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DARK Days in the United States

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Thursday, July 23, was a dark day indeed. On that day, 275 members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of H.R. 1599, the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act. By voting for the DARK Act, these politicians voted against truth and transparency, against science, against the more than century-old right of states to legislate on matters relating to food safety and labeling.

The actual name of the Bill is “The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015.” It is nothing of the sort. It says that only the Federal Government can pass GMO labeling laws. And that the laws will be voluntary, not mandatory. And that any food manufacturer using GMOs can opt out of using the labels. So the title of the bill is a giant FU to the 90-percent of Americans who are in favor of mandatory labeling of GMOs.

It seems ironic that in the “land of the free” we cannot democratically oust GMOs, and that our own leaders are now putting up walls to deny us the right to know what is in our food. It really is an abomination and perversion of everything our government “by the people, of the people, and for the people” is supposed to stand for. The passage of the DARK Act in our House of Representatives proves that.

Besides voting for Monsanto and friends, they voted against the producers of non-GMO foods. They voted against “We the people.” The vote included all but a handful of Republicans and 45 Democrats. I suggest you vote them out of office in the next election. No, I think it’s mandatory you vote them out of office in the next election. To do that, you need to know how your representative voted.

You can find out how your representative voted at this link:

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/114-2015/h462

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BEE-HARMING PESTICIDE ‘UBIQUITOUS’ IN ENVIRONMENT

More than 70 percent of pollen and honey samples collected from foraging bees in Massachusetts contained neonicotinoids, a type of insecticide that has been linked to colony collapse disorder, researchers are reporting. The disorder causes adult bees to abandon their hives in winter.

In the new study, published in The Journal of Environmental Chemistry, researchers analyzed 219 pollen samples and 53 honey samples from 62 hives in 10 counties in Massachusetts. Honeybee colonies have experienced significant losses over the last decade, and the effects can be far-reaching: Bees are the prime pollinators of one-third of all crops worldwide.

The researchers wanted to find out whether neonicotinoids are commonly present in pollen and honey, which are the main food sources for bees. The results show that neonicotinoids are ubiquitous in the environment where bees foraged, and therefore could pose risks to honeybee health.

By the way, when environmentalists approached Bayer AG, the German company that makes the neonicotinoid pesticides, and urged them to stop production because of honeybee deaths and the danger to our food supply from that, Bayer AG refused. I hope the executives at Bayer find their money tasty when all the bees are dead and the pollinated crops disappear.

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ANOTHER HERBICIDE IS ‘POSSIBLY CARCINOGENIC’

A group of scientists convened by the World Health Organization has decided that 2,4-D herbicide is “possibly carcinogenic.”

The IARC, the World Health Organization’s cancer agency, says that 2,4-D, the GMO industry’s new herbicide of choice to kill glyphosate-resistant weeds in GMO crop fields, is a “possible” human carcinogen. You can read the IARC’s preliminary report here (you’ll need to register for free access):

http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanonc/article/PIIS1470-2045%2815%2900081-9/abstract

According to Mother Jones magazine, “this announcement can hardly be welcome news in the Midwest, where farm fields are blanketed in corn and soybeans. Since the advent of crops genetically engineered to withstand glyphosate in the 1990s, farmers there have come to rely heavily on the herbicide that many weed varieties have evolved to resist, causing many headaches and a surge in herbicide use.

“This past spring, Dow Chemical introduced new genetically modified corn and soybean products designed to solve that problem. They’re engineered to resist not just glyphosate, but also, you guessed it, 2,4-D. And Dow is selling farmers a proprietary herbicide known as Enlist Duo, a combo of glyphosate and 2,4-D, that farmers can apply directly to the crops grown from the new genetically modified corn and soybean seeds. There’s evidence that toxic chemicals do worse things to us when combined than they do solo. That such ‘synergistic’ effects are little studied is hardly comforting.”

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ROUNDUP 1000X MORE TOXIC THAN GLYPHOSATE ALONE

The Organic Consumers Association reports that Dr. Robin Mesnage of the Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics at Kings College in London, revealed new data analysis showing Roundup is 1,000 times more toxic than glyphosate, its active weed-killing ingredient, alone.

“Glyphosate is everywhere throughout our food chain-–in our food and water. The lack of data on toxicity of glyphosate is not proof of safety, and these herbicides cannot be considered safe without proper testing. We know Roundup…contains many other chemicals which, when mixed together, are 1,000 times more toxic than glyphosate on its own,” Dr. Mesnage said.

In response to the IARC conclusions, Claire Robinson, an editor at GMWatch.org said: “Outside the United Kingdom, the reaction to the WHO IARC report has been dramatic. Some retailers in Switzerland and Germany have removed glyphosate products, France has committed to do so by 2018, and German states are calling for an EU-wide ban. The Danish Working Environment Authority has declared it a carcinogen, El Salvador and Sri Lanka have banned it, and the Colombia government has banned aerial spraying on coca crops.”

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HUNGARY DESTROYS GMO CORN CROP

Hungary has taken a bold stand against biotech giant Monsanto and genetic modification by destroying 1000 acres of maize found to have been grown with genetically modified seeds, according to Hungarian deputy state secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development, Lajos Bognar.

The GMO maize has been plowed under, said Bognar. Unlike several EU members, GMO seeds are banned in Hungary. During the ministry’s investigation, controllers found Pioneer Monsanto products among the seeds planted.

The free movement of goods within the EU means that authorities will not investigate how the seeds arrived in Hungary, but they will check where the goods can be found, Bognar said. Most farmers complained once they just discovered they were using GMO seeds.

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WHEN IT COMES TO GMOS, WE SHOULD BE MORE LIKE RUSSIANS

The Vaishnaya Internet News Service (a Russian news service) asks, “Why Is Russia Banning GMOs While the US Keeps Approving Them?”

Unable to resist taking a well-deserved pot-shot at America, the News Service notes that in the U.S., “there have been marches, vocal demonstrations, petitions, and laws banning GMOs, but the US is still lagging in the ‘democratic’ freedoms it has promised its people. Russia, on the other hand, has completely banned GMOs, placing a moratorium on their imports for 10 years. The nation rejects GMOs due to numerous dangers, while the US continues to allow Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, Syngenta, and their bullying kind to contrive a cold war on the American people.”

The VP of Russia’s National Association for Genetic Safety, Irina Ermakova, has said:

“It is necessary to ban GMOs, to impose moratorium (on) it for 10 years. While GMOs will be prohibited, we can plan experiments, tests, or maybe even new methods of research could be developed. It has been proven that not only in Russia, but also in many other countries in the world, GMOs are dangerous. Methods of obtaining the GMOs are not perfect, therefore, at this stage, all GMOs are dangerous. Consumption and use of GMOs obtained in such way can lead to tumors, cancers, and obesity among animals. Bio-technologies certainly should be developed, but GMOs should be stopped. We should stop it from spreading,” Ermakova said.

Here’s another report on the subject, this one from Russian TV: “After US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks showed that the State Department was lobbying worldwide for Monsanto and other similar corporations, a new report based on the cables shows Washington’s shilling for the biotech industry in distinct detail. The August, 2011, WikiLeaks revelations showed that American diplomats had requested funding to send lobbyists for the biotech industry to hold talks with politicians and agricultural officials in ‘target countries’ in areas like Africa and Latin America, where genetically-modified crops were not yet a mainstay, as well as some European countries that have resisted the controversial agricultural practice.”

It should be noted that what passes for journalism in Russia is really opinion, as in this quote, but in this case, the point is well-taken. Our government is indeed shilling for Big Biotech. Even our universities are in the back pocket of these biotech corporations. The annual $500 million budget of Stanford University’s Department of Biological Engineering alone supports dozens of research projects for myriad commercial (biotech) applications.

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‘INERT INGREDIENTS’ MAY BE AS TOXIC AS THE ACTIVE ONES

The Environmental Protection Agency endangers public health by refusing to require disclosure of falsely characterized “inert” ingredients in pesticides, environmentalists claim in court, the Organic Consumers Association reports.

Three groups, The Center for Environmental Health, Beyond Pesticides, and Physicians for Social Responsibility have sued the EPA and its Administrator Gina McCarthy in Federal Court on Wednesday, under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

“What we’re challenging is EPA’s inaction despite a body of evidence” that inert pesticide ingredients can be just as harmful as active ones, plaintiffs’ attorney Yana Garcia told Courthouse News.

“Chemicals listed as inert are not inert,” she said. “Consumers think the inert ingredients are water or other benign substances used to mix the chemicals, but many are carcinogenic and others have acute impacts and still others have impacts that are currently unknown.”

Though FIFRA includes provisions to protect pesticide manufacturers’ trade secrets, it gives the EPA the authority to disclose ingredients it considers hazardous, Garcia said.

“It remains clear that FIFRA doesn’t let trade secrets trump health. But the EPA is kind of hiding behind this provision in the statute to shirk its responsibility to protect people and the environment” from pesticides, Garcia said.

Pesticide manufacturers and the EPA have identified more than 370 commonly used hazardous inert ingredients, including several known and suspected carcinogens, chemicals that cause reproductive and neurological disorders, and 96 potentially toxic chemicals classified as “high priority for testing,” according to the complaint.

Worse still, the groups say, many of these hazardous ingredients enhance the absorption and inhalation rates of active ingredients, render protective gear such as gloves less effective, and make it difficult to remove pesticides from clothing.

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House Ag Committee Okays the Monsanto Protection Act

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Well, it’s happened. The DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act, better known as the ultimate Monsanto Protection Act, aka H.R. 1599, has been voted out of committee with the approval of the House Agriculture Committee.

This is nothing short of a disgusting capitulation to Big Ag by a bunch of bootlicking House members totally hog-tied and bought off by Monsanto and its pals in the agricultural chemical, biotech, big farm, and related industries. It really is awful to read how these toadies gloat and spin this terrible act as though it is the salvation of farming in America and a huge boon to consumers. It is nothing of the kind. It destroys our ability to know what’s in our food. But read it yourself, as reported in the Food Business News. And then write your Representative and your two Senators and give them your feelings about this.

“WASHINGTON — The House Committee on Agriculture on July 14 approved H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015. The bill, which was introduced in March by Representatives Mike Pompeo of Kansas and G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, has evolved through bipartisan discussions between the Agriculture Committee and the Committee on Energy and Commerce Committee.

“The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act is designed to prevent individual states from passing legislation requiring the labeling of food and beverage products containing bioengineered ingredients.

“‘I appreciate the collaborative efforts of the Energy and Commerce Committee in getting this bipartisan legislation completed and approved today,’ said Representative K. Michael Conaway of Texas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. ‘H.R. 1599 is the solution to an urgent and growing problem. The current patchwork system of varied labels interferes with the free flow of goods across the country, posing a real threat to interstate commerce and typically results in inconsistent and confusing information for consumers. Creating a uniform national policy regarding biotechnology labeling is the free market solution that will allow consumers access to meaningful information, create market opportunities for those on the production and processing side, and will facilitate future innovation.’

“Representative Rodney Davis, chairman of the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research, thanked Mr. Conaway and Mr. Pompeo for their work on the bill.

“’As a parent, I believe it is important to have national and reliable food labels, and this bill does that by allowing for an effective, uniform labeling system that consumers can trust,’ Mr. Davis said. ‘Without a national standard, we risk the spread of misinformation and increased food costs. Just as consumers can go to the grocery store and identify organic products, this bill will allow them to do the same with G.M.O.-free products.’ (Hint: This is a lie. Re-read paragraph two of this article from Food Business News. The legislation says only the Federal government can create a labeling law, and you know what that’s going to be worth. It will not require the label to state what’s in the food, only what’s not in the food. Picture yourself shopping. If the label is required to say, “Contains GMOs” then you have a way of identifying every food with GMOs in the store. They’ll all have labels. Now picture a voluntary label, which is what H.R. 1599 calls for, saying, “Contains No GMOs.” That voluntary label will tell you something about that particular product, but what about all the other products in the store? The label is voluntary. Products with GMOs likely will have no labeling at all. This is what this terrible piece of legislation calls for. The damn thing was written by Monsanto, for goshsakes.)

“The Grocery Manufacturers Association (G.M.A.) praised the passage of the bill: ‘Today’s House Agriculture Committee vote is further evidence of the growing support and momentum in Congress for this bill, and we urge the full House to pass it before the August recess,’ said Pamela G. Bailey, president and chief executive officer of the G.M.A. ‘This critically important bipartisan legislation will ensure that Americans have accurate, consistent information about their food rather than a 50-state patchwork of labeling laws that will only prove costly and confusing for consumers, farmers and food manufacturers.’

“Pamela G. Bailey, president and chief executive officer of the G.M.A.: ‘It is imperative that the House and Senate move quickly to pass the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,’ Ms. Bailey added. ‘It will put a science-based framework in place that provides consumers across the country with uniform food labeling standards.’ (Hint: The phrase “science based framework” is language written by Monsanto and used as a talking point by its minions.)

“The American Soybean Association (A.S.A.) also applauded the House Agriculture Committee for marking up and approving the bill: ‘Consumers continue to demand more transparency and accountability from food producers,’ said Wade Cowan, president of the A.S.A. and a soybean farmer from Brownfield, Texas. ‘This bill ensures that a multi-state patchwork of state regulations is avoided.’ Mr. Cowan said the A.S.A. is now engaged in efforts to garner chamber-wide support for the bill. We’ve seen that the effort to bring clarity to the G.M.O. labeling debate has significant support on both sides of the aisle’” he said. ‘It’s clear that consumers want practical solutions that give them the confidence they want in their food, and this legislation does exactly that. In the coming weeks, we’ll meet with every lawmaker in soybean country to urge them to support this legislation. It’s a bill that moves us closer to a science-based dialogue on food and farm issues, and we will encourage every member of the House to get behind it.’”

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HOW THE RIGHT SPINS LIES ABOUT CRUCIAL ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

Okay, so I’ve been reporting and repeating information about how neonicotinoid pesticides have been implicated in the Colony Collapse Disorder that’s been ravaging bee colonies in the U.S. for the last number of years. I haven’t been out there in the field documenting bee deaths, but I have been looking at the science. And it’s pretty clear that neonics, as they’re called, are at least a part of the problem of bee colony collapse. There’s actually quite a bit of scientific work on this, because we’ve known for centuries that if bees fail to pollinate our crops, we won’t have crops.

So today I received this post on my Facebook page: “Bee Experts Dismantle Touted ‘Harvard’ Neonics-Colony Collapse Disorder Study As ‘Activist Science.’”

Oh—bee experts are saying neonics aren’t the cause of colony collapse disorder (CCD) at all? And that a study attributed to Harvard scientists is nonsense? “Activist Science” seems to mean that those opposed to neonics have some sort of political agenda.

Well, where is this information coming from? This article, published by the Genetic Literacy Project at the University of California, Davis (a respected ag school), was written by someone named Jon Entine.

Wow. This is news. Evidently, I’ve been wrong all along. Maybe neonics aren’t the cause of CCD. So here’s an excerpt from Entine’s article:

“Chensheng Lu was in his element last month at a speech before a green group at Harvard Law School. The School of Public Health professor was lecturing on his favorite topic–his only subject these days, as it has become his obsession: why he believes bees around the world are in crisis.” This sounds like a patronizing put-down: “his only subject,” “his obsession,” and “why he believes bees around the world are in crisis.” Is it just Chensheng Lu who believes bees are in crisis. No! There’s a ton of data so starkly troublesome about disappearing bees that it has scientists around the country worried.

“Lu is convinced, unequivocally,” Entine writes, “that a popular pesticide hailed by many scientists as a less toxic replacement for farm chemicals proven to be far more dangerous to humans and the environment, is actually a killer in its own right.

“’We demonstrated that neonicotinoids are highly likely to be responsible for triggering Colony Collapse Disorder in bee hives,’ claimed Lu. The future of our food system and public health, he said, hangs in the balance.

“Lu is the Dr. Doom of bees,” Entine writes. “Not clear to most other experts in the field, is that colony collapse disorder (CCD), which first emerged in 2006, can be directly linked to ‘neonics,’ and also to genetically modified crops. Phased in during the 1990s, neonics are most often used by farmers to control unwanted crop pests. They are coated on seeds, which then produce plants that systemically fight pests.”

This doesn’t sound like journalism. With its argument ad hominem (“the Dr. Doom of bees”), it sounds more like an apology for a very toxic pesticide. What in the world is the University of California, Davis, doing getting mixed up in what seems to be a propaganda piece for the pesticide industry?

So my investigative journalism gene—the one I acquired when I studied journalism at my university—kicked in, and I saw that the article’s author was Jon Entine. So, who is Jon Entine?

Well, he’s executive director of the Genetic Literacy Project, a sister organization of the Statistical Assessment Service (STATS). He’s also a Senior Fellow at the World Food Center Institute for Food and Agricultural Literacy at the University of California, Davis, and is a fellow at the Center for Health and Risk Communication, George Mason University. That’s quite a fistful of bona fides, right? Let’s take a closer look at his affiliations.

The Statistical Assessment Service (STATS) touts itself as a “non-profit, non-partisan organization,” but its funders are not transparent. It is itself an arm, or “sister organization,” of the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA), and it is affiliated with the Center for Health and Risk Communication at George Mason University. STATS in turn has two “sister organizations”: the Genetic Literacy Project, which promotes GMOs (uh-oh); and EconoSTATS, which promotes privatization and opposes government regulation. Hmmm. Promotes privatization and opposes government regulation. That sure sounds like the conservative agenda.

Oh. Wait—didn’t we find out that Jon Entine is the executive director of the Genetic Literacy Project and its STATS affiliate? Here’s a little more about Mr. Entine, as reported on Natural News:

“Forbes.com contributing writer Jon Entine, long known as a biotech shill and pesticide apologist, committed physical violence against his wife and psychologically traumatized his own daughter, according to court documents now revealed in a comprehensive, five-part investigative article by Natural News. The documents reveal how his wife pleaded for court protection against domestic violence and child abuse and sought a restraining order against Entine to halt him from ‘physically, verbally and or psychologically abusing, annoying, harassing or injuring’ herself or their young female daughter.

“Jon Entine has professional ties to Monsanto, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Proctor & Gamble, and other similar corporations. He is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a research fellow at George Mason University, and was a paid lecturer at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Entine is a key ‘attack operative’ for the biotech industry, well known for authoring wildly defamatory character assassination articles to target GMO skeptics and scientists who disagree with the biotech industry’s contrived safety claims.

“With the help of Forbes.com and the American Enterprise Institute — both key players in attacking and smearing GMO skeptics and scientists — Entine has been instrumental in viciously smearing the reputations of numerous scientists, activists, independent journalists, and environmentalists, usually through the use of wildly fraudulent smear tactics and the wholesale fabrication of false ‘facts.’

“It turns out that Jon Entine has been leading a double life. In one life, he presents himself as an upstanding, award-winning journalist and research fellow with a well-credentialed resume. But in his secret life, Jon Entine is described by his own wife as a belligerent, violent, mentally unstable individual who committed acts of violence against his wife, psychologically traumatized his own daughter, installed surveillance equipment to spy on his wife’s activities, attempted to compel his wife’s therapist to testify against her in court, interfered with his wife’s professional activities, and engaged in a bizarre series of other reprehensible activities.”

Well—enough. You begin to get a picture of Mr. Entine. But why would he want to spread disinformation about neonics, their effect on bees, and GMO crops? Well, there was that reference about the link to Monsanto, and his being an attack operative for the biotech industry.

Let’s go back and look more closely at STATS, the sister organization of the Genetic Literacy Project and the Center for Media and Public Affairs. STATS promotes itself as a disinterested, non-partisan guardian of scientific and statistical integrity to media outlets. It has been surprisingly successful in this guise, with many media outlets citing STATS information as the gospel truth. If STATS gives it the okay, it must be okay, right?

From its inception, however, STATS has repeatedly attacked environmentalists, civil libertarians, feminists, and other “liberals.” The first director of STATS, David Murray, was not a statistician at all. His academic training was in anthropology, but he was often described in the media as a “statistician” when he commented on various topics.

As for funding, is it any surprise that we find, among others, the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation (which is funding an array of Republican and right-wing ideological interests, including the Tea Party via front groups like Freedomworks)?

The Genetic Literacy Project is affiliated with The Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA), too. It’s a U.S.-based, tax-exempt, nonprofit 501(c)(3) media watch organization. On its website, CMPA claims to be politically neutral: “The Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) is a nonpartisan research and educational organization which conducts scientific studies of news and entertainment media. CMPA’s goal is to provide an empirical basis for ongoing debates over media coverage and impact through well-documented, timely, and readable studies.” Guess who dug up the seed money for the CMPA? Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson.

CMPA also runs the Statistical Assessment Service (STATS), described on the front page of its website as a sister organization, and which is considered a front organization.

CMPA: out of the total of $3,323,416 in its foundation grants, nearly all of it ($2,693,916) came from the John M. Olin, Scaife, and Smith Richardson foundations. In other words, CMPA received 81 percent of its foundation funding from those donors. Here is a sample of other right-wing causes funded by these same donors:

John M. Olin Foundation funds the American Enterprise Institute and the Project for the New American Century. The Scaife Foundation funds the American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, and the Hudson Institute. All of them are ideologically far right organizations devoted to advancing radical conservative causes.

According to Salon journalist Joe Conason, “The IRS form 990 returns filed by the CMPA redacts (eliminates) the names of all the individuals and organizations that contribute to it, thereby concealing them from public scrutiny. But the watchdogs at Media Transparency have collated the 990 returns filed by conservative foundations, which disclose their contributions.” And it turns out that, yes indeed, the Genetic Literacy Project, the CMPA, and STATS are all supported by the same few conservative foundations.

So how does this all work out in the public media that supposedly informs America?

Here’s one headline widely reported in news media across America a few years ago: “Fox News Gives Most Balanced Coverage.”

The Huffington Post reported in December, 2007, that “a study released this month by the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) at George Mason University found that Fox News Channel’s evening coverage was more ‘balanced’ than that of the broadcast networks.” Yet, one only had to look at the money behind the CMPA study to see that the results were tainted from the start. Journalists! Start doing your due diligence.

The CMPA staff includes President Robert Lichter, who is a paid contributor to the Fox News Channel. During the mid-1980′s he held the DeWitt Wallace Chair in Mass Communication at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. In addition, according to the CMPA website, he has taught at Princeton University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, and George Mason University, and he was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Politics and Psychology at Yale University, a Senior Research Fellow at Columbia University, and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow at Smith College.

All these positions at some of America’s finest institutions of higher learning would be laudable, if it weren’t for the fact that this arch-conservative is part of a campaign that has, as one of its aims, to discredit scientists who show that neonicotinoid pesticides are destroying our bee populations. You might almost think that people at institutions like Princeton and Yale are behind the conservative assault on scientific inquiry into environmental problems. Perish the thought!

So the question comes down to this. Once we peer behind the curtain and see the Wizard of Oz for who he really is, of what value to the conservative corporatists is the discrediting of a pesticide that’s killing our bees?

Let me venture a guess.

If the public gets the idea that a pesticide is bad for us, the public might demand that pesticides be regulated or removed from the environment. And who makes pesticides? Well, Bayer Crop Science makes neonicotinoids. Monsanto makes Roundup. Syngenta, Dow, and many others make toxic agricultural chemicals. And they are VERY profitable.

And so, I get this seemingly innocuous Facebook post telling me that bee die-off isn’t really due to neonics. And when I wend my way back through the maze of front groups and phony organizations and propagandizing smokescreens, I always come back to the same people. And they are the arch-conservatives who have stolen the American dream from working folks and the middle class and hidden it in their safety deposit boxes in the Cayman Islands.

Wake up, America. You’re being had!

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MONSANTO TAKES UMBRAGE AT WHO ROUNDUP CANCER REPORT

Reuters is reporting that Monsanto is demanding a sit-down with members of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). This international scientific body is being called on the carpet for reporting that Monsanto’s Roundup, the world’s most widely sold herbicide, which is inextricably linked to the majority of their genetically engineered products, is probably carcinogenic to humans. In a DO-YOU-KNOW-WHO-WE-ARE? moment, Monsanto’s vice president of global regulatory affairs Philip Miller said the following in an interview:

“We question the quality of the assessment. The WHO has something to explain.”

Evidence for the carcinogenicity of glyphosate comes from a peer-reviewed study published in March of 2015 in the respected journal The Lancet Oncology.

Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum herbicide, currently with the highest production volumes of all herbicides. It is used in more than 750 different products for agriculture, forestry, urban, and home applications. Its use has increased sharply with the development of genetically modified glyphosate-resistant crop varieties. Glyphosate has been detected in air during spraying, in water, and in food.

Glyphosate has been detected in the blood and urine of agricultural workers, indicating absorption. Soil microbes degrade glyphosate to aminomethylphosphoric acid (AMPA). Blood AMPA detection after poisonings suggests intestinal microbial metabolism in humans. Glyphosate and glyphosate formulations induced DNA and chromosomal damage in mammals, and in human and animal cells in vitro. One study reported increases in blood markers of chromosomal damage (micronuclei) in residents of several communities after spraying of glyphosate formulations.

Recently, Monsanto’s Dr. William “Bill” Moar presented the latest project in their product pipeline dealing with RNA. Most notably, he spoke about Monsanto’s efforts to educate citizens about the scientific certainty of the safety of their genetically engineered products. The audience was mostly agricultural students, many of whom were perhaps hoping for the only well-paid internships and jobs in their field.
One student asked what Monsanto was doing to counter the “bad science” around their work. Dr. Moar, perhaps forgetting that this was a public event, then revealed that Monsanto indeed had “an entire department” (waving his arm for emphasis) dedicated to “debunking” science which disagreed with theirs. This is the first time that a Monsanto functionary has publically admitted that they have such an entity which brings their immense political and financial weight to bear on scientists who dare to publish against them. The Discredit Bureau will not be found on their official website.

The job of Monsanto’s Discredit Bureau is to attack the unimpeachably respected Lancet and the international scientific bodies of WHO and IARC. However, they have no choice but to attack, since the stakes are so very high for them. Glyphosate is their hallmark product upon which the majority of their profits are based. Make no mistake, this is extremely bad news for Monsanto.

But their enablers are coming to the rescue.

In a growing number of cases, USDA managers are interfering, intimidating, harassing, and in some cases punishing civil service scientists for doing work that has inconvenient implications for industry and could have direct policy/regulatory ramifications. For example, in recent months USDA scientists have been subjected to:

• Directives not to publish data on certain topics of particular sensitivity to industry;

• Orders to rewrite scientific articles already accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal to remove sections which could provoke industry objections;

• Summons to meet with Secretary Vilsack in an effort to induce retraction of a paper that drew the ire of industry representatives;

• Orders to retract a paper after it had been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The paper could only be published if the USDA scientist removed his authorship thus leaving only the names of authors unassociated with USDA;

• Demotion from supervisory status and a reprimand after the scientist provided testimony before Congress that did not reflect agency preferences;

• Disruptive and lengthy internal investigations to search out any irregularity that could be used for management leverage against the targeted scientist;

• Suspensions without pay and other disciplinary actions for petty matters, such as minor irregularities in travel paperwork;

• Inordinate, sometimes indefinite, delays in approving submission for publication of scientific papers that may be controversial;

• Restrictions on topics that USDA scientists may address in conference presentations; and

• Threats by USDA managers to damage the careers of scientists whose work triggers industry complaints.

At least 10 USDA scientists have been investigated or faced other consequences arising from research that called into question the safety of certain agricultural chemicals.

There have been mounting complaints over the last year from USDA scientists claiming they have been ordered to retract studies, water down findings, remove their names from authorship and experienced delays in approvals for publication of research papers. These ten USDA scientists are laying their careers on the line. Although they are not identified by name in the petition for fear of retaliation, they will be instantly recognizable to Secretary Vilsack from the list of specific complaints. Their bravery characterizes the highest calling of scientific integrity.

Science is not a shining citadel on a hill founded on unassailable objective facts and data. Science is a human endeavor subject to human frailties and failings. Science, increasingly divorced from integrity and accountability, becomes subverted when it is manipulated and orchestrated by multinational corporations whose sole aim is global market share to increase profits.

Recently, companies “such as Monsanto” were implicated in a watchdog group’s petition to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on behalf of anonymous scientists within the agency who say their research is suppressed when it upsets powerful agrichemical interests.

The allegations enraged the industry’s critics, who have been busy touting recent reports linking popular herbicides often used in tandem with genetically engineered crops, or GMOs, to cancer and antibiotic resistance.

Monsanto holds up the sheer abundance of their own well-funded studies citing the safety of glyphosate, done over the past 20 years, which is a short period of time in scientific inquiry, particularly when dissenting research is actively suppressed. They also hold up the findings of regulatory bodies, particularly in the United States where the revolving door between agrochemical corporations and government spins at high speed.

Critics of the agrochemical industry have often cited the history of these corporations who rush their products to market with protestations of safety only to discover down the road that they have become persistent ecological and health nightmares. We are seeing the end of that road for Glyphosate.

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ICE

About a year ago, the PR people for a new company that produces a drink called ICE asked me if I wanted to have a sample. They said the drink was made from mountain stream water, was low in calories, slightly sparkling, and refreshing. So I said okay, meaning to tout it in this blog if I liked it.

It was a very fine product, I thought. Not sweet. Clean tasting. So I wrote about it. Although it was made with city water in Preston, Washington, the city water itself comes from a lake fed by mountain streams.

I was in my local market the other day and I was thirsty. I spied ICE in a cold case, but now it was all colored and fruit flavored. I bought a bottle anyway, and when I opened it, was astonished to find that it was cloyingly sweet. What happened? I immediately thought that the company must have had focus groups trying the drink, and they urged the company to sweeten it. Yuck. Its lack of sweetness was what I liked about it. And it wasn’t only way too sweet, it had generic fruit flavorings. I wondered how much sugar it contained and looked at the label. It had no sugar, no calories. It did have sucralose, an artificial sweetener better known as Splenda.

Sucralose is a non-nutritive sweetener. The majority of ingested sucralose is not broken down by the body, so it has no calories. In the European Union, it is also known as E955. Sucralose is about 320 to 1,000 times as sweet as table sugar, twice as sweet as saccharin, and three times as sweet as aspartame. It is stable under heat and over a broad range of pH conditions. Therefore, it can be used in baking or in products that require a longer shelf life.

ICE now also contains maltodextrin. Several studies have linked maltodextrin consumption to the suppression of “good bacteria” in the digestive system. These bacteria are the foundation of strong immune systems, so suppressing them is asking for trouble. This potentially puts people who consume a lot of the additive at risk for bacterial infections such as salmonella or E.coli. Despite being only slightly sweet, if at all, maltodextrin is a carbohydrate. It will affect your blood sugar. This is an important thing for people with diabetes to remember. Maltodextrin has the same amount of carbohydrates as table sugar, and its glycemic index is higher than table sugar: 106-136.

In this age of over-information, it should come as no surprise that there’s misleading and conflicting information when it comes to maltodextrin. Product labels aren’t required to mention how much of the additive is included. Instead, it’s added to the total carbohydrate count.

Though some vouch for it as a good option for people with diabetes, it can affect blood sugar even more dramatically than table sugar, and should be counted towards your daily carbohydrate load.

Too bad about ICE. If you bought some on my recommendation, I’m sorry. But the product changed drastically from when I sampled it last year until now. It’s an example of a good product gone bad.

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CHIPOTLE MEXICAN GRILL PICKS BEST GAME NAME EVER

Although Chipotle Grill isn’t strictly organic, the chain does make an effort to use good ingredients. I always wondered when someone was going to start an organic fast food chain and make a jillion dollars. Well, Chipotle is heading in that direction. But what struck me about the chain’s latest effort to help customers understand its good ingredients is the name it chose for a new interactive game. Here’s the press release from its PR company:

DENVER – On July 21, Chipotle Mexican Grill will launch “Friend or Faux” – an integrated marketing campaign and interactive digital experience that invites consumers to learn about the differences between Chipotle’s ingredients and those commonly used to make fast food. The “Friend or Faux” game is optimized for mobile and desktop use, and will be accessible by visiting www.chipotle.com/friendorfaux. The campaign will be supported by extensive online advertising.

“Friend or Faux” reinforces Chipotle’s commitment to serving real, high quality ingredients raised with respect for farmers, the environment, animals, and consumers, while taking a progressive approach to continue conversations about where food comes from and how it is prepared.

In a marketing-driven industry where new menu items are often used to drive customer traffic and proliferation of menu items is the norm, cheap, heavily processed foods that include thousands of additives and artificial ingredients have become common. Chipotle has chosen a different path, focusing instead on making food with great quality ingredients prepared using classic cooking techniques. Through this campaign, Chipotle will showcase the limited number of ingredients it uses to make its food (just 68 ingredients in total), and contrast that with the long and complex ingredient lists on which many fast food brands have become so reliant.

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Would Bernie Make an Organic-Minded President?

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He might.

Bernie is a member of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works and the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, both important committees for the environment, green jobs, and wise use of natural resources. His home state of Vermont was the first state in the country to pass a GMO labeling law, and support of labeling is definitely a litmus test for any politician who wants the organic vote.

And yes, there is an organic vote. Millions upon millions of people in this country want a food supply that’s safe and wholesome, and the kind of clean environment from which it comes. Part of the shift America needs to make to reverse climate change is to farm in a way that recycles nutrients, and sequesters carbon in the soil. That’s organic farming. Senator Sanders has been a leading voice on climate change in the government.

Sanders is not only a leading progressive voice on climate change, but also income inequality and campaign finance reform. He rose to national prominence on the heels of his 2010 filibuster of the proposed extension of the Bush-era tax rates for the wealthy. Sanders is also outspoken on civil liberties issues, and has been particularly critical of mass surveillance policies such as the Patriot Act.

Sanders considers global warming a serious problem. Along with Senator Barbara Boxer, Sanders introduced the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act of 2007 on January 15, 2007. In a July 26, 2012, speech on the Senate floor, Sanders addressed claims made by Senator Jim Inhofe: “The bottom line is when Senator Inhofe says global warming is a hoax, he is just dead wrong, according to the vast majority of climate scientists.” He was Climate Hawks Vote’s top-rated senator on climate leadership in the 113th Congress.

Believing that “[we need to] transform our energy system away from fossil fuel,” Sanders voted against the Keystone Pipeline bill, saying, “Unless we get our act together, the planet that we’re going to be leaving to our kids and grandchildren will be significantly less habitable than the planet we have right now…I think it’s a good idea for the president, Congress, and the American people to listen to the overwhelming amount of scientists who tell us loudly and clearly that climate change is one of the great planetary crises that we face.” This all sounds liberal and organic to me. But it’s no cynical ploy to win hearts, minds, and pocketbooks of the rich. Sanders has been speaking truth to power for decades. He is truly incorruptible.

Bernie Sanders’ integrity and honesty were earned over many years of standing up for the working and middle classes in this country. He has earned the trust of the American people. You can’t buy this. Bernie has millions of supporters, and supporters vote, dollars don’t. You want to get big money out of electoral politics? Vote for Bernie next year. If any candidate of either party is going to support organic farming and wholesome food production, it’s Bernie.

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MONSANTO KNEW ALL ALONG HOW TOXIC ROUNDUP IS

Internal Monsanto documents reveal the company knew over 30 years ago that glyphosate, the active ingredient in its Roundup herbicide, caused adenomas and carcinomas in rats its scientists studied, according to Anthony Samsel, PhD. Research shows, he said, that Roundup, in addition to chelating vitamins and minerals, making them nutritionally unavailable, disrupts intestinal bacteria that manufacture amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.

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THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET GOES (MOSTLY) VEGETARIAN

The Mediterranean Diet gets the (mostly) vegetarian treatment in “Living the Mediterranean Diet,” by Rick Nigro and Ray Ewald (Ulysses Press, $21.95).

Combining the healthful diets of the Mediterranean countries with many plant-based recipes is a double dose of goodness, especially when the ingredients are organic. There are some seafood and chicken dishes, too, for us omnivores. And these recipes look wonderful. The Watermelon Gazpacho recipe alone is worth the price of the book. It combines watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, mint, ginger, jalapeno chili, lime juice, red onion, parsley, rosemary, salt, and pepper.

Some other recipes: butternut squash and pomegranate hummus, farfalle pasta with sunflower seed pesto, wild salmon with dill-yogurt sauce, eggplant and Kalamata olive rolls, whole roasted apple-rosemary chicken, and…you get the idea. It’s available on Amazon.

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LATEST REPORTS FROM THE ORGANIC CENTER

A new study has found that exposure to pyrethroid pesticides may make some people more susceptible to Parkinson’s disease if they have a common gene. Researchers found that Parkinson’s disease risk significantly increased for individuals with the common gene who were exposed to pyrethroid pesticides. Individuals with the common gene but who were not exposed to pyrethroids did not have an increased risk for developing Parkinson’s. This study is one of the first to find a link between pesticide exposure and genetic risk for Parkinson’s.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences shows that organic farming is more profitable to farmers than conventional farming. While this study did not include environmental costs or benefits of conventional or organic farming in the economic analysis, the authors note, “If we also put a price on the negative externalities caused by conventional farming, such as soil erosion or nitrate leaching into groundwater, then organic agriculture would become even more profitable because its environmental footprint has been shown to be less than that of conventional agriculture.” They added, “We found that, in spite of lower yields, organic agriculture was significantly more profitable than conventional agriculture, and has room to expand globally. Moreover, with its environmental benefits, organic agriculture can contribute a larger share in sustainably feeding the world.”

The Agricultural Health Study investigated the relationship between the use of the organophosphate pesticide diazinon and cancer risk in pesticide applicators. A recent study published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine suggests that exposure to diazinon significantly increases the risk of lung cancer in applicants who used the pesticide the most. Organic regulations protect farm workers health because synthetic toxic pesticides are prohibited.

A recent study published in Agronomy for Sustainable Development has confirmed that organic farming is beneficial for soil organisms. The study compared soil organisms among fields that had been managed using different farming practices for 14 years as part of a long-term study. The scientists found that abundances of larger soil animals increased from 100 to 2,500 percent and microorganisms increased from 30 to 70 percent over the conventional field, with conservation agriculture demonstrating the healthiest and most diverse soils.

A new study in the Journal of Applied Ecology has found that tachinid parasitoids, a group of flies that prey on crop pests, are positively affected by organic farming. Organic farms had both higher abundance and species richness of parasitoids than conventional farms. “To restore parasitoid diversity, the promotion of organic agriculture should aim to increase both the total extent of organic farming and the connectivity of individual farms. As the benefits of organic farming to biodiversity clearly spread beyond individual farm boundaries, any assessment of organic farming should consider these positive externalities,” the authors concluded.

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SOIL BASICS IN E-BOOK FORM NOW AVAILABLE

There’s a new book from Organic Connections magazine titled, “Soil and Your Health,” that you can download for free. Here’s a link to the download site:

http://organicconnectmag.com/download-soil-and-your-health/?utm_source=FIG&utm_medium=pr&utm_campaign=fig-soil

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HOW BIG FOOD, AG, AND BIOTECH FRONT GROUPS MANIPULATE US

A new report sheds light on the covert tactics used to shape public opinion about what we eat, according to Anna Lappe in “Spinning Food,” a new report detailing the way public opinion about food and farming is manipulated in favor of big corporations.

“At the turn of the last century,” she writes, “the father of public relations, Edward Bernays, launched the Celiac Project, whose medical professionals recommended bananas to benefit celiac disease sufferers. Those pitched on the sweet fruit’s miraculous properties didn’t know the project was actually created for the United Fruit Co., the largest trader of bananas in the world.

“The creation of front groups — independent-sounding but industry-backed organizations — as a public relations strategy dates at least as far back as Bernays’ day. But a new report by Kari Hamerschlag, a senior program manager at the environmental nonprofit Friends of the Earth; Stacy Malkan, a co-founder of the food industry watchdog U.S. Right to Know; and me (Anna Lappe is a food activist) shows that such tactics are continuing with ever more scope and scale today.

“The report exposes the growth of food-industry-sponsored front groups and other covert communication tactics in the past few years. While food industry spin is not new, we’re seeing an unprecedented level of spending and deployment of an ever wider array of PR tactics. We argue this rise of industrial food spin is a direct response to mounting public concerns about industrial agriculture as well as a growing interest in sustainable food and groundswell for organic products.

“Increasingly, the American public is raising questions about toxic chemicals used in farming, routine antibiotics used in livestock production and genetic engineering in agriculture. The booming organic food business is one sign: Sales of organic food and products in the United States are projected to jump from $35 billion in 2013 to $170 billion in 2025 — a direct threat to the profits of the processed food, animal agriculture, and chemical industries engaging in such spin. According to a recent Fortune article, since 2009 the 25 biggest food and beverage companies — selling nonorganic processed and junk food — lost an equivalent of $18 billion in market share. ‘I would think of them like melting icebergs,’ the article quotes Credit Suisse analyst Robert Moskow as saying. ‘Every year they become a little less relevant.’

“In the face of this threat, we argue that the industrial food sector — from the biotech behemoths to the animal agriculture industry — is working overtime to defuse these concerns with well-funded communication efforts and a rash of new front groups. From 2009 to 2013, just 14 of these front groups spent $126 million to shape the story of food while presenting the veneer of independence. There’s the Alliance to Feed the Future, which produces Common Core–vetted curricula on healthy food for public schools. Its members include the Frozen Pizza Institute and the Calorie Control Council, which promotes the benefits of Olestra and saccharin, among other artificial sweeteners and fats. You don’t need to be an expert in food security to be skeptical about advice for how to feed the world from the trade council for fake sugar and fat.

“We detail groups such as the U.S. Farmers and Rancher’s Alliance (USFRA) — whose goal, it says, is ‘to enhance U.S. consumer trust in modern food production to ensure the abundance of affordable, safe food’ and whose lead partners include animal pharmaceutical company Elanco, biotech giant Monsanto and chemical companies DuPont, Dow and Syngenta. Among the USFRA’s communication priorities since its launch in 2011 has been to combat growing public concern about the routine use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. Its Antibiotics Working Group has developed educational materials, hosted public conversations and trained media representatives to downplay the risks of antibiotics. But the group’s messages contradict well-documented evidence of the widespread misuse of routine antibiotics. Today 70 percent of medically important antibiotics sold in the United States are used not in humans, according to the Food and Drug Administration, but in livestock animal production to promote growth or prevent disease, leading to the threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

“But it’s not just front groups. We describe a plethora of other communication tactics, many of them so under-the-radar that often people don’t realize the stories are being crafted behind the scenes. We describe how the industrial food sector targets female audiences and co-opts female bloggers, how industry groups pay for advertisements to look like editorial content and how the industry infiltrates social media. In one example, the Biotechnology Industry Organization hired PR firm Ketchum to develop GMOAnswers.com, populated with industry-approved answers about genetically modified organisms. The firm even won a prestigious advertising award for this campaign, particularly for its success in tracking negative tweets about GMOs and engaging users directly, urging them to visit the website.

“The trade groups for the industrial food sector also reach into their deep pockets to shape how the media report on our food system. In our analysis, we found that just four major trade associations for the chemical, biotech and animal agriculture sectors had expenses totaling half a billion dollars from 2009 to 2013, including communications and marketing campaigns.

“These are just some of the tactics we describe. While it is far from a comprehensive documentation of every front group or tactic, we hope the report inspires everyday Americans, public officials, and journalists to be critical consumers of the stories we hear about food and farming. Particularly at a time when mainstream media outlets are hemorrhaging, cutting back on the resources available for the investigative pieces essential to accurate reporting on and exposing industry malfeasance, it’s increasingly important that we know where our food information comes from and who is behind it. There’s new indication of the importance of this every day. Consider how the food industry is already busy pushing back in the media against the sound recommendations from the scientific advisory committee for the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, set to be finalized later this year.

“We must ensure these PR strategies don’t leave us in the dark about the real story of our food. Because as we debate one of the biggest questions of our time — how to feed ourselves safely and sustainably — it’s essential we base critical policy decisions and consumer choices on substance, not spin.”

You can learn more about Spinning Food by following this link: http://www.foe.org/news/archives/2015-06-new-report-exposes-how-front-groups-shape-story-of-food

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CAN A TEST KITCHEN BE TOO CREATIVE?

Hey, this burger shack is offering cricket and beef jerky milkshakes. Better get yours before they run out. Here’s info from its PR person, Amanda Quinn:

“Wayback Burgers has announced the launch of two new, unique, high-protein milkshakes made with crickets and beef jerky: the Oreo Mud Pie Cricket Milkshake and the Jerky Milkshake!

“The new Jerky Milkshake masterfully captures the essence of the fabulously dehydrated meat, in milkshake form. Oreo Mud Pie Cricket Protein Milkshake is made with hand-dipped vanilla bean ice cream, Oreo Cookie Crumbles, Peruvian Chocolate Cricket Protein powder (chirp!), chocolate and coffee flavors masterfully blended to deliver 24 grams of protein. The milkshakes will be available at all locations nationwide July 1 – September 30.”

When are they going to offer a Soylent Green Milkshake?

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GMO Corn Found to Be Toxic (Duh)

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A team of Egyptian scientists has found that Monsanto’s GMO (Bt toxic) corn is not substantially equivalent to its non GMO parent as Monsanto claims.

While Monsanto also insists there is no evidence of toxicity in its voluntary safety assessments, these independent scientists tell us otherwise. By the 91st day of their studies, they found evidence of kidney, liver, and intestinal toxicity, as well as male infertility in laboratory animals fed the GMO corn.

The results were published in the Journal of American Science 2012; 8(9).

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MONSANTO USES DECEIT TO FURTHER THE DARK ACT

The following is part of a letter sent to organic activists by Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the Organic Consumers Association.

“When the first email came in describing Monsanto’s latest campaign of trickery and deception, I thought it sounded far-fetched,” Cummins writes. “But then other activists chimed in, and I realized it was true.

“According to reports from our activists on the ground in California, Washington State, and Oregon, Monsanto is organizing its own powerful ‘astroturf’ movement.” (An astroturf movement is a fake grass roots movement used to achieve political goals.)

“It’s no amateur campaign.

“In a detailed email, with pdf images of documents sent to one of our activists from a Monsanto astroturf leader, we’ve learned that Monsanto is calling moms who are pro-labeling, pretending to be on their side, then rushing overnight documents to them that include letters containing their personal stories, addressed to their members of Congress, asking them to support H.R. 1599.

“It’s a direct attempt to deceive and confuse busy moms, and deluge Congress members with letters of support for a federal bill that would not only ban labeling forever, but also preempt bans on GMO crops, preclude pre-market safety testing of GMO foods,, and take away food companies’ right to voluntarily obtain independent GMO-free certification.

“Monsanto is spending millions to create its fake grassroots movement. We need to fight back. Because if Congress passes H.R. 1599, the Mother of all Monsanto Protection Acts, the GMO labeling movement will effectively be shut down.

“For decades, I’ve been working to defend our soil and our food from the onslaught of Monsanto’s toxic chemicals. By now, you’d think that nothing would surprise me.
And yet . . . this fight has now moved to defending not only our health and the right to know what’s in our food, but our very democracy.

“H.R. 1599 takes ‘attack on democracy’ to new heights. The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is part of the Bill of Rights, was ratified on December 15, 1791. It outlines the principle of federalism, the basis for the original Constitution, by stating that the federal government possesses only those powers delegated to it by the Constitution. All remaining powers are reserved for the states or the people.
States’ rights, and your rights, will be obliterated if Congress passes H.R. 1599. Monsanto will stop at nothing to pass this bill.”

H.R. 1599 is known among organic activists as the DARK Act, or Deny Americans the Right to Know.

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SOCIAL ACTIVIST AND CATHOLIC CARDINAL TEAM UP ON CLIMATE CHANGE

From The Guardian:

She is one of the world’s most high-profile social activists and a ferocious critic of 21st-century capitalism. He is one of the pope’s most senior aides and a professor of climate change economics. But this week the secular radical will join forces with the Catholic cardinal in the latest move by Pope Francis to shift the debate on global warming.

Naomi Klein and Cardinal Peter Turkson are to lead a high-level conference on the environment, bringing together churchmen, scientists and activists to debate climate change action. Klein, who campaigns for an overhaul of the global financial system to tackle climate change, told the Observer she was surprised but delighted to receive the invitation from Turkson’s office.

“The fact that they invited me indicates they’re not backing down from the fight. A lot of people have patted the pope on the head, but said he’s wrong on the economics. I think he’s right on the economics,” she said, referring to Pope Francis’s recent publication of an encyclical on the environment.

Release of the document earlier this month thrust the pontiff to the centre of the global debate on climate change, as he berated politicians for creating a system that serves wealthy countries at the expense of the poorest.

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A NOTE ON CHARLESTON FROM A VISITING IRISHMAN

The following appeared in the comments column accompanying a news story on the Charleston massacre in The New York Times. I think it bears repeating here:

“I am Irish. For many years in my native land the Rev. Ian Paisley spouted bigoted hatred about Catholics in Northern Ireland, but then claimed innocence when some militant sectarian group massacred Catholics. Speech was not murder, he said. He would never condone killing, he said. Then he went right back to feeding the attitudes that spawned the killing. Few were fooled.

“We should not be fooled in America today.

“In this country the ‘mainstream’ right-wing has made an industry of demonizing African-Americans as ‘thugs’ and criminals – just look at the divergence in tone between the recent coverage of Ferguson or Baltimore and the (mostly white) biker massacre in Waco, TX. For decades, white America has been told that black Americans are lazy leeches, dependent on hand-outs funded by your hard-earned taxes to bankroll their immoral lifestyles.

“The first black president was greeted by the right not only with diehard obstructionism but a chorus of color-coded abuse (‘lazy,’ ‘food-stamp president,’ etc.) and questions about his very American-ness: he was ‘not one of us,’ a foreigner adhering to a foreign religion who has no right to be president.

“The siren song of racial hate relentlessly put out by the ‘mainstream’ right finds echo in the gunshots that rang out in Charleston.

“Rightists will, of course, deny the connection, the way Paisley did. But we are not fooled.”

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HOUSE VOTES TO REPEAL COUNTRY-OF-ORIGIN FOOD LABELS

Big Ag’s allies in the House of Representatives recently voted to repeal the rules for mandatory country-of-origin food labels (COOL) for chicken, pork and beef, according to Amanda Byrnes at Food & Water Watch.

Consumer and family farm advocates fought for years to make this labeling mandatory to ensure our right to know where our food comes from. Now it’s up to the Senate to block Big Ag’s attempts to take away our right to know. Send your senators a message: Protect mandatory country-of-origin labeling.

The House vote followed last month’s World Trade Organization (WTO) decision that said labeling which country Americans’ food comes from is a “trade barrier.”
Rather than wait to see how the WTO’s decision plays out, the House acted to repeal our popular, common-sense labels.

And now the Senate has a bad bill of its own that would make country-of-origin labeling for most beef and pork voluntary. A voluntary labeling program effectively means no labeling, since most meat companies and retailers don’t want to provide this information. We fought for years to make labeling mandatory for exactly that reason. Make sure your senators know that you want country of origin labels to stay — and that you want them to be mandatory.

Big food companies are concerned that people prefer locally produced food to food produced halfway around the world, and they’ve been challenging our labeling laws for years. When the World Trade Organization issued its most recent ruling on country-of-origin labels, it decided that our labels negatively impact livestock imports from Canada and Mexico, even though these imports are at higher levels now than before COOL went into effect.

Despite the questionable merits of the WTO decision, Big Ag’s allies in Congress are using it as an excuse to push even harder to get rid of country of origin food labeling. That’s why it’s so important for your senators to hear from you. Demand that your senators say NO to repealing or weakening COOL.

Country-of-origin labels are popular with consumers and farmers alike. And our senators need to stand up for us instead of caving in to corporate interests. If you don’t think that foreign corporate interests should have veto power over our domestic laws, make it clear to your senators that you want our common-sense food labels protected.

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A SIMPLE AND INGENIOUS WINE KEEPER

Oxygen is the enemy of wine. Open a bottle, especially a well-aged bottle, and the wine you don’t drink tonight will start to lose quality within a day or two. By day four or five, cook with it.

Then along comes an invention called Savino (save vino, get it?) that keeps air away from your leftover wine. It’s a food-grade plastic cylinder with a float that exactly fits the interior when it contains wine, functioning like an airlock. So no matter how much or how little wine you want to preserve, the float protects it. Place the device in the fridge and it will keep the wine fresh twice as long.

It’s available on Amazon for $16.

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NY Times Runs Monsanto Propaganda as News

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Shame on The New York Times for running biotech propaganda as “news.” Is the Great Grey Lady turning into Fox News?

In a recent article, the following statements, among much else, appear: “If you examine G.M. foods with the microscope cranked up to maximum, there is no meaningful distinction between them and other foods, as far as genes, proteins and molecules are concerned. From a genetic point of view, genes are genes. It doesn’t matter where they come from.”

Oh really? I call balderdash on that statement. And I’m sure any reputable geneticist would call it, too.

“While tangible harm is hard to detect,” the article says, “G.M. farming has been found to produce tangible benefits. A 2014 German review of research…calculated that G.M. technology has reduced pesticide use by 37 percent, increased crop yields by 22 percent and increased farmer profits by 68 percent.”

This is nonsense. Study after study shows that the introduction of GMOs has resulted in a multifold increase in pesticides, especially Monsanto’s profitable Roundup; no significant increase in yields, and therefore an actual drop in farmer profits.

“G.M. crops are becoming more prevalent in the developing world. Their use is permitted across Latin America, Asia and Africa. Brazil is the second-largest producer, after the United States, followed by Argentina. Extensive cultivation of G.M.O.s also occurs in China, Paraguay and South Africa.”

Uh—no. El Salvador has banned all GMO crops. Brazil is in an uproar over them and farmers are dying around the world where Roundup use is heaviest. France has banned the sale of Roundup in garden centers. Russia has controlled GMOs. And the World Health Organization has called Roundup “potentially carcinogenic.” The Inter Press Service News Agency reports that “After the World Health Organization (WHO) declared glyphosate a potential carcinogen, the campaign has intensified in Latin America to ban the herbicide, which is employed on a massive scale on transgenic crops.” The above quote from the Times’ article is just Big Biotech lies.

“Farmers in the developing world planted about 95 million hectares (235 million acres) of G.M. crops in 2014, five times more than in 2003, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, a nonprofit technology-transfer organization.”

I checked who’s funding the ISAAA. Among others, Bayer CropScience (the folks who brought us neonicotinoid pesticides implicated in bee die-offs) and Monsanto. A founding patron was Norman Borlaug, the founder the Green Revolution that brought chemical agriculture to the Third World and destroyed much of that world’s indigenous knowledge about growing crops in favor of putting its farmers in thrall to Big Ag.

“The developing world is also where a lot of hunger exists, and much hope is being pinned on the success of G.M. crops to alleviate it.”

As pointed out in this blog before, pegging GMOs and Roundup to the ginned up “world food crisis” is part of Monsanto’s plan to get governments to fund its operations and promote its products in their countries. Besides, the United Nations World Food Program makes the case that limited supply isn’t the primary reason for food shortages. Lack of investment in infrastructure that gets food from where it’s grown to where it’s eaten is a bigger culprit, the organization says, as are wastage and war.

And if you think I’m just being cranky about the Times’ article, compare the article’s falsehoods with the following story.

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EL SALVADOR: NO TO GMOS! RESULT? RECORD YIELDS

Farmers in El Salvador realize the importance of non-GM food and heritage seed saving. After outperforming Monsanto’s biotech seed with record crop yields, they have also now stopped Monsanto from supplying El Salvador with GMO seeds.

Monsanto’s biotech crops have been linked with kidney disease, liver failure, reproductive problems, and more.

Juan Luna Vides, the director of diversified production for the Mangrove Association, a nongovernmental organization that was created to support a grassroots social movement for environmental conservation in El Salvador, says:

“Remember that Monsanto is together with DuPont, Pioneer, and all the large businesses that control the world’s seed market. Unfortunately, many of the governments in Latin America, and perhaps the world, have beneficiary relationships with these companies.”

Santos Cayetan, a Salvadoran farmer who uses local, GMO-free seeds and also works to grow native corn, said that the difference between using local seed versus Monsanto’s is quite amazing.

“[Native seeds are] always the same, they always produce, and they’re always there,” he said. “[Native seeds] are drought resistant.”

He and other farmers also comment on the fact that local seed has been adapted to the conditions specific to the region, and Monsanto’s seed has not. The local seed grows well even in dry soil. Farmers can also save and re-use seed without having to worry about patent infringement, as well as having to repurchase seed every season since much of the GM seed Monsanto, Pioneer, and others sell is engineered to self-destruct after just one season.

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GREEN AMERICA STATEMENT ON SENATE VOTE ON TPA

Following a vote in the US Senate to “fast-track” the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, Green America’s Director of Food Campaigns, Nicole McCann, issued the following statement:

“The Senate failed the American people today by passing a procedural motion on a “fast-track” bill that limits Congressional authority and oversight over international trade deals like TPP. The Senate voted to fast track pollution and the race to the bottom on regulatory standards that are intended to protect our food system. It’s clear this deal would dismantle regulations on genetically engineered crops around the world and disrupt the democratic process in order to secure corporate profits by large industrial food companies. The TPP would force working Americans to compete with horribly abused sweatshop workers overseas.

“The TPP touches everything and everyone, which is why organizations representing the environment, family farms, civil rights, consumers, labor, LGBTQ, students, and other movements oppose this trade deal. Hundreds of thousands of constituents have flooded phone lines of members’ of the Senate, and loudly voiced their opposition online and on the streets. We thank those Senators who took a stand for fair and responsible trade, and we are deeply disappointed in those who turned their backs on an opportunity to protect our communities from dirty trade deals.”

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WHOLE FOODS FACES MISLABELING INVESTIGATION

Weathering a dramatic 14 percent drop in shareholder value, the iconic grocer Whole Foods Market now faces consumer fraud accusations. This comes on the heels of the beleaguered grocer also dealing with a related and escalating protest concerning its new in-house rating system for conventional and Certified Organic produce.

Before these latest controversies, investment analysts had begun questioning Whole Foods’ ability to maintain above average profit margins in an increasingly competitive organic food market. Its new “Responsibly Grown” program for rating produce is seen as an effort to help the company maintain the high prices and margins which had earned the retailer the moniker “Whole Paycheck.”

The Cornucopia Institute, a national farm policy research group that acts as an organic industry watchdog, announced today that it asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate allegations of consumer fraud and mislabeling related to Whole Foods’ ”Responsibly Grown” produce rating program. Based in Cornucopia, Wisconsin, the organization has documented a number of examples where the grocer has labeled products “Good,” “Better” or “Best” when the farms or distributors in question had not met the standards set forth in the company’s recently developed “Responsibly Grown” guidelines.

“Whole Foods is undermining investor and consumer confidence, and their ability to garner premium prices, by playing fast and loose with the very system they are claiming offers their customers produce that meets a higher standard,” said Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at Cornucopia.

Some of the apparent labeling misrepresentations were brought to the attention of the company, and the public, by a group of veteran organic fruit and vegetable farmers. The growers complained that, in an attempt to maintain higher than average marketplace prices, Whole Foods developed a rating protocol that, in some cases, labels conventional produce, grown with petrochemical-based fertilizers and toxic pesticides, as “Best” while presenting Certified Organic produce to their customers either as “Unrated” or with inferior rankings.

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HILLARY HIRES MONSANTO LAWYER AS CAMPAIGN AIDE

Hillary Clinton hired a Monsanto lawyer to help her become President.

Jerry Crawford is a lobbyist for big agriculture in the American state of Iowa, and Monsanto is one of his largest clients. He’s also a consultant for politicians, fixing political campaigns to elect candidates most likely to preserve Monsanto’s hold on the state’s farmers, so it can continue to rake in billions in profits a year.

Now, Crawford has been hired by Hillary Clinton to help her win the critical early state of Iowa, in her campaign to become President of the United States.

Since stepping down as Secretary of State, Clinton has spoken out in favor of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and established herself as a friend of the biotech industry. But by hiring one of Monsanto’s lawyers, she’s taken it a step further.

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ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST

The massive Earthbound Farm organic produce corporation is expected to be sold to the WhiteWave Foods Company in a $600 million deal that has raised the eyebrows of organic consumers and advocates across the country.

WhiteWave spun off of Dean Foods, Inc. in 2012, the latter a company that has vehemently opposed GMO labeling with anti-labeling campaign donations. The company’s current CEO is Gregg Engles, the former CEO of Dean Foods, adding to distrust of the company among organic watchdog organization leaders like Mark Kastel, the senior farm policy analyst at the Cornucopia Institute. Kastel said that WhiteWave has done much to stretch the definition of “organic food” in an article from Food Safety News.

He later went on to add that WhiteWave’s Horizon dairy label produces virtually all of its milk from massive 10,000-cow operations with the animals living in their own filth, diluting the meaning of the term organic.

Dean Foods is not listed as an owner of WhiteWave anymore, as the PR reps on Earthbound’s Facebook page have pointed out.

But it’s hard not to be suspicious of the influence Dean Foods has, considering that its former CEO is at the helm of WhiteWave, isn’t it?

Dean Foods also notably converted Silk’s flagship soybean products from organic to “natural” without changing the packaging, except to remove the USDA organic symbol. The “natural” soybeans actually contained GMOs according to a Cornucopia Institute investigation.

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Pope Francis and the Salvation of the World

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Pope Francis has issued his encyclical on climate change and environmental destruction, to a predictable chorus of derision from conservatives. The gist of the right-wing criticism is that the Pope has stepped out of his religious bounds and is meddling in business, economics, and science. “He should stick to spiritual matters,” said one prominent conservative.

The environmental movement, however, has always been spiritual at its core, including the agricultural and horticultural aspects of the movement that we call organic or Biodynamic farming and gardening. If nature, with its interlocking web of ecologies, isn’t spiritual, then nothing is. For those who believe in a creator spirit, nature is nothing less than that spirit brought to life. For those who don’t believe in a creator spirit, than nature itself represents an ever-increasing river of spirit as evolution continues its revelations.

What Pope Francis is saying in his encyclical is that the rapacious exploitation of the earth’s resources, the ugly and materialistic quest for money, the environmentally-destructive methods of food production and manufacturing, the poisoning of the earth and its creatures, the great extinction of species we are now experiencing due to our economic activities, the apathy about feeding and protecting the poor and vulnerable—all this is profoundly not spiritual. It’s transgressive, against nature. And humanity should, to rescue itself and the world with us, act in unison to correct our destructive ways.

It has always been the aim of the organic method of food production to decipher nature’s laws and imitate them. To raise farm animals in a humane way. To improve the soil as we use it to grow crops. To prevent erosion. To keep waterways clean. To avoid chemicals and toxic substances as we grow food. To respect nature by following its laws. To be kind and generous. To promote health in ourselves and the environment. That’s spirituality applied to the way we feed ourselves.

Once again, the conservatives have missed the point. And I daresay they miss it on purpose, because what Pope Francis is calling for is a radical restructuring of the way we conduct ourselves in the world. And that threatens the right’s constituency, which, of course, is the corporate, banking, and exploitive business models that enrich the 1 percent.

Spirituality isn’t about ghosts. It’s where the truth lives. And the truth is that climate change and the exploitation of the earth is unsustainable and we must change our ways or homo sapiens—along with a lot of other creatures–will die.

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THE DARK ACT JUST GOT WORSE

We didn’t think it was possible, but the DARK Act (Deny Americans the Right to Know)–just got even more dangerous than we’d ever imagined, according to Oregon Right to Know.

On top of outlawing GMO labeling nationwide, under a new amendment introduced by Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-Ks), the DARK Act, HR 4432, would make it illegal for state and local governments to ban genetically modified crops.

The DARK Act would not only prevent states from making new laws requiring GMO labeling but it would also destroy those requirements in states that already have them. And the new amendment would negate the hard-fought victory to defeat Monsanto by outlawing GMO crops in Jackson County, Oregon.

This bill isn’t about science or safety. It’s a naked power grab by big pesticide, agrichemical, and biotech companies and their industry front groups.

Monsanto and other companies are putting all their weight behind this bill and only a grassroots movement can stop them.

Make sure Congress knows that 90 percent of Americans support GMO labeling. Dial 1-877-796-1949 and you’ll be automatically connected with your Representative in Washington. Tell him or her to vote no on HR 4432.

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FRANCE BANS SALES OF ROUNDUP IN GARDEN CENTERS

French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal has announced a ban on the sale of Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup from garden centers, a product the UN has warned may be carcinogenic.

The active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, was in March classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the UN’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

“France must be on the offensive with regards to the banning of pesticides,” Royal said on French television. “I have asked garden centers to stop putting Monsanto’s Roundup on sale” in self-service aisles, she added.

Her announcement comes after French consumer association CLCV asked French and European officials to stop selling glyphosate-based products to amateur gardeners.

Glyphosate, introduced in the 1970s under the brand Roundup but now manufactured generically, is the most-produced weedkiller in the world, according to the IARC.

The agency’s evaluation of glyphosate saw “limited evidence” of a type of cancer called non-Hodgkins lymphoma, as seen in studies in the United States, Sweden and Canada conducted among farm workers since 2001.

The US agribusiness giant Monsanto strongly contested the IARC classification, saying “relevant, scientific data was excluded from review.”

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The Obama Administration Is Selling Us down a River of Cash

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Okay—why is a blog devoted to organic food getting involved in the current debate about transnational trade agreements? The answer is that organic farming represents the world as we want it to be: wholesome, clean food grown and distributed by companies concerned about our health and the environment, food of the people, by the people, and for the people. Similarly, international trade agreements should represent this world that we want. And by “we,” I mean We the People.

But the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) would fast-track at least three highly secretive trade deals—specifically the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP)—and potentially more deals. And what does “fast track” even mean?

When you find out (by reading this blog post), you will be aghast. I guarantee it.

Let’s start with something I heard on the PBS News Hour. Judy Woodruff was interviewing the Obama administration’s spokesperson. She said, “Why, if these agreements are such good deals, are they secret?” And he answered, “That’s just not true. They’re not secret at all. Every member of Congress can read the negotiated agreements.”

So I was waiting for Judy to follow up with the obvious question any responsible journalist should ask: “Only members of Congress? Not the public?” But she didn’t ask the question. So let me explain:

Right now, TiSA and T-TIP text are completely secretive and unavailable for even members of Congress to read, while the TPP text is available for members to review—although they need to go to a secret room inside the Capitol where only members of Congress and certain staffers with high-level security clearances, who can only go when members are present, can read the bill.

So only Congresspeople can read the TPP part of the agreement, but not the other parts. And the public can’t read any of it.

Isn’t this completely backwards in a supposedly democratic society? If only Congress can read the bill, that means that lobbyists and the guys with big bags of money are the only ones who get to whisper in the ears of our Congressional representatives. And those whispers tend to be to the choir, since we know Congress is already bought and sold by huge transnational corporations. So that means that Congresspeople will have already made up their minds to support the agreements, because then they can get the bags of money they need to get re-elected.

Hold on here! Aren’t we supposed to be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people? Shouldn’t it be that We the People get to read the bill, make up our minds, and then instruct our Congresspeople to vote according to our wishes? Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work? Aren’t our Congressional representatives there to apply the will of the people? Do I have this wrong? Or are they there to apply the will of corporate America TO the people?

So the White House spokesman went on to say that after the bill is passed, there will be a 60-day period in which the public can read the final draft and comment, and that if Congress then so chooses, it can make changes based on the will of the people. But this is completely disingenuous because the White House wants the agreements fast tracked. What does fast tracked mean?

It means that once the bill is passed and signed, Congress isn’t allowed to make any changes, no matter what the people say after they read the bill and comment in the 60-day period. In other words, the White House is lying to us.

I say it’s time to get out the tar and feathers and ride these anti-democratic, anti-American, four-flushing political criminals out of town on a rail. And then remember that the Constitution begins with the words We the People. The TPA, TPP, TiSA, and T-TIP are agreements that give away the country to the big corporate interests. This isn’t the organic way, and it’s not the way this country is supposed to work.

If you’re aghast, I’m even more aghast. We are being sold down the river.

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THAT NICE SMELL YOU’RE SMELLING MIGHT HURT YOU

SC Johnson, the maker of Glade air fresheners, has decided to tell consumers more about the chemicals they are breathing, according to The New York Times.

The company recently disclosed ingredients in the fragrances used in more than 200 of its air fresheners, candles and scented oils on its website. Companies have increasingly responded to safety concerns not from government regulators, but from customers who demand to know more about everyday products like moisturizers and cleaning products.

Kelly Semrau, the SC Johnson senior vice president for global corporate affairs, said, “We just feel that transparency in this area is the right thing to do.”

Customers have already been able to see specific dyes, waxes and other ingredients used in Glade’s various air fresheners and candles. But the chemicals behind scents like “Aruba wave” and “Hawaiian breeze” have largely been a mystery. Some of the ingredients for Aruba wave, for instance, include 2-t-butylcyclohexyl acetate, 2,6-dimethyl-7-octen-2-ol, allyl caproate, benzyl salicylate, ethyl 2,2-dimethyl hydrocinnamyl and ethyl hexanoate.

“Fragrance disclosure is a really big deal and consumers have been asking for it for a really long time,” said Janet Nudelman, the director of program and policy for the Breast Cancer Fund.

Typically, a fragrance is listed simply as “fragrance,” even though each fragrance could contain hundreds of individual chemicals. SC Johnson buys its fragrances from fragrance houses, which are known for closely guarding the formulas of their scents.

Fragrance ingredients also are often exempted from the disclosure requirements that apply to other chemicals, like those used in cosmetic products like perfumes and lipsticks.

SC Johnson will disclose ingredients in two ways. When there are more than 20 chemicals in a fragrance, it will disclose the top 10, or it will disclose the highest concentrations down to 0.09 percent of the formula, “whichever provides the most information,” the company said in a statement.

“It’s a good first step but it doesn’t go far enough,” Ms. Nudelman said, saying that many of the chemicals her group is concerned about have effects at much lower doses than what SC Johnson is disclosing.

A handful of Glade products are excluded from the new policy. Ms. Semrau said that those products’ scents came from companies that SC Johnson no longer worked with and they would be phased out. The company said it planned to expand its fragrance disclosures to other brands, including Pledge, Windex, Shout, and Scrubbing Bubbles.

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MONSANTO BUYS UP HEIRLOOM SEED SUPPLIERS

The NM Tree and Garden Center located in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, has discovered that Monsanto is buying heirloom seed companies, according to Maddy Harland, writing in Permaculture. It’s also buying the trademarks to a number of heirloom seeds. This means that you may think you are supporting an heirloom seed company but in reality the company is owned by Monsanto. The seeds themselves are still non-GMO and heirloom and they can be saved at the end of the harvest and sown next season, but you are still giving money to Monsanto.

Monsanto is also buying trademarks, so that no matter where you buy certain seeds, they get money from it.

In Europe we have witnessed a proactive corporate program to buy up ethical/organic companies. Estée Lauder now owns The Body Shop and has a poor record for animal testing. Green and Black fair trade chocolate was bought in 2006 by Cadbury, who was then acquired by Kraft Foods, one of the huge food multi-nationals. Rachel’s Organic, founded by Welsh farmers, is now a subsidiary of French company Lactalis.

This is a deliberate strategy–so much so that Triodos Bank actually has a European fund to help small organic companies stay independent and resist being bought up.

Why are small organic/heirloom marques being acquired by the big global corporations? First, there is a commercial market for them. Second, what you own you can control. Third, if you are a vast industrial corporation and own one of these companies, you can marginalize its market if you wish.

Europe may have opened the gates to Monsanto to grow genetically modified crops. Due to an accepted proposal by the EU Environment Council, GM crops could be planted across Europe as soon as next year.

Even worse, the proposal could give Monsanto and other biotech giants the power to overturn decisions made by democratically-elected governments to ban GM crops.

Here’s what the Council’s website says about the proposal: “The draft directive on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) provides a legal basis for member states to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs on their territory for reasons other than health or environment considerations.

“The proposal, presented by the Commission in July, 2010, applies to GMOs that are authorized or under authorization at EU level. Possible grounds that can be used by member states to ban or restrict GMOs include: socioeconomic reasons, land use and town planning, agricultural policy objectives and public policy issues.”

So it sounds as though member nations can restrict or allow GMOs at their discretion, while the EU’s Environment Council takes its hands off the issue.

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UNITED STATES NOW AN OLIGARCHY RATHER THAN A DEMOCRACY

From The Telegraph, UK, as reported by Zachary Davies Boren:

The US government no longer represents the interests of the majority of the country’s citizens, but is instead ruled by the rich and powerful, a new study from Princeton and Northwestern universities has concluded.

The report, entitled Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, used extensive policy data collected from between the years of 1981 and 2002 to empirically determine the state of the US political system.

After sifting through nearly 1,800 US policies enacted in that period and comparing them to the expressed preferences of average Americans (50th percentile of income), affluent Americans (90th percentile) and large special interests groups, researchers concluded that the United States is dominated by its economic elite.

The peer-reviewed study, which will be taught at these universities in September, says: “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

Researchers concluded that US government policies rarely align with the preferences of the majority of Americans, but do favor special interests and lobbying organizations: “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”

The positions of powerful interest groups are “not substantially correlated with the preferences of average citizens,” but the politics of average Americans and affluent Americans sometimes do overlap. This is merely a coincidence, the report says, with the interests of the average American being served almost exclusively when it also serves those of the richest 10 per cent.

The theory of “biased pluralism” that the Princeton and Northwestern researchers believe the US system fits, holds that policy outcomes “tend to tilt towards the wishes of corporations and business and professional associations.”

The study comes in the wake of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, a controversial Supreme Court decision which allows wealthy donors to contribute to an unlimited number of political campaigns.

Jeff here now: So much for our government of the people, by the people, and for the people. We can see pretty clearly now what the game is: corporate control of the economy, the government, and most important of all, the military. Why the military? Because the military sucks all the money, resources, and energy out of the country and its people and creates endless war. The endless war enriches the oligarchs, who control the economy and the government. Our country is being looted right under our noses.

Now where did I put those feathers, and who has the tar?

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ARE SEX LUBRICANTS CAUSING A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS?

The following article was written for this blog by Wendy Strgar, founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, a company that manufactures organic personal lubricants for sexual purposes. In it, she describes problems with conventional products and why organic and non-toxic versions of these products may be the answer. I checked her lubricant, and it’s based on organic aloe leaf gel and natural substances such as xanthan gum, agar, lactic acid, and natural flavors. But it also contains potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate, two manufactured chemical preservatives. To her credit, the package says, “95 percent organic” and doesn’t purport to be something other than what it is. Here’s what she has to say:

Initially, the business was spawned because there seemed to be a need in America for all natural or organic products for those allergic to products containing petrochemicals.

One of the missions of our company was to develop alternatives to keep America’s love life intact. But it turned out to be a much larger call to action, and the research we conducted and subsequent statistics proved that millions of American women are sick due to the petrochemicals used in traditional vaginal lubricants. As it turns out, these chemical-based products increase the likelihood of getting vaginosis, STDs, and HIV.

Good Clean Love was born, and offered women healthy alternatives for vaginal lubrication. Now our mission is to educate these women to understand the benefits of using natural and organic products as opposed to traditional over-the-counter products that dominate the market in a $219 million dollar industry.

Lubrication is a fact of life. In any relationship where working parts are at play, whether it is an engine, a dinner party, or an evening of love, everything works better when it is “well oiled.” Lubrication allows for glide, ease, and effectiveness. When lubrication is working well, it is invisible, a thought we don’t have. When it isn’t working, we know it immediately, although not always by its name. An engine without oil locks up in minutes; awkward silence and uncomfortable gazing down into the lap is immediately recognizable.

The competitive lubricant market is saturated with choices, but when you look beyond the packaging and brand hype to the ingredient panel, it quickly becomes clear that over 95 percent of OTC and adult lubricants are made with petrochemical ingredients including propylene glycol, used in products like anti-freeze and brake fluid, and polyethylene glycol, used in laxatives and oven cleaners. These are largely preserved with methyl- and propyl-parabens, which have been shortlisted as potential carcinogens and are not allowed in the EU.

When Good Clean Love first began making lubricants, we learned that petrochemical ingredients contained in competitors’ products were making women sick. I initially thought the illness was due to a sensitivity or allergy that was exacerbated by other issues like vaginal dryness or pain with sex.

Fast forward 10 years, and we discover that new lubricant studies commissioned by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to create a buffer gel for the prevention of HIV shocked the biophysicists who conducted and analyzed the studies.

What did they find? The petrochemical lubricants that dominate the market are damaging the genital and rectal tissue they are intended to protect. The problem is a biophysical issue, not an allergic sensitivity. For example, warming jelly’s cellular weight is 30 times that of skin cells. The warming jelly literally squeezes human tissue cells to death. The warming sensation you feel is actually the skin cells shriveling up and falling off the tissue, causing small tears and compromising the natural immune functions of the genital walls.

The most disturbing result of the use of hyperosmolar lubricants, as these products are called, is that women who use them are 13 times more likely to contract bacterial vaginosis compared to women using nothing at all (citation below). This is a public health crisis because the number of women impacted by BV is staggering. Depending on ethnicity, between 29 and 51 percent of all women are walking around with BV. Worse still, 84 percent don’t know that they have it. Yet as silent as this condition can be, the impact it has on susceptibility to other more lethal STDs and HIV is even more alarming. Women with BV are 60 percent more likely to contract other sexually transmitted illnesses, including HIV, than women without the infection. And although researchers aren’t clear about the mechanism of HIV transmission, women with BV are three times more likely to transmit the disease to their male partners.

Personal lubricants may be the last frontier of health care products to experience it, but there is a revolution afoot and there are many brands of organic and all-natural products that are entering the market to replace the dangerously toxic effects of conventional chemistry.

Take care of the most sensitive tissue in your body by reading labels and paying attention to your body’s adverse reactions. Good sex isn’t about feeling the burn; it is about feeling the warmth of someone you love. Choose wisely and realize that the body can teach the mind, and arousal and sexual enhancement may be as close as the bottle on your night stand.

About the author: Wendy Strgar is the founder of GoodCleanLove – a website that sells organic and natural sexual intimacy products, and also a source of medical research for women and men’s sexual health. She is the author of the book, Love that Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy. Her blog www.makinglovesustainable.com was named as the best sex/relationship blog by Intent.com for 2011 and has been listed many times as one of the best 100 relationship blogs on the web.

Citations: Marrazzo et al. reported lubricant was associated with an almost two-fold increased risk for diagnosis of BV by Amsel criteria.5 In a study of 396 women2, the research group found that among African American women, lubricant use was associated with a three-fold increased risk for disruption of vaginal microbiota as defined by Gram’s stain smear (p-value for interaction on ethnicity: <0.05).
2. Ravel J, Gajer P, Abdo Z, et al. Vaginal microbiome of reproductive-age women. ProcNatlAcadSciUSA 2011;108 Suppl 1:4680-7.
5. Marrazzo J, Thomas KK, Agnew K, Ringwood K. Prevalence and risks for bacterial vaginosis in women who have sex with women. Sex Transm Dis 2010;37:335-9.

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Big Ag Eyes Africa

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In the 1960s and 1970s, an agricultural scientist named Norman Borlaug began what he called The Green Revolution, to bring modern farming methods to indigenous people around the globe. The media at the time hailed him as a savior of starving people everywhere. He won international fame and prizes as a great humanitarian.

But what Borlaug really did was bring industrial agriculture to peasant cultures around the world, introducing them to chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fossil-fuel-powered heavy equipment, soil-destroying plowing techniques, and all the other problems of modern agriculture. Now the farmers no longer farmed using their traditional methods. Now their efforts resulted in money, much of which had to be paid to international corporations for the tools and chemicals needed to farm in the modern way.

It was The Green Revolution that gave Monsanto the idea for its take-over of the world’s seed supply by genetically altering and patenting seed, forcing farmers to buy their seed or pay steep fines for violating their patents, and pushing today’s farmers to use Roundup to suppress weeds.

Yet, sharing and saving seed is still a crucial part of traditional farming all over Africa, writes Heidi Chow, who works on Global Justice Now’s campaign to challenge the corporate take-over of Africa’s food systems as well as supporting the global movement for food sovereignty. She writes that governments, backed by multinational seed and chemical companies, are imposing oppressive seed laws that attack the continent’s main food producers and open the way to industrial agribusiness. Some are even calling it “the second Green Revolution.”

But Ghana’s women farmers are having none of it.

The corporate agenda for seeds is one where farmers are treated as passive consumers of corporate-controlled seed instead of indispensable knowledge bearers of seed varieties and protectors of seed diversity.

“My mother gave me some seeds to plant. And I’m also giving those seeds to my children to plant,” Esther Boakye Yiadom explained to Ms. Chow.

“So that is ongoing, every time we transfer to our children. And that is how all the women are doing it. We don’t buy, we produce it ourselves. I am having tomatoes and I don’t have okra. And another woman has okra. I’ll go to her and then beg for some of her okra seeds to plant.

“And then if another person also needs tomatoes from me and I have it, I’ll have to give to the person. Because you know every season changes, because maybe mine will not do well. But that person’s will do well. So next season we can get to plant. That’s why we exchange them.”

An oppressive new law–dubbed the Monsanto Law–in Ghana would bolster the power of multinational seed companies while restricting the rights of small farmers to keep and swap their seeds.

This bill will see the control of seeds being transferred away from small farmers and into the hands of large seed companies.

Today just 10 corporations control more than 75 percent of the world’s commercial seed market, although in Africa an estimated 80 percent of all seeds still come from farmer-managed seed systems–where farmers save, select and swap their own traditional or indigenous seed varieties.

Farmer-managed seed systems help to protect bio-diversity as farmers keep a wide variety of seeds. Seeds are selected both to maintain yield but also to preserve traits that respond to different climatic conditions, have certain tastes, appearance, and storability.

Commercial seeds, by comparison, are produced for high input mono-cropping farming systems and designed to produce high yields through the application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Just like The Green Revolution—only on steroids.

The proposed legislation is one of the commitments that the Ghanaian government has made to be part of the G7’s New Alliance.

The G7 New Alliance claims to address food security and nutrition in Africa, but the scheme has been widely condemned by African civil society and farmers’ groups as a “new wave of colonialism.”

Instead of supporting small farmers across Africa, the scheme facilitates a grab for resources–such as land and seed–for multinational corporations that see Africa as the last frontier for untapped markets.

The Monsanto Law is a clear example of how this New Alliance is making it easier for large seed companies to get a foothold in Ghana at the expense of small farmers, and will reduce food security as farmers are restricted from saving and preserving seeds.

The proposed seed legislation will also help open the doors to GMO crops in Ghana, which is currently being fought in the courts as campaigners challenge the application for authorization of Bt rice and cowpeas.

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WHAT IS THE NEW ALLIANCE?

The UK government claims the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition will lift 50 million people in Africa out of poverty by 2022. That’s what they said about Borlaug’s Green Revolution in the 1970s, but it failed, leaving millions of small farmers in thrall to the agribusiness giants. This New Alliance will also benefit multinational companies at the expense of small-scale farmers and is likely to increase poverty and inequality in Africa.

Launched in 2012, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition provides aid money from rich countries like the US and the UK, and helps big business invest in the African agricultural sector. But in return, African countries are required to change their land, seed and trade rules in favor of big business.

The New Alliance will make it easier for big corporations to grab land in Africa; prevent farmers from breeding, saving and exchanging seeds; heavily promote chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which increase farmers’ risk of debt as well as damaging the environment and farmers’ health; replace family farms with low paid, insecure jobs, and prevent countries from restricting crop exports, even at times of domestic shortage

Much of the aid money and investment promised as part of the New Alliance prioritizes crops for export, including tobacco, palm oil, and biofuel crops, rather than supporting small farmers to grow food crops sustainably for local consumption.

Ten African countries have signed up to the New Alliance: Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Benin, Malawi, Nigeria and Senegal. Around 50 multinational companies including Monsanto, Cargill and Unilever, and around 100 African companies, are also involved.

Jill Richardson, an organic food activist, wrote that “The G7 scheme does nothing to address the problems that are at the core of hunger and malnutrition but will serve only to further poverty and inequality.” She went on to tell stories of African peasant farmers who made more money by switching to organic farming than by using synthetic fertilizer.

Food First also criticized the New Alliance. “There’s a good reason why the 45 members of the New Alliance don’t want to hear from the people actually growing the food in Africa… farmers would say that Africa is actually a rich continent and it is the continued extraction of wealth by foreign corporations that causes poverty and hunger–that the first Green Revolution (Borlaug’s) did not bypass Africa; it failed. A new one spearheaded by the same institutions presently spreading GMOs and land grabbing throughout the continent will do more harm than good.”

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy was even harsher, calling the New Alliance “a sad excuse for an aid program.” They wrote: “How bad is this idea? Money is money, right? Wrong! The private sector is not just like government, only a little different. It is ENTIRELY different. Corporations are accountable to their shareholders, obliged to make a profit. They are not charities. They are bound by law, but not by the public interest… Corporations are not parties to the human rights covenants that oblige most governments to realize the universal human right to food.”

Oxfam International was also critical the new effort with a release titled, “G7 Food Security Alliance Answers Question Hungry People Have Not Asked.” They say that the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition “focuses too heavily on the role of the private sector to tackle the complex challenges of food insecurity in the developing world.” Instead, they called on G7 leaders to “keep the promises they have already made to help developing countries invest in sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty.” They add that “While there is a positive role for the private sector in the fight against global hunger, the plan’s top down approach does not reflect what many people in poor countries say they want or need” and that this new effort is “passing the buck on global hunger.”

It’s worse than passing the buck on global hunger. It’s part of Big Agribusiness’s plan to control the world’s food supply and bring the world’s farmers, big and small, to heel.

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AND LOOK WHO’S TRAVELING TO AFRICA

On their nine-day trip to Africa, Bill and Chelsea Clinton are traveling with 20 wealthy donors and foundation supporters, a group that includes fundraisers for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid and others who are expected to give generously to her campaign.

The trip, which marks Bill Clinton’s 12th visit to Africa, includes stops in Tanzania, Kenya, Liberia and Morocco. It’s designed to highlight the Clinton Foundation’s work on economic development and climate change, as well as on the empowerment of women and girls. It will culminate in a lavish conference in Marrakesh with the King of Morocco, funded by donors including a Moroccan-government-owned phosphate company, which POLITICO reported donated $1 million.

Hmmm—a phosphate company. Phosphorus is one of the three major fertilizers used in conventional agriculture, along with nitrogen and potassium. It’s also worth noting that among the donors invited to come along on the Africa trip is Beverly Dale, formerly of the biotechnology (GMO) industry.

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POPE FRANCIS ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Pope Francis has made the religious case for tackling climate change, calling on his fellow Christians to become “Custodians of Creation” and issuing a dire warning about the potentially catastrophic effects of global climate change.

Speaking to a massive crowd in Rome, the first Argentinian pope delivered a short address in which he argued that respect for the “beauty of nature and the grandeur of the cosmos” is a Christian value, noting that failure to care for the planet risks apocalyptic consequences.

“Safeguard Creation,” he said. “Because if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us! Never forget this!”

The pope centered his environmentalist theology around the biblical creation story in the book of Genesis, where God is said to have created the world, declared it “good,” and charged humanity with its care. Francis also made reference to his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, who was a famous lover of animals, and appeared to tie the ongoing environmental crisis to economic concerns—namely, instances where a wealthy minority exploits the planet at the expense of the poor.

“Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude,” Francis said.

Francis also said that humanity’s destruction of the planet is a sinful act, likening it to self-idolatry.

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JUDGE RULES VERMONT GMO LABEL LAW IS LEGAL

A Vermont law that could make the state the first in the country to require labeling of genetically modified food has been allowed by a federal judge to stand for now, despite opposition by food industry groups.

U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss in Burlington ruled against the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association and other industry groups in their request for a preliminary order to block the law from going into effect as scheduled on July 1, 2016.

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MEASLES ATTACKS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM, LEAVES KIDS VULNERABLE

Scientists have known that measles attacks the immune system, but only recently have discovered how hard and thoroughly it damages it, according to a study published in Science magazine’s May 8, 2015, issue.

Johns Hopkins University epidemiologists studied children from England, Wales, Denmark, and the United States who had contracted measles and found that their mortality rate from other infectious diseases was significantly higher than among children who had been vaccinated against measles.

The scientists said that monkey studies suggest that the measles virus erases the immune system’s memory, so that children who had the disease were less able to ward off other diseases. “Measles is much worse than people thought,” says Michael Mina, an immunologist at Emory University in Atlanta. “It has these long term consequences and has gone under the radar for decades.” The published study says that the damage to children’s immune systems lasts for up to three years.

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What Every Dinner Should Be

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Tonight, dinner started with a glass of old vine zinfandel from the Cline winery’s vineyards in the East Bay. This was followed by barbecued organic, grass fed tri-tip. We made a salad of red romaine lettuce from our organic garden. And the main side dish was zucchini from the garden, tomatoes from the store (too early for tomatoes here), onion from the garden, all organic, sauteed in olive oil until tender, topped with shaved Vermont cheddar cheese, and passed under the broiler for 45 seconds to bubble the cheese brown. And we each had the season’s first ear of organic corn grown in California—too early for it to be really good, but what the heck. Instead of pouring butter over it and sprinkling it with salt, we just drizzled a little Apollo ‘Sierra’ extra virgin olive oil on the hot ear.

What? You haven’t heard of Apollo olive oil? Well, did you know that Apollo is one of the top 10 olive oils in the world? And it comes from the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, them thar very hills that there’s gold in. The gold turns out to be Apollo. I have no financial interest in this place, except that great olive oil is a passion of mine. This oil has the three main characteristics of quality: it’s bitter, it’s pungent, and it’s fruity. And Apollo’s oils ring the bell in all three categories.

It’s worth knowing about this olive oil. This is from its web site (apollooliveoil.com):

“Since Apollo Olive Oil started 14 years ago, our oils have won 32 gold medals, 23 silver medals, 7 best in class, and 6 best in show. We have been chosen one of the top 10 olive oil producers in the world, the best organic olive oil in the US, and the best olive oil on the internet. We are proud to offer you the healthiest gourmet organic extra virgin olive oil available, made entirely in California.”

Here are a few testimonials:

“Best olive oil I’ve ever tasted – and that’s saying something because I’ve tasted a whole lot. This oil is green, spicy, pungent, and invigorating. Be sure to pick up the Sierra one. I tried the Mistral as well, but Sierra is the one to go for. Worth every cent. Appreciate it straight, on its own, before you decide what else you might do with it.”-–from Heidi Swanson, www.101cookbooks.com.

“Using Apollo Olive Oil is like starting with a great wine. It invites you to organize the whole meal around it. It will never be just an ingredient. Its freshness, its complexity and its aromas-–what aromas!–-take recipes to a different, unexpected level.” -–from
Lynne Sanders, Bistro Aix (voted best French restaurant in London).

“I recently learned that most olive oil in the US is not true olive oil. I was completely shocked by this, and began wondering what I was actually consuming all these years when I purchased what I thought was ‘olive oil.’ I made the decision to never purchase store-bought olive oil again, and began researching where I could buy some authentic organic extra virgin olive oil. After a lot of consideration, I chose to purchase the Mistral Organic olive oil from your company. I cannot tell you how pleased I am with my purchase! I am pretty sure, after tasting your product, that I have never had real olive oil before. It is very tasty-–I want to put it on everything! Thank you for making a wonderful (and authentic) product-–I will definitely be ordering from you again!” –from Jennifer P., Joplin, MO.

So why am I going on about Apollo olive oil? Because it’s not only organic, it is incredibly healthy for you. The health-giving properties in olive oil are chiefly in its polyphenols—antioxidant substances that have a range of health benefits for the human body. Apollo extracts its oil under nitrogen gas in special equipment developed in Tuscany. This keeps oxygen that destroys polyphenols away from the mashed olives and oil during processing. The result is that it has three times the polyphenols of most other extra virgin oils. You can instantly taste the difference.

Besides using this oil on the corn, a splash of this oil and a squeeze of juice from one of our Meyer lemons on the lemon tree out back make a perfect, wine-friendly salad dressing.

And for dessert?

The first picking of cherries from my cherry tree. I shouldn’t say “my” tree, since it’s its own tree, a friend planted it for us as a gift, and my wife and son also work on it.

The birds think of the cherries as their own, too, but I don’t let them anywhere near the fruit. We keep the tree pruned to about 10 feet so we can easily cover it with plastic bird netting when the cherries start to develop. Otherwise, the birds will take them all.

The cherries don’t ripen exactly all at once, so we get about three pickings as they turn a dark oxblood color, showing they are plump, sweet, and fully ripe. There’s a final picking, but for that, we take off the netting and let the birds have their fill.

The cherries were accompanied by a small bowl of Straus Family organic vanilla ice cream topped with hot fudge.

And a second glass of that old vine zin. That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

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ANTI-GMO CAMPAIGN APPLAUDS NON-GMO INFANT FORMULA

Green America, a national nonprofit organization working to create a green economy, issued the following statement in response to Abbott offering non-GMO versions of Similac:

“Abbott’s announcement that they are removing genetically engineered ingredients from a version of Similac Advance, followed by a non-GMO version of Similac Sensitive, is an important step forward for the company and an important advance for infant health. Parents are rightly concerned about the presence of GMOs in infant formula, and tens of thousands of parents took action with GMO Inside to ask Abbott to remove GMOs. In addition, Facebook posts on the GMO Inside Facebook page urging Similac to remove GMOs reached several million more people. Consumer pressure was joined by concern from investors working with As You Sow, which highlighted the risk to Abbott of not offering non-GMO formula to parents.

“In addition to concerns about the health impacts of GMOs, evidence shows that GMOs are increasing the use of toxic herbicides due to the development of herbicide-resistant weeds. Most recently, glyphosate, which is commonly used on GMO crops, was deemed a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization. Parents deserve better for their children’s health and want their children to grow up in a healthier environment as well. We urge Abbott to make all of its infant formula non-GMO, and call on its competitors to do the same.”

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THE REAL REASON MONSANTO WANTS TO BUY SYNGENTA

Monsanto recently made a bid to take over European agrichemical giant Syngenta, the world’s largest pesticide producer, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola’s website. The $45 billion bid was rejected, but there’s still a chance for a merger between these two chemical technology giants.

Monsanto is reportedly considering raising the offer, and as noted by Mother Jones, “combined, the two companies would form a singular agribusiness behemoth, a company that controls a third of both the globe’s seed and pesticides markets.”

As reported by Bloomberg, the possibility of Monsanto taking over Syngenta raises a number of concerns; a top one being loss of crop diversity.

“…[A] larger company would eventually mean fewer varieties of seeds available to farmers, say opponents, such as science policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety, Bill Freese.

“Another is that the combined company could spur increased use of herbicides by combining Syngenta’s stable of weed killers with Monsanto’s marketing heft and crop development expertise.

‘’’Two really big seed companies becoming one big seed company means even less choice for farmers,’ said Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch, a policy group in Washington.

“‘From a public health and environmental perspective this is a complete disaster,’ said Bill Freese. ‘The more I look at this, the more it worries me and the more it needs to be opposed.’”

I think there’s another reason that Monsanto wants to buy Syngenta, besides the increasing power that the merger would create and the increasing profits the merger would generate. And that’s that Monsanto might follow Burger King’s lead in transferring its headquarters to a foreign country, thus avoiding U.S. taxes. Syngenta is headquartered in Europe, and if Monsanto owned it, it could claim its headquarters were also in Europe and thus not subject to U.S. taxes.

By trying to acquire Syngenta, Monsanto also contradicts years of rhetoric about how its ultimate goal with biotech is to wean farmers off agrichemicals. A laughable policy statement, given that that’s Monsanto’s (and Syngenta’s) core business.

It’s quite clear Monsanto has no desire or plans to help farmers reduce the use of crop chemicals. On the contrary, it has and continues to push for the increased use of its flagship product, Roundup.

Not only has Monsanto created a line of GMO Roundup-ready seeds, it also promotes the use of Roundup on conventional crops, pre-harvest, as described in its Pre-Harvest Staging Guide.

Applying herbicide directly before harvesting helps dry the crop, boosts the release of seed, and is said to promote long-term control of certain weeds, it claims.

The practice is known as desiccation, and according to researchers Samsel and Seneff, the desiccation of conventionally grown wheat appears to be linked to the rapid and concurrent rise in celiac disease.

Applying glyphosate, which was recently classified as a Class 2A probable human carcinogen, on crops directly before harvest is one of the worst things we could do to our foods, yet Monsanto wholeheartedly supports and promotes it.

Speaking of reputation, Syngenta is hardly a poster child for sustainability and right action, either. Not only is it the main supplier of the “gender-bending” herbicide atrazine in the US, it also makes neonicotinoids—a class of insecticide linked to the mass die-offs of bees and other pollinators

Both of these chemicals have come under increasing scrutiny as researchers have learned more about their environmental and human health impacts, and both are banned in Europe while still widely in use in the US.

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HEALTH.COM: THOSE NASTY VITAMINS MAY KILL YOU

Health magazine is the mouthpiece of the industrial health industry. The subplot here is put together by the powerful and incredibly wealthy Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of America. The message seems to be that taking food supplements not only threatens your health, but taking large doses of them leads to cancer and other life-threatening conditions. The implied message is that you should do what your doctor tells you and take your chemical pills.

Kind of like organic food is dangerous and can kill you. Just eat your pesticide-contaminated food and shut up. Remember that campaign a few years ago from the Avery people?

Well, I’ve got news for everyone. Don’t listen to those hucksters. They’re just out to make megabucks. I’ve done the research and here’s what I do and take every morning, first thing out of bed.

1. Four minutes of planking. Is it hard to do? You bet. I’m glad when it’s over, but I’m glad I’ve done it. It tones the core.
2. A glass of home-made kefir. Takes about three minutes to make my kefir in the morning and boy is it worth it. For how to do it, see my book, “The Essential Book of Fermentation.”
3. A glass of home-made organic Valencia orange juice—real orange juice, not the processed stuff at the market. Used to wash down the vitamins and supplements.
4. A multi-vitamin. I take Whole Foods Complete. Vitamins and minerals.
5. Grapefruit pectin. Pectin is fiber that not only cleans your system, it feeds the good guys in your intestinal flora.
6. Turmeric Supreme. Keeps the cancer away. Read up on turmeric. You’ll see why it’s good to take it.
7. Potassium. One little charge of potassium is way healthier than eating bananas and keeps night leg cramps away.
8. PQQ. This stuff rebuilds the mitochondria in your cells that dissipate with age. Mitochondria are the energy factories that make you feel full of vim and vigor.
9. CoQ-10 Q Absorb—As you age, the enzyme CoQ-10 also dissipates. But it’s necessary for heart health. This supplement replenishes it. Works synergistically with PQQ.
10. NAC—N-Acetyl Cysteine–a sulfur-based protein involved in countless health-building activities in the body.
11. Milk Thistle. This natural plant supplement supports liver health. For someone who drinks, it’s worth supplementing. I like my wine.
12. Bilberry. This is an antioxidant made from bilberries, a sort of European tiny blueberry relative that’s a packed superfood.
13. Vitamin K2—needed if you’re taking a Vitamin D3 supplement.
14. Vitamin D3—I take 2000 IUs a day, the new recommended amount for positive results.
15. Saw palmetto—supports prostate health. Hey, I’m not getting any younger.
16. Alpha Lipoic Acid—a powerful antioxidant that cleans up free radicals that cause inflammatory disease.
17. A probiotic called Lactobacillus reuteri that works from within to promote hair growth and give skin a “glow of health.”

So that’s my daily routine. What’s yours?

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SRI LANKAN PRESIDENT TAKES OFFICE, BANS GLYPHOSATE

Sri Lanka’s newly elected President, Maithripala Sirisena, announced Friday that the importation of the world’s most used herbicide, glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, will be banned with immediate effect. The release of already imported stocks has also been stopped.

Sirisena, a farmer and ex Health Minister, stated that glyphosate is responsible for the increasing number of chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients in Sri Lanka and added that the move would protect the Sri Lankan farming community. In Sri Lanka, CKD now afflicts 15 percent of people of working age in the northern part of the country; a total of 400,000 patients with an estimated death toll of around 20,000.

Watch the videos “Mystery in the Fields” and “Cycle of Death,” five-minute documentaries providing additional background information on afflicted areas around the world.

Sri Lanka’s ban comes after two scientific studies showed that drinking water from abandoned wells, where the concentrations of glyphosate and metals are high, as well as spraying glyphosate, increased the risk of the deadly chronic kidney disease by up to five-fold.

It also follows the recent World Health Organization announcement that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen.

Sri Lanka did ban the sale of glyphosate herbicides in March, 2014, but this decision was overturned in May, 2014, after a review. The decision by Sri Lanka’s new President, however, has huge significance following the latest WHO report on glyphosate.

Sri Lanka now becomes the second country to fully ban the sale of glyphosate herbicides following El Salvador’s decision in 2013, also taken due to the fatal CKD disease. Bermuda has also put a temporary ban on glyphosate imports and is holding a review.

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WHO WILL TEXANS BLAME THE FLOODS ON?

If those Texas floods were happening in almost any other state (especially California), Texas evangelical pastors would have an easy call: same sex marriage, and even same-sex sex, displeases God, who sends storms to wash away the sin and blight. Or maybe it’s the angels weeping at the sight of two guys holding hands. In any case, it’s divine retribution.

But it’s happening in Texas. How can God be doing this to the Lone Star state? He’s supposed to be in cahoots with those who wear manly footwear, deny climate change, open carry weapons, and have a hankering for strict discipline. Something ain’t right.

There’s only one answer. God would not be displeased with the faithful churchgoers and good Christians. It must be that he’s displeased with those liberals in Austin, with their music venues, medical marijuana, tolerant views, and their organic food. Smoothies, indeed.

He’s so mad, in fact, that his retribution spilled out of Austin all over the place. His fury touched off a contact fury with those 200-plus bikers who staged a firefight in the parking lot outside a gin mill last week. That’s the real Texas spirit, boys. Give ‘em hell.

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If Monsanto Were a Person

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When Mitt Romney in 2012 said that “corporations are people,” a lot of people thought he was just spouting more right-wing nuttiness. But no, he’s enough of a lawyer to know that corporate personhood is a valid American legal concept, supported by several Supreme Court decisions.

A corporation, as a group of people, is legally recognized as having some of the same legal rights and responsibilities as an individual.

So let’s examine Monsanto.

What if I, as an individual person, created a poison so toxic that it caused serious harm, even cancer, even death, and that I spread it over millions and millions of acres around the world? What would I be called?

What if I was able to open up the control panel of life—the DNA and genetic structure of plants and animals—and started swapping genes, creating chimeras and Frankenstein’s monsters shown to sicken other life forms? Would I be called a mad scientist?

What if my activities caused human autoimmune diseases and terrible, painful illnesses like Crohn’s Disease, leaky gut syndrome, celiac disease, lupus, autism, inflammatory disease, arterial sclerosis, heart disease, and stroke? Would the cops come and take me away?

What if I genetically modified seeds of human foodstuffs like corn and soybeans so that I could patent them, and then sued farmers if they tried to save seed from my seeds’ offspring to plant in their next season? What would I be called?

What if the plants from my genetically altered seeds produced pesticides in every cell of their being, and were bred to resist the very poisons that I make to destroy their weed competition—a practice that only leads to resistant pests and superweeds? What kind of bad guy would I then become?

What if people didn’t want my poisons and wanted their food labeled if it contains them? And what if I and my buddies spent $100 million to make sure no one could know whether their food contained my poisons? What would I then be called?

What if I had hundreds of people devoted to lying about my activities and denying the harm I do, and presenting a false front to the world proclaiming that I have everyone’s best interests at heart? What if this propaganda was just a pack of lies? What would they call me then?

If I did all these things (and many more), the townspeople and peasants would come to my castle with torches and pitchforks, right?

Well, tomorrow—May 23, 2015—the peasants are turning out for Monsanto, the “person” who actually is doing these things, in 9,000 venues around the world, bearing their symbolic torches and pitchforks. In my opinion, I wouldn’t mind seeing some real torches and pitchforks.

One of these “Marches against Monsanto” will be in my home city of Santa Rosa, California. I’ll be there. Wherever you are, I hope you’ll be at wherever your March against Monsanto is taking place.

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HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP NOW CALLED ‘FRUCTOSE’

High Fructose Corn Syrup Manufacturers are trying to trick consumers into thinking that HFCS is like sugar by changing its name to fructose.

According to the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), there’s been a name change. The term ‘fructose’ is now being used to denote a product that was previously known as HFCS-90, meaning it is 90 percent pure fructose. Compare this to what is termed ‘regular’ HFCS, which contains either 42 or 55 percent fructose, and you will know why General Mills is so eager to keep you in the dark.

CRA explains:

“A third product, HFCS-90, is sometimes used in natural and ‘light’ foods, where very little is needed to provide sweetness. Syrups with 90 percent fructose will not state high fructose corn syrup on the label [anymore], they will state ‘fructose’ or ‘fructose syrup’.”

For example, on the front of the Vanilla Chex box from General Mills, it says that the product contains “no high fructose corn syrup.” But in the ingredient list, it is hidden under the new name of fructose.

High fructose corn syrup and fructose are not the same. Fructose is a monosaccharide, a simple sugar. High fructose corn syrup is an industrial food product. It’s not a naturally occurring substance. The sugars are extracted through a chemical enzymatic process resulting in a chemically and biologically novel compound called HFCS. .

High Fructose Corn Syrup health dangers include:
•Diabetes.
•Metabolic syndrome.
•Damage to your immune system.
•Speeded-up aging process.
•Mercury poisoning.

Since HFCS is in virtually everything today that is packaged and processed, you really have to become a label reader and check everything you buy. For years I liked Thomas’s English Muffins—until recently, when I checked the ingredients list and found high fructose corn syrup.

And you know that the corn referred to is GMO. GMO corn is now so ubiquitous that when I go to a mom-and-pop taqueria, I don’t eat the corn chips and I order flour tortillas, even though I prefer the authentic flavor of corn tortillas. Thanks Monsanto.

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USDA DECLINES TO ENFORCE ORGANIC RULES

The Cornucopia Institute, an organic watchdog group, has harshly criticized the USDA for its failure to conduct an investigation of 14 legal complaints it filed last December. The complaints allege a systemic pattern of livestock management violations occurring on some of the nation’s biggest certified organic “factory farm” poultry and dairy operations.

In a brief letter to Cornucopia, the National Organic Program‘s (NOP) director of Compliance and Enforcement stated that the agency “has determined that an investigation is unwarranted.” Last December, after an investment of seven months and tens of thousands of dollars, Cornucopia filed 14 complaints with the NOP presented evidence primarily gathered through high resolution aerial photographs of industrial-scale certified organic dairies and poultry operations. The hundreds of images taken documented an overwhelming absence of dairy cows on pasture, and the exclusive confinement of hundreds of thousands of egg laying hens and meat birds inside buildings.

“The organic regulations are clear,” said Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at Cornucopia. “With minor and allowable ‘temporary’ exceptions, dairy cows should be out grazing on pasture and poultry should have access to the outdoors. These operations appear to have miserably failed to meet the criteria.”

Among its justifications for refusing to investigate the complaints, the NOP’s Matthew Michael said, was that the photographic evidence was “insufficient” and depicted only a “single moment in time.” He also said that the various operations indicated were “in good standing” with their organic certifiers.

“It must simply be an incredible and amazing coincidence that no birds – zero – were outdoors, and only a fraction of the tens of thousands of cows on the industrial-scale dairies were observed on grass. Most were confined to giant feedlots,” noted Will Fantle, Cornucopia’s Research Director.

“This simply does not pass the smell test,” Fantle added. “Who are you going to believe, the paperwork from the NOP and certifiers, or your own eyes?”

Last month, before the current allegations that the USDA is deferring to the interests of corporate organics, Cornucopia asked USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to remove NOP Staff Director Miles McEvoy due to ethical concerns regarding alleged bending or breaking of the law. This latest action is one more disappointment.

The Cornucopia Institute, thought to have more certified organic farmer members than any similar group, is preparing an appeal of the complaint’s dismissal as well as calling for an internal investigation of USDA’s oversight of the organic industry by the NOP, in a formal request to the agency’s Office of Inspector General.

In addition to the USDA’s National Organic Program dismissal of Cornucopia’s photographic evidence, the Organic Trade Association and two of its members that own operations targeted in Cornucopia’s complaints, Chino Valley Ranchers and Organic Valley, have concurred with the USDA. All of OTA’s damage-control statements either stated they saw nothing illegal illustrated in the photographs, or referenced that the images merely represented “a single moment in time.”

“There is a profound disconnect between this rhetoric and reality,” Kastel stated. “Cornucopia’s members contributed tens of thousands of dollars to document the activities on these factory livestock facilities and the USDA, and industry lobbyists, are suggesting that paperwork and annual inspections by certifiers trump this compelling evidence.”

Organic certification primarily depends on annual inspections by independent certifiers operating under the authority of the USDA. In almost all cases inspectors make an appointment with farm operators so they can have their paperwork in order, for auditing. Obviously, this also gives livestock operations the opportunity to make sure their animals appear to be managed correctly under the regulations.

Cornucopia contends these annual inspections also represent “a single moment in time,” although that moment has been prearranged with plenty of forewarning.

“The days when the flyovers occurred were determined by our aerial photography contractor,” Kastel clarified. “We had no control over their schedule. Furthermore, all of the aerial photography was done in good weather leaving no doubt that the animals should have been outdoors as the law requires.”

Kastel made this statement to eliminate one of the justifications that farm operators might use to legally and legitimately “temporarily” confine their livestock. The organic standards provide for temporary exemptions related to healthcare concerns or environmental factors.

“When these exemptions do not apply, farm operators are obligated to have their animals outdoors, and ruminants on pasture,” Kastel said. “It is clear that we have widespread, systemic problems in this industry. These abuses are competitively damaging ethical family-scale farmers and defrauding consumers of the nutrient rich food, produced by animals being treated respectfully, that they think they are purchasing.”

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HONEYBEE DEATHS SPIKED IN PAST YEAR

A new report finds that honeybee death rates spiked by 23 percent in the past year. Bees were already dying by the million, so this is truly frightening news. And what did Bayer, the world’s biggest producer of bee-killing pesticides, say about it? They called the increase in bee deaths “good news” — because the increase wasn’t as big as it might have been.

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