

Since that quote has gotten widespread attention, Brabeck has backtracked, but his company has not. Around the world, Nestlé is bullying communities into giving up control of their water. It’s time to tell Nestlé that we have a right to water and to stop locking up our resources.

At the World Water Forum in 2000, Nestlé successfully lobbied to stop water from being declared a universal right–declaring open season on local water resources by the multinational corporations looking to control them. For Nestlé, this means billions of dollars in profits. For the rest of us, it means paying up to 2,000 times more for drinking water because it comes from a plastic bottle rather than from a tap.

In countries around the world, Nestlé is promoting bottled water as a status symbol. As it pumps out fresh water at high volume, water tables sink and local wells become degraded. Safe water becomes a privilege for the wealthy and a necessity for poor people who fall deeper into poverty enriching companies like Nestle.

But clean water is a resource that should be available to all. It should be something we look after for the public good, to keep safe for generations, not something we pump out by billions of gallons to fuel short-term private profits. Nestlé thinks this opinion is “extreme,” but that’s simply a self-serving position to protect the obscene profits it realizes from the control, bottling, and sales of clean water under the Nestle label.

The bottom line is that wherever in the world there’s a significant source of clean, healthy water, there’s the Nestle Corporation, bottling it in plastic bottles and selling it to people who can least afford it. The corporation and its 1%ers grow rich while impoverished people grow poorer by paying 2,000 times more for water in plastic bottles than tap water guaranteed pure by enlightened municipal management and intelligent water infrastructure.

To say nothing of the vast island of floating plastic trash fouling the Pacific Ocean. Maybe Nestle should be forced to use some of its profits to clean up that mess.

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CONSUMERS CHOOSE HEALTH OVER CONVENIENCE WHEN BUYING FOOD

Food Business News reports that price, taste, and convenience hold less sway over consumer purchasing decisions than health, wellness, safety, social impact, quality of experience, and transparency, forcing food and beverage manufacturers and marketers to adapt.

“Contrary to conventional wisdom, it’s not just the millennials or most affluent putting these evolving drivers in the mix,” said Jack Ringquist, a principal with Deloitte Consulting L.L.P. and global consumer products leader for the company. “Our research reveals that the preference for these attributes does not differ by generation, income level or region, but is pervasive across these groups. The U.S. consumer has changed in a fundamental and impactful way, and people’s preferences are becoming even more fragmented than the food industry may have anticipated.”

The research included a survey of 5,000 U.S. consumers and interviews with food and beverage industry executives from 40 companies. A report about the research effort titled “Capitalizing on the shifting consumer food value equation” was released Jan. 25.

Adding to the complexity of the new environment food manufacturers and marketers face is how consumers define each of the emerging purchasing influences. Health and wellness, for example, is no longer strictly associated with health and nutrition. It includes organic production, natural ingredients, and fewer ingredients perceived as artificial, according to the report. The situation is similar with the topic of safety, which applies to such product attributes as an absence of allergens and fewer ingredients as well as complete and accurate labeling.

Social impact relates to local sourcing, sustainability, animal welfare, and fair treatment of employees. Experience includes retail store layout and service as well as brand interaction and personalized engagement spanning pre-, during and post-purchase.

The study identified transparency as an “overarching” influence that includes such attributes as clear labeling, certification by trusted third parties and the access and trust of manufacturers.

Those consumers most susceptible to be influenced by the new drivers are those who are actively engaged in social media and digital channel use. The tools have disrupted the traditional reliance of manufacturers and retailers on traditional communication and marketing efforts, according to the company.

As a result of the emerging purchasing influences, the report predicts consumer tastes and preferences will continue to fragment, the retailer’s role in influencing purchases will continue to grow, smaller and newer companies will remain competitive as they leverage new technologies to earn consumer trust, and market success will be determined by those companies that can build purpose-driven competitive advantages.

Of concern to larger food companies is the level of distrust consumers have for such businesses. A social media survey conducted by Deloitte in 2014 found that consumers are 3.4 times more likely to have negative perceptions about food companies than larger companies in other industries.

“The tendency toward distrust appears particularly true of millennials,” the report said. “According to a recent Mintel report, 40 percent of U.S. millennials agree they do not trust large food manufacturers compared to just 18 percent of non-millennials. Concerns with trust were overwhelmingly reflected during our interviews with food and beverage industry executives who say the issue of trust represents a growing challenge.”

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PESTICIDE CONTAMINATION FOUND IN WATER, SEDIMENT, AND FISH

A recent study published in Environmental Monitoring and Assessment assessed the health risk to humans of waters contaminated with pesticides. Researchers quantified the levels of contamination in water, sediment, and fish for six different pesticides including endosulfan, carbofuran, cypermethrin, profenofos, triazophos, and deltamethrin. “The concentrations of endosulfan, carbofuran and deltamethrin were higher than the permissible limits for fish set by international agencies, and pose a potential ecological risk to the aquatic ecosystem and a consequent hazard to human health,” the authors reported.

A study published in the journal NeuroToxicology has found that prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos is linked to tremors in childhood and may indicate a negative effect on the nervous system. Results of the study suggest that children who were exposed to higher levels of the pesticide before birth were more likely to exhibit tremors. “This report adds to the body of evidence suggesting that prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos, at current standard usage levels, is associated with a range of persistent and inter-related developmental problems,” the authors conclude.

A study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine has found that chronic exposure to specific pesticides is associated with end-stage renal disease in licensed pesticide applicators. Use of the herbicides alachlor, atrazine, metolachlor, paraquat, and pendimethalin as well as the insecticide permethrin were all associated with end-stage renal disease. “Our findings support an association between end-stage renal disease and chronic exposure to specific pesticides, and suggest pesticide exposures resulting in medical visits may increase the risk of end-stage renal disease,” the authors conclude.

A new study published in Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety sought to address the impact of pesticide exposure on aquatic wildlife by assessing the impact that exposure to atrazine, chlorpyrifos and the two insecticides combined have on common carp. In laboratory experiments, the fish were exposed to insecticides and then allowed to recover in clean water. Results suggest that pesticide exposure has negative health effects and that breakdown and removal of the chemicals in fish is a long-term process.

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MONSANTO TRIES TO WIGGLE AROUND EU’S GMO RULES

The biotechnology industry, including Monsanto, is launching an assault on food and consumer safety in Europe by pushing new breeding techniques in order to circumvent the strict EU regulation on food products, according to a new report by the Corporate Europe Observatory.

“New genetic engineering technique that have emerged since Europe’s GMO law was introduced in 2001, are currently being applied by developers to food crops, trees, farm animals, and insects,” the report states. “If the industry lobby campaign is successful, new GM organisms and foods … could enter the environment and the food chain untested, untraceable and unlabeled.”

The European Commission is currently considering a list of new GM techniques, including oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis; zinc finger nuclease technology; cisgenesis and intragenesis; grafting; agroinfiltration; RNA-dependent DNA methylation (RdDM); and reverse breeding. The report argues that, like kids trying to manipulate their parents, companies specializing in genetic modification are resorting to calling their products “chocolate” rather than “candy” in a bid to fly under the EU regulators’ radar.

The CEO warns, “Dozens of patents have already been filed in this field by the big agrochemical corporations like Bayer, BASF, Dow Agrosciences, and Monsanto.”

In fact, the companies’ argument that these are not genetic modification techniques but “New Breeding Techniques,” was masterminded by Dutch lobby and public relations firm Schuttelaar & Partners. The same firm in 1995 was hired by Monsanto to secure a smooth introduction for the first imports of a GM crop—Monsanto’s herbicide-tolerant Roundup Ready soy—to Europe, according to the CEO report.

On the New Breeding Techniques Platform website, it explains that “most” NBT products would not currently be considered genetically modified organisms under EU law.

How likely is this tactic to work? The EC ruling is due in March, but there is additional pressure other than the biotech lobby, CEO reports.

“The ongoing negotiations around the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are an additional source of political pressure on European decision makers. In this context, industry lobby groups … (are) claiming that the innovative nature and competitiveness of the European plant breeding (read: biotech) sector is at stake.”

The directorate-general for Health and Food Safety in Europe has already publicly stated that “some will be pleased, others disappointed,” according to the CEO, indicating that at least one, perhaps more, but not all of the new techniques will escape regulation as a result of the Commission’s decision.

“If true this would—no matter how many techniques are concerned—be a serious attack on food and environmental safety, consumer choice and transparency in the food chain,” the CEO summarizes.

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‘Supplements and Safety’ Toes the Pharmaceutical Industry’s Bogus Line

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On January 19, I watched a PBS Frontline Series program called “Supplements and Safety,” and if you watched it and didn’t know much about vitamins and food supplements, you’d never swallow another food supplement pill in your life. It was one hour of blatant propaganda about the dangers of unregulated and bogus food supplements. It made me wonder how much the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association had to pay to have that hatchet job produced by PBS in cahoots with The New York Times.

They had one guy on there saying that there is no scientific evidence that supplements have any beneficial health effects at all. Not one bit, he said. Well, I’m a former associate editor of Prevention magazine, a publication devoted to sharing the benefits of proper nutrition through vitamins and food supplements with the general public. When I started in that job, the editor told me that if what we had to say wasn’t backed up by solid scientific evidence, we shouldn’t say it. Far from there being no science done on nutritional supplements, I was awash in studies. We had a whole library and staff devoted to finding the scientific studies to back up what we were printing.

Another guy said that he found mislabeled herbal supplements on the shelves of GNC, Walmart, Target, and Walgreen’s. Well, yeah. Those stores aren’t reputable outlets for quality supplements. Let’s say I’m a buyer for Target and I’m stocking shelves with herbal supplements like echinacea. A reputable producer may sell echinacea for $10 a bottle wholesale. Now here comes a guy who sells it “from China” for $5 a bottle. Hey—I can make $5 a bottle more selling the Chinese product. Who do I chose to give my business to? I’m after profit, not health for the consumer.

That program was the worst piece of propaganda I’ve seen in years. They even managed at one point to show “dangerous” supplements with the “USDA Organic” seal prominently displayed in the background.

Anyone who thinks there’s no war going on between the forces of wholesomeness and the forces of “maximum profit and the consumer be damned” doesn’t have his eyes open. PBS and The New York Times should be ashamed of themselves.

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GETTING REAL ABOUT TODAY’S GOP

The media and many citizens seem to think that the Republicans are a legitimate faction of our political body, as interested in the public welfare as the Democrats, but with a very different approach.

That’s just wrong. Just how wrong was thrown into stark relief in recent days as the problem with Flint, Michigan’s, water emerged. It was poisoned with lead from Flint’s corroded water pipes. Governor Rick Snyder, a Tea Party Republican, knew about it for a year. Despite the foul-smelling, gunky water, Flint’s people—mostly African-American—drank it, cooked with it, and bathed in it, men, women, children, and infants. They were told it was safe. Far from being safe, it was infused with lead, a heavy metal that damages the development of children bodies.

On TV tonight, Governore Snyder stood at a podium and said, “I’m sorry—but I’m going to fix it.” He knew about it for a year. His apology means nothing, now that Flint’s 100,000 people are full of lead. The time to fix it is long past. Some people are calling for him to resign. He says he’s needed to stay on and fix it.

If I knowingly, irrevocably poisoned 100,000 people, what do you think would happen to me? Rick Snyder needs to be prosecuted for serious malfeasance in office and for reckless endangerment of the health of the citizens under his governorship.

Snyder is just one example of the damage the Republican Party’s operatives are doing to our country, our culture, and our democracy.

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WEBMD AND MONSANTO

If you’re one of the nearly 12 million people who visit WebMD.com every month, you’re getting a healthy dose of Monsanto propaganda along with your “health research,” according to the Organic Consumers Association.

Monsanto is one of the many corporate “sponsors” of WebMD. That means Monsanto pays WebMD in order to pepper WebMD’s website with advertisements and advertorials, disguised as legitimate journalism.

WebMD Health Corp. (NASDAQ: WBMD) is a publicly held corporation that answers first and foremost to its shareholders. The company, with its long history of deceiving consumers and partnering up with drug, junk food and biotech companies, is not, and never was, in the business of caring about consumers—a fact meticulously documented in an article published recently by Mercola.com.

WebMD propaganda is cleverly disguised as legitimate health advice. So cleverly, that millions of visitors to the site probably have no idea that they’re being duped.

Text “WebMD” to 97779 to join OCA’s mobile network and take action!

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GMO LABELING DECISIONS HAPPEN IN SECRET MEETINGS

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack met with five representatives of the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Monsanto (the folks who oppose mandatory GMO labeling laws), and five representatives from the GMO labeling movement.

The meeting was “invitation only,” and participants were sworn to secrecy about what went down. All that was said publicly was, “We’re still working out a compromise.”
We’ve heard our share of rumors, including a number of “compromises” that we find unacceptable. Like a mandatory QR code labeling scheme, that would not only preempt Vermont’s law, but also make it illegal for companies to print GMO labels on their packages.

Now PoliticoPro reports that all meeting-goers are still “mum” on the negotiations:
However, it does appear some information has been provided to members of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Chairman Pat Roberts said he knew the sides were meeting again this week, while Sen. John Hoeven, who is working on a GMO labeling bill, said he has heard from the agency about the first session, “but nothing I can be talking about publicly.”

So not only can’t you know what’s in your food, or where your meat comes from, but you’re not even allowed to know what the people who are going to decide whether you get to know are deciding. Democracy—or oligarchy clamping down on the dissemination of information that may damage its bottom line?

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IMPORTED TEA MAY CONTAIN TOXIC PESTICIDE RESIDUES

The latest report from Beyond Pesticides details how tea imported to the U.S. is often full of pesticide residues, the Organic Consumers Association reveals.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration consistently finds high levels of illegal residues on imported tea that eventually finds its way to the American consumer. This includes permethrin (a synthetic pyrethroid, linked to cancer and endocrine system disruption), DDE (a metabolite of DDT, banned in the U.S. in 1972), heptachlor epoxide (a derivative of the pesticide heptachlor, which was banned in the U.S. for use in agriculture and as a termiticide due to its carcinogenicity and persistence in the environment), and acetamiprid (a bee-toxic neonicotinoid).

Why don’t we reject these tea imports, if they violate regulations? How best to avoid contaminated teas? Choose certified organic.

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ARGENTINIANS STRIKE BACK AGAINST MONSANTO

The biotechnology giant Monsanto continues attempts to build its GMO seeds plant in Argentina, despite three years of unflinching popular opposition, according to Darío Aranda and Nancy Piñeiro, writing in Upside Down World.

The world’s largest GMO corporation never imagined that it would suffer one of its major setbacks in a small, rural town in central Argentina. Popular opposition, irregularities in the company’s environmental impact assessment, a protest blockade at the entry gate, and a court ruling stalled the construction of its seeds plant three years ago.

The most recent blow to the corporation occurred when it made a new attempt to enter the site in the municipality of Malvinas Argentinas, in the province of Cordoba. Protesters received an eviction notice, but local socio-environmental assemblies mobilized to strengthen the blockade, and a prosecutor suspended the order.

On January 8, simultaneous marches were held in different cities across Argentina. The demand was: “Monsanto, get out of Latin America!”

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APOLLO OLIVE OIL WINS AWARDS

Back in November, Apollo Olive Oil had the honor of being chosen as a Finalist for a 2016 Good Food Award. On January 16, the winners were announced and Apollo was among them. There were a total of 1,927 entrants from across the U.S., with just 242 winners in 13 categories. Of the 11 winners in the ‘Oil’ category, only five were for olive oil, of which two others were also extra virgin olive oil. The Good Food Award recognizes that the Sierra and Mistral are of excellent quality and produced with sustainable methods benefiting local food economies.

Onn January 2 and 3, the TV show 60 Minutes ran three segments: the “FBI of Food,” don’t fall victim to olive oil scam, and AgroMafia, exposing Mafia involvement and the fight against it, in the entire Italian food chain, including olive oil fraud. As much as 80 percent of oil labeled as Italian extra virgin olive oil and sold here in the U.S. simply isn’t.

If you like real olive oil—pungent, bitter, and fruity—check out www.apollooliveoil.com. This California oil is the real deal.

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GATES FOUNDATION REPEATING MISTAKES OF THE GREEN REVOLUTION

The following is a long story, but an exceedingly important one. It involves the take-over of world agriculture by multinational corporate biotech, chemical, and seed companies, all facilitated by the benign-sounding Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation–widely assumed to be doing good–is imposing a neoliberal model of development and corporate domination that’s opening up Africa’s agriculture to land and seed-grabbing global agribusiness, writes Colin Todhunter, a journalist who can frequently be found in The Ecologist, Truthout, and the London Progressive Journal. In the process, he says, the Foundation is foreclosing on the real solutions–enhancing food security, food sovereignty, and the move to agroecological farming.

BMGF is promoting a model of industrial agriculture, the increasing use of chemical fertilizers and expensive, patented seeds, the privatization of extension services, and a very large focus on genetically modified crops.

With assets of $43.5 billion, the BMGF is the largest charitable foundation in the world. It actually distributes more aid for global health than any government. As a result, it has a major influence on issues of global health and agriculture.

The charges are laid in a new report by Global Justice Now: ‘Gated Development–is the Gates Foundation always a force for good?’ The report argues that what BMGF is doing could end up exacerbating global inequality and entrenching corporate power globally.

Global Justice Now’s analysis of the BMGF’s programs shows that the Foundation’s senior staff are overwhelmingly drawn from corporate America. As a result, the question is: whose interests are being promoted–those of corporate America or those of ordinary people who seek social and economic justice rather than charity?

According to the report, the Foundation’s strategy is intended to deepen the role of multinational companies in global health and agriculture especially, even though these corporations are responsible for much of the poverty and injustice that already plagues the global south.

It concludes that the Foundation’s programs have a specific ideological strategy that promotes neo-liberal economic policies, corporate globalization, the technology this brings (such as GMOs), and an outdated view of the centrality of aid in ‘helping’ the poor.

The report raises a series criticisms including:

1) The relationship between the foundation and Microsoft’s tax practices. A 2012 report from the US Senate found that Microsoft’s use of offshore subsidiaries enabled it to avoid taxes of $4.5 billion, a sum greater than the BMGF’s annual grant making ($3.6 billion in 2014).

2) The close relationship that BMGF has with many corporations whose role and policies contribute to ongoing poverty. Not only is BMGF profiting from numerous investments in a series of controversial companies which contribute to economic and social injustice, it is also actively supporting a series of those companies, including pesticide manufacturers Monsanto, DuPont, and Bayer through a variety of pro-corporate initiatives around the world.

3) The Foundation’s promotion of industrial agriculture across Africa, pushing for the adoption of patented GMO seed systems and chemical fertilizers, all of which undermine existing sustainable, small-scale farming that is providing the vast majority of food security across the continent.

4) The Foundation’s promotion of projects around the world pushing private healthcare and education. Numerous agencies have raised concerns that such projects exacerbate inequality and undermine the universal provision of such basic human necessities.

“The Gates Foundation has rapidly become the most influential actor in the world of global health and agricultural policies, but there’s no oversight or accountability in how that influence is managed,” says Polly Jones the head of campaigns and policy at Global Justice Now.

“This concentration of power and influence is even more problematic when you consider that the philanthropic vision of the Gates Foundation seems to be largely based on the values of corporate America. The Foundation is relentlessly promoting big business-based initiatives such as industrial agriculture, private health care and education. But these are all potentially exacerbating the problems of poverty and lack of access to basic resources that the foundation is supposed to be alleviating.”

The report states that that Bill Gates has regular access to world leaders and is in effect personally bankrolling hundreds of universities, international organizations, NGOs, and media outlets.

As the single most influential voice in international development, the Foundation’s strategy is a major challenge to progressive development actors and activists around the world who want to see the influence of multinational corporations in global markets reduced or eliminated.

The Foundation not only funds projects in which agricultural and pharmaceutical corporations are among the leading beneficiaries, but it often invests in the same companies as it is funding, meaning the Foundation has an interest in the ongoing profitability of these corporations. According to the report, this is “a corporate merry-go-round where the BMGF consistently acts in the interests of corporations.”

The report notes that the BMGF’s close relationship with seed and chemical giant Monsanto is well known. It previously owned shares in the company and continues to promote several projects in which Monsanto is a beneficiary.

Not least among these is the wholly inappropriate and fraudulent GMO project which promotes a technical quick-fix ahead of tackling the structural issues that create hunger, poverty, and food insecurity. And, the report notes, the BMGF partners with many other multinational agribusiness corporations. For instance, the foundation is working with Cargill in an $8 million project to “develop the soya value chain” in southern Africa.

Cargill is the biggest global player in the production of and trade in soybeans with heavy investments in South America where GMO soy monocrops have displaced rural populations and caused great environmental damage. According to Global Justice Now, the BMGF-funded project will likely enable Cargill to capture a hitherto untapped African soy market and eventually introduce GMO soy onto the continent.

The end markets for this soy are companies with relationships with the fast food outlet, KFC, whose expansion in Africa is being aided by the project.

Specific examples are given which highlight how BMGF is also supporting projects involving other biotech, chemical, and seed corporations, including DuPont, Pioneer, Syngenta and Bayer.

According to the report, the BMGF is promoting a model of industrial agriculture, the increasing use of chemical fertilizers and expensive, patented seeds, the privatization of extension services and a very large focus on genetically modified crops. The foundation bankrolls the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in pushing industrial agriculture.

A key area for AGRA is seed policy. The report notes that currently over 80 percent of Africa’s seed supply comes from millions of small-scale farmers recycling and exchanging seed from year to year. But AGRA is promoting the commercial production of seed and is thus supporting the introduction of commercial seed systems, which risk enabling a few large companies to control seed research and development, production, and distribution.

In order for commercial seed companies to invest in research and development, they first want to protect their intellectual property. According to the report, this requires a fundamental restructuring of seed laws to allow for certification systems that not only protect certified varieties and royalties derived from them, but which actually criminalize all non-certified seed.

The report notes that over the past two decades, a long and slow process of national seed law reviews, sponsored by USAID and the G8 along with the BMGF and others, has opened the door to multinational corporations’ involvement in seed production, including the acquisition of every sizeable seed enterprise on the African continent.

At the same time, AGRA is working to promote costly inputs, notably fertilizer, despite evidence to suggest chemical fertilizers have significant health risks for farm workers, increase soil erosion, and can trap small-scale farmers in unsustainable debt. The BMGF, through AGRA, is one of the world’s largest promoters of the use of chemical fertilizer.

Some grants given by the BMGF to AGRA have been specifically intended to “help AGRA build the fertilizer supply chain” in Africa. The report describes how one of the largest of AGRA’s grants, worth $25 million, was used to help establish the African Fertilizer Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) in 2012, whose very goal is to “at least double total fertilizer use” in Africa.

The AFAP project is being pursued in partnership with the International Fertilizer Development Centre, a body which represents the fertilizer industry.

Another of AGRA’s key programs since its inception has been support to agro-dealer networks – small, private stockers of transnational companies’ chemicals and seeds who sell these to farmers in several African countries. This is increasing the reliance of farmers on chemical inputs and marginalizing sustainable agriculture alternatives, thereby undermining any notion that farmers are exercising their ‘free choice’ (as the neo-liberal evangelists are keen to tell everyone) when it comes to adopting certain agricultural practices.

The report concludes that AGRA’s agenda is the biggest direct threat to the growing movement in support of food sovereignty and agroecological farming methods in Africa. This movement opposes reliance on chemicals, expensive seeds, and GMOs, and instead promotes an approach which allows communities control over the way food is produced, traded, and consumed.

The food sovereignity movement is seeking to create a food system that is designed to help people and the environment rather than make profits for multinational corporations. Priority is given to promoting healthy farming and healthy food by protecting soil, water and climate, and promoting biodiversity.

Recent evidence from Greenpeace and the Oakland Institute shows that in Africa agroecological farming can increase yields significantly (often greater than industrial agriculture), and that it is more profitable for small farmers. In 2011, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food (Olivier de Schutter) called on countries to reorient their agriculture policies to promote sustainable systems–not least agroecology–that realize the right to food.

Moreover, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development (IAASTD) was the work of over 400 scientists and took four years to complete. It was twice peer reviewed. It states that we must look to smallholder, traditional farming to deliver food security in third world countries through agroecological systems that are sustainable.

In a January, 2015, piece in the Guardian, the Director of Global Justice Now said that ‘development’ was once regarded as a process of breaking with colonial exploitation and transferring power over resources from the ‘first’ to the ‘third world’, involving a revolutionary struggle over the world’s resources.

However, the current paradigm is based on the assumption that developing countries need to adopt neoliberal policies and that public money in the guise of aid should facilitate this.

If this new report shows anything, it is that the notion of ‘development’ has become hijacked by rich corporations and a super-rich ‘philanthrocapitalist’ (whose own corporate practices have been questionable to say the least, as highlighted by the report).

In effect, the model of ‘development’ being facilitated is married to the ideology and structurally embedded power relations of an exploitative global capitalism.

The BMGF is spearheading the ambitions of corporate America and the scramble for Africa by global agribusiness.

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LEAD IN THE WATER ISN”T THE ONLY PROBLEM IN MICHIGAN

Michigan residents lost their “right to farm” this week thanks to a new ruling by the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Gail Philburn of the Michigan Sierra Club told Michigan Live, the new changes “effectively remove Right to Farm Act protection for many urban and suburban backyard farmers raising small numbers of animals.” Backyard and urban farming were previously protected by Michigan’s Right to Farm Act. The Commission ruled that the Right to Farm Act protections no longer apply to many homeowners who keep small numbers of livestock.

Kim White, who raises chickens and rabbits, said, “They don’t want us little guys feeding ourselves. They want us to go all to the big farms. They want to do away with small farms and I believe that is what’s motivating it.” The ruling will allow local governments to arbitrarily ban goats, chickens and beehives on any property where there are 13 homes within one eighth mile or a residence within 250 feet of the property, according to Michigan Public Radio. The Right to Farm Act was created in 1981 to protect farmers from the complaints of people from the city who moved to the country and then attempted to make it more urban with anti-farming ordinances. The new changes affect residents of rural Michigan too. It is not simply an urban or suburban concern.

Shady Grove Farm in Gwinn, Michigan, is the six and a half acre home to 150 egg-laying hens that provide eggs to a local co-op and a local restaurant. The small Michigan farm also raises sheep for wool and a few turkeys and meat chickens to provide fresh healthy, local poultry. “We produce food with integrity,” Randy Buchler told The Blaze about Shady Grove Farm. “Everything we do here is 100 percent natural — we like to say it’s beyond organic. We take a lot of pride and care in what we’re doing here.”

Shady Grove Farm was doing its part to bring healthy, local, organic food to the tables of Gwinn residents, and it mirrors the attitudes of hundreds of other small farming operations in Michigan and thousands of others popping up around the nation. The ruling comes within days of a report by The World Health Organization that stated the world is currently in grave danger of entering a post-antibiotic era. The WHO’s director-general, Dr. Margaret Chan, argued that the antibiotic use in our industrialized food supply is the worst offender adding to the global crisis. “The Michigan Agriculture Commission passed up an opportunity to support one of the hottest trends in food in Michigan–public demand for access to more local, healthy, sustainable food,” Gail Philbin told MLive.

Meanwhile, neighboring Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed Senate Bill 179 a few weeks before which freed up poultry and egg sales from local and state regulation. Yesterday, the USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced massive funding to support research about small and medium-sized family farms, such as small farms’ ability to build-up local and regional economic systems. “There’s a lot of unnecessary legal action being taken against small farms who are doing good things in their communities,” said Randy Buchler, who is also on the board of directors for the Michigan Small Farm Council. The Michigan Small Farm Council actively fought to support Michigan farming freedom, but ultimately the Commission voted to approve the new restrictions.

“Farm Bureau has become another special interest beholden to big business and out of touch with small farmers, and constitutional and property rights of the little guy,” Pine Hallow Farms wrote to the Michigan Small Farm Council. The Michigan Farm Bureau endorsed the new regulatory changes. Matthew Kapp, government relations specialist with Michigan Farm Bureau, told MLive that the members weighed in and felt that people raising livestock need to conform to local zoning ordinances. The Farm Bureau did not feel Michigan’s Right To Farm Act was meant to protect the smaller farms, and ultimately the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development agreed.

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DOES ORGANIC WINE TASTE BETTER? AN ANALYSIS OF EXPERTS’ RATINGS

Researchers did the studies and here’s an abstract of the paper they wrote:

Eco-labels are part of a new wave of environmental policy that emphasizes information disclosure as a tool to induce environmentally friendly behavior by both firms and consumers. Little consensus exists as to whether eco-certified products are actually better than their conventional counterparts. This paper seeks to understand the link between eco-certification and product quality. We use data from three leading wine rating publications (Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast, and Wine Spectator) to assess quality for 74,148 wines produced in California between 1998 and 2009. Our results indicate that eco-certification is associated with a statistically significant increase in wine quality rating.

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CORNELL HOSTS GMO PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN

The following is excerpted from The Ecologist and was written by Stacy Malkan. It was reprinted by the Organic Consumers Association.

Cornell, one of the world’s leading academic institutions, has abandoned scientific objectivity, writes Stacy Malkan, and instead made itself a global hub for the promotion of GMO crops and food. Working with selected journalists and industry-supported academics, Cornell’s so-called ‘Alliance for Science’ is an aggressive propaganda tool for corporate biotech and agribusiness.

The founders of Cornell University, Andrew D. White and Ezra Cornell, dreamed of creating a great university that took a radical approach to learning.

Their revolutionary spirit, and the promise to pursue knowledge for the greater good, is said to be at the heart of the Ivy League school their dream became.

It is difficult to understand how these ideals are served by a unit of Cornell operating as a public relations arm for the agrichemical industry.

Yet that is what seems to be going on at the Cornell Alliance for Science (CAS), a program launched in 2014 with a $5.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (them again!) and a goal to “depolarize the charged debate” about GMOs.

A review of the group’s materials and programs suggests that beneath its promise to “restore the importance of scientific evidence in decision making,” CAS is promoting GMOs using dishonest messaging and PR tactics developed by agrichemical corporations with a long history of misleading the public about science.

CAS Director Sarah Evanega, PhD, describes her group as a “communications-based nonprofit organization represented by scientists, farmers, NGOs, journalists and concerned citizens” who will use “interactive online platforms, multimedia resources and communication training programs to build a global movement to advocate for access to biotechnology.”

In this way, they say they will help alleviate malnourishment and hunger in developing countries, according to the video.

Jeff here:

In reality, CAS is a propaganda campaign devoted to promoting genetically engineered foods around the world. As we’ve seen in this blog many times before, the real purpose of GMO seed patenting is control of the world’s seed supply. And that’s not only important for Monsanto and friends so they can corner the seed market, but it also means increasing sales of its pesticides and herbicides that are used on the GMO seeds. The fact that it’s wrecking the environment, harming life on earth, and destroying the lives of small, organic and natural farmers everywhere is just collateral damage. And the most cynical part is that Big Ag is presenting this agribiz-biotech takeover as the salvation of the world from the oncoming (be very afraid) famines that they say loom in the years ahead. Hand in hand with Big Philanthropy (BMGF) they’re out to save the world, one lifeless farm field at a time.

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USDA Revokes ‘Grass Fed’ Standard

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First Big Ag and its henchpeople at the USDA and the FDA didn’t want you to know whether your food contains GMOs. No reason for labels, they said. There’s no difference between regular food and GMOs, they said. Quit being such worrywarts, they told the public.

Then they took away the labels stating where the meat in the meat counter comes from. No reason to tell you, they told the public. No reason for you to know, they said. Maybe it comes from the sweet grasslands of western Canada or maybe from the polluted fields near smoke-choked Beijing. Meat is meat, they said Quit being such worrywarts.

Now we discover that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has rescinded the labeling standard for grass fed meat that was developed over the course of four years and finalized with the support of national farm and consumer organizations in 2006, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition reports.

“Meat labeling just became even more confusing for farmers and consumers,” said Ferd Hoefner, Policy Director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “USDA is revoking a label standard that had widespread farm and consumer support. Actions such as this take us into a Wild West situation, where anything goes and both farmers and consumers lose.”

In revoking the standard, the AMS states that having a strong, clear, consumer-friendly labeling standard “does not facilitate the marketing of agricultural products in a manner that is useful to stakeholders or consumers” because a different USDA agency, the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), must approve meat labels and “there is no guarantee that a USDA-verified production/marketing claim will be approved by FSIS.”

“The rationale that a strong USDA label standard for grass fed beef is not useful because it might not be recognized by a partner agency is outrageous,” said Hoefner. “It is both sad and true that these two USDA agencies often do not coordinate, and worse yet that in some cases FSIS has looked the other way, allowing particularly unscrupulous meat companies to abuse the USDA standard,” Hoefner said. “But the common sense solution is not to revoke the standard, but instead to tackle the lack of interagency communication head-on.”

The revocation notice gives producers using the grass fed label 30 days to either convert the newly revoked USDA grass fed label to their own private grass-fed standard, or, if they don’t have a private standard, to develop a new grass fed standard.

“Rather than bringing consistency and common sense to our food marketing system, USDA seems to be throwing in the towel,” said Hoefner. “This is terrible public policy that will create a multitude of non-uniform labels, which will open the door to more confusion and subterfuge in the marketplace. It is an affront to consumers, who have the right to know how their food is raised, and to the farmers whose innovation and hard work created the trusted grass fed label standard.”

The grass fed label standard now being revoked stated among other things that grass, forbs, and forage needed to be 99 percent or more of the energy source for the lifetime of a ruminant species after weaning in order to qualify as grass fed. Prior to the setting of that standard, grain fed animals were often sold as grass fed, with USDA’s approval.

So, let’s sum up: You can’t know whether your food has been genetically altered. You can’t know where it comes from. And now the government won’t vouch for grass fed beef being grass fed. You have to trust the ranchers to do that. But 15 years ago, when we last trusted the ranchers to do that, “grain fed animals were often sold as grass fed, with USDA’s approval.”

Okay—so logically, what are the next steps in the complete submersion into darkness of our conventional food supply? Do we really have to know what kind of meat is in the package? Maybe the label should just say MEAT. Even that may be too revealing for the corporate food industry. Why should you know whether it’s meat in that package? Maybe it should just be labeled FOOD. Or maybe, there should be no labels at all, just an aisle in the market with packages wrapped in plain brown butcher paper under a sign that says: EAT THIS AND STFU.

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CDC FINDS ‘RARE STRAIN’ OF E. COLI IN CHIPOTLE OUTBREAK

Last week in this space, I smelled a rat in regards to Chipotle’s outbreaks of food-borne illnesses. Too many powerful, prosperous, and unscrupulous corporations have good reason to see Chipotle fail, thus curbing the chain’s attacks on GMO and conventional foods.

Seems I’m not the only one whose nose was offended. Here’s Mike Adams, writing in NaturalNews: “After observing recent events involving Chipotle and E. coli, here’s my analysis of the situation: Chipotle’s E. coli outbreaks are not random chance. They are the result of the biotech industry unleashing bioterrorism attacks against the only fast food company that has publicly denounced GMOs.

“How do we know? The CDC has already admitted that some of these E. coli outbreaks involve a ‘rare genetic strain’ of E. coli not normally seen in foods. Furthermore, we also know the track record of the biotech industry engaging in the most criminal, dirty, sleazebag tactics imaginable against any person or company that speaks out against GMOs.

“Doctor Oz, for example, was maliciously targeted in a defamation campaign funded by the biotech industry earlier this year. The onslaught against Oz was initiated because he publicly expressed his support for honest GMO labeling on foods.

“As the attacks escalated, Doctor Oz had his own team investigate the source of the attacks and found they were all biotech industry shills, some with felony criminal records and long histories of dubious propaganda activities targeting anti-GMO activists.”

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SCIENTIST LINKS BEE DIE-OFFS TO PESTICIDE, IS GAGGED BY USDA

One of the world’s top bee scientists has been suspended for publishing research on bee-killing pesticides, according to the folks at SumOfUs.

Jonathan Lundgren was an award-winning scientist for 11 years with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But once he started publishing data linking pesticides to bee and butterfly die-offs, he was ordered to stop talking. When he refused, he was suspended.

Now Lundgren is fighting back. He’s filed a whistleblower complaint to make sure that corporations—whose influence extends to the USDA–can’t get away with gagging science.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen corporate-influenced governments trying to silence bee scientists. In the U.K., the government silenced scientists who disagreed with a decision to lift a ban on bee-killing pesticides. Big Ag lobbyists wanted the ban lifted, but when the scientists wouldn’t go along with it, the government simply told them not to publish their views.

But this time the corporations picked on the wrong scientist. Lundgren is refusing to back down. Now a judge has ruled that Lundgren’s whistleblower complaint may go forward — meaning he has a real chance of getting justice and showing how corporations are exerting undue influence over government research.

SumOfUs is a worldwide movement of people working together to hold corporations accountable for their actions and forge a new, sustainable path for our global economy.

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NEW BILLS WOULD GUT STATES’ CONTROL OVER TOXIC CHEMICALS

A new set of bills that aims to update the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) may nullify the efforts of states such as Maine and California to regulate dangerous chemicals, according to an article in The Intercept.

The Senate’s bill, passed just before the 2015 holidays, is particularly restrictive. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act—named, ironically, for the New Jersey senator who supported strong environmental protections—would make it much harder for states to regulate chemicals after the EPA has evaluated them, and would even prohibit states from acting while the federal agency is in the process of investigating them.

The Senate’s version has some significant differences from the House bill—the TSCA Modernization Act that passed in June — and the reconciliation process is now underway. If the worst provisions from both bills wind up in the final law, which could reach the president’s desk as soon as February, the new legislation will gut laws that have put Oregon, California, Maine, Vermont, Minnesota, and Washington state at the forefront of chemical regulation.

There is little question that the original Toxic Substance Control Act is broken, as even industry has recently begun to admit. TSCA, passed in 1976, was born from outrage about the health risks of asbestos and PCBs, and it gave the EPA the authority to regulate tens of thousands of toxic substances. But the process was heavily influenced by the chemical industry, which initially opposed regulation before helping to write the law. The final legislation grandfathered in the vast majority of some 82,000 chemicals now registered for commercial use. In the almost four decades since TSCA went into effect, the federal agency has required testing for only about 200 chemicals. Of those, just five were partially regulated at the federal level.

Since 2014, while Congress was hashing out the new TSCA “reform,” the top 10 chemical companies and organizations spent more than $125 million on lobbying, The Intercept reports. Industry lobbyists again wrote the new bill. Dow Chemical Company and Koch Industries each spent more than $21 million, while DuPont spent more than $14 million, according to MapLight, a nonprofit group that monitors money in politics. The American Chemistry Council contributed more than $18 million, including $150,000 to the Super PAC supporting the gubernatorial bid of David Vitter, the Republican senator from Louisiana who co-sponsored the bill. Chemical industry contributions were significantly higher for the bill’s sponsors and co-sponsors than for other members of Congress.

In response to inquiries from The Intercept, the American Chemistry Council provided a written statement, saying it has “been working tirelessly to help pass legislation that will bring TSCA up to speed with modern science and create strong, nationwide regulatory certainty that will build consumer confidence in the U.S. chemical regulatory system for citizens in all 50 states, protect human health and the environment from significant risks, and meet the commercial and competitive interests of the U.S. chemical industry and the national economy.” Chemtura provided the following comment: “Though it is premature to speculate on the impact of an updated TSCA program on specific state legislation or products, Chemtura supports an updated TSCA and looks forward to working with regulators when the time comes for implementation.”

The Senate bill, which would also override state restrictions on air and water quality and waste disposal if they’re inconsistent with federal law, has a wide range of supporters, including the American Petroleum Institute, the Chambers of Commerce; the Auto Alliance; the National Association of Manufacturers. Perhaps the most damning endorsement came from ExxonMobil’s CEO, Rex Tillerson, who recently described the bill in an op-ed in Roll Call as “just the comprehensive overhaul we need.”

Meanwhile, the House version of the bill, which preempts states from regulating new chemicals, is supported by more than 100 industry groups, including the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, CropLife America (which represents pesticide manufacturers and distributors), the Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance, and the Chlorine Institute.

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Anti-Feminist Group Attacks Chipotle

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So I’m reading my emails and I see this one:

Chipotle Mexican Grill has been served with a federal grand jury subpoena following a series of dangerous outbreaks including E. coli and norovirus linked to its restaurants. .

The subpeona is part of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations investigation. Independent Women’s Forum’s Julie Gunlock, IWF’s Culture of Alarmism director, offered the following statement:

“I applaud the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California and the Food and Drug Administration for pursuing this investigation into the E. coli outbreaks at Chipotle restaurants, which sickened hundreds of people during the holiday season. This outbreak continues to be a serious safety issue for consumers and they deserve to know the full breadth of this problem.

“To regain the public trust, Chipotle needs to rethink its business practices, which include working alongside food alarmists, anti-GMO activists, the organic food industry, and other modern food system critics to frighten, distract and misinform the American public. The company has profited handsomely off their dubious claim that they provide a superior food product, all the while slamming their competitors as well as the American agriculture system–casting farmers as evil polluters and animal abusers and other large food chains as contributing to health issues in the United States.

“For too long Chipotle has been distracted from what any restaurant’s true mission should be: to provide safe food for their customers. Hopefully this investigation will shed light on Chipotle’s questionable marketing tactics and food safety practices and initiate changes for the better.”

Wait. Chipotle’s been working with “food alarmists, anti-GMO activists, and the organic food industry” against corporate farming and the chemical food industry? Isn’t that a good thing? Hasn’t Chipotle been trying to deliver an environmentally sustainable product? How come all of a sudden E. coli and norovirus are showing up at Chipotles? From what I know about Monsanto, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and all the other participants in the conventional food industry, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if those problems didn’t just happen by accident. Do I have any proof of this? Not a shred. It’s just that for the past 50 years, I’ve watched the chemical agriculture industry lie and cheat their way into profitability by claiming that organic food will kill you. But now that customers are flocking to Chipotle to get some decent food, suddenly these food supply problems show up, followed by press releases like the above from the Independent Women’s Forum.

So who is the IWF? I checked SourceWatch, a non-profit group that digs to find out who is behind the front organizations used to propagandize the American people. Here’s what SourceWatch had to say:

“The Independent Women’s Forum (IWF; not to be confused with the International Women’s Forum) is an anti-feminist organization predominantly funded by right-wing foundations, including the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the Koch brothers’ Claude R. Lambe Foundation. On its website, it describes its mission as being ‘to rebuild civil society by advancing economic liberty, personal responsibility, and political freedom. IWF builds support for a greater respect for limited government, equality under the law, property rights, free markets, strong families, and a powerful and effective national defense and foreign policy.’

“The IWF originally grew out of a group called ‘Women for Clarence Thomas,’ formed to support Clarence Thomas, then a nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, against allegations of sexual harassment. It has vocally opposed the Violence against Women Act.

“In an editorial, the New York Times called the IWF ‘a right-wing public policy group that provides pseudofeminist support for extreme positions that are in fact dangerous to women.’ From 2003-2008, IWF was affiliated with the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity.”

Get the picture?

ADDENDUM: Chipotle Mexican Grill has just been sued for allegedly misleading investors about its food safety controls. According to a civil lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Chipotle failed to disclose that its “quality controls were inadequate to safeguard consumer and employee health.” Sales at the restaurant chain have tanked since an E. coli outbreak sickened dozens of people late last year.

The lawsuit seeks damages on behalf of investors who acquired Chipotle shares from February 2015 to January 2016. It adds another headache for the restaurant chain, whose sales have slumped since an E. coli outbreak sickened more than 50 people in nine states in October and November.

Shares this week fell to their lowest level in more than two years. They are down 35 percent since the end of October.

You would think the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control would be on top of this, investigating who is responsible for the contaminations. But as far as I can tell, neither governmental body has made any moves to find out. I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but it’s almost as though the bacterial infections and viruses are ganging up on a food outlet that was particularly clean and enthusiastic about promoting sustainable, organic food.

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CAMPBELL SOUPS TO LIST GMOS IN ITS PRODUCTS

Green America congratulates the Campbell Soup Company on its support of federal legislation to establish a single mandatory labeling standard for foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and its move to voluntarily disclose the presence of GMOs in all its foods in the absence of such a standard.

Green America also lauded Campbell’s for withdrawing its support from the efforts of groups working to oppose federal GMO labeling, such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

“This announcement is a major victory for consumers and sets Campbell’s apart from many of its industry peers; 92 percent of Americans support GMO labeling, so Campbell’s commitment to transparency in its ingredients will be warmly welcomed by U.S. consumers,” said Elizabeth O’Connell, director of consumer advocacy for Green America. “Campbell’s is going far beyond any of its competitors to support the people’s Right to Know what’s in their food.”

GMO labeling is now required in Vermont, where Campbell’s has introduced packaging that discloses if a product contains GMO ingredients. Campbell’s announced that if a federal labeling standard could not be agreed to, the company was prepared to label all of its U.S. products for the presence of GMO ingredients.

“Campbell’s decision to withdraw its support from anti-labeling efforts and voluntarily disclose its GMO ingredients on its packaging sets the company apart from other consumer packaged goods companies,” said Todd Larsen, co-executive director of Green America. “Other companies should take note of consumer preference and follow Campbell’s lead in disclosing GMOs.”

While there are no rules on how to label GMOs at the moment, to further consumer awareness, Green America believes that labeling should disclose which ingredients were genetically engineered, such as corn or sugar, not just the presence of GMOs. Green America encourages all companies to engage in ingredient-by-ingredient disclosure.

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CONTAMINATED FRACKING WATER SOLD TO ORGANIC FARMERS

From the League of Conservation Voters:

News has surfaced that in recent months, more and more fossil fuel wastewater — water that’s been used in the extraction of dirty oil — is being sold to organic farms to use for irrigation, especially in drought-ridden California.

That means the fresh bowls of fruit or crisp plates of veggies you feed to your family or enjoy yourself may have been irrigated with water that’s laden with dangerous heavy metals and chemicals.

But this is the worst part: Right now, the USDA has ZERO protections in place that directly address the use oil wastewater to irrigate organic farms.

Using oil wastewater to irrigate crops is a short-term solution if there ever was one. In California, where the vast majority of our nation’s crops are grown, farmers are facing the impossible challenge of needing an abundance of water and having nearly none. That’s where Big Oil is happy to step in.

Oil companies like Chevron have been selling their wastewater to water-starved farms. For them, leftover water is a nuisance, and now, in the light of an epic drought, they can profit off of its disposal. But here’s the really upsetting part: Oil companies are the ones responsible for cleaning up the water before giving it to farmers, and when scientists have tested the water, they found multiple toxic chemicals still present — chemicals that could be seriously harmful to you and your family.

The USDA prohibits oil-based fertilizers from being used on organic crops, recognizing that organic standards and waste from fossil fuel extraction do not mix. But in what can only be called a major loophole, when it comes to irrigation, the USDA has confirmed itself that there is no accountability to be sure this water is safe, and no regulations to protect us. When it comes to food quality and safety, we should all be able to demand the highest standards. It’s time that the USDA updates its organic standards for the health and safety of our families!

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TOP 10 ORGANIC BREAKTHROUGHS IN 2015

Last year, numerous studies revealed scientific breakthroughs on the environmental and human health benefits of organic food and farming — from improving soil health and supporting water quality, to reducing our exposure to pesticides and mitigating climate change.

“The amount and scope of cutting edge research last year showing that the benefits of organic are supported by science was very impressive,” said Dr. Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs for The Organic Center. “A large body of the research shows that pesticides that are banned from use in organic can have serious negative impacts on the environment and humans. The good news is that by choosing organic you can contribute to a healthier world.”

The Organic Center lists the year’s 10 most important organic findings:

1. Pesticides negatively impact bees. Perhaps the most important topic was the impact of pesticides on pollinator health. Several studies showed the class of pesticides called neonicotinoids (“neonics”) has various negative impacts on bees. One study found even exposure to very low levels of neonics can adversely affect bees. Another study correlated increased use of neonics with honey bee losses. Another found that even when neonics aren’t sprayed directly on fields, they can impact bee health.

2. Organic culture improves soil. Key research studied organic’s benefits to soil health, particularly soil organisms. A long-term study showed organic farming is beneficial for soil organisms, with larger soil animals increasing to over 250 times the number found in conventional soils, and microorganisms up to 70 percent more plentiful. In addition, another study showed organic management improves nutrient availability and soil structure. Still another found microbial communities of “good” soil organisms can suppress “bad” pathogens. Thus, diversity can promote resistance to diseases.

3. Organic farming supports water quality. Researchers examining nitrogen runoff found organic cropping systems have less nitrogen pollution than conventional systems. Another study looked at water quality, and found organic methods can be used to reduce water pollution in U.S waterways. It showed nitrate contamination in water in conventional cropping systems was twice as high as that from organic systems.

4. Dietary exposure to pesticides can hurt reproductive health. While research has long demonstrated clear dangers of pesticide exposure from living and working in agricultural areas, few studies have explored the health consequences of exposure to low-level pesticide residues in a conventional diet. Researchers at Harvard University published findings showing dietary exposure to pesticides can lower sperm quantity and quality in men. After taking into account confounding factors such as weight and smoking, researchers found that men exposed to the highest levels of pesticide residue through fruit and vegetable consumption had almost 50 percent fewer sperm and more abnormally shaped sperm when compared to men who consumed the least amount.

5. Roundup may be carcinogenic. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the pesticide Roundup (prohibited for use in organic farming), has been touted as a pesticide posing few risks to humans. New groundbreaking research suggests it might not be as benign as previously thought. One study suggested that low-level exposure to Roundup over a long period could cause kidney and liver damage in rats. The doses used in the study were low enough to prompt researchers to note that the results of the study potentially have significant health implications for animal and human populations. Similar research results were cited in a recent study published by the World Health Organization, calling glyphosate’s risk level as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

6. Organic farming has higher yields than previously thought. Several recent studies tackled the myth that organic farms have lower yields than conventional. One study showed that farms under organic soil management systems can produce yields equivalent to conventional systems. It also found organic farming reduced weeds by up to 47 percent and increased total soil nitrogen by up to 7 percent. Another study synthesizing information from over 100 studies and over 1,000 observations, found similar results, showing the yields of organic crops are higher than previously thought.

7. Eating organic food reduces your exposure to pesticides. One large-scale study involving 4,000 participants from across the U.S. confirmed that choosing organic does, in fact, reduce exposure to pesticides. Another study on children’s exposure to pesticides showed eating an organic diet reduces the exposure to some pesticides in young children, and that an organic diet was associated with lower levels of commonly detected pesticide metabolites for all children.

8. Commonly used pesticides negatively impact children’s health. The health effects of pesticide exposure in children was studied. One study showed an association between early exposure to organophosphate pesticides and respiratory symptoms consistent with childhood asthma. Another study linked pesticide exposure and decreased mental ability in children, including neurocognitive abilities. One study linked exposure to pesticides during child development to ADHD symptoms.

9. New research shows organic farming promotes a wide diversity of organisms on the farm. One study showed organically farmed lands had more beneficial predatory insects and spiders than conventional farms. Not only did researchers find that these beneficial insects controlled on-farm pests, they showed the impact reached beyond the organic farms, improving adjacent forest patches as well. Another study confirmed that the presence of organic farms increases the amount of biodiversity on surrounding conventional farms.

10. Organic farming helps mitigate climate change. Agriculture accounts for 35 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but an important study supports the idea that conversion to organic agriculture may be a climate-change solution. The study showed organic farming methods could mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon in the soil and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. Practices such as replacing chemical fertilizers with organic manure and using crop residues as forage for cattle were found to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase storage of carbon in the soils.

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ORGANIC SOILS CAN HELP MITIGATE CLIMATE CHANGE

Drought and excessive heat in recent years have cut the world’s grain production by about 10 percent, a team of researchers has found. The team also found that the effects of droughts were more severe for crops produced in developed countries than in underdeveloped countries.

Dry spells caused losses of nearly 20 percent in North America, Europe and the Australasia region, but only 12 percent in Asia and 9 percent in Africa. They found no significant effects from droughts in Latin America.

One reason for the discrepancy, the researchers theorized, is that developed nations tend to grow more uniform crops, which may be more vulnerable to drought, while underdeveloped countries grow diverse patches of plants that may have greater resilience.

That may be so, but those of us familiar with organic farming may see another reason. Farmers in the developed world use conventional agriculture that depletes the soil of organic matter. In less developed countries, farmers often return manures and other organic matter to their soils. Organic matter is spongy and holds water. Many studies have shown that organically managed soils are more drought resistant than those managed with agricultural chemicals.

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GMO Labeling Is about More than GMO Labeling

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Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association, has issued an important editorial summing up why GMO labeling is such an important policy. And that’s because it’s the front line—the point of contact—of a much larger battle: the war for the nature of our food supply.

Our food is not just commodities “out there” in the supermarkets. It’s “in here,” within us, in our bodies. And it affects every aspect of our health—the nourishment we need to grow and stay strong, the quality of our very lives.

The war we speak about is led on one side by corporate America, the chemical industry, biotech, food processors, Monsanto, and it’s all about money and the dangerous, poisonous way we Americans are being abused through our food supply. On the other side is the organic community of environmentally aware folks who want to avoid the chemicals and genetically modified foods that corporate culture shoves our way. We cherish good, wholesome, clean food.

Here’s Ronnie Cummins’s editorial.

In January, 2016, Vilsack will hold an invitation-only meeting between industry and consumer groups to “forge a compromise” on GMO labeling.

But there is no compromise between mandatory and voluntary labeling laws. It’s one or the other. What Vilsack really plans to do is this: everything in his power to permanently legalize the right of Monsanto and Big Food to deceive consumers.

Vilsack recently told reporters he’s concerned about “chaos in the market” if more states pass mandatory GMO labeling laws like Vermont’s. He also trotted out the tired meme that requiring food companies to label GMO ingredients will cause drastic increases in food prices.

What “compromise” will Vilsack likely propose in his back-room confab? A voluntary labeling scheme involving QR codes—fancy barcode technology requiring consumers to have smart phones.

Never mind the ridiculous argument that printing four words on a label will cost food companies more than setting up fancy smart-phone technology that links to websites. We know what QR codes are really about. They’re about making it as difficult as possible for consumers to find out if the food they are buying has been genetically modified, or contains genetically engineered ingredients.

That Vilsack even has to call this emergency meeting is a testament to you, and everyone else who has fought so hard for the basic right to know. Monsanto thought it would be easy to ram a preemption bill through Congress. Thanks to you, it wasn’t.
With your help, we will come back in January as strong as ever, to protect states’ rights to pass mandatory GMO labeling laws. We will make it crystal clear to every member of the U.S. Congress: Consumers will settle for nothing less than mandatory labeling laws.

But requiring food companies to label GMOs is just one battle in a much larger war. That’s why, in 2016, we will introduce new campaigns that will shed more light on Monsanto’s role in factory farms, in the ethanol scam, in global warming. We will mobilize millions of consumers to engage in policy battles that will go well beyond GMO labeling. Policy battles that will put an end to subsidizing the corporations that poison and pollute.

Only about 20 percent of GMO crops grown in the U.S. go into food. The other 80 percent are used to feed animals imprisoned in factory farms, or to make fuel. Billions of tax dollars—your dollars—are used to subsidize these degenerative crops. Crops that are grown with millions of tons of toxic chemicals. Crops that pollute our waters, degrade our soils, destabilize our climate.

There’s a better way. The fact is, small farmers already grow 70 percent of the world’s food. We don’t need Monsanto. What we need is to support those farmers who grow the food we actually need, using techniques that restore, renew, rebuild and regenerate—our soils, our health, our economies, our climate.

This is our mission. This is our challenge. Win or lose the labeling battle, we need you in this fight.

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NATIVE AMERICANS BAN GMOS, FRANKENFISH SALMON

The Yurok Tribe—California’s largest tribe with roughly 5,000 enrolled members—has passed a historic ban on genetically modified (GMOs) crops and salmon, writes Lorraine Chow in EcoWatch.

The Yurok Tribal Council unanimously voted on December 10 to enact the Yurok Tribe Genetically Engineered Organism (GEO) Ordinance:

The ordinance prohibits the propagation, raising, growing, spawning, incubating or releasing genetically engineered organisms (such as growing GMO crops or releasing genetically engineered salmon) within the Tribe’s territory and declares the Yurok Reservation to be a GMO-free zone. While other Tribes, such as the Dine’ (Navajo) Nation, have declared GMO-free zones by resolution, this ordinance appears to be the first of its kind in the nation.

The announcement, as the release notes, came on the heels of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of genetically engineered AquAdvantage salmon in November. The controversial fish—dubbed “Frankenfish” by opponents—is genetically altered to grow to market size in half the time of conventional salmon.

The 56,585-acre Yurok Reservation is located in Humboldt and Del Norte counties in the far northwest of California along a 44-mile stretch of the Klamath River. For thousands of years, the river has been a crucial source for fishing, mostly for salmon.

“The Yurok People have managed and relied upon the abundance of salmon on the Klamath River since time immemorial,” a press release from the Yurok Tribe says. “The tribe has a vital interest in the viability and survival of the wild, native Klamath River salmon species and all other traditional food resources.”

In recent years, however, the area’s fish populations have been devastated due to the region’s ongoing drought and low snowpack. NPR reported that as water levels dip dangerously low and become increasingly warm, the river has become a breeding ground for deadly fish diseases. Ichthyophthirius multifiliis (or “ick”), for instance, killed more than 35,000 adult Chinook salmon and steelhead in the Klamath River in 2002 and at least a thousand more fish last year.

The Yurok Tribe decided on the GMO ban in order protect its ancestral lands. The press release states: “GMO farms, whether they are cultivating fish or for fresh produce, have a huge, negative impact on watersheds the world over. The Yurok Tribe’s homeland is on the Klamath River, where massive algal blooms, exacerbated by agricultural runoff and antiquated hydroelectric dams, turn the river toxic each summer.”

James Dunlap, chairman of the Yurok Tribe, said that “the Yurok People have the responsibility to care for our natural world, including the plants and animals we use for our foods and medicines.”

“This ordinance is a necessary step to protect our food sovereignty and to ensure the spiritual, cultural and physical health of the Yurok People,” he added. “GMO food production systems, which are inherently dependent on the overuse of herbicides, pesticides, and antibiotics, are not our best interest.”

The ordinance means that violations can be enforced through the Yurok Tribal Court.

“It is the inherent sovereign right of the Yurok People to grow plants from natural traditional seeds and to sustainably harvest plants, salmon and other fish, animals, and other life-giving foods and medicines, in order to sustain our families and communities as we have successfully done since time immemorial; our Court will enforce any violations of these inherent, and now codified, rights,” Yurok Chief Judge Abby Abinanti stated.

Too bad our Federal Government can’t take such a stand to protect all U.S. citizens from the depredations of the agri-chemical and biotech industries.

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HOW QUANTUM ENTANGLEMENT MIGHT WORK

Quantum entanglement is the phenomenon, now proven scientifically, whereby if two particles are quantum entangled, something that affects one particle will similarly and simultaneously affect the other particle, no matter how far apart they are. Even billions of light years apart.

Why is this important to the organic community? Think what “organic” means. It is the community of people who see things holistically. We are people who believe that nature knows best, and that the way to organize our agriculture is to trust the laws and tendencies of nature. To do that more perfectly, we need to understand nature more perfectly. And to understand nature more perfectly, we need to know how she works and what forces drive her along evolution’s pathways.

Here’s where we need to make a mental leap. It’s my belief that at the most fundamental level, nature is consciousness.

Now, I’m no theoretical physicist, nor mathematician, and I can’t fill a blackboard with equations proving that the nature of reality is, fundamentally, consciousness, but I do have my intuition and I can raise a hypothesis. Perhaps scientists could think about this for a moment, because strange as it seems, science doesn’t have a clue about the nature of consciousness. Science has mapped the pathways of the brain, examined its synapses, and identified the brain’s regions and the activities they control. But about awareness, a creature’s ability to glimpse the world whole? Not much.

Here’s my hypothesis: consciousness doesn’t arise from within physical creatures like ourselves. Physical reality arises from consciousness. Get down into the heart of elementary particles and you don’t find hard little marbles that form the building blocks of reality, you find almost entirely empty space imbued with energy relationships.

If consciousness is the fundamental ground of reality, then everything is at least conscious of itself. And the whole universe is therefore conscious. And within that consciousness arises all that is.

Now consider two quantum entangled elementary particles. They uniquely share the consciousness from which they are made. So when something happens to one, it also happens to the other. They can be any distance apart, and yet when one changes, so does the other. Not easy to explain if you’re looking for physical forces operating through time and space that create this effect. But if you think that the conscious universe embraces them both as one, then of course anything that affects one affects the other simultaneously.

As an organic grower, I enjoy being conscious of my plants’ purpose and their destiny. And something tells me that they, in some way, enjoy being conscious of me.

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WHAT IS HILLARY’S STANCE ON GMOS?

Hillary Clinton told a town hall meeting in Fairfield, Iowa, on Tuesday, December 22, that consumers have the right to know if they are eating GMOs and that more independent scientific evaluation of them is needed, reports the Institute for Responsible Technology.

Below is a press release about Secretary Clinton’s stand on GMOs and GMO labeling that is very enlightening. Its major points are, thankfully, referenced.

At the same town hall meeting, Secretary Clinton also referred to the previous week’s massive lobbying effort by GMO manufacturers and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and the U.S. Senate’s failure to vote on the labeling preemption law in 2015 by saying, “Very powerful agriculture forces were trying to pass a law, get it into the Omnibus (spending bill), to prohibit states from passing laws requiring labeling.” When she acknowledged that the preemption didn’t get into the bill, the crowd erupted in applause. Clinton said, “That was a good development for Secretary Vilsack.”

She gave support to former Iowa Governor turned US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who was also in the town hall meeting. “What he’s trying to do as the Secretary of Agriculture for our country,” said Clinton, “is to get a labeling program started and try to get everybody at the table to agree on what we need to do here.”

Clinton’s biggest applause came when she said, “What [Secretary Vilsack is] trying to do is get states and advocates and agricultural interests all at the same table to say, ‘Look there’s a right to know. You should be able to have the information that you can make your judgment about.’”

Clinton said that we needed “more science on this—independent science that we can count on that doesn’t get done by some institution, company, whatever, that has a stake in the outcome. That’s what I am supporting.”

Ironically, she then followed up with a statement that completely bungled the science. She made the claim that “. . . there are a lot of advocates who fight hunger in Africa who are desperate for GMO seeds, because they are drought resistant and they don’t know how else they’re going to get enough yield to feed people.”

According to the USDA’s own reports, however, GMOs do not increase yield and often yield less than their non-GMO counterparts. And the drought-resistant corn variety approved by the USDA was widely criticized for yielding less than conventional, non-GMO varieties.[1]

Clinton’s proposal for independent science is in sharp contrast to the current state of U.S. government evaluations, which rely almost entirely on the data submitted by the biotech companies.[2] These include Monsanto, who has been accused of falsifying safety data in other of their products in the past, and hiding evidence of harm.[3]

Furthermore, the Food and Drug Administration allows GMO makers to decide on their own whether their foods are safe, and does not even require any safety data to be submitted.[4] This policy was crafted by the FDA’s Michael Taylor in 1992, who was formerly Monsanto’s attorney, later Monsanto’s vice president, and now back at the FDA as the U.S. Food Czar.[5]

If Clinton’s proposal to use the best science were actually applied, the current GMOs on the market would likely be withdrawn, based on numerous adverse effects found in animal feeding studies[6]. Furthermore, over 80 percent are engineered with foreign genes that allow the crops to be sprayed with Roundup herbicide. This results in high residue levels of Roundup’s active ingredient glyphosate, which the World Health Organization recently classified as a probable human carcinogen[7]. Most of the other GMO varieties are engineered to produce a toxic insecticide that kills bugs by breaking holes in the walls of their stomachs. Published research now shows that the toxin can also create holes in human cells[8], and may also provoke immune reactions.

In 2014 Clinton was the paid keynote speaker for the world’s largest GMO trade association, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO)[9]. Her support for GMOs was evident throughout, and she even schooled the companies on doing better public relations. She famously expressed her distaste for the words “genetically modified” saying, “’Genetically modified’ sounds Frankenstein-ish. ‘Drought-resistant’ sounds like something you’d want.” She advised her GMO industry audience to “be more careful so you don’t raise that red flag immediately.”

Clinton also hired Iowa lawyer, lobbyist, and campaign “bundler” Jerry Crawford to raise money and help support her current campaign, as well as for her 2008 bid for the White House. Crawford’s law firm became a registered lobbyist for Monsanto in 2009, to advocate on its behalf in the areas of competition/antitrust, environmental law, regulations and policies[10]. He also is a long-time friend and supporter of Tom Vilsack, [11] who is a proponent of GMOs and a recipient of BIO’s Vilsack “Governor of the Year” award in 2001.[12]

Clinton had been briefed in advance about the audience’s pro-GMO labeling position; and she certainly played to the crowd when she called for more independent science and touted the right to know. But unlike her specific proposal discussed minutes earlier, where she called for $2 billion per year to pay for research into Alzheimer’s disease, her recommendation for independent science on GMOs did not stipulate where independent money should come from or how much.

She also placed her faith in the resolution of the labeling issue with Secretary Vilsack’s meeting of stakeholders. She failed to mention that the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association is trying to circumvent real labels on packages, and substitute a QR code system that requires shoppers to use smart phones to look up whether foods contain GMOs. Vilsack has also weighed in in favor of the codes. But a recent poll showed that 88 percent of consumers reject QR codes and favor an actual statement written in English[13].

Will Hillary Clinton reject the QR code concept and stand with consumers? Will she propose specific funding for independent safety studies on GMOs? And will she even look at the independent science already conducted and abandon her unsupported “Feed the World through GMOs” position, which is a falsehood Monsanto has been spreading around the world? Given her cozy relationship with the Biotech Industry Association and Monsanto, it is not likely. But there are many town hall meetings left where citizens can ask pointed and specific questions to her and the other candidates so we can dig deeper into her position and what we can expect her to do with GMOs, if elected.

Barack Obama also called for labeling and more science when he campaigned in Iowa. And so far, he has not made good on those campaign promises [14].

What about Bernie Sanders? Where does he stand? As usual, he stands foursquare with the American people. Sanders represents Vermont, the first state in the nation to pass a “right to know” GMO labeling law. He authored an amendment to the 2013 farm bill that would have given states the ability to require labeling so that they don’t have to fight for it, state by state, through propositions on the ballot. Sanders’ amendment was defeated 71 to 27 in the Senate.

“An overwhelming majority of Americans favor GMO labeling but virtually all of the major biotech and food corporations in the country oppose it,” says Sanders. Vermont’s labeling law is scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2016. “The people of Vermont and the people of America have a right to know what’s in the food that they eat,” Sanders said.

And pundits wonder why people don’t trust Hillary Clinton. It’s because her triangulation and “say anything to get elected” approach to GMOs belies her pro-labeling stance.

References:

[1] http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/1282242/err162_summary.pdf

[2] http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=AGRICULTURE&contentid=BiotechnologyFAQs.xml

[3] http://www.gmwatch.org/news/latest-news/16521-more-monsanto-scientific-fraud-in-early-glyphosate-safety-studies

[4] http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodScienceResearch/GEPlants/default.htm

[5] http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/CentersOffices/OfficeofFoods/ucm196721.htm

[6] http://responsibletechnology.org/resources/gmo-myths-and-truths-report/

[7] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/21/business/who-report-links-ingredient-in-roundup-to-cancer.html

[8] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22337346

[9] https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/video-hilary-clinton-endorses-gmos-solution-focused-crop-biotechnology

[10] http://www.gmwatch.org/news/archive/2009/11783-iowa-law-firm-files-as-monsanto-lobbyist

[11] http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/close-friend-of-agriculture-chief-now-a-monsanto-lobbyist/article/19855

[12] https://www.bio.org/media/press-release/iowas-vilsack-named-bio-governor-year

[13] http://www.justlabelit.org/press-room/new-poll-nearly-nine-in-10-americans-want-labels-on-gmo-food

[14] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqaaB6NE1TI

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Now You Also Can’t Know Where Your Meat Comes From

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Hidden in the 2,000 pages of the $1.14 trillion spending bill that Congress recently passed and President Obama signed into law is a provision that repeals the Country of
Origin Labeling Law (COOL). From now on, not only can’t you know whether your food is genetically modified, now you can’t know where the meat at your market comes from, either.

COOL had become a major irritant to Canadian and Mexican meat producers because those countries considered it to be a thinly-disguised barrier to U.S. domestic consumption of their meat products. In other words, U.S. citizens who chose to “eat American” were unfairly hurting Canada and Mexico business interests, so those countries ran to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and complained.

The WTO agreed with Canada and Mexico and granted those countries the right to impose $1 billion in punitive tariffs on various U.S. products after ruling that the country-of-origin labeling provisions on beef and pork products violated international trade rules.

Canada’s International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland and Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay called the WTO decision, “a great day for Canada.” Freeland added that “This is a real vindication of the power and significance of the WTO dispute-resolution mechanism.” I’d correct that to read, “This is a great example of the power of the WTO to impose itself on the sovereign rights of Americans to know where the hell their meat comes from.” If you think this WTO ruling is an imposition on American sovereignty, wait until you see what the Trans-Pacific Pact does. While this may well be “a great day for Canada,” it’s not so much for American consumers.

Canada will be keeping a watchful eye on your local meat case to make sure we aren’t cheating by slapping a “locally-grown” sticker on your chateaubriand. As Ag Minister MacAulay said, “We will be monitoring the situation to make sure there are no problems in this area.”

The ministers thanked Canadian diplomats and some American politicians and industries that supported doing away with COOL. And who might those American politicians be? Well, Republicans, of course. Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, the Republican chair of the Senate’s powerful agriculture committee, expressed “relief” at the news of the WTO ruling.

The ruling opens the floodgates for widespread retaliation by meat producing countries should Americans learn from whence their meat is sourced. By “widespread,” the Canadians said and the WTO agreed that targeted U.S. products include not only agricultural ones such as cattle, pork, apples, rice, maple syrup, and wine, but extend to non-agricultural products, such as jewelry, office chairs, wooden furniture, and mattresses. “Dear Mr. and Mrs. America, since you’ve discovered that your scrapple doesn’t really come from Philadelphia, but rather from a meat factory in Mexico City, that knock-off Knoll office furniture we make in Jalisco will now cost you three times as much as the real thing. Sorry. WTO tariff. Not our fault.”

Despite Canada’s win, Trade Minister Freeland said Canada still intends to obtain formal approval from the WTO for retaliation, even though the tariffs won’t be imposed. “We think that it is prudent of us to take the legal process to its formal, technical conclusion,” she said, barely concealing the economic club she’s hiding behind her back.

That spending bill, by the way, includes $680 billion in corporate tax cuts. No wonder Congressional Republicans “expressed relief.”

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PINEAPPLE PESTICIDE LINKED TO PARKINSON’S DISEASE

According to Maggie Fox on MSNBC, a pineapple pesticide that made its way into milk in Hawaii also made its way into men’s brains, and those men were more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.

This result is the latest in a very long series of studies linking various pesticides to Parkinson’s, which is caused by the loss of certain brain cells.

And the study also seems to support a mystifying observation: smokers seem to be protected against Parkinson’s.

For the study, Dr. Robert Abbott of the Shiga University of Medical Science in Otsu, Japan, and colleagues studied 449 Japanese-American men living in Hawaii who were taking part in a larger study of aging. They gave details of how much milk they drank as part of a larger survey, and they donated their brains for study after they died.

The men who drank more than 16 ounces of milk a day had the fewest brain cells in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra, which is damaged in Parkinson’s, they reported in the journal Neurology.

The researchers also looked for the pesticide heptachlor, which was taken off the market for most uses in the U.S. in 1988.

“Among those who drank the most milk, residues of heptachlor epoxide were found in nine of 10 brains as compared to 63.4 percent for those who consumed no milk,” the researchers wrote.

It’s known the milk in Hawaii was contaminated, probably from the feed given to the cattle. “The researchers could not test whether the milk the men drank was contaminated with pesticides (heptachlor, in this case), and no one knows how long or how widespread the contamination was before being detected,” the Parkinson ’s Disease Foundation said in a statement on its website.

“The potential link between drinking milk, pesticides, and development of Parkinson’s disease needs further investigation,” the foundation said.

The men who smoked and who also drank milk showed none of the brain cell loss.

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CALI AG DEPARTMENT HOLDS VETO POWER OVER GMO SEED RESTRICTIONS

Did you know that in 2014, California lawmakers passed a law that gives the state veto power over local seed and crop laws? The law gives the Secretary of Food and Agriculture full authority to dictate what can and cannot be grown in California counties and cities. It also makes any local ordinance that restricts the planting of GMO crops subject to a veto by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).

AB 2470, also known as the California Seed Law, makes it illegal for farmers to share their seeds more than three miles from their farms or gardens. This restriction makes most community seed exchanges, swap meets, and seed libraries illegal.

Biosafety Alliance, along with the California State Guild (formerly known as the Grange), Label GMOs, and Moms Across America, are demanding revision of the California Seeds Law.

So who’s behind this terrible piece of legislation? The law’s champion is Assemblyman Richard Rainey, a Republican from Walnut Creek, in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area. And what’s his background? He’s a former cop, police chief, corrections officer at state prisons, and corrections official. Definitely the bona fides for someone who wants to crack down on those seed-swapping organic farmers, right?

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Baked Stuffed Quahogs

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Some years ago I was visiting my friend Armand Fernandes Jr., a man of Portuguese descent who lives in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He said he wanted to treat me to traditional Portuguese food at a place he really liked.

We went to a café that served Caldo Verde, the staple Portuguese kale and chourico soup. Chourico (pronounced sure-EESE-o), and often spelled chourice (pronounced sure-EESE), is a linked sausage made from smoked pork, garlic, paprika, white pepper, and other spices. There’s a variation made in the Fall River and New Bedford area called linguica. It’s essentially chourico made slightly thinner and sold as a single loop, rather than links. I’m not sure whether my soup contained chourico or linguica, but then I’m not sure Doc—Armand’s nickname—could have told the difference either.

In any case, the aromatic, smoky soup contained kale, potatoes, sausage, and the herbs and spices that the Portuguese have loved since they sailed the world to bring spices from India back to a hankering Europe. This was the kind of soup that could keep Portuguese fishermen alive on the wintry North Atlantic as they sailed the Grand Banks for cod. I wanted a glass of wine to go with it, but Doc said that the Massachusetts blue laws prevented serving wine on Sundays. When you’re a local, however, stuff can get done. Doc went to speak with the woman behind the counter and returned with red wine in a ceramic coffee cup. “No one will know it’s wine,” he said, looking furtively around the empty café.

On the second and last night of my visit, we went to a New Bedford bar where the kitchen served baked stuffed quahogs, or “stuffies” as they’re known. A quahog, pronounced KO-hog, is also the star ingredient in Boston clam chowder. It’s the same species of clam as the littleneck (about two to two and a half inches in diameter) and the cherrystone (about three to three and a half inches).

Quahogs, though, are the adults in the room with shells about three to four inches front to back and four to five inches side to side. This means they are tough characters, because the larger the clam, the chewier the meat. They are among the oldest living animals on the planet. A huge quahog was dredged up from the sea floor near Iceland in 2006. Scientists laughingly dubbed it Ming the Mollusc because they counted its growth rings and found it was born in 1499, during the Ming dynasty in China. Then they put it in the freezer, which promptly killed it. Idiots.

I hope they made a stuffie out of it, because the stuffies I ate at that bar with my friend Doc changed my life. They were so delicious! I have not forgotten them. I often daydream about them. And I haven’t gotten back to the New Bedford-Fall River area since, or I’d have gone to the nearest bar and ordered them.

Are they organic? Seafood can’t be certified organic because there’s no way to control the variables in the water where wild-caught seafood is found. But you can make sure that all the other ingredients are indeed organic.

What if you live in a part of the country where there are no quahogs? This clam, called the Hard Clam (Mercenaria mercenaria), is only native along the Atlantic coast from the far north to the Yucatan peninsula. Well, you could use the meats from cherrystones or Manila clams, but their shells are too small to make true stuffies. And it’s hard to find chourico outside of Portuguese enclaves, although a few minutes spent online will give you many sources that ship (see the note for crushed red pepper in the recipe). If you want to make them in places away from the East Coast, you could stuff shallow ramekins or oven-proof dishes with them. Or you’ll find a number of places that sell seashells online, including quahog shells.

The tender meats of the smaller clams can be thoroughly chopped, but for actual quahogs, it’s best to put the meats through a meat grinder. This not only tenderizes them, it also releases more flavor. So if you’re ready for a few stuffies, try this authentic recipe.

15 quahogs, shucked, rinsed, and ground
2 loaves day-old Italian bread
2 Tbl. extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 link Portuguese chourico, ground or minced
2 Tbl. crushed red pepper*
2 Tbl. Italian parsley, chopped
Paprika, to taste
1 tsp. butter

* Note: the wet kind. Available online at www.melloschourico.com or at your market

1. Open quahogs, placing meat and juice in separate bowls. Save shells.
2. Break bread into small ½-inch pieces in a large bowl and add enough of the clam juice so bread is well moistened but not soggy.
3. Add ground quahogs and incorporate into the bread mixture.
4. Add the oil to a skillet and saute onion, green pepper, garlic, and chourico over medium heat until the vegetables are soft but not brown, about 4-5 minutes.
5. Add the sautéed vegetables and sausage mix, along with crushed red peppers, to the bread mixture. Mix well, fluffing as you go.
6. Wash shells and separate. Mound stuffing into shells. Sprinkle tops with parsley and paprika.
7. Dot tops with a couple of tiny dabs of butter. Set the quahogs in a pan and place in a 375 F. oven for about 25 minutes or until cooked through.

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DARK ACT RIDER ELIMINATED FROM OMNIBUS SPENDING BILL

Food Democracy Now reports: “This is huge! With your help and hundreds of thousands of people just like you, we managed to shut down Monsanto in Congress by stopping the Dark Act policy riders that would have killed GMO labeling in America for good.

“We’re happy to report that Monsanto was defeated – this time! But it means they’ll come back stronger than ever after the holidays in January to pass the compromise that Monsanto and the GMA (Grocery Manufacturers Association) are desperate to achieve, so we won’t know if the foods we eat are genetically engineered.

“We only have a few weeks to refill our tanks before Congress comes back in session next month – when the GMA and Monsanto will be desperate to end your right to mandatory labeling once and for all.

“Incredibly, a provision regarding GMO salmon was allowed in the Omnibus spending bill that won’t allow genetically engineered salmon to be introduced for sale until the FDA determines proper labeling requirements-–and while this is not all of what we want regarding GMO labeling – it will slow down the sale of GMO salmon in the United States and elsewhere.”

***

AGRIBIZ ABUSES IN ‘ORGANIC’ EGG MARKET ARE DETAILED

Due to the importance of the following report from the Cornucopia Institute, I’m using the entire press release. It’s a weighty read, but details how the USDA and agribusiness firms are cheating consumers, co-opting the organic farming movement, and harming family farms. The report, entitled, “Scrambled Eggs,” contrasts widespread agribusiness fraud and USDA complacency with the real heroes in organics. Here’s the report on Cornucopia’s study:

Just as Americans are reacting to new medical literature encouraging the consumption of “healthy” fats, including eggs, an independent report has been released that focuses on widespread abuses in organic egg production and marketing, primarily by large industrial agribusinesses.

The study, conducted by The Cornucopia Institute, profiles exemplary management practices employed by many family-scale organic farmers engaged in egg production, while spotlighting abuses at so-called “factory farms,” some confining hundreds of thousands of chickens in industrial facilities and representing these eggs to consumers as “organic.”

The report is accompanied by an online scorecard rating various organic brands on how their eggs are produced in accordance with federal organic standards and consumer expectations.

Cornucopia, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group, also accuses the USDA’s National Organic Program of gross malfeasance in neglecting to protect consumers from fraud and ethical farmers from unfair competition, as Congress charged the agency to do.

“For this report, we have visited or surveilled, via aerial photography/satellite imagery, a large percentage of certified egg production in the United States, and surveyed all name-brand and private-label industry marketers,” said Mark A. Kastel, The Cornucopia Institute’s codirector and senior farm policy analyst. “It’s obvious that a high percentage of the organic eggs on the market are illegal and should, at best, be labeled ‘produced with organic feed,’ rather than bearing the USDA-certified organic logo,” Kastel stated.
According to the United Egg Producers (UEP), 80 percent of all organic eggs are produced by just a handful of UEP’s largest members. Most of these operations own hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of birds and have diversified into “specialty eggs,” which include organic.

Meanwhile, as consumers have become concerned about the humane treatment of animals, and are also seeking out eggs that are superior in flavor and nutrition, a number of national marketers have found success in distributing “pasture”-produced eggs. “There is a fair bit of overreach and the exploitation of this term is well covered in our report,” Kastel explained. “The organic egg scorecard enables concerned consumers to select authentic brands delivering the very best quality eggs regardless of the hyperbole on the label,” he added.

Cornucopia’s report focuses not on the size of some of the mammoth agribusinesses but rather on their organic livestock management practices. It says that most of these giant henhouses, some holding approximately 200,000 birds, provide no legitimate access to the outdoors, as required in the federal organic regulations.

The new report comes at a critical juncture for the organic poultry industry. After failing to persuade the USDA to investigate alleged illegalities (i.e., confinement of animals without outdoor access) on numerous concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), Cornucopia contracted for aerial photography of a number of the nation’s largest organic egg operations. Without even conducting an investigation, the USDA closed a second set of formal legal complaints earlier this year, which was backed up by Cornucopia’s photographic evidence as well as state regulatory documents.

The USDA’s action, along with other alleged improprieties, resulted in The Cornucopia Institute filing formal ethics charges against the National Organic Program’s staff director, Miles McEvoy, and asking USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack to remove him from that post. Thousands of proxy letters have been collected from organic stakeholders, addressed to Secretary Vilsack, calling for Mr. McEvoy’s removal.

“Many of these industrial-scale operators are gaming the system by providing tiny enclosed porches, with roofs and concrete or wood flooring, and calling these structures ‘the outdoors,’” stated Paul Nehring, a livestock producer with firsthand experience pasturing organic chickens and a farm policy analyst with Cornucopia. “Many of the porches represent just 3 to 5 percent of the square footage of the main building housing the birds. That means 95 percent or more of the birds have absolutely no access whatsoever to the outdoors,” Nehring explained.
“If one animal has the legal right to be outdoors, then all animals have the same right, whether they choose to take turns or if they all choose to be outside at the same time,” said Jim Riddle, a Minnesota organic farmer and former chairman of the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).

At meetings of the NOSB, United Egg Producers represented industrial-scale producers and publicly opposed proposals to strengthen regulations requiring outdoor access.

“We are strongly opposed to any requirement for hens to have access to the soil,” UEP member Kurt Kreher, of Kreher’s Sunrise Farms in Clarence, New York, wrote in a 2009 letter to the NOSB. And, in 2010, Bart Slaugh, director of quality assurance at Eggland’s Best, a marketer of both conventional and organic eggs based in Jeffersonville, Pennsylvania, stated to the Board members, “The push for continually expanding outdoor access … needs to stop.”

Cornucopia’s Mark Kastel concluded, “Circumstantial evidence indicates Mr. McEvoy, and his colleagues at the USDA, are paying more attention to the voices of agribusiness lobbyists, rather than the preponderance of consumers and ethical farmers in the organic industry.”

In a third effort to legally compel the USDA to act, Cornucopia has again filed formal complaints against several of the independent certifiers, working under USDA supervision, and the poultry companies that either offer their birds no access to the outdoors or “faux” outdoor access — very small enclosed porches.

After visiting scores of egg producers in 11 states, the authors of the Cornucopia report also conclude that the vast majority of family-scale producers are at least complying with minimal organic regulations. “This is the good news in this report,” explained Kastel. “Now the USDA needs to step up and protect ethical organic farmers from unfair and illegal competition.”

“An important subset of organic farmers even go far beyond the minimum requirements in the organic standards: not just providing access to the outdoors but rotating birds on high-quality pasture,” affirmed Kastel.

However, Cornucopia’s report reveals that, as pastured eggs have gained cachet in the marketplace, a few national marketers are attempting to cash in by using the word “pasture” to describe eggs from fixed houses, some containing as many as 20,000 birds. Others “of these brands are doing a wonderful job encouraging their birds to actually go outside and providing varying qualities of vegetation,” said Kastel. “We call this Enhanced Outdoor Access.”

Cornucopia contends that all organic chickens should be outdoors with that kind of Enhanced Outdoor Access, providing up to 108 square feet for each bird. “These entrepreneurs are complying with what organic consumers think they are getting from all packages labeled organic,” Kastel stated.

The report also profiles some producers that Cornucopia describes as “the gold standard”: those with mobile chicken coops rotated frequently in pasture. Some, like Alexandre EcoDairy Farms in Northern California, with 25,000 birds in 16 movable henhouses, are proving they can scale-up the model without diminishing the integrity.
“When consumers buy organic eggs, I think they expect that the hens were out on pasture, enjoying fresh air, running around, foraging in the pasture,” said Stephanie Alexandre.

The Alexandres have expanded to meet the market demand of larger retailers, selling their eggs under the Alexandre Kids label to Whole Foods stores in Northern California, North Coast Co-op in Eureka and Arcata, California, and even select Costco stores. The brand has earned the top, “five-egg” rating on Cornucopia’s scorecard.

Laying hens living on pasture-based farms tend to be under less stress, due to their greater opportunity to exercise and ability to engage in instinctive foraging behaviors that lessen aggression toward their flock mates. Pastured hens also frequently live longer productive lives instead of the one year that is common on industrial-scale farms.
On the other side of the continent, one of the other high-integrity organic egg producers is a group of 10 Mennonite farm families in Virginia. One of their producers told Cornucopia researchers, “Our hens are healthy, live longer, and produce better-tasting and more nutritious eggs. How can you go wrong with pasturing?” The group markets their eggs under the Shenandoah Family Farms brand, available at Whole Foods stores and co-op grocers in the Washington, D.C. area.

Organic customers are also increasingly aware of a growing body of scientific literature confirming the nutritional superiority of eggs when the birds have an opportunity to eat fresh forage, seeds, worms, and insects. “Part of our intent, and the basis of this research and report, is to protect the livelihoods of family-scale organic farmers,” said Dr. Linley Dixon, a Cornucopia policy analyst. “These farmers are being placed at a distinct competitive disadvantage by corporations that are more than willing to ignore the rules and cut corners in pursuit of profit,” she said.

One producer whose pastured poultry operation was squeezed out of business is Ivan Martin, of Natural Acres in Millersburg, Pennsylvania. He told Cornucopia researchers during their site visit, “Consumers saw my [legally produced] eggs next to other so-called organic eggs bearing the exact same USDA Organic label, and probably thought they were equivalent in terms of outdoor access and nutrition. We could not compete with those [factory farm] eggs,” said Martin.

“Until the USDA decides to enforce the law, consumers and wholesale buyers can be empowered in their purchasing decisions by accessing Cornucopia’s Scrambled Eggs report and the organic egg brand scorecard,” said Kastel. Both can be viewed at www.cornucopia.org.

“The commercial size egg industry — both conventional and organic — has great concerns with birds having outdoor access,” wrote the United Egg Producers in testimony before the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).

Jim Riddle, a former NOSB chairman, illustrated the illegality of small porches as a substitute for true outdoor access, stating, “The outdoor access space needs to be sufficient in size and designed to accommodate all animals being outdoors at once.”
Cornucopia’s Mark Kastel added: “Just as with our organic dairy and other brand scorecards, Cornucopia’s goal is to assist consumers and wholesale buyers with information to make good, discerning purchasing decisions — so they can vote in the marketplace, rewarding the organic heroes and sending a strong message to the bad actors to improve their management practices.”

“These giant ‘factory farms,’ or concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), generally produce eggs from caged birds, but they have diversified, depending on which way the marketing winds blow, to what the industry refers to as ‘specialty eggs,’ such as ‘cage-free,’ vegetarian, omega-3, and the organic label,” Kastel said.
“Whether it’s laying hens for eggs, hogs for meat, or cows for dairy, organic customers expect livestock to be treated with respect and in compliance with the USDA standards,” added Kastel. “The good news in this report is that, although the vast majority of organic eggs are coming out of industrial complexes, in every market there are farmers and brands that meet the high expectations of organic consumers,” Kastel explained. “Now the USDA needs to step up to protect these producers from unfair, if not illegal, competition. Congress gave the USDA the authority to protect these farmers from unscrupulous competitors. It needs to wield that power!” he urged.

“From the beginning, Cornucopia’s position has been that the original organic regulatory language actually means something,” said Kastel. “Just because it didn’t prescribe exactly how to comply with the requirement for ‘access to the outdoors for all organic livestock’ or ‘access to pasture for ruminants’ doesn’t mean farm operators can ignore the requirement.”

The NOSB has a proposal pending that would require a minimum of 2 square feet, both indoors and outdoors, for organic laying hens. “That proposal is a joke and an insult to consumers and farmers practicing true organic methods,” said Kastel.

Cornucopia notes that probably the biggest name-brand organic egg purveyor, the farmer-owned cooperative Organic Valley, requires 5 square feet outdoors for their birds. European organic regulations require 43 square feet per bird. Three companies noted in Cornucopia’s report are affording “Enhanced Outdoor Access” for their birds, with 108 square feet per hen.

Organic farmers, and their urban allies, can download and execute the proxy letter, calling on USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack to replace the current leadership at the National Organic Program, by clicking here:

http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/09/sign-the-proxy-letter-remove-current-usda-organic-management/

For more information of the report, visit http://www.cornucopia.org/2015/12/scrambled-eggs-report-contrasts-widespread-industry-fraud-and-usda-complacency-with-true-heroes-in-organics/

***

AN ENDOCRINE DISRUPTOR IMPLICATED IN AUTISM

According to an article by Peter Reuell, Harvard Staff Writer, “In a discovery that could offer valuable insights into understanding, diagnosing, and even treating autism, Harvard scientists for the first time have linked a specific neurotransmitter in the brain with autistic behavior.”

Using a visual test that prompts different reactions in autistic and normal brains, a research team led by Caroline Robertson, a junior fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows, was able to show that those differences were associated with a breakdown in the signaling pathway used by GABA, one of the brain’s chief inhibitory neurotransmitters. GABA stands for Gamma Aminobutyric Acid, one of the endocrine system’s signaling hormones that acts as a gatekeeper for neurologic signals approaching the brain. It keeps the flow of sensory information at safe and healthy levels. If that gatekeeper is impaired, all kinds of sensory inputs can flood the brain with too much information, causing mental overload. That is exactly what happens in autism. The study is described in a December 17 paper in the journal Current Biology.

“This is the first time, in humans, that a neurotransmitter in the brain has been linked to autistic behavior — full stop,” Robertson said. “This theory that the GABA signaling pathway plays a role in autism has been shown in animal models, but until now we never had evidence for it actually causing autistic differences in humans.”

Though long believed to play a role in autism — GABA has been widely studied in animal models — evidence supporting GABA’s role in the disorder in humans has been elusive.

“Autism is often described as a disorder in which all the sensory input comes flooding in at once. So the idea that an inhibitory neurotransmitter was important fit with the clinical observations,” Robertson said. “In addition, people with autism often have seizures — there is a 20 to 25 percent link between autism and epilepsy — and we think seizures are runaway excitation in the brain.”

To find that evidence, Robertson and colleagues went searching for an easily replicable test that produced consistently different results in people with and without autism, and found it in what visual neuroscientists call binocular rivalry.

Normally, she said, the brain is presented with two slightly different images — one from each eye — that it averages to create the single image we see. The binocular-rivalry test, however, forces each eye to take in very different images, with surprising results.

“The end result is that one image is just suppressed entirely from visual awareness for a short period,” Robertson said. “So if I show you a picture of a horse and an apple, the horse will entirely go away, and you will just see the apple. Eventually, though, the neurons that are forcing that inhibitory signal get tired, and it will switch until you only see the horse. As that process repeats, the two images will rock back and forth.”

In earlier studies, Robertson and colleagues showed that while the same process does occur in the autistic brain, the oscillation between images can take significantly longer.
“Where the average person might rock back and forth between the two images every three seconds, an autistic person might take twice as long,” she said. “They spend the same amount of time in the steady state, where they see only one image, as the average person. It just takes them longer to switch between them, and the second image is not as deeply suppressed.”

Using magnetic resonance spectroscopy, a brain-imaging technique that can measure the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, researchers found that while those with autism did show normal levels of excitatory neurotransmitters, GABA was far lower than expected.

“What we think we’re seeing is evidence of a deficit in the GABA-ergic signaling pathway,” Robertson said. “It’s not that there’s no GABA in the brain … it’s that there’s some step along that pathway that’s broken.”

Here’s a question. What chemical, ubiquitous in the environment and food supply, is an endocrine disruptor and hormonal disruptor? One answer is glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, Monsanto’s weed killer used in fields of glyphosate-resistant major crops like corn, soybeans, cotton, alfalfa, and more. Could glyphosate be damaging GABA, thus allowing torrents of neurological information to flood and disrupt young brains, causing autism?

I don’t know. I’m not a scientist studying this. But if I was, I’d surely suggest that we examine that possible link.

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CONSCIOUSNESS IS THE GROUND FROM WHICH REALITY SPRINGS

Science doesn’t seem to have arrived there yet, but it’s my contention that consciousness doesn’t grow out of reality, but that reality grows out of consciousness.

Strange at it seems, science really doesn’t have a clue about what consciousness is. And that’s because scientists think that first there is reality—atoms, molecules, compounds, and more complicated systems, from which consciousness emerges in sentient beings. My position is that consciousness itself is the ground from which reality springs. And from that concept comes the idea that everything is at least conscious of itself. And so certainly all conscious beings are aware of the world they live in. How can it be otherwise? How could they survive if they weren’t aware of their world and its resources?

Now an international group of prominent scientists has signed The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness in which they are proclaiming their support for the idea that animals are conscious and aware to the degree that humans are — a list of animals that includes all mammals, birds, and even the octopus. But will this make us stop treating these animals in totally inhumane ways?

Let’s hope so. But it seems that science is trailing far behind the central idea that it is consciousness itself that is the fundamental reality of the universe, and from which everything else derives.

While it might not sound like much for scientists to declare that many nonhuman animals possess conscious states, it’s the open acknowledgement that’s the big news here. The body of scientific evidence is increasingly showing that most animals are conscious in the same way that we are, and it’s no longer something we can ignore.

What’s also very interesting about the declaration is the group’s acknowledgement that consciousness can emerge in those animals that are very much unlike humans, including those that evolved along different evolutionary tracks, namely birds and some cephalopods.

“The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states,” they write, “Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors.”

Consequently, say the signatories, the scientific evidence is increasingly indicating that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness.

Isn’t it obvious that if consciousness is the substrate of reality, that all creatures are built out of consciousness, and that they all share a conscious awareness of the world? C’mon scientists, get with the program!

The group consists of cognitive scientists, neuropharmacologists, neurophysiologists, neuroanatomists, and computational neuroscientists — all of whom were attending the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and Non-Human Animals. The declaration was signed in the presence of Stephen Hawking, and included such signatories as Christof Koch, David Edelman, Edward Boyden, Philip Low, Irene Pepperberg, and many more.

The declaration made the following observations, most of which strike me as wrong-headed gobbledegook. But stick with me as I give these scientists their day in court:

“The field of consciousness research is rapidly evolving. Abundant new techniques and strategies for human and non-human animal research have been developed. Consequently, more data is becoming readily available, and this calls for a periodic reevaluation of previously held preconceptions in this field. Studies of non-human animals have shown that homologous brain circuits correlated with conscious experience and perception can be selectively facilitated and disrupted to assess whether they are in fact necessary for those experiences. Moreover, in humans, new non-invasive techniques are readily available to survey the correlates of consciousness.

“The neural substrates of emotions do not appear to be confined to cortical structures. In fact, subcortical neural networks aroused during affective states in humans are also critically important for generating emotional behaviors in animals. Artificial arousal of the same brain regions generates corresponding behavior and feeling states in both humans and non-human animals. Wherever in the brain one evokes instinctual emotional behaviors in non-human animals, many of the ensuing behaviors are consistent with experienced feeling states, including those internal states that are rewarding and punishing. Deep brain stimulation of these systems in humans can also generate similar affective states. Systems associated with affect are concentrated in subcortical regions where neural homologies abound. Young human and nonhuman animals without neocortices retain these brain-mind functions. Furthermore, neural circuits supporting behavioral/electrophysiological states of attentiveness, sleep and decision making appear to have arisen in evolution as early as the invertebrate radiation, being evident in insects and cephalopod mollusks (e.g., octopus).

“Birds appear to offer, in their behavior, neurophysiology, and neuroanatomy a striking case of parallel evolution of consciousness. Evidence of near human-like levels of consciousness has been most dramatically observed in African grey parrots.

“Mammalian and avian emotional networks and cognitive microcircuitries appear to be far more homologous than previously thought. Moreover, certain species of birds have been found to exhibit neural sleep patterns similar to those of mammals, including REM sleep and, as was demonstrated in zebra finches, neurophysiological patterns, previously thought to require a mammalian neocortex. Magpies in particular have been shown to exhibit striking similarities to humans, great apes, dolphins, and elephants in studies of mirror self-recognition.

“In humans, the effect of certain hallucinogens appears to be associated with a disruption in cortical feedforward and feedback processing. Pharmacological interventions in non-human animals with compounds known to affect conscious behavior in humans can lead to similar perturbations in behavior in non-human animals. In humans, there is evidence to suggest that awareness is correlated with cortical activity, which does not exclude possible contributions by subcortical or early cortical processing, as in visual awareness. Evidence that human and nonhuman animal emotional feelings arise from homologous subcortical brain networks provide compelling evidence for evolutionarily shared primal affective qualia.”

These last few paragraphs seem like scientific gobbledegook to me. What they fail to realize is that consciousness is the ground from which reality arises, not the other way around. The gobbledegook occurs because they are thinking about consciousness backwards, trying to puzzle apart the fact of consciousness as an artifact of reality, when reality is just an artifact of consciousness.

Without consciousness, there is no reality. Consciousness is the light that fills the universe, and its omniscient understandings constitute the rules from which energies emerge, and from those energies, the particles that coalesce into what we call physical reality.

Turn it around scientists. Then you’ll see it right.

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If the Paris Climate Change Deal Is Serious, Let’s Make All Agriculture Organic

Organic Lifestyle Comments (0)

The news from Paris is good: 196 nations have pledged to limit carbon emissions in the coming decades. But a pledge isn’t a reality. It’s just a promise.

If all these countries are serious about reducing carbon emissions, they should immediately institute programs to recycle organic waste through composting and return it to the soil, where it will greatly take carbon from the air and turn it into plant material and, by feeding it to the soil, sequester its carbon for thousands of years.

Scientists tell us that if the world’s agriculture fertilized soil with composted organic waste (the U.S. alone dumps close to a billion tons of organic waste into landfills yearly instead of composting it and returning it to the soil), the carbon emissions problem would be solved by that tactic alone.

So I’m suggesting that we keep our eye on what countries do to capture and recycle organic waste back into the soil. It will be a mark of how serious they really are about affecting climate change. Otherwise, kiss Miami (and a lot of other coastal places) goodbye.

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MONSANTO ON TRIAL FOR ECOCIDE

““Monsanto is able to ignore the human and environmental damage caused by its products, and maintain its devastating activities through a strategy of systemic concealment: by lobbying regulatory agencies and governments, by resorting to lying and corruption, by financing fraudulent scientific studies, by pressuring independent scientists, and by manipulating the press and media. Monsanto’s history reads like a text-book case of impunity, benefiting transnational corporations and their executives, whose activities contribute to climate and biosphere crises and threaten the safety of the planet.” –Andrew Leu, President of IFOAM.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA), IFOAM International Organics, Navdanya, Regeneration International (RI), and Millions Against Monsanto, joined by dozens of global food, farming and environmental justice groups have announced that they will put Monsanto on trial for crimes against nature and humanity, and ecocide, in The Hague, Netherlands, next year on World Food Day, October 16, 2016.

The announcement was made at a press conference held in conjunction with the COP21 United Nations Conference on Climate Change, November 30 – December 11, in Paris.

Speaking at the press conference, Ronnie Cummins, international director of the OCA (US) and Via Organica (Mexico), and member of the RI Steering Committee, said: “The time is long overdue for a global citizens’ tribunal to put Monsanto on trial for crimes against humanity and the environment. We are in Paris this month to address the most serious threat that humans have ever faced in our 100-200,000 year evolution—global warming and climate disruption. Why is there so much carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere and not enough carbon organic matter in the soil? Corporate agribusiness, industrial forestry, the garbage and sewage industry and agricultural biotechnology have literally killed the climate-stabilizing, carbon-sink capacity of the Earth’s living soil.”

Vandana Shiva, physicist, author, activist and founder of Navdanya, and member of the RI Steering Committee said: “Monsanto has pushed GMOs in order to collect royalties from poor farmers, trapping them in unpayable debt, and pushing them to suicide. Monsanto promotes an agro-industrial model that contributes at least 50 percent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Monsanto is also largely responsible for the depletion of soil and water resources, species extinction and declining biodiversity, and the displacement of millions of small farmers worldwide.”

Also speaking at the conference were Valerie Cabanes, lawyer and spokesperson for End Ecocide on Earth; Hans Rudolf Herren, president and CEO of the Millennium Institute, president and founder of Biovision, and member of the RI Steering Committee; Arnaud Apoteker, creator of the anti-GMO campaign in France, which became one of the priority campaigns of Greenpeace France, and author of “Fish in Our Strawberries: Our Manipulated Food;” and Olivier De Schutter, co-chair of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPESFood) and former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, Monsanto has developed a steady stream of highly toxic products which have permanently damaged the environment and caused illness or death for thousands of people. These products include:

• PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl), one of the 12 Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) that affect human and animal fertility;

• 2,4,5 T (2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid), a dioxin-containing component of the defoliant Agent Orange, which was used by the US Army during the Vietnam War and continues to cause birth defects and cancer;

• Lasso, an herbicide that is now banned in Europe;

• Roundup, the most widely used herbicide in the world, and the source of the greatest health and environmental scandal in modern history. This toxic herbicide, designated a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization, is used in combination with genetically modified (GMO) Roundup Ready seeds in large-scale monocultures, primarily to produce soybeans, maize and rapeseed for animal feed and biofuels.

Relying on the “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights” adopted by the UN in 2011, an international court of lawyers and judges will assess the potential criminal liability of Monsanto for damages inflicted on human health and the environment. The court will also rely on the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court in The Hague in 2002, and it will consider whether to reform international criminal law to include crimes against the environment, or ecocide, as a prosecutable criminal offense. The International Criminal Court, established in 2002 in The Hague, has determined that prosecuting ecocide as a criminal offense is the only way to guarantee the rights of humans to a healthy environment and the right of nature to be protected.

MEANWHILE:

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According to Food Democracy Now: It’s hard to believe the levels of deception that Congress and our regulatory officials at the FDA will go to, but in the past several weeks the FDA has approved GMO salmon and denied a citizens’ petition by the Center for Food Safety submitted in March of 2012 that called for mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.

If this weren’t bad enough, right now the Senate, with the support of both Democrats and Republicans, are scrambling to pass the ultimate Monsanto Protection Act by sneaking a rider into a must-pass spending bill that would permanently deny states the right to pass GMO labeling laws and create a system that only allows for “voluntary” labeling of GMO foods.

Incredibly, even as we fight for mandatory GMO labeling and basic transparency in our food supply, the Obama administration has just approved another Monsanto GMO corn variety and given “preliminary” approval of yet another new GMO potato by J.R. Simplot. This is an outrage!
Even worse, rather than put four simple words, “Produced with genetic engineering,” on food packages sold in the United States, leading American food companies are intentionally trying to deceive us even further by mandating that GMOs be considered “natural” under U.S. law.

At the same time, Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Associations (GMA) are promoting an intentionally deceptive solution that would allow these companies to continue to hide GMOs using a meaningless technological solution known as QR codes, which function like bar codes, and would only allow people with smartphones to see if their foods contain GMOs.

Currently, both Congress and our federal regulatory agencies are allowing GMOs to be rubberstamped like new flavors of Chiclets. Today, in America, we have a regulatory system that functions like the Wild West, with the FDA, EPA and USDA approving virtually any new GMO crop (and now animals) based on cherry-picked corporate funded cigarette science that allows corporations like Monsanto to submit their own in-house studies, while denying the health and safety concerns of hundreds of independently funded research scientists.

What you need to understand is that there is a bipartisan selling out of American democracy and food safety to the highest bidder, and in this case, your basic right to know what’s in your food and how it’s produced are up for sale.

The good news is we’ve built a powerful citizen-led movement that has passed GMO labeling laws in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine and we need your help to defend these historic victories over Monsanto and the GMA’s corruption of our democratic institutions.

Tell your Senators and the President: “I support GMO labeling!” Every voice counts!

http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/sign/stop_HR_1599_the_Ultimate_Monsanto_Protection_Act2/?t=8&akid=1730.101853.SEC44H

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HOW THE GOP TRIED TO UNDERMINE THE PARIS CLIMATE ACCORDS

If we don’t win the climate battle, you can kiss organics goodbye.

Elizabeth Kolbert, writing in The New Yorker: Don’t trust the United States. This was the message Republicans in Congress were trying to send the delegates at the international climate summit in Paris.

The logic, such as it is, of the claim is that merely by making it the House G.O.P. goes a long way toward proving its validity, Kolbert says.

Last week, at a news conference in Paris, President Barack Obama exhorted negotiators to keep in mind what is at stake at the summit. “This one trend—climate change—affects all trends,” Obama said. “This is an economic and security imperative that we have to tackle now.”

Even as he spoke, congressional Republicans were doing their best to undermine him. That same day, the House approved two resolutions aimed at blocking regulations to curb U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions. The first would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing rules aimed at cutting emissions from new power plants; the second would prevent the agency from enforcing rules targeted at existing power plants.

Together, these rules are known as the Clean Power Plan, and they were crucial to the Americans’ negotiating position in Paris. (The Clean Power Plan is central to the United States’ pledge, made in advance of the summit, to cut its emissions by twenty-six per cent.) The House votes, which followed Senate approval of similar resolutions back in November, were, at least according to some members, explicitly aimed at subverting the talks. Lawmakers want to “send a message to the climate conference in Paris that in America, there’s serious disagreement with the policies of this president,” Ed Whitfield, a Kentucky Republican, explained.

As a practical matter, the importance of the votes is probably minimal. Obama has already threatened to veto the resolutions if they reach his desk, and there isn’t enough support for them for an override. But the resolutions are not the only trick congressional Republicans have up their collective sleeves. President Obama has pledged three billion dollars to what’s known as the Green Climate Fund. The fund is intended to help developing countries cope with climate change and also to adopt clean-energy systems. In a just world, three billion dollars is far less than the U.S. should be contributing; Republicans are threatening to block even that contribution. Leaving the fund under-financed increases the chance that poorer countries will walk away from any proposed accord. (Thank goodness that trick didn’t work and nobody walked.)

That Republicans would try to undercut the Administration’s efforts to do something—anything—to reduce carbon emissions is no surprise. Willful ignorance about climate change has become a point of pride among elected officials in the G.O.P. Recently, the Associated Press asked a panel of eight scientists to assess the accuracy of Presidential candidates’ tweets on climate change using a scale of zero to a hundred. (The tweets were shown to the scientists without the candidates’ names, to guard against bias.) All nine of the Republican candidates graded got failing scores. Donald Trump, for instance, received a fifteen, while Ben Carson got a thirteen and Ted Cruz a six. “This individual understands less about science (and climate change) than the average kindergartner,” Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University, who served as one of the judges, wrote of Cruz’s statements. “That sort of ignorance would be dangerous in a doorman, let alone a president.”

***

WHAT ABOUT THE NEW TECHNIQUE OF GENE SPLICING?

So where do we organic folks come down on science’s new ability to easily change the human DNA at will? In my last blog, I wrote about a development in genetic modification of genes that easily allows scientists to import and export genes from any creature’s DNA. Here are some considerations:

The first time a human being is born to a set of parents who have undergone this genetic engineering (because that’s what it is), we will have two kinds of human populations: natural and GMO. The GMOs will most likely be “superior” in some way, either because a gene that causes horrible, painful, disease will have been removed or altered, or because the person has been given a gene for nicer eyebrows, or faster synapses, or some other improvement to the race. And this means that the superior GMOs will eventually, when they become strong enough, want to eliminate the naturals the way Cro-Magnon man eliminated the Neanderthals.

Another way of saying this is that from that birth onward, evolution will have been taken out of nature’s hands and placed in the hands of lab scientists.

One of the basic tenets of organics is that nature knows best. Or do you believe that human beings are smarter than nature itself?

***

GREENPEACE STINGS CORPORATE “SCIENTISTS”

A sting operation by the environmental group Greenpeace suggests that some researchers who dispute mainstream scientific conclusions on climate change are willing to conceal the sources of payment for their research, even when the money is purported to come from overseas corporations producing oil, gas and coal, writes John Schwartz in The New York Times.

Over a period of several months, two Greenpeace employees posed as representatives of energy companies and offered to pay prominent commentators on climate change to write papers that extolled the benefits of coal and carbon emissions. The Greenpeace workers also asked that the payments not be disclosed.

The commentators — a professor from Princeton University and one from Pennsylvania State University — agreed to the offers.

Disclosure of funding for scientific research has been a flash point in the fight over climate change, especially in the case of published scientific research. The effort by Greenpeace, which has a long record of using aggressive tactics to make environmental statements, was to “unravel the story” of industry ties to denial of climate change, said Lawrence Carter, one of the Greenpeace employees involved in the subterfuge.

“It shows a way that fossil fuel money can get into funding these climate skeptic campaign groups,” he added.

Frank Clemente, a professor emeritus of sociology at Penn State, agreed to write a paper on coal on behalf of a coal mining firm that he was told was based in Indonesia. William Happer, a professor of physics at Princeton, agreed to write a paper at the request of an unnamed oil and gas company in the Middle East.

Both men acknowledged, in response to requests for comments, that the exchanged emails about the arrangements, which Greenpeace released on Tuesday, were genuine. But both denied having done anything improper.

Dr. Clemente formerly served as director of an environmental policy center at Penn State. He said in an email response to questions: “I fully stand behind every single statement I made in the emails apparently pirated by Greenpeace. I am very proud of my research and believe that clean coal technologies are the pathway to reliable and affordable electricity, reduction of global energy poverty, and a cleaner environment.”

In an email message responding to a request for comment, Dr. Happer said, “I don’t think I have anything to be embarrassed about.”

When asked whether he agreed that there should be full disclosure of foreign and industry influence on science, Dr. Happer said, “Yes, I believe in full disclosure.”

But, he added, “I don’t think that full disclosure was the point of the Greenpeace article at all. The aim was simply to smear their enemies.”

Dr. Happer testified recently at a hearing of the Senate subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness, whose chairman is Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas and a presidential candidate who disagrees with the scientific consensus on climate change.

###




Monsanto Hid Roundup Links to Cancer

Organic Lifestyle Comments (0)

Monsanto has been squirming since the World Health Organization (WHO) classified glyphosate, the active ingredient in their hallmark herbicide Roundup, as a probable human carcinogen. The WHO is designed to do just that, and yet Monsanto and its friends in high places unleashed a barrage of the usual criticisms claiming that WHO was out of step with science.

But a new study in the glyphosate series by Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff shows that it is Monsanto who is out of step, and how its own studies demonstrated unqualified links to cancer for over 30 years.

Entitled “Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases IV: cancer and related pathologies,” the authors utilize the data from Monsanto’s own studies that had been sealed by the EPA. Samsel’s freedom of information requests pried them out of the EPA’s files, and demonstrate that glyphosate fed to rats produced tumors and cancers throughout the organ and glands in the animals.

Question: Why did the EPA, charged with protecting the environment and our health, seal these documents in the first place?

The rates of many types of cancers, including thyroid, liver, bladder, pancreatic, kidney, and myeloid leukemia have increased in the US population in parallel with our increased exposure to glyphosate in the food supply. Its use since the mid-1990s has skyrocketed three different ways.

1. The introduction of genetically modified (GMO) Roundup Ready corn, soy, and canola to the US food supply meant that Americans began eating large amounts of the herbicide that had not previously been applied directly to conventional crops.

2. The surge in glyphosate use on those GMO crops caused weeds to battle back against the herbicide and evolve into “superweeds,” which then required the use of even more Roundup to manage.

3. Farmers began using glyphosate as a drying and ripening agent just before harvesting wheat, sugarcane, peas, beans, lentils, and many other crops.

Citing nearly 250 studies, Samsel and Seneff tease out the biochemistry that shows just how glyphosate can explain these cancers. The chemical, it turns out, makes all-important trace minerals like manganese unavailable—thereby cutting off key metabolic pathways that rely on them to function. Glyphosate also is an antibiotic, killing off beneficial gut bacteria like lactobacillus and bifidobacterium; these and other bacterial casualties of glyphosate are needed by the body to produce other key components for a multitude of reactions. And glyphosate also damages the mitochondria (the energy factories found in cells) and throws off the delicate balance of the hormonal systems.

As the authors connect the dots between glyphosate and numerous types of cancers, they also demonstrate how the same disruptions are likely contributing to a whole host of other diseases, including autism, diabetes, kidney disease, and fatty liver disease.

Most of these and others are highlighted in the previous three papers in this series by Samsel and Seneff. A videotaped interview of Dr. Seneff shows the links between glyphosate to more than a dozen diseases. A second interview discussing the second paper in the series focuses on gluten sensitivity and kidney failure as outcomes of glyphosate exposure.

In the current cancer paper, the authors reveal at least two methods that Monsanto uses to explain away the serious health issues found in its laboratory animals. The first is ignoring the low dose effects. It is well known that a certain class of chemicals called endocrine disruptors have a curious counter-intuitive property, where their greatest damage to the hormonal system comes at tiny doses. In fact, as the amount of these chemicals increases, the hormonal effects decrease.

In Monsanto’s studies, it was often the low dose of glyphosate that had the biggest impact on the gland, organ, or prevalence of tumors. Armed with the false concept that “the dose makes the poison,” Monsanto researchers flatly ignored findings where a lower dose had a larger effect than a higher dose. While some may rush to defend Monsanto, claiming that the low dose endocrine effects were not understood in the 1970s and 80s, when many of these findings were reported, there is no defending the company at this point. They had the data in their files since then, and the low dose endocrine disruption effect has been widely understood for at least the past 14 years. Understood, that is, by the scientific community other than those who work for the companies that produce endocrine disrupting chemicals. And oddly, it is also not understood by the government regulators who don’t require those same companies to even test for this effect. Hence the EPA in the US and EFSA in Europe waive chemicals like glyphosate onto the market without evaluating whether they’re messing up many key hormones that we rely on for staying healthy.

Once Monsanto saw the low dose effects of their chemicals on lab animals, they conveniently stopped testing the low dosage in subsequent animal trials.

Perhaps even more egregious is Monsanto’s use of “historical controls,” an unscientific method used to pretend that we can ignore even serious evidence of harm. According to real science, you design an experiment to compare an experimental group with a control group under the same conditions. In a rat study, for example, you raise the rats on the same food, same water, same environmental conditions, and even selecting the same type of rat for both groups. That way, you can isolate the variable you want to test. In Monsanto’s case, they varied only the amount of glyphosate in the diet. The controls got zero, and various experimental groups got one of several dosage levels.

According to the Samsel/Seneff paper, the animals that received the doses of glyphosate had a far greater number of lymph node and thyroid cancerous tumors than the controls. The results were clearly statistically significant.

In order to make the findings disappear, however, Monsanto deployed its research staff to comb through other animals studies, looking for cases where the control groups also had a high level of cancers (or whatever the disorder is in question). They simply claim that because some other group of rats in a lab with completely different conditions and diets showed an equivalent number of problems as the group of animals that were fed glyphosate, we can ignore the findings altogether.

Real scientists condemn this practice as completely inappropriate. Numerous studies have shown that controls are sometimes subject to contaminated diets or other environmental conditions that make their number of tumors, for example, far from normal. They say, why would one even do an experiment according to the scientific method, which requires careful attention to keeping the conditions the same for the experimental group and the controls, if you are just going to throw out the results by finding rats in other studies to compare results with.

In fact, a study by Robin Mesnage entitled “Laboratory Rodent Diets Contain Toxic Levels of Environmental Contaminants: Implications for Regulatory Tests” discovered that the normal diets of lab animals, both control and experimental, are contaminated with GMOs, glyphosate, heavy metals, and other toxins. This raises questions about all the animal studies being conducted, especially those testing GMOs and glyphosate.
It is unclear what contaminant may have been in the experiments used by Monsanto as “historical controls,” but as Samsel says, “…through the dishonest magic of comparing the findings to data from unrelated historical controls, they were explained away as a mystery and deemed not to be related to the administration of glyphosate.”

Unfortunately, while scientists worldwide condemn the use of historical controls, once again, the manufacturers of toxins and their regulators cling to this practice and rely on it for approving chemicals that would otherwise never be allowed on the market.
Here are several key points in the Samsel/Seneff paper on Glyphosate and Cancer:

DNA Damage

There is strong evidence to suggest that glyphosate operates through two key features known to be associated with carcinogens: 1) causing DNA damage, and 2) oxidative stress. Samsel and Seneff focused on examining evidence that glyphosate can cause DNA damage. A study of the DNA of children living near rice paddies in Malaysia found chromosomal breakage attributed to pesticide exposure. Glyphosate use in Sri Lanka was linked with widespread kidney failure among young agricultural workers in the rice paddies, which led to the 2015 ban on glyphosate in the country.

Cancers

•Monsanto’s studies showed that glyphosate readily reacts with nitrogen oxide compounds to form a toxic substance called nitrosoglyphosate, which can cause cancer in at least 40 different animal species, including higher primates.
•Samsel and Seneff hypothesize that a non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is linked to excess fructose, stems from the disrupted gut metabolism and blocked shikimate pathway that is a metabolic route used by our gut bacteria, and the disruption is caused by glyphosate consumption. Fructose should be digested by the gut, but in a disrupted metabolism it is instead delivered to the liver and converted to fat. Inflammation and metabolic disorders are characteristic features of diabetes and obesity, which carry dramatically higher risks of cancer, especially for the liver and gastrointestinal tract.
•They further theorized that pancreatic cancer and insulin-deficient diabetes are linked with glyphosate’s ability to chelate manganese, and that chronic kidney disease is linked with glyphosate causing the production of excess hydrogen peroxide, which attacks key proteins.
•There is an 80 percent increase in melanoma associated with glyphosate use, which may be caused by glyphosate’s disruption of the shikimate pathway used by our gut microbes: impairment of the supply of key aromatic amino acids, tryptophan and tyrosine.
•Glyphosate stimulates the growth of human breast cancer cells, specifically the cells that are hormone-dependent, and is controlled by glyphosate’s ability to act as an estrogen agent.

***

NEW ORGANIC PLANT BREEDING EFFORT TO PRODUCE NOVEL VARIETIES

A new effort to provide California growers with seeds for tomato, bean, pepper and other crop varieties that are specially bred for organic farming has been launched at UC Davis.

The organic plant-breeding project was developed in direct response to California organic growers, who have reported that the scarcity of seeds for cultivars that meet the needs of organic farming can seriously impact a farm’s bottom line.

“Seeds bred to account for the difference between growing organically and conventionally could improve farm yields and marketing potential for produce, yet organic seeds available to farmers are rarely developed with these organic management considerations in mind,” said Charlie Brummer, director of the UC Davis Plant Breeding Center and coordinator of the new organic breeding project.

Studies show that plant varieties developed under organic conditions can out-perform those developed under conventional conditions, Brummer said.

The new breeding effort, funded at just under $1 million by the Organic Research and Extension Initiative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will develop new cultivars on certified organic land at the Student Farm, a program of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis. Breeding programs will be led by graduate students as part of their hands-on training to be plant breeders.

“When we started the Plant Breeding Center in 2014, we wanted to give our plant-breeding students experience with real cultivar development projects that would result in products that growers and seed producers would want,” Brummer said. “This project lets us put those pieces together in a very meaningful and exciting way.”

He noted that there are myriad genetic traits that apply specifically to organic agriculture. For example, because organic farmers tend to rely on nonchemical methods to control pests and supply nutrients, natural resistance to pests and adaptability to organic soil conditions are important traits for crops grown organically. And increasingly, organic growers also need crop varieties that meet specific market niches, to clearly differentiate their products.

UC Davis has a long history of plant-breeding projects, but few have focused on organic seed or vegetable production until now.

***

ORGANIC MANAGEMENT IMPROVES SOIL AS IT BOOSTS YIELDS

A new study published in the journal Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems has found that farms under organic soil management systems can produce yields equivalent to conventional management systems, and those organic methods that incorporate residues into the soil improve soil nutrients and reduce weeds.

Researchers found that under organic management, weed biomass was lower by 22 to 47 percent, total soil nitrogen was higher by 7 to 4 percent, and yields did not significantly differ between the two management types.

***

WHEN IT COMES TO FUNDING ORGANIC RESEARCH, USDA IS STINGY

A report published in the journal Environmental Science & Policy looked into the amount of funding that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has put towards supporting sustainable agroecological farming, including organic. Its authors found that only 15 percent of the major external research and education grants awarded by USDA incorporate any element of agroecological principles. However, most of the projects included agroecology as a minor aspect of the research. The paper concludes that there is “an urgent need for additional public funding for systems-based agroecology and sustainable agriculture research.”

***

MICE, VOLES, SHREWS, AND GOPHERS THRIVE ON ORGANIC FARMS

Mammals play an important role in agricultural systems, yet very few studies have examined the influence that organic and conventional farming systems have on small mammal richness and diversity.

Now, a study published in Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment has found that the abundance of small mammals that are habitat specialists is greater on organic farms than conventional farms. While many studies have demonstrated that organic farms host higher diversity of soil microorganisms, beneficial insect predators, pollinators and birds, this study suggests that organic farming systems may also have an important role to play in biodiversity conservation of mammals.

Is this a problem, if we’re talking about mice, voles, shrews, and gophers? Nope. These prey bring in the barn owls, foxes, and other predators that are necessary for a rich, diverse ecosystem—and biodiversity is the key to health.

***

MAN AND SUPERMAN

An international group of scientists meeting in Washington has called for what would, in effect, be a moratorium on making inheritable changes to the human genome, writes Nicholas Wade in The New York Times. Let me quote the article:

“The group said it would be “irresponsible to proceed” until the risks could be better assessed and until there was “broad societal consensus about the appropriateness” of any proposed change. The group also held open the possibility for such work to proceed in the future by saying that as knowledge advances, the issue of making permanent changes to the human genome “should be revisited on a regular basis.”

“The meeting was convened by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, the Institute of Medicine, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Royal Society of London. The academies have no regulatory power, but their moral authority on this issue seems very likely to be accepted by scientists in most or all countries. Similar restraints proposed in 1975 on an earlier form of gene manipulation by an international scientific meeting in California were observed by the world’s scientists.

“’The overriding question is when, if ever, we will want to use gene editing to change human inheritance,’ David Baltimore said in opening the conference this week. The participation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences is a notable achievement for the organizers of the meeting, led by Dr. Baltimore, former president of the California Institute of Technology, given that earlier in the year Chinese scientists seemed to be racing ahead independently toward clinical alterations to the human germline.

“The meeting was prompted by a new genetic technique, invented three years ago, that enables DNA to be edited with unprecedented ease and precision. The technique, known as Crispr-Cas9 and now widely accessible, would allow physicians to alter the human germline, which includes the eggs and the sperm, to cure genetic disease or even enhance desirable physical or mental traits.

“Unlike gene therapy, an accepted medical technique that alters the body’s ordinary tissues, editorial changes made to the human germline would be inherited by the patient’s children and thus contribute permanent changes to the human gene pool. These, if sufficiently extensive, might, in principle, alter the nature of the human species.”

###




Monsanto Hid Evidence of Roundup and Cancer

Organic Lifestyle Comments (0)

Monsanto has been squirming since the World Health Organization (WHO) classified glyphosate, the active ingredient in their hallmark herbicide Roundup, as a probable human carcinogen. The WHO is designed to do just that, and yet Monsanto and its friends in high places unleashed a barrage of the usual criticisms claiming that WHO was out of step with science.

But a new study in the glyphosate series by Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff shows that it is Monsanto who is out of step, and how its own studies demonstrated unqualified links to cancer for over 30 years.

Entitled “Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases IV: cancer and related pathologies,” the authors utilize the data from Monsanto’s own studies that had been sealed by the EPA. Samsel’s freedom of information requests pried them out of the EPA’s files, and demonstrate that glyphosate fed to rats produced tumors and cancers throughout the organ and glands in the animals.

Question: Why did the EPA, charged with protecting the environment and our health, seal these documents in the first place?

The rates of many types of cancers, including thyroid, liver, bladder, pancreatic, kidney, and myeloid leukemia have increased in the US population in parallel with our increased exposure to glyphosate in the food supply. Its use since the mid-1990s has skyrocketed three different ways.

1. The introduction of genetically modified (GMO) Roundup Ready corn, soy, and canola to the US food supply meant that Americans began eating large amounts of the herbicide that had not previously been applied directly to conventional crops.

2. The surge in glyphosate use on those GMO crops caused weeds to battle back against the herbicide and evolve into “superweeds,” which then required the use of even more Roundup to manage.

3. Farmers began using glyphosate as a drying and ripening agent just before harvesting wheat, sugarcane, peas, beans, lentils, and many other crops.

Citing nearly 250 studies, Samsel and Seneff tease out the biochemistry that shows just how glyphosate can explain these cancers. The chemical, it turns out, makes all-important trace minerals like manganese unavailable—thereby cutting off key metabolic pathways that rely on them to function. Glyphosate also is an antibiotic, killing off beneficial gut bacteria like lactobacillus and bifidobacterium; these and other bacterial casualties of glyphosate are needed by the body to produce other key components for a multitude of reactions. And glyphosate also damages the mitochondria (the energy factories found in cells) and throws off the delicate balance of the hormonal systems.

As the authors connect the dots between glyphosate and numerous types of cancers, they also demonstrate how the same disruptions are likely contributing to a whole host of other diseases, including autism, diabetes, kidney disease, and fatty liver disease.

Most of these and others are highlighted in the previous three papers in this series by Samsel and Seneff. A videotaped interview of Dr. Seneff shows the links between glyphosate to more than a dozen diseases. A second interview discussing the second paper in the series focuses on gluten sensitivity and kidney failure as outcomes of glyphosate exposure.

In the current cancer paper, the authors reveal at least two methods that Monsanto uses to explain away the serious health issues found in its laboratory animals. The first is ignoring the low dose effects. It is well known that a certain class of chemicals called endocrine disruptors have a curious counter-intuitive property, where their greatest damage to the hormonal system comes at tiny doses. In fact, as the amount of these chemicals increases, the hormonal effects decrease.

In Monsanto’s studies, it was often the low dose of glyphosate that had the biggest impact on the gland, organ, or prevalence of tumors. Armed with the false concept that “the dose makes the poison,” Monsanto researchers flatly ignored findings where a lower dose had a larger effect than a higher dose. While some may rush to defend Monsanto, claiming that the low dose endocrine effects were not understood in the 1970s and 80s, when many of these findings were reported, there is no defending the company at this point. They had the data in their files since then, and the low dose endocrine disruption effect has been widely understood for at least the past 14 years. Understood, that is, by the scientific community other than those who work for the companies that produce endocrine disrupting chemicals. And oddly, it is also not understood by the government regulators who don’t require those same companies to even test for this effect. Hence the EPA in the US and EFSA in Europe waive chemicals like glyphosate onto the market without evaluating whether they’re messing up many key hormones that we rely on for staying healthy.

Once Monsanto saw the low dose effects of their chemicals on lab animals, they conveniently stopped testing the low dosage in subsequent animal trials.

Perhaps even more egregious is Monsanto’s use of “historical controls,” an unscientific method used to pretend that we can ignore even serious evidence of harm. According to real science, you design an experiment to compare an experimental group with a control group under the same conditions. In a rat study, for example, you raise the rats on the same food, same water, same environmental conditions, and even selecting the same type of rat for both groups. That way, you can isolate the variable you want to test. In Monsanto’s case, they varied only the amount of glyphosate in the diet. The controls got zero, and various experimental groups got one of several dosage levels.

According to the Samsel/Seneff paper, the animals that received the doses of glyphosate had a far greater number of lymph node and thyroid cancerous tumors than the controls. The results were clearly statistically significant.

In order to make the findings disappear, however, Monsanto deployed its research staff to comb through other animals studies, looking for cases where the control groups also had a high level of cancers (or whatever the disorder is in question). They simply claim that because some other group of rats in a lab with completely different conditions and diets showed an equivalent number of problems as the group of animals that were fed glyphosate, we can ignore the findings altogether.

Real scientists condemn this practice as completely inappropriate. Numerous studies have shown that controls are sometimes subject to contaminated diets or other environmental conditions that make their number of tumors, for example, far from normal. They say, why would one even do an experiment according to the scientific method, which requires careful attention to keeping the conditions the same for the experimental group and the controls, if you are just going to throw out the results by finding rats in other studies to compare results with.

In fact, a study by Robin Mesnage entitled “Laboratory Rodent Diets Contain Toxic Levels of Environmental Contaminants: Implications for Regulatory Tests” discovered that the normal diets of lab animals, both control and experimental, are contaminated with GMOs, glyphosate, heavy metals, and other toxins. This raises questions about all the animal studies being conducted, especially those testing GMOs and glyphosate.
It is unclear what contaminant may have been in the experiments used by Monsanto as “historical controls,” but as Samsel says, “…through the dishonest magic of comparing the findings to data from unrelated historical controls, they were explained away as a mystery and deemed not to be related to the administration of glyphosate.”

Unfortunately, while scientists worldwide condemn the use of historical controls, once again, the manufacturers of toxins and their regulators cling to this practice and rely on it for approving chemicals that would otherwise never be allowed on the market.
Here are several key points in the Samsel/Seneff paper on Glyphosate and Cancer:

DNA Damage

There is strong evidence to suggest that glyphosate operates through two key features known to be associated with carcinogens: 1) causing DNA damage, and 2) oxidative stress. Samsel and Seneff focused on examining evidence that glyphosate can cause DNA damage. A study of the DNA of children living near rice paddies in Malaysia found chromosomal breakage attributed to pesticide exposure. Glyphosate use in Sri Lanka was linked with widespread kidney failure among young agricultural workers in the rice paddies, which led to the 2015 ban on glyphosate in the country.

Cancers

•Monsanto’s studies showed that glyphosate readily reacts with nitrogen oxide compounds to form a toxic substance called nitrosoglyphosate, which can cause cancer in at least 40 different animal species, including higher primates.
•Samsel and Seneff hypothesize that a non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is linked to excess fructose, stems from the disrupted gut metabolism and blocked shikimate pathway that is a metabolic route used by our gut bacteria, and the disruption is caused by glyphosate consumption. Fructose should be digested by the gut, but in a disrupted metabolism it is instead delivered to the liver and converted to fat. Inflammation and metabolic disorders are characteristic features of diabetes and obesity, which carry dramatically higher risks of cancer, especially for the liver and gastrointestinal tract.
•They further theorized that pancreatic cancer and insulin-deficient diabetes are linked with glyphosate’s ability to chelate manganese, and that chronic kidney disease is linked with glyphosate causing the production of excess hydrogen peroxide, which attacks key proteins.
•There is an 80 percent increase in melanoma associated with glyphosate use, which may be caused by glyphosate’s disruption of the shikimate pathway used by our gut microbes: impairment of the supply of key aromatic amino acids, tryptophan and tyrosine.
•Glyphosate stimulates the growth of human breast cancer cells, specifically the cells that are hormone-dependent, and is controlled by glyphosate’s ability to act as an estrogen agent.

***

NEW ORGANIC PLANT BREEDING EFFORT TO PRODUCE NOVEL VARIETIES

A new effort to provide California growers with seeds for tomato, bean, pepper and other crop varieties that are specially bred for organic farming has been launched at UC Davis.

The organic plant-breeding project was developed in direct response to California organic growers, who have reported that the scarcity of seeds for cultivars that meet the needs of organic farming can seriously impact a farm’s bottom line.

“Seeds bred to account for the difference between growing organically and conventionally could improve farm yields and marketing potential for produce, yet organic seeds available to farmers are rarely developed with these organic management considerations in mind,” said Charlie Brummer, director of the UC Davis Plant Breeding Center and coordinator of the new organic breeding project.

Studies show that plant varieties developed under organic conditions can out-perform those developed under conventional conditions, Brummer said.

The new breeding effort, funded at just under $1 million by the Organic Research and Extension Initiative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will develop new cultivars on certified organic land at the Student Farm, a program of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis. Breeding programs will be led by graduate students as part of their hands-on training to be plant breeders.

“When we started the Plant Breeding Center in 2014, we wanted to give our plant-breeding students experience with real cultivar development projects that would result in products that growers and seed producers would want,” Brummer said. “This project lets us put those pieces together in a very meaningful and exciting way.”

He noted that there are myriad genetic traits that apply specifically to organic agriculture. For example, because organic farmers tend to rely on nonchemical methods to control pests and supply nutrients, natural resistance to pests and adaptability to organic soil conditions are important traits for crops grown organically. And increasingly, organic growers also need crop varieties that meet specific market niches, to clearly differentiate their products.

UC Davis has a long history of plant-breeding projects, but few have focused on organic seed or vegetable production until now.

***

ORGANIC MANAGEMENT IMPROVES SOIL AS IT BOOSTS YIELDS

A new study published in the journal Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems has found that farms under organic soil management systems can produce yields equivalent to conventional management systems, and those organic methods that incorporate residues into the soil improve soil nutrients and reduce weeds.

Researchers found that under organic management, weed biomass was lower by 22 to 47 percent, total soil nitrogen was higher by 7 to 4 percent, and yields did not significantly differ between the two management types.

***

WHEN IT COMES TO FUNDING ORGANIC RESEARCH, USDA IS STINGY

A report published in the journal Environmental Science & Policy looked into the amount of funding that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has put towards supporting sustainable agroecological farming, including organic. Its authors found that only 15 percent of the major external research and education grants awarded by USDA incorporate any element of agroecological principles. However, most of the projects included agroecology as a minor aspect of the research. The paper concludes that there is “an urgent need for additional public funding for systems-based agroecology and sustainable agriculture research.”

***

MICE, VOLES, SHREWS, AND GOPHERS THRIVE ON ORGANIC FARMS

Mammals play an important role in agricultural systems, yet very few studies have examined the influence that organic and conventional farming systems have on small mammal richness and diversity.

Now, a study published in Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment has found that the abundance of small mammals that are habitat specialists is greater on organic farms than conventional farms. While many studies have demonstrated that organic farms host higher diversity of soil microorganisms, beneficial insect predators, pollinators and birds, this study suggests that organic farming systems may also have an important role to play in biodiversity conservation of mammals.

Is this a problem, if we’re talking about mice, voles, shrews, and gophers? Nope. These prey bring in the barn owls, foxes, and other predators that are necessary for a rich, diverse ecosystem—and biodiversity is the key to health.

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MAN AND SUPERMAN

An international group of scientists meeting in Washington has called for what would, in effect, be a moratorium on making inheritable changes to the human genome, writes Nicholas Wade in The New York Times. Let me quote the article:

“The group said it would be “irresponsible to proceed” until the risks could be better assessed and until there was “broad societal consensus about the appropriateness” of any proposed change. The group also held open the possibility for such work to proceed in the future by saying that as knowledge advances, the issue of making permanent changes to the human genome “should be revisited on a regular basis.”

“The meeting was convened by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, the Institute of Medicine, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Royal Society of London. The academies have no regulatory power, but their moral authority on this issue seems very likely to be accepted by scientists in most or all countries. Similar restraints proposed in 1975 on an earlier form of gene manipulation by an international scientific meeting in California were observed by the world’s scientists.

“’The overriding question is when, if ever, we will want to use gene editing to change human inheritance,’ David Baltimore said in opening the conference this week. The participation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences is a notable achievement for the organizers of the meeting, led by Dr. Baltimore, former president of the California Institute of Technology, given that earlier in the year Chinese scientists seemed to be racing ahead independently toward clinical alterations to the human germline.

“The meeting was prompted by a new genetic technique, invented three years ago, that enables DNA to be edited with unprecedented ease and precision. The technique, known as Crispr-Cas9 and now widely accessible, would allow physicians to alter the human germline, which includes the eggs and the sperm, to cure genetic disease or even enhance desirable physical or mental traits.

“Unlike gene therapy, an accepted medical technique that alters the body’s ordinary tissues, editorial changes made to the human germline would be inherited by the patient’s children and thus contribute permanent changes to the human gene pool. These, if sufficiently extensive, might, in principle, alter the nature of the human species.”

So where do we organic folks come down on science’s new ability to easily change the human DNA at will? Here are some considerations:

The first time a human being is born to a set of parents who have undergone this genetic engineering (because that’s what it is), we will have two kinds of human populations: natural and GMO. The GMOs will most likely be “superior” in some way, either because a gene that causes horrible, painful, disease will have been removed or altered, or because the person has been given a gene for nicer eyebrows, or faster synapses, or some other improvement to the race. And this means that the superior GMOs will eventually, when they become strong enough, want to eliminate the naturals the way Cro-Magnon man eliminated the Neanderthals.

Another way of saying this is that from that birth onward, evolution will have been taken out of nature’s hands and placed in the hands of lab scientists.

One of the basic tenets of organics is that nature knows best. Or do you believe that human beings are smarter than nature itself?

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