Pope Francis, Edward Snowden, and Our Threatened Democracy
In this week’s post, we search for virtue in our society, and find it exemplified in every organic farm and garden.
But make no mistake, the wolf is at the door.
American democracy is threatened by a full-blown, radically conservative, military-industrial-corporate-surveillance monster. This malignancy was born many decades ago, but fed hungrily on the fear generated by the 9/11 tragedy to bloat itself into positions of enormous power and control.
It used secret infusions of tax revenue and corporate profits to buy off Congress. Its secrecy makes a mockery of the idea that we are a country of laws, not men, because such secrecy and wholesale spying on American citizens is expressly forbidden by the Constitution. Its tentacles (the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, the DEA, Google, corporate espionage agencies, state and local police, and so on) reached not just for terrorists, but also for peaceful protestors of criminal banking practices, to name just one out-of-control institution too big to fail.
It used governmental agencies like the EPA and USDA to support the rapacious and destructive activities of Monsanto, Dow, and DuPont. It spread lies and disinformation to quell public dissent. It used police to smash, taser, and pepper spray dissenters. And there’s more—lots more.
For blowing the lid off this viper pit, we have Edward Snowden to thank. Right now, as you read this, there are buses running in Washington, DC, with large signs saying, “Thank you Edward Snowden.” And thank Chelsea Manning. And, I will add, Pope Francis, all of whom are risking everything for the beautiful truth that is beginning to shine through the smog of lies generated by this malignant monster. And by risking it all, I mean just that. Chelsea Manning is already in the clutches of the beast and has just begun experiencing the suffering it intends to mete out to him. Edward Snowden has forfeited his life as an American citizen for the cause of exposing the monster. And Pope Francis?
Well, Pope Francis. Don’t think that his recent Papal Exhortation excoriating rapacious capitalism, the personal greed of the plutocrats, and the diabolical glorification and worship of money haven’t been noticed. I’m paraphrasing, but he said, “I prefer a church that is dirty and bruised from having been out on the streets with the poor rather than closeted away in luxury.”
You know who would love these guys? Thomas Jefferson, who said that when a government fails the people, it’s time to change the government back to first principles. And Ben Franklin, too, who said that a people who would trade their liberty for safety deserve neither.
Look at our society today. It sure has an ugly side. This military-industrial-corporate-surveillance monster debases our American principles. But there is so much other ugliness. Ever watch television? Ever go to the movies? Ever play Grand Theft Auto or any of the war “games?” Did you like how Black Friday began to swallow the Thanksgiving holiday this year? They may all be for fun, but it’s butt-ugly fun.
Just as ugly is the National Rifle Association’s protection of and coddling of gun nuts. I understand that the criminally insane can perpetrate gun violence on innocent people out of derangement and hallucination, but I have no sympathy for those who cold-bloodedly demand the right to “open carry” weapons among a citizenry trying to relax and enjoy themselves. There’s an ugly, twisted logic that says that the way to prevent gun violence is by perpetually being ready to perpetrate it. Hello George Zimmerman.
So what is my point here, and what does it have to do with organic food?
My point is that our country, our society, seems to have let slip its handhold with true virtue. I’m not talking about individuals who may or may not be practicing virtues. I’m talking about institutionalized greed, deceit, law-breaking, spying, taking advantage of the most vulnerable among us, robbing the poor, taking away overtime pay (as Eric Cantor has suggested by turning overtime into time off instead of time-and-a-half pay), doing away with habeus corpus—a legal principle that western civilization has had since the 13th Century—cutting benefits for those who can’t find jobs, cutting benefits for children, gutting food stamp programs that help feed the hungry, fomenting a war on women, trying to take away health care for all, shutting down abortion clinics, preventing women from getting contraceptives…and there’s so much more. Where is the virtue in any of this?
So the question becomes: what is virtue?
Virtue is a deity with many faces. First, virtue is kind—it does no unwarranted harm. Drone strikes may be virtuous in the sense that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were virtuous. The atomic bombs saved perhaps millions of lives—Japanese as well as American–by forcing Imperial Japan to surrender. But if you are a person trying to sleep with your children by your side and you hear American drones overhead, you know that at any moment you could be obliterated. That is a form of terrorism, and it is not virtuous. It may be necessary to kill a bad guy, but in no way is it virtuous to do it out of the blue sky by drones that cause “collateral damage,” as we so euphemistically call the murder of innocent civilians.
Virtue is caring. Is the attempt to bring more people under an umbrella of affordable health insurance virtuous? Yes. Is the attempt to disembowel the program virtuous? I can’t imagine how.
Virtue is just. When bankers who have destroyed a country’s economy walk free to enjoy their mega-millions without fear of prosecution, is that just? No—and it’s not virtuous either.
Virtue is fair. Is it fair when women make only three-quarters of what men make for the same work? No—and it’s not virtuous either. How about when fabulously wealthy big box store executives suggest that their impoverished employees get enough to eat by holding food drives? Give me a break.
Virtue is found individually among whistleblowers like Snowden and Manning; by the millions of people who try to care for each other amidst the cruelties of the malignant monster; and virtue is seen in that suddenly shining—and completely unexpected—light in Vatican City, Pope Francis.
But virtue can also be found in organic agriculture, in the people who practice it, and in the people who buy its products. Consider:
Is conventional agriculture virtuous, with its toxic chemicals, factory-made fertilizers, its genetically modified and disease-causing seeds, and its malign effects on men and women, fetuses, and the whole environment? With its exploited and injured farm workers? With its family farmers driven off their lands? With its soil erosion, polluted ground waters, eutrophied lakes and ponds, and dead zones in the oceans? With its fat-cat “farmers” hauling in government subsidies? No—I don’t think so.
But how about organic farmers, who abjure toxic chemicals, antibiotics, hormones, genetic alterations, and environmentally damaging practices? How about their compost that refreshes the soil and fills it with life and fertility—more fertility after a crop is sown, grown, and harvested than before the crops were sown? How about organic farmers’ respect for the nature of the animals they raise for food? How about their ties to natural systems and respect for natural laws? How about their attemp0ts to understand nature’s huge interwoven web of life and how to care for it properly? Is all that virtuous? You bet it is.
If we are to get through this difficult time in our political history with our democracy and liberties intact, then we will get there fueled by honest, virtuous organic food.
Is that really true? Will the rapacious, toxic, environmentally destructive food system we rely on really disappear? Could organic agriculture really feed the world? Put it this way: if anything in this world is virtuous, it’s Mother Nature. She sets the rules. When humans set the rules, we get short-sighted and toxic agriculture that produces the raw materials for processed food. When nature sets the rules and we follow them, we get organic agriculture.
When we get to the fair and just world that Pope Francis envisions, our food supply will be produced organically.
CORPORATE ESPIONAGE UNDERMINES DEMOCRACY
For the past month or so, I’ve been writing about the military-industrial complex and how the revelations of its spying here at home for political and military reasons works hand in hand with corporate America’s spying for economic reasons. Here’s a new and even more troubling wrinkle. Writing for Reuters news service, Ralph Nader recently had this to say:
“It’s not just the NSA that has been caught spying on Americans. Some of our nation’s largest corporations have been conducting espionage as well, against civic groups.
“For these big companies with pliable ethics, if they don’t win political conflicts with campaign donations or lobbying power, then they play dirty. Very dirty.
That’s the lesson of a new report on corporate espionage against nonprofit organizations by my colleagues at Essential Information. The title of the report is Spooky Business, and it is apt. Find it at: http://www.corporatepolicy.org/spookybusiness.pdf.
“The spy narratives in the report are lurid and gripping. Hiring investigators to pose as volunteers and journalists. Hacking. Wiretapping. Information warfare. Physical intrusion. Investigating the private lives of nonprofit leaders. Dumpster diving using an active duty police officer to gain access to trash receptacles. Electronic surveillance. On and on. What won’t corporations do in service of profit and power?
“Many different types of nonprofit civic organizations have been targeted by corporate spies: environmental, public interest, consumer, food safety, animal rights, pesticide reform, nursing home reform, gun control, and social justice.
“A diverse constellation of corporations has planned or executed corporate espionage against these nonprofit civic organizations. Food companies like Kraft, Coca-Cola, Burger King, McDonald’s and Monsanto. Oil companies like Shell, BP and Chevron. Chemical companies like Dow and Sasol. Also involved are the retailers (Wal-Mart), banks (Bank of America), and, of course, the nation’s most powerful trade association: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“Plenty of mercenary spooks have joined up to abet them, including former officials at the FBI, CIA, NSA, Secret Service and U.S. military. Sometimes even government contractors are part of the snooping.
“In effect, big corporations have been able to hire portions of the national security apparatus, and train their tools of spycraft on the citizens groups of our nation.
“This does not bode well for our democracy.
“Our democracy is only as strong as the civic groups that work to preserve and protect it every day. To function effectively, these groups must be able to keep their inner workings secure from the prying eyes and snooping noses of the spies-for-hire.
“Corporate espionage is a threat to individual privacy, too. As citizens, we do not relinquish our rights to privacy when we disagree with the ideas or actions of a corporation. It is especially galling that corporations should employ such unethical or illegal tactics to deprive Americans of their fundamental rights.
“Where is the Justice Department? In France, when Électricité de France was caught spying on Greenpeace, there was an investigation and prosecutions. In Britain, Rupert Murdoch’s now-defunct News of the World newspaper was ensnared in a telephone hacking scandal involving British public officials and celebrities. The Guardian newspaper excavated the story relentlessly, government investigations followed, with prosecutions ongoing. Here in the United States, the Justice Department has been silent.
“How about Congress? Corporate espionage against nonprofits is an obvious topic for a congressional investigation and hearings. But, alas, Congress, too, has been somnolent.
“How much corporate espionage against nonprofits is taking place? Without investigations, subpoenas and hearings, no one really knows. But it is likely that there is more corporate espionage than we know about, because the snooping corporations and their private investigators toil mightily to hide their dirty tricks, which are designed to intimidate and deter people from speaking out and standing up against corporate crimes, frauds, and abuses. Is the little we know merely the tip of the iceberg?”
WE LOVE OUR POLICE, BUT DO OUR POLICE LOVE US?
Remember—if the malignant monster (MM for short) we’re describing in this post accomplishes its power grab, there will not be any organic farming. Our food supply will be totally controlled by corporations like Monsanto. If it wasn’t so dreadful, MM’s attempt to take over the world—like some mad scientist from a comic book–would be funny. But it’s not funny. “Political Blindspot” is a website that sounds warnings much like I’ve been doing here. The following is from its latest post:
“An International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Philadelphia this past week discussed a plan to allow law enforcement to ‘keep anything deemed criminal off the Internet.’ This includes, among other things, stopping any form of protest deemed ‘illegal,’ including the sorts of marches and civil disobedience engaged in by Martin Luther King Jr.
“On hand was a Chicago Police Department official who told attendees that his department has been working directly with a ‘security chief at Facebook’ to block certain users from the social networking site if it is determined they have posted what is deemed ‘criminal content.’
“Kenneth Lipp, an independent journalist who attended the conference, reported that an unnamed CPD officer ‘said specifically that his agency was working with Facebook to block users by their individual account, IP address or device, such as a cell phone or computer.’
“Lipp noted that law enforcement agencies discussed technologies at ‘workshops held by and for top police executives from throughout the world (mostly US, Canada and the United Kingdom, with others like Nigeria among a total of 13,000 representatives of the law enforcement community in town for the event). These technologies, widely available from vendors, would ‘allow agencies to block content, users, and even devices, using Geofencing software that allows departments to block service to a specified device when the device leaves an established virtual geographic perimeter.
”The capability, Lipp explained, ‘is a basic function of advanced mobile technologies like smartphones, OnStar type features that link drivers to central assistance centers, and automated infrastructure and other hardware including unmanned aerial systems that must sense and respond.’
“A recent article in Governing magazine, in which it was reported that the Chicago Police Department is using ‘network analysis’ tools to identify persons of interest on social media, cited the statistic that ‘95.9 percent of law enforcement agencies use social media, 86.1 percent for investigative purposes,’ a statistic quoted from the head of the social media group for the International Association of Chiefs of Police.”
Secrecy, espionage, disinformation, deceit, and unaccountable corporate, banking, military, and police functions that muzzle free speech are antithetical to a free and open democracy. As John Adams said at the close of the Constitutional Convention 226 years ago, “We’ve given you a republic…if you can keep it.”
Prelude to a Crash
Back when Augustus Caesar ruled the Roman Empire, the world’s total human population was about 200 million, it’s been estimated. It wasn’t until 1804 that the population hit a billion, and in 1927, it hit 2 billion. Since then, within the lifetime of many people alive today, the population curve has soared upward. Today it’s estimated that the world’s human population is about 7.5 billion and is slated to hit 10 billion by 2083.
During the last 150 years, corporations have grown from small businesses into the corporate behemoths we have today. Capitalism has conquered the earth—literally—just as Homo sapiens is in the process of conquering the earth. Because of the way corporations are structured under capitalism, growth means success. Corporations are only as good as their bottom lines. It doesn’t matter what their impact is on human or environmental welfare. Their growth, their profits, and their returns for shareholders are all that matters. Rapaciousness is built into their operations. But what do we call cells that grow without restraint? We call them cancer.
In what is surely one of the worst and most stupid decisions ever made by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Citizens United case declared corporations to be people. But what do we do with people who act like rapacious corporations? We call them criminals and lock them away in cages.
It’s obvious that our Federal government is more interested in protecting corporations than the people who make them up. And corporations are now so big that they are damaging the planet. The triumph of capitalism is the triumph of a rapist, the triumph of cancer, the triumph of any invasive species: a prelude to a crash.
OK, so that’s the problem. What’s the solution? As always, we look to nature as the source of real health. How does nature deal with growth and yet avoid excess? The answer is in checks and balances, just as our Founding Fathers so wisely saw when devising our Constitution. Nature’s answer is to increase diversity through evolution, making each new creature a trophic niche for some other creature. Along with diversification comes miniaturization. During the age of reptiles, dinosaurs grew to gigantic sizes, which made them vulnerable to climate changes and led to their extinction. But reptiles didn’t go extinct. We still have plenty of them around—just not 20-foot-tall, 10-ton, flesh eating monsters.
We’ve been down this path before with corporations and rapacious capitalism. That’s why the Sherman Antitrust Act was passed to break up the trusts of the late 19th Century. Too big to fail meant too big to exist. Then during the Great Depression, the Glass-Steagall Act built an impenetrable wall between banks that functioned as a safe place for working folks to park their money and banks that gambled with financial instruments. But Congress did away with those pieces of legislation and many other checks and balances on corporations, and we see the results today in the wreckage of many human lives and the despoiling of the planet. What despoiling you ask? Global warming is poised to release trillions of pounds of methane that had been sequestered in the polar regions. Methane is many, many times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
What if we re-instituted the legislative checks and balances that have been wiped off the books, and outlawed corporate welfare? What if the enormously wealthy among us paid 95 percent of their income in taxes, as they did in the Eisenhower era? So if you made $50 million last year, you’d still have $2.5 million to live on. Is that a hardship? What if we organized taxation on manufacturing to make it profitable for one company’s waste product to be another company’s raw material? What if instead of plowing up the American heartland to grow GMO corn to make ethanol to run in our automobiles, we used the millions of tons of organic waste we toss into landfills instead?
In fact, the more you think about the solutions to our problems, the more they sound like an organic farm or garden, where organic matter is recycled, where pests and weeds are kept under control by natural checks and balances that occur with greater biodiversity, where growth happens even as the system is improved, where no toxic chemicals or practices are allowed.
So how do we get from here to the organic economic future we so desperately need?
First, re-institute the economic regulations and safeguards on corporate size and activities that have been torn away in recent years. Then, rewrite the tax code so wealthy individuals and corporations pay their fair share and then some. Then, get money out of politics by paying legislators and elected officials the way we pay government employees, giving them budgets to participate in elections. Then—and most importantly—mobilize the population to lighten citizens’ environmental impact by building a better mass transit system, recycling everything, finding alternatives to toxic chemicals, and subsidizing organic
farmers instead of millionaire conventional farmers, they way we do now.
This is not some Progressive agenda. It’s a sane agenda in a world gone crazy with greed.
CORPORATE ESPIONAGE AGAINST NON-PROFITS
In a recent post on this blog, I described how the NSA surveillance of Americans is shared with corporations as well as other government agencies. Here’s another take on why this is happening:
Giant corporations are employing highly unethical or illegal tools of espionage against non-profit organizations with near impunity, according to a new report by Essential Information.
The report, titled Spooky Business, documents how corporations hire shady investigative firms staffed with former employees of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA), US military, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Secret Service and local police departments to target non-profit organizations.
Many of the world’s largest corporations and their trade associations — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Walmart, Monsanto, Bank of America, Dow Chemical, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Chevron, Burger King, McDonald’s, Shell, BP, BAE, Sasol, Brown & Williamson and E.ON – have been linked to espionage or planned espionage against non-profit organizations, activists, and whistleblowers.
Many different types of non-profit organizations have been targeted with corporate espionage, including environmental, anti-war, public interest, consumer, food safety, pesticide reform, nursing home reform, gun control, social justice, animal rights, and arms control groups.
Corporations and their trade associations have been linked to a wide variety of espionage tactics against non-profit organizations. The most prevalent tactic appears to be infiltration by posing as a volunteer or journalist, to obtain information from a non-profit. But corporations have been linked to many other human, physical, and electronic espionage tactics against nonprofits. Many of these tactics are either highly unethical or illegal.
Founded in 1982 by Ralph Nader, Essential Information is a Washington, DC-based nonprofit, tax-exempt organization. It is involved in a variety of projects to promote corporate accountability, a more just economy, public health and a sustainable planet. It has published a bi-monthly magazine, books and reports, sponsored conferences, provided writers with grants to pursue investigations, published daily news summaries, operated clearinghouses that disseminate information to grassroots organizations in the United States and developing countries worldwide, and has hosted scores of conferences focusing on government and corporate accountability.
GARDEN CENTER PLANTS MAY BE KILLING BEES
Delana Jones from “Yes on 522,” the group that tried to get GMOs labeled in Washington State, sent this notice:
“A first-of-its-kind report has just found bee-killing pesticides in more than half of the ‘bee-friendly’ home garden plants sold at stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s — with no warning to consumers.
“The report, which was done by Friends of the Earth, shows this problem is widespread and that many unsuspecting home gardeners are purchasing plants pre-treated with pesticides proven to kill bees.
“The toxins in question are the world’s most popular pesticides, neonicotinoids (or neonics), implicated as a key factor in escalating global bee die-offs.
From 50,000 bumble bees found dead in a Target parking lot in Portland to beekeepers across the country losing up to 90 percent of their bees last winter, stories of bee die-offs are emerging from around the world.
“Neonics can kill bees outright and, even at low doses, can weaken their immune systems and impair critical brain functions, making it hard for them to find their food and return to the hive. Neonics also remain in the plants and the soil of our gardens for months or even years, continuing to poison bees.
“Europe has already banned bee-harming pesticides, and top retailers in the U.K. are refusing to sell them. Now Home Depot’s and Lowe’s CEOs need to make the same commitment here.”
ORGANIC HEIRLOOM FRUIT CURDS SOUND DELICIOUS
Lee Greene, founder of Scrumptious Pantry, is traveling cross country spreading the word about her organic fruit curds and educating folks about the real meaning of heirloom along the way.
These sweet fruit curds are made from wild-foraged heirloom fruit conserves blended with eggs, butter, sugar, and lemon to achieve a thick consistency, almost like a custard. The four varieties are Lingonberry, Huckleberry, Paw Paw, and a classic cranberry sauce that showcases the rare Ben Lear Cranberry. All these will be exclusively available nationally at all Whole Foods Market nationally.
Lee Greene is committed to the heirloom food movement and is aiming to preserve the true flavors of biodiversity and traditional heirlooms fruits in each jar.
The paw paw is an indigenous fruit that grows in the Midwest and southern states, and has tropical notes, with hints of banana and mango. It is also known as “Midwest Mango” and “Indiana Banana”.
The huckleberry is another indigenous fruit of the United States. A distant cousin of the blueberry, its western species is foraged in the forests of Oregon and Washington States. It has a complex sweet and tart flavor. There is an eastern species as well.
The lingonberry grows in the wilds of Washington State, Alaska, and Canada. It has a very vibrant, tart flavor, with just enough sweetness. It’s common throughout Scandinavia and northern Russia as well.
To make Scrumptious Pantry’s Heirloom Fruit Curds, these fruits are blended with Organic Valley butter, organic egg yolk, organic evaporated cane juice, and organic lemon juice concentrate for a fruit spread that can be enjoyed straight up or as a helper for holiday baking. All three curds are recommended on scones or pancakes. They can be used as filling for cakes and tart shells, swirled into cheesecake, or used as the base for frozen desserts.
Unfortunately, I don’t know exactly who at the National Security Agency is reading this, so I can’t address you by your name. I’m hoping it will be someone important—General Keith Alexander, is that you? Would it be immodest of me to think that James Clapper, our Director of National Intelligence, is reading this? Jim, is that you?
Most likely, you’re some low-level flunky, sitting at a desk in a room the size of three football fields with several thousand other “readers.” Is that what they call you people who are forced to read the world’s communications?
Now hold on—I don’t mean to insult you, whoever you are; after all, your security clearance is way above mine or you wouldn’t be reading this. I’m guessing that they don’t pay you very much, what with your having to read my inconsequential postings. The guy who reads Putin’s emails—he or she probably makes a ton of money. But not you.
Now I’m going to make your day and help you take another step up the ladder there at spook central. While this post seems to be the simple drivel of someone with too much time on his hands, it actually has encrypted within it the state secrets of…well, I don’t want to give too much away out here on the web where anyone’s grandmother and her boyfriend can read it. Suffice it to say that despite my hellishly clever encryption, I’m betting that even a flunky like you can crack my code and reveal to your higher ups the real scoop about…well, again. That’s not information for a public forum.
I’m aware that you share your surveillance with other agencies, governmental and otherwise, so let me say a few words to them, as long as they’re reading this post along with you.
To the FBI and State and Local Law Enforcement:
I have to apologize for my irresponsible lack of criminal activity lately—but you should have known me when I was 18. Now that the Statute of Limitations has run out, I could help with all those cold cases you have filling your filing cabinets. But I’m no stool pigeon. You’d have to beat the info out of me with a rubber hose in some dimly-lit backroom of a station house on the wrong side of the tracks. You wouldn’t do that to a guy with five grandchildren, would you? You would? In that case, I’ve forgotten everything that happened in the last millennium. Well, I’ll give you just one taste: remember that 1956 Ford that conked out when someone poured sugar into its gas tank? That was me.
To the military:
Surely you remember me? BR13739540? It was a while ago, but now that you are keeping up-to-date on me, my life, my wife, my wife’s life, our family, our family’s friends, the friends of our family’s friends, their contacts, employees, employers, their employers’ friends, the people who call wrong numbers and get the friends of their friends, the permutations and combinations of the telephone numbers of all the wrong numbers, and the random-generated contacts through the phone logs of those people whose names contain many of the same letters as my third cousins twice removed, welcome! It’s almost as if I know you.
Just one question: how come all the news reports say that 93 percent of Americans agree that genetically modified foods should be labeled, and that an overwhelming majority of folks in Washington State and California wanted GMOs labeled, but when it came time to vote, the ballot measures requiring labeling were defeated?
Such a mystery. So I went to Madame Serena, the local palm reader and psychic, and asked her. She gazed deep into her crystal ball and said, “The answer grows more distinct, but only lots more cash will clear the ball.” See? The very truth. Amazing, those psychics.
To J.C. Penney:
I know that I once clicked on your online ad for Body Shine Plus-Sized Feminine Illumination Briefs, but that was because I was horny and it was late. So now whether I’m online looking up pre-finished hardwood flooring or Italian espresso machines, I am also inundated with ads offering your plus-sized women’s foundation garments illustrated with pictures of skinny women’s pelvises.
To the Koch Brothers:
How come former New York City Mayor Ed Koch pronounced his name “kotch,” but you pronounce yours “coke?” Does Coca-Cola pay you for giving it all that free publicity? Or do you own Coca-Cola, too?
To All Those Others Whom I Don’t Know But Who Are on the NSA’s “Share” List and Are Reading This:
Half a nice day.
WHY DID I-522 LOSE?
As you now know, Initiative 522, which would have required foods containing GMOs to be labeled, was defeated by Washington voters.
Did the people of Washington State say to themselves, “We don’t want to know whether our food contains genetic modifications”? Doubtful.
Did they say to themselves, “Labeling will only confuse me”? Very doubtful.
Did they say to themselves, “I trust Monsanto and other giant corporations to have my best interests at heart”? Very, very doubtful.
How about when Monsanto and its pals flooded the airwaves with millions of dollars worth of ads that told the people of Washington State that labeling GMO foods would raise their food bills? Did that do it?
Corporate America has working folks on the ropes. People—including kids—are going hungry. Parents are making hard choices about what foods to buy to satisfy their family’s hunger. “You mean that those environmentalists want to raise food prices? No way.” And that, dear readers, is the bottom line, and that’s why the struggling voters of Washington State voted down the labeling initiative. They believed Monsanto and its junk food pals. They believed the lies. The word never got out that in the rest of the developed world, in the many countries that require labeling of GMOs, there have been no increases in food prices. Why should there be? It doesn’t cost anything to put a few words on a food label. The voters were snookered into thinking they were voting in their own interest by rejecting GMO labeling, but of course they weren’t. They were voting for the interests of Monsanto and the One Percent and against their own interest. But they didn’t know that because—and here’s the rub—the news media never told them, and that’s because the news media is owned by the very corporations that work hand in glove with the government, Big Agriculture, the junk food corporations, and the Biotech industry.
Now here comes journalist Tom Philpott with his take on what happened, and it’s hair-raising, if quite to be expected. Read his blog post:
“BIG FOOD IS OUT TO CRUSH THE GMO LABELING MOVEMENT”
“In my post on the defeat of Washington State’s GMO labeling initiative, I speculated that the junk-food industry, which had poured millions into defeating the measure, might support a national label.
“My logic was this: Coke, Pepsi, Nestlé, etc., profitably operate in Europe, where GMO ingredients are scarce and labeling is mandatory. Presumably, they could do so in the United States, too. Eventually, I figured, they’d tire of fighting the agrichemical/GMO seed industry’s fight. I pointed to a statement made yesterday by the Big Food trade group the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), to the effect that it would advocate for ‘national standards for the safety and labeling of products made with GMO ingredients.’
“Boy, was I naive. According to GMA documents uncovered by the public-health lawyer and writer Michele Simon, Big Food has no intention of laying down its lobbying or campaign finance swords on the labeling fight. Quite the opposite, in fact. Simon got hold of the documents after the Washington State Attorney General’s Office sued the GMA for having ‘illegally collected and spent more than $7 million’ to fight the labeling initiative ‘while shielding the identity of its contributors.’
“To settle the matter, GMA revealed the names of the companies, which turned out to include Pepsi, Coca-Cola, General Mills, and Nestlé USA. Simon told me that she caught wind that the AG’s office had obtained the GMA documents during its investigation, which she in turn obtained from the AG’s office under a Washington open-records statute. But not before the GMA was given the opportunity to redact portions of the documents.
“Even so, the docs contain some juicy stuff. Scroll down to the February 18, 2013, ‘Privileged and Confidential Memorandum’ document, which spells out GMA’s labeling agenda. It reports that at a January 19 meeting, GMA’s board of directors ‘coalesced in support of a multi-pronged approach to address the challenges presented by proposals for mandatory labeling of any product containing GMOs.’ Here’s what came next:
1. To oppose all state efforts that would impose mandatory labels while efforts are taken to pursue a federal solution:
a. Engage in state by state campaigns to defeat ballot measures.
b. Oppose state legislation.
2. Develop a transparency and disclosure platform based on consumer research: REDACTED
3. Pursue statutory federal pre-emption that does not include a labeling requirement.
4. Engage the efforts that protect the image of the industry while engaging in these efforts.
5. Develop a long-range funding mechanism for GMA companies to support these efforts and other Board-approved initiatives in defense of the industry brands that provides greater financial certainty and reduces companies’ exposure to criticism.
“The key bit is number three: ‘Pursue a statutory federal pre-emption that does not include a labeling requirement.’ Translation: GMA is pushing for a federal law that not only frees the industry from the burden of a national label, but that would also preempt any state labeling requirement. And the group is lining up cash—‘a long-range funding mechanism’—for the effort. And it’s planning to ‘oppose all state legislation’ in the meantime. The GMA did not return my calls seeking comment on the documents.
“Message: Proponents of GMO labeling face the lavishly funded opposition of Big Food—a powerful ally for the agrichemical/GMO industry in the battle against labeling.”
FDA’S PUBLIC COMMENT WEBSITE FAILS THE PUBLIC
Family farm and consumer advocates have been working for weeks to ensure meaningful public comment on the FDA’s proposed food safety rules. Now the government website that serves as a portal for the public’s comments on food safety is offline, out-of-service, or even refusing to accept comments.
“This is potentially disenfranchising thousands of farmers and consumers, and is flat-out unacceptable,” says Will Fantle, Codirector of the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute. “We have been working for months, as have many other organizations across the country, to raise public awareness of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the proposed rules developed to implement it. We have received numerous reports from our members that they cannot send in timely comments because the portal for doing so, regulations.gov, is not working.” And now it’s too late, as the public comment period closed on November 15—today as of this writing.
Many visitors to the FDA’s comment portal are reporting this message: “We are experiencing temporary technical difficulties and are working to restore full operations as soon as possible.” This message has been sporadically reported by members of the public for the past several weeks and now appears to be the standard case for anyone attempting to access the webpage. At other times, citizens have reportedly been advised to resubmit any comments they might have posted while other visitors to the website, in November, were greeted with a message that “planned system maintenance” was being conducted and would be completed by August 6.
The FSMA was passed by Congress in late 2010 after anger boiled over following years of food poisoning outbreaks, associated with dangerous fecal pathogens, that impacted peanuts, spinach, sprouts, melons and imported foods. The FDA’s draft rules, however, saddle local and organic family-scale farmers with unnecessary and expensive prevention practices more appropriate for riskier industrial processing and distribution systems. And the draft rules fail to address a health control strategy for the primary source of many of the fecal-generated pathogens-–industrial-scale feedlots and livestock facilities.
The new FDA rules, by the way, were written by Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto executive now in charge of food safety at the FDA. He’s the same guy who wrote the 20-year-old FDA rule that gave food processors the loophole to avoid labeling GMOs in the first place. The GMOs, of course, are grown from seed patented by Monsanto.
Organic Gardening and the Meaning of Life
Whatever else human beings do on this planet, our ability to create beauty is our highest achievement. Who do we remember from ages past? Our artists. Homer, Praxiteles, Virgil, Michaelangelo, DaVinci, Raphael, Rembrandt, Bach, Beethoven, and all the magnificent spirits who have taken the dirt and dust of the earth and created works that will last forever because…because they are incredibly, inexpressibly beautiful.
And what does that mean—beautiful? It means that we humans have within us a unique faculty that can recognize beauty and be moved by it. Anyone who has had a close relationship with an animal, a dog or a cat or a favorite horse, knows that these creatures respond to and return affection, even love. But does a dog or a cat appreciate beauty? The ability to stand in awe before beauty and be touched in the innermost soul is most likely a peculiar faculty of the human being. I’m willing to be convinced otherwise, but I have seen no evidence for this ability outside of the human experience.
Woe to any person who lacks this faculty, for they live in a ruined world devoid of that very spark that gives meaning and value to life.
Creations that are beautiful—whether manmade or artifacts of nature—touch us with their truth. Nothing false, deceitful, or ulterior can be true, and because it isn’t true, it can’t be beautiful. It can mock beauty. It can ape beauty. But it can’t have that intrinsic beauty that so moves the human spirit. The well-crafted lie, the sweetest words of “I love you” said for ulterior motive, the pretty false front that charms the gullible, all turn ugly when the truth comes out. Only the honest, transparent truth is always beautiful.
The truly beautiful is truly good. And it is this quality of pure goodness that touches us. The honesty, the “rightness,” the knowledge of a connection between the object of beauty and the source of goodness—this is what wins us over. This goes far beyond what is merely pretty. The truth can be hard. It can take an honest look at ugliness, cruelty, and despair. But if it is honest and insightful, even hard truth can be beautiful. Shakespeare gave us fine examples.
So what does this have to do with organic farming and gardening?
Just as an artist makes a connection with a truth to produce something beautiful, so the organic farmer or gardener makes a similar connection to a source of ultimate goodness. And that source is nature. If nature isn’t fundamentally good, then the world isn’t fundamentally good. And if the world isn’t fundamentally good, then it can’t be true or beautiful either.
But since we perceive truth and beauty in the natural world, then it follows that there is goodness inherent in nature. Yes, nature is red in tooth and claw, and yes, death befalls nature’s creatures. But from within this eat-and-be-eaten world, healthy ecosystems emerge. And they are beautiful because they work. And they are good because they work. And they are true because they work.
Nature can’t be false or underhanded. There are no tricks up nature’s sleeve. Its laws are inviolable. Its tendencies will hold sway. It is the way things are, whether we like it ore not. We contravene nature and her laws at our peril.
But consider the organic practitioner. He or she takes her clues from nature. Nature is her teacher, her guide, her rulebook. The organic practitioner tries to learn nature’s secrets—and they are only secret because we don’t understand them –and apply them to the farm and garden.
Every organic farmer and gardener soon learns the truth of nature. Her rules, energies, and tendencies are real, and following them results in good farms and gardens. And further, good farms and gardens are invariably beautiful because they are true to nature, places where nature’s honest rules are at work.
Reality is more than what is apparent. Reality includes what exists beyond the confines of human senses, or even imagination. When reality—nature’s laws—are implemented on the organic farm or in the organic garden, goodness is manifested in new ways. An unforeseen confluence of benefits arises. And when it occurs, it is always true, and it is always beautiful.
I dare you to make a breakfast of an egg laid by a hen that has the run of a pasture and the ability to be the hen she wants to be, eating bugs she finds in the grass, and contentedly associating with her fellow hens. You will immediately see the truth of nature in that beautiful egg, and it will be good.
So while artists touch our souls with their creations, so do our organic farmers and gardeners support our health—our wholeness–with their honest foods, produced according to nature’s principles. They may not belong in a museum, but they surely belong within us.
ORGANIC OPTIMISM AND CONVENTIONAL PESSIMISM
One of the things J.I. Rodale taught us way back in the day was that healthy soil makes healthy crops makes healthy people. And at Rodale, we repeated that mantra every chance we got. It was an optimistic statement, given that folks who are part of the organic movement tend toward cheerfulness and recognize the positive nature of Nature.
But there’s a corollary to the mantra that’s just as true, although it was not often stated in those halcyon days at Rodale. And that is: unhealthy soil makes unhealthy crops makes unhealthy people.
And yet, the positive and negative sides of this concept were behind the very genesis of the organic movement. Sir Albert Howard was an English botanist who was working as an agricultural advisor in India in the 1930s when he noticed that cattle grazing on pasture grown in soils kept in good health by the recycling of composted plants and manures did not develop the severe diseases that showed up in cattle grazing on pasture fertilized with chemicals. He wrote up his observations and recommendations for an organic agriculture in his 1940 book, “An Agricultural Testament.” This book was aimed at farmers and the general public and is rightly considered one of the founding works of the organic movement. Howard was quoted as saying, “the health of soil, plant, animal, and man is one and indivisible.” He also advocated the study of natural forest ecosystems for clues on how to farm in concordance with nature—a suggestion that has guided the development of organic agriculture ever since. And to give credit where it’s due, Rudolf Steiner, in his ground-breaking work on natural systems in the 1920s, also described how the best farm is a living organism that is run in accordance with nature’s principles. His Biodynamic system pre-dated the organic system, although at the level of practice on the farm, it was organic.
Here in America, it was J.I. Rodale who read Howard’s book and said, “It hit me like a ton of bricks.” He had a small farm near Emmaus, Pennsylvania, and started to put Howard’s ideas into practice—soon discovering that they worked. And so in 1942, he started “Organic Farming and Gardening” magazine. In it, he showed readers how to create the healthy soil that makes healthy crops and healthy people.
Rodale realized early on that there was the other side of this coin—that unhealthy soil creates unhealthy crops. He saw that unhealthy soil was soil depleted of nutrients by farming methods that returned only three mineral elements—nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—to the soil, but not the all-important organic matter full of trace elements, humus particles, and most importantly, living creatures by the trillions in each handful. It was the health of the soil microorganisms that made the soil a living ecosystem. He saw that conventional farming rendered soils lifeless, depleted, prone to erosion, and grew crops prone to pests and diseases.
The answer to ill health, he reasoned, was not in treating people once they got sick, but in preventing disease through proper nutrition, such as offered by organic food production. And so he started Prevention magazine. Soon his articles started naming the nutritional elements that were in short supply in foods produced in unhealthy soil. Substances like vitamin E, bioflavinoids, vitamin C, calcium and magnesium in proper proportions, and so forth.
There was a smart Harvard graduate named Marshall Ackerman who worked for J.I. in marketing and advertising at that time (the early 1950s). Ackerman saw that there was a business opportunity in providing people with these missing nutrients. There were vitamin pills on the market in those days, but they were made in factories, not processed from real foods. Ackerman found some businessmen in New York City who were interested in making vitamins and food supplements from real foods and convinced them to produce them and advertise them in Prevention. And so the natural food supplement industry was born and became a huge success.
The conventional farming system, in contrast, came to rely more and more heavily on chemical inputs that kill things: pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, antibiotics. Farms became factories. Animals became commodities. Cruelty became the norm. And the ill effects of factory farming spilled into populations here and abroad, damaging human health and the health of the environment, too. And then came genetic engineering—the greatest insult to nature ever. By the insertion of genes from one species, genus, or even kingdom to another, genetic engineers were basically saying, “Move over, Nature. We know better than you how to craft an organism for a farm.”
As organic farming produces an unforeseen confluence of benefits, so modern industrial agriculture and especially genetic engineering produces an unforeseen confluence of ill effects. The scientific literature is full of examples, despite the false claims of safety repeated over and over by Big Ag’s propagandists (what do you think Andy Warhol’s repetitive series of corporate icons was telling us?).
Genetic engineers don’t know better than nature how to create an organism suited to farm life. Far from it. Nature responds to these insults the way she always does—by trumping the insult. Spray enough herbicide on the weeds and you’ll encourage the development of superweeds. Use antibiotics profligately and you’ll encourage the development of antibiotic resistant superbugs. Spread enough pesticide on the corn and you’ll encourage the development of superpests that resist the pesticide. Use chemicals that are even more lethal and you won’t succeed in killing off the weeds, pathogens, or insects you’re after, you’ll simply encourage the development of even-more-resistant target organisms. This is exactly what’s been going on with factory farming through most of the 20th Century and now into the 21st. Despite the millions of tons of pesticides that have been sprayed on farms over the last century, have we ended the need for pesticides on conventional farms? No. Far from it. The chemical companies have convinced farmers and especially bankers who lend money to farmers, that the chemicals will protect the farms and the investments. Pesticides are a product you can sell for good profits. This organic thing—well, you can’t sell the absence of a product.
And so here we are today. The organic food industry has grown huge at the same time that factory farming has grown even huger. More and more people understand that choosing organic food protects them from a host of ills that come from conventional food. Sir Albert Howard’s pastures—one organic and free of disease, the other conventional and full of disease—have become the modern paradigms for our food system. More and more people are discovering why organic food is not just a pretty choice but a dire necessity. When they glimpse the truth, it hits them like a ton of bricks.
How the World’s Greatest Crime Syndicate Relates to Organic Farming
With the continuing release of documents made public by Edward Snowden, we—the American people—are beginning to sense the scope of the surveillance state that the U.S. has become. Not only has the National Security Agency collected every kind of electronic communication and data on American citizens (in secret and with total disregard for the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution), but it has done so across the European Union, and around the world.
Why? All to bag a handful of terrorists? Well, that too, but then we have armed drones to take care of those guys, right? And our intelligence services, crammed full of data—meta and otherwise—seem to miss plots like the Kenyan bombings, the underwear bomber, Benghazi, and even 9/11. The question is, what is really happening with all that data? What is it for?
It’s not just our intelligence agencies and military who are clamoring for the data, but other government agencies like the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency. And indeed, we now know the NSA is sharing its information with those government agencies. And they are sharing that information with local police around the United States. Remember what happened to the Occupy movement when it dared to peacefully suggest that the Wall Street Banksters should be indicted, tried, and jailed for their crimes? They were clubbed, arrested, and dispersed by local police, and we subsequently learned that the police discovered who they were and what they were up to—most likely from infiltrators and from the Occupy protestors’ own cell phones and laptops. Today the Occupy movement has been shoved underground while the Banksters—although some have been fined—all still walk free. All of them.
But why would our massive surveillance apparatus need the personal electronic communications data from a billion or more ordinary citizens around the world?
Just to nab some drug dealers or peaceful political protestors? There must be another reason.
Well, as our social media companies like Google are showing us, that data can be used to profile consumers so as to more accurately sell them products they might want. Ah—there’s the rub. All that data can be mighty useful to folks who want to sell us something the data shows we want. But would the government really share all that data with companies like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and others, just so they can target us individually with advertisements they know will interest us? Well yes, you can rest assured, it’s already being shared. Or stolen by the NSA—just today the Washington Post revealed how the NSA is tapping into Google and Yahoo’s servers to collect data. But that’s not the whole story.
There may be a more pernicious reason that the data is being shared with big business. Consider how The Department of Agriculture, the FDA, the EPA, and other government agencies responsible for environmental protection in this country are fitted with revolving doors wherein execs from Monsanto, Dow, and others in the Big Ag, Biotech, and Junk Food industries enter government service for a while before being rotated either back to the corporations or into lobbying organizations. As lobbyists, these former government officials take advantage of their connections to legislators in order to encourage the lawmakers with “donations” to pass the laws that allow them to continue poisoning America and the world—for big, fat profits.
Think that’s paranoid? Let me quote from an article that appeared in Green Resistance in 2010, before any of us knew of the massive surveillance going on:
“As revealed by Jeremy Scahill in The Nation magazine, over the past several years, entities closely linked to the private security firm Blackwater have provided intelligence, training and security services to US and foreign governments as well as several multinational corporations, including Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, and banking giants Deutsche Bank and Barclays, according to documents obtained by The Nation.
“And what does Blackwater do for Monsanto?
“One of the most incendiary details in the documents is that Blackwater, through Total Intelligence, sought to become the ‘intel arm’ of Monsanto, offering to provide operatives to infiltrate activist groups organizing against the multinational biotech firm.” Blackwater, a huge private company with 10,000 employees training 40,000 military personnel from around the world each year, had many former CIA and national security executives in its ranks. It still does, although it was renamed Xe Services, and is now renamed again as Academi. And is Blackwater or its more recent avatars fingering anti-GMO activists and providing intelligence to Monsanto? Yes.
The Suddeutsche Zeitung (South German Times newspaper) in July of 2013 reported the following:
“The Americans do not only spy on governments, authorities and private individuals across the world with the help of their secret services; they also understand how to push forward the global interests of their companies with full force. An impressive example of this is the agriculture giant Monsanto, the leading manufacturer of genetically modified seeds in the world. A glimpse into the world of Monsanto shows that the company, which delivered the pesticide ‘Agent Orange’ to the US military in the Vietnam War, had close connections with the central power in Washington, with tough people from the field of the US secret services, and with private security companies.
“Even the (least) important of the 16 US intelligence services has always understood its work as being a support for American economic interests on the world markets. They spy not only on governments, authorities and citizens in other countries under the name of the fight against terror, they also support American economic interests, in their own special way,” the German newspaper reported. For more info on the Suddeutsche Zeitung’s story, visit: http://sustainablepulse.com/2013/07/13/the-sinister-monsanto-group-agent-orange-to-genetically-modified-corn/
Is it becoming clear yet?
The Federal Government’s intelligence agencies hold hands with the NSA spying apparatus, which holds hands with AT&T, Verizon, Google, Facebook, and other electronic information purveyors and dealers, which hold hands with Federal and local law enforcement, which holds hands with Wall Street and the Big Banks, which hold hands with Big Ag, Biotech, and Junk Food in order to protect and preserve the poisonous, unhealthy agriculture and food processing system. Laws are broken. Lies are spread. We think that “We the People” control what goes on in this country, but we are deluding ourselves. What’s really going on is a multi-trillion dollar crime syndicate, supported by our tax dollars and the money we spend at the supermarkets for denatured and unwholesome food.
Though I’m sure some will call me a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist, I’m not. I’ve watched this crime syndicate in action since 1970. Watched it spend millions to prevent the citizens of California and Washington State to know if GMOs are in their food. I’ve listened to their lies that GMOs are safe and that RoundUp herbicide is safe and that all the food they label as “natural” is safe. It’s not.
As I’ve written in this space before, Monsanto’s real aim is to genetically engineer the world’s major food crops so they can patent the seeds and control the world’s seed supply and thus the world’s food supply. It is being aided and abetted by the world’s biggest crime syndicate, of which it is the agricultural tentacle. There’s a military tentacle, an arms industry tentacle, a political tentacle, and several other major tentacles. Ike warned us. We didn’t listen. We better start listening now.
The bottom line is that information is power in the age of information. The United States is hoovering information at breakneck speed from every person it can reach in every corner of the globe and passing it to the military, to the police, and to corporate America, where it will be used to propagandize the public so that corporate marketing is ever more effective in producing profits. The government is telling us it is doing this to keep us safe from terrorists. But that’s just the fear-inducing lie, behind which the real work of raping the world economically is going on.
FOREVER THE REBEL
Amy Goodman’s ‘Democracy Now’ program this morning played an excerpt from Lou Reed’s final public appearance before his death at age 71. I’m paraphrasing, but he said something pretty much like this: “The only thing that can really change the world is rock ‘n roll. As a graduate of the Warholian school, I believe in the power of punk. I still want to blow it up.” Forever the rebel. G’bye, Lou.
SO LONG TO MIRACLE WHIP
I discovered Miracle Whip at a lunch counter in my home town when I was about 10 years old and the counter lady put it on a cheese sandwich. My mom always used plain mayonnaise, but I liked the extra tang in the Miracle Whip—and continued to use it for the next half century. Until today, in fact, when I went to open a fresh jar. But now I read labels. Miracle Whip had been such an old friend that I couldn’t recall ever having read the label. What could it be, other than mayonnaise tarted up with a little vinegar and flavorings?
So I looked at the jar and saw that it’s a Kraft Foods product. Hmmm—not exactly reassuring. Here are the ingredients as listed on the label. First ingredient, meaning that it’s the largest ingredient by weight, is water. But then, soybean oil. Uh-oh. Almost all the soybeans grown in the US are GMOs. Unless maybe they come from…China. No, soybeans are far too chancy, knowing what I know. After soybeans, the next most common ingredient is high fructose corn syrup. Yuck. Besides being bad for you in and of itself, HFCS is made from corn, a crop that, along with soybeans, is among the top three genetically modified crops planted in the U.S. The next ingredient is modified corn starch. Same GMO deal—it’s corn. And after that, eggs, spices, natural flavors, salt, and potassium sorbate the preservative.
So it’s goodbye Miracle Whip for me. I’d donate the jar to the food bank, but I don’t want the hungry to eat it either. Maybe I’ll try adding some tangy organic condiments to that organic mayo my wife buys. Of course, Kraft Foods could make an organic Miracle Whip using wholesome, non-GMO ingredients. I’d buy it in a New York minute. But I have no hope that Kraft will do any such thing.
KEEPING A WHOLESOME KITCHEN
Here are three items that organic-minded folks should know about.
For school lunchboxes (or any lunchboxes), Funky Money Snacks makes two kinds of freeze-dried organic snack packs. One is Bananamon—freeze-dried, crunchy banana chips with cinnamon, and the other is Purple Funk—banana chips with acai berries. They make other kinds, but they’re not organic. Learn more at www.funkymonkeysnacks.com.
The second item is Aquasana water filter systems. We installed an under-sink system, which has an above-sink spigot next to the regular faucet. This filter is tops. It really is. The water tastes like the freshest spring water. The filter takes out all sorts of chemicals, chlorine, disease-causing cysts, heavy metals, and much more, yet it doesn’t strip out healthful minerals. Consumer Reports gave it its highest rating, which is why I bought one. It’s as inexpensive or more inexpensive than any other filter of its quality, and in fact, Consumer Reports found its quality to be the best. Find out more at www.aquasana.com.
The third item helps hustle your baked potatoes more quickly until they’re done. They are food-grade stainless steel nails you insert through the length of your potatoes. In the oven, the metal conducts heat to the center of your spuds, cooking them up to 50 percent faster than just cooking them in their jackets. I’ve used stainless skewers for the same purpose, but they are too slender to make much of a difference in cooking times. These thicker nails do the job.
KEY MOLECULE LINKS NEONICS TO BEE VIRUSES
A team of scientists in Italy believe they have found the molecular mechanism through which neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics) adversely impact the immune system of honey bees. The team’s experiments suggest that exposure to neonics results in increased levels of a particular protein in bees that inhibit a key molecule involved in the immune response, making the insects more susceptible to attack by harmful viruses.
Though previous studies have indicated that exposure to minute amounts of neurotoxic pesticides like neonics severely impairs the immune systems of bees, making them more susceptible to pathogens, the underlying mechanism was not yet fully understood. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the latest of several studies to add weight to the urgency of repeated calls from beekeepers and environmental groups for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, as the European Commission decided this past April.
Neonics, a class of insecticides that includes clothianidin and imidicloprid, are taken up by a plant’s vascular system and expressed through pollen, nectar and gutation droplets from which bees forage and drink. They are particularly dangerous because–in addition to being acutely toxic in high doses–they also result in serious sublethal effects when insects are exposed to chronic low doses, as they are through pollen and water droplets laced with the chemical, and dust that is released into the air when coated seeds are planted with automated vacuum seed planters. These effects cause significant problems for the health of individual honey bees as well as the overall health of honey bee colonies. Effects include disruptions in bee mobility, navigation, feeding behavior, foraging activity, memory and learning, and overall hive activity.
ORGANIC RICE DINNERS NOW AVAILABLE
Lundberg Family Farms, a leading producer of organic rice and rice products based in California’s Sacramento Delta, announces the launch of a new kind of rice entrée. Lundberg’s Organic Whole Grain Rice and Seasoning Mixes offer convenience to the health-conscious consumer who is looking for an organic option.
The hearty rice entrées come in 11 flavors and feature the family’s signature organic brown rice. All are non-GMO verified, vegan, kosher, gluten-free, and of course, certified organic. The entrées are simple to prepare and can easily be made into main dishes with the addition of tofu, chicken, shrimp, or other protein.
The 11 varieties include a curry blend of garlic, onion, and spices paired with brown rice and lentils; an East-Indian curry blend, with spices, herbs, brown rice, and lentils. Brown rice, tomato, onion, garlic, and bell peppers makes a Spanish rice-style dish. Whole grain organic brown rice and high-fiber black beans make base toppings for tacos or burritos. Wild porcini mushrooms are combined with the nuttiness of brown rice and the firm texture of wild rice for a rustic blend. Some Louisiana hot links would go well with the Jambalaya blend of brown rice with garlic, onion, bell peppers, tomato, and spices. Green bell pepper, onion, and spices mixed with black beans, corn, brown rice, and tomato make a base for Southwestern cooking. The nuttiness of brown rice with the firm texture of wild rice is a nutritious grain side dish for roast poultry. Get the benefits of turmeric, with the vivid yellow color and spicy flavor of turmeric blended with bell peppers and brown rice as a base for an Indian curry. Garlic and basil combined with the nuttiness of brown rice and the firm texture of wild rice pair well with Italian main dishes. Make some southern fried chicken to go with your soul food side dish of red beans and rice.
All 11 varieties are available in supermarkets and natural food stores nationwide in six-ounce packages with a suggested retail price of $3.69.
Organic vs. Conventional = Liberal vs. Conservative
From the earliest days of Colonial America there were the conservatives– called the Tories then, they wanted continued ties to Britain—and the liberal patriots who wanted to establish a new country on this soil, free from British oppression. The split continued full force after the Revolutionary War, with Alexander Hamilton in the conservative camp and Tom Jefferson in the liberal. Over the decades and then the centuries, various labels were applied—the whigs, the know-nothings, the States’ Rights group, the Abolitionists, the Confederacy, the Unionists, the Progressives, the populists, the Republicans, the Democrats. But the ideological stances remained the same.
Today’s Tea Party is just a particularly virulent form of this long-standing conservatism, while the Occupy movement is—or was—a very energetic form of liberalism.
This dichotomy runs through more than just the political life of the country. In our food system, it’s pretty obvious how it plays out. The conservatives stand behind corporate agriculture with its agricultural chemicals, genetic engineering, processed foods, opposition to environmental protections, and big money for battalions of lobbyists who curry Congressional favor for Big Ag’s plutocrats.
The liberals, on the other hand, place their money on organic food production, sustainable practices, environmentally-sound ways of doing things, natural systems, local agriculture, family farmers, humane animal husbandry, whole foods, and protection of the earth’s fragile ecologies.
The fact is that big money runs big government, and that’s why organic farming gets such short shrift at the USDA. The money flows to big land grant universities for research into conventional agriculture, for the most part. The FDA and EPA, which, if those bureaucracies were interested in the welfare of the country and its environment, would seem to be the natural allies of organic farming, are run by revolving door suits from agribusiness and biotechnology firms.
Despite all the obstacles, the organic movement has grown and is growing stronger. That’s a tribute to its common sense approach to the task of growing food and fiber without destroying the land and its ecosystems and harming the creatures—including humans—who live from that task.
Now don’t get me wrong. The conservative point of view can be as constructive as the liberal. Whereas the liberal might say, “The baby’s bath water is dirty. Let’s throw it out and replace it with clean bath water,” the conservative might say, “Let’s make sure we don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” Both of those ideas make sense. The liberal impulse toward doing new good is checked by the conservative’s impulse for preserving existing good. That’s why our government works when it has moderates in both parties able to find compromises that allow progress to be made.
That’s not what we’ve been seeing lately, and certainly not in the tea party led rebellion that shut down the government and threatened default that would have destroyed the pillars of the world’s economic foundations—the full faith and credit of the United States that make U.S. Treasury bills the safest investment in the world. No sense of the common good there, unless you think that the Affordable Care Act’s destruction justifies destroying the country along with it. Remember “We had to destroy the village to save it”?
As a person who believes that organic agriculture is the safest, sanest, and most profitable way to building a sustainable farming system while feeding the world, I count myself in the liberal camp. I would like to hear what conservatives who really have the best interests of the country at heart, and not just its big and powerful corporations, have to say about how we transition away from chemical agriculture into a more natural agriculture. I suppose the next question is, are there any conservatives left who really have the best interests of the country at heart? Casting an eye over the right wing these days seems to reveal mostly mean-spirited support for the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us.
A place to start would be to agree on what problems are real as seen from both right and left, for, of course, there are real problems any time you implement almost anything in this world. Climate deniers and birthers need not apply. I’m suggesting that ideologues on both sides should be quiet and allow critical thinkers left and right to identify problems both can agree need to be fixed.
In the realm of agriculture, could there be agreement that conventional farming causes depleted soils prone to erosion? Plenty of science supports that position. Conventional advocates might say that no-till methods are a way to fix the problem. Organic advocates might say that recycling organic matter back into the soil is a way to fix the problem. Organic advocates may also say that no-till agriculture requires the use of chemical herbicides that are environmentally destructive, while conventional advocates might say that we should search for environmentally friendly ways to check weed growth in crop fields. In other words, if the goal is set as preventing soil erosion, both sides might have something valuable to contribute.
But that’s not the way we do things today. Conventional agriculture, as represented by corporations like Monsanto, Cargill, Archer-Daniels-Midland, Dow, BASF, Bayer, Syngenta, and many others, not only wouldn’t have anything to add to a discussion of prevention of soil erosion, they wouldn’t even agree that it’s a goal.
In other words, they are out on an ideological limb that’s devoted to their bottom line, not the common good. How to bring them to the table? The only possible way is through legislation from Congress that forces them to the table. And what would that look like?
To continue with our example of soil erosion, it would look like laws that make soil eroding practices unprofitable. Like a tax on every cubic meter of soil that’s depleted on the nation’s farms—a tax so heavy that it would be in the interest of the conventional farmers to take steps to curtail and stop erosion. And what would those steps be? Well, recycling the nation’s clean organic waste through large composting facilities and returning it to our agricultural soils would be the way to do it sustainably. Couple that with an end to chemical fertilization that renders the soil bereft of the organic matter that makes the soil spongy and cohesive.
Which would bring the conventional farmers back to the organic farmers, who are already recycling through composting. So am I saying that organic practices are the answer to our environmentally destructive farming practices? Well, yes. Unless the conventional farmers can prove me wrong.
This is the discussion we need to have in this country. Ideological posturing won’t get us anywhere. This is not a football game. There are real food issues out there that need to be addressed. Cover-ups, obfuscation, deceit, lying, and all the other underhanded tactics practiced by the huge corporate giants—yes, I’m talking about you, Monsanto, and all those trying to prevent people from knowing whether their food contains genetically modified ingredients—are simply turns of the wheels by the man behind the curtain, the Wizard of Oz, who is nothing more than a bankrupt purveyor of hokum. Except the hokum lines the shelves of our supermarkets and does untold harm to our environment, our food supply, our farm workers, and our citizens.
It’s time to get real.
ORGANIC CHAMPION QUITS ORGANIC TRADE ASSOCIATION
The Cornucopia Institute reports that the esteemed former chairman of the National Organic Standards Board, James Riddle, responded to comments from the board president of the Organic Trade Association (OTA) by resigning his long-time membership.
In his resignation letter, Riddle corrects the OTA’s new president, Melody Meyer, who is a vice president of the $6 billion organic/natural distributor, United Natural Foods International, on her misrepresentations in defending the recent USDA power grab neutering the power Congress gave to the National Organic Standards Board to protect the integrity of organics.
In his resignation letter, Riddle wrote, “OTA’s new board president, Melody Meyer, recently wrote and released a divisive, inaccurate, and accusatory article entitled, ‘Stop the lies and get behind your National Organic Program.’ In her article, Ms. Meyer displayed an alarming lack of understanding of the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) and the National Organic Program (NOP) Final Rule, as well as disrespect for public interest groups who have been part of the organic movement from the beginning.”
The National Organic Program is all that stands between us and “organic food” that isn’t really organic. James Riddle’s resignation is bad news for those of us who want organic to mean what we think it does. We’ll be investigating this more fully and will report back soon.
DOES ROUND-UP CAUSE BREAST CANCER?
The journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) has accepted for publication a new study that links exposure to Monsanto’s RoundUp herbicide, the active ingredient of which is glyphosate, to severe endocrine disruption and breast cancer.
And the worst part is that the chemical was found to elicit these and other harmful effects at virtually imperceptible levels in the parts per trillion range, which is far below the levels that commonly occur in the environment and the food supply as a result of misguided corporate agriculture practices.
It was already previously known that glyphosate tends to be estrogenic, and that both consumption of and exposure to it through food and water can promote the growth of breast cancer cells. But what was not fully understood is at what concentration the toxin causes such problems.
We now know, however, thanks to the new analysis, that pure glyphosate acts on estrogen receptors (ERs) in the body to promote the growth of hormone-dependent breast cancer cells at levels far below what millions of people are exposed to every single day through the general food supply.
DO ROUND-UP READY GMOS ALSO CAUSE BREAST CANCER?
This is particularly concerning as glyphosate has been detected in human urine samples at levels as high as 233 parts per billion, according to earlier studies, which is 233,000 times higher than the rough minimum amount of glyphosate determined to cause breast cancer in the new study quoted above.
But it gets even worse. The new study also revealed that RoundUp-Ready, genetically-modified (GMO) soybeans, which are also highly estrogenic, contribute to the problem as well.
According to the new data, genistein, the primary phytoestrogen found in unfermented soy and soy products, is also a significant breast cancer-causing agent. Together with glyphosate, exposure to and consumption of soybeans and soy-based products, and particularly those of GMO origin, appears to be a leading cause of the ever-worsening breast cancer epidemic that we are witnessing today.
You can find a summary of the study at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23756170
Learn more at:
OH—LOOK WHO’S BEHIND ‘NO ON 522’ IN WASHINGTON STATE
A number of new opponents to the GMO food labeling proposal in Washington State (I-522) were recently revealed following the release of their names by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), a national business lobbying organization.
The GMA had been–apparently in violation of state election law–hiding the identity of its donors who had provided more than $7.2 million to fight the consumers’ right to know what is in their food. The disclosure came shortly after Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit demanding the GMA reveal the identity of its secret donors.
“Consumers might be surprised to find out that some of their favorite organic and natural brands, hiding behind the Grocery Manufacturers Association, are contributing bushel baskets of cash towards thwarting their right to make informed choices in the supermarket,” says Mark Kastel, the Cornucopia Institute’s co-director.
“We think the bad press and consumer outrage that many of the GMA member companies received in California, like Kellogs (Kashi), General Mills (Cascadian Farms and Muir Glen) and Smucker’s (Santa Cruz and Knudsen), led to the decision to try to hide under the GMA’s cloak with its secret donor approach,” noted Kastel.
The most recent polling of Washington State voters indicates a tightening race on the I-522 initiative, with a narrow majority supporting labeling of GMO food ingredients. Opponents of the measure have raised in excess of $17.1 million. The GMA’s share of the NO vote war chest, at $7.2 million, is greater than all of the money raised by I-522 supporters, who have collected only $6.9 million in favor of a YES vote.
GMO CROPS CALLED ‘SAFER THAN ORGANIC’
A column in a recent Forbes magazine includes this paragraph: “Every major international science body in the world has reviewed multiple independent studies—in some cases numbering in the hundreds—in coming to the consensus conclusion that GMO crops are as safe or safer than conventional or organic foods.”
After reading that, I thought I’d devote the rest of this post to some recent science and facts that may contradict the Forbes article. Besides GMOs, I look at the effects of glyphosate, Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, because the use of herbicide is directly related to the creation of herbicide-resistant GMO crops.
If you want more of the direct effects of GMOs on human health, visit www.gmoevidence.com and also http://earthopensource.org/index.php/reports/58
ARE CHEERIOS A SOURCE OF GMOS?
A new report from Green America’s “GMO Inside” campaign exposes the nature of General Mills’ popular cereal, Cheerios.
“Deception at General Mills: The Real Corporate Social Responsibility Report for General Mills” (www.NoGMOsCheerios.org) focuses on America’s most popular breakfast cereal.
While General Mills promotes Cheerios for its use of whole grain oats, stating, “The whole grain oats in Cheerios Cereal are natural,” it is silent about the fact that many of the other ingredients in Cheerios, including modified corn starch, sugar, and vitamin E, are at high risk of being genetically modified.
While concealing its use of GMOs in the United States and Canada, General Mills offers non-GMO Cheerios to consumers in Europe and elsewhere. The company has declined to make available to U.S. families the same non-GMO product it sells in Europe and all around the rest of the world.
General Mills is failing to be transparent. In a bid to keep American consumers in the dark, the company spent over $1 million in California to oppose GMO labeling legislation, thus depriving their American consumers with the basic right to know what is in their food. In Washington State, the company is fighting GMO labeling under cover of the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Polls show that more than 93 percent of Americans support the labeling of GMOs.
Honey Nut Cheerios is the most popular breakfast cereal in America, and one often fed to babies as one of their first solid foods. Regarding this, Michelle Perro, M.D., a pediatrician at the Institute for Health & Healing of the Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation in San Francisco, said: “The state of our children’s
health should sound the alarm for every parent, every health care provider, and politicians. The common denominators in the decline in their health are GMOs and Roundup Ready contamination. Scientific data has shown that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the pesticide Roundup, causes disruption in the biome of the gastrointestinal tract as well as direct toxicity on gut function. In addition, it interferes with liver detoxification pathways so that normal removal of toxins is impaired. As a result, the list of disorders that now are common occurrences in our children includes asthma, allergies, and autoimmune diseases.”
Green America’s GMO Inside campaign is calling on General Mills to be a leader in its industry by being the first major food corporation to announce a phase-out of GM ingredients, starting with Cheerios. This change will create ripple effects up the supply chain that will lead to increasing acres of cropland being converted to less destructive, less risky, and less corporate-dominated, non-GMO farming techniques.
GMO Inside also released today a video highlighting the campaign’s concerns with GMOs in Cheerios. The video lets viewers know that contrary to General Mills’ assertions that Cheerios remain unchanged, the recipe has altered to include GMOs. The video can be found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbiDgOkhoyY&feature=youtu.be.
AMERICAN JUDGE FINES MOMS FOR FIGHTING GMOS
When a group of pro-labeling moms in Washington State figured out that the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) was breaking the state’s campaign finance disclosure laws, they did something about it. They formed a grassroots group, Moms for Labeling, and they sued the GMA, the Organic Consumers Association reports.
Their complaint? The GMA is concealing the identities of out-of-state corporations, namely Big Food companies, which are funneling donations to the NO on I-522 campaign through the multi-billion dollar GMA. The Moms had a whistleblower lined up to testify. But then the judge dismissed their case, on a technicality.
You’d think that would have been enough to make the GMA happy, but no. The lobbying giant went after the Moms with a countersuit, prompting a judge to slap the Moms with a $10,000 fine, under a law that is supposed to protect citizens from frivolous suits by big companies.
End of story? Not yet. In dismissing the suit, the judge ruled that under the circumstances, only the state attorney general now has the authority to sue the GMA for violating Washington’s Public Disclosure Act.
The NO on I-522 campaign has so far raised $17.1 million to blanket the airwaves with lies, as it tries to scare voters into voting against the I-522 GMO labeling initiative. The GMA, which represents over 300 corporations including Kraft, Kellogg’s, Monsanto, Dupont, Starbucks, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, ConAgra and General Mills, has kicked in $7.2 million so far – $5 million more than the lobbying group spent last year in California to defeat a similar GMO labeling initiative.
Who’s missing from the NO on I-522 donor roster this year? The junk food giants who spent millions last year, but this year are hiding their donations from public view.
Let’s pick up where the Moms for Labeling left off, by insisting that Washington’s attorney general force the GMA to comply with the state’s campaign disclosure laws. Take action by visiting www.organicconsumers.org.
MEXICAN JUDGE RULES GMOS ARE ‘IMMINENT THREAT’
An October 10 press release from Mexico City announced the banning of genetically-engineered corn in Mexico. According to the group La Coperacha, a federal judge has ordered Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture, and the country’s equivalent of the EPA, to immediately “suspend all activities involving the planting of transgenic corn in the country and end the granting of permission for experimental and pilot commercial plantings,” reports Devon Pena of Seattle.
The unprecedented ban was granted by the Twelfth Federal District Court for Civil Matters of Mexico City. Judge Jaime Eduardo Verdugo wrote the opinion and cited “the risk of imminent harm to the environment” as the basis for the decision. The judge also ruled that multinationals like Monsanto and Pioneer are banned from the release of transgenic maize in the Mexican countryside as long as collective action lawsuits initiated by citizens, farmers, scientists, and civil society organizations are working their way through the judicial system.
This ruling marks a milestone in the long struggle of citizen demands for a GMO-free Mexico, acknowledged Rene Sanchez Galindo, legal counsel for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, adding that the ruling has serious enforcement provisions and includes the possibility of “criminal charges for the authorities responsible for allowing the introduction of transgenic corn in our country.” Father Miguel Concha said the judge’s decision reflects a commitment to respect the Precautionary Principle expressed in various international treaties and statements of human rights. Concha emphasized that the government is obliged to protect the human rights of Mexicans against the economic interests of big business. The lawsuit seeks to protect the “human right to save and use the agrobiodiversity of native landraces from the threats posed by GMO maize,” said the human rights advocate.
The class action lawsuit is supported by scientific evidence from studies that have – since 2001 – documented the contamination of Mexico’s native corn varieties by transgenes from GMO corn, principally the varieties introduced by Monsanto’s Roundup Ready lines and the herbicide-resistant varieties marketed by Pioneer and Bayer CropScience. The collection of the growing body of scientific research on the introgression of transgenes into Mexico’s native corn genome has been a principal goal and activity of the national campaign, Sin Maiz, No Hay Paiz (Without Corn, There Is No Country).
GLYPHOSATE TOXIC TO DAIRY COWS
A new study by scientists in Europe has revealed that glyphosate (Roundup) is toxic to the normal metabolism of dairy cows, according to the September 12, 2013, issue of Sustainable Agriculture.
In the new paper titled “Field Investigations of Glyphosate in Urine of Danish Dairy Cows,” published in the Journal of Environmental & Analytical Toxicology, researchers led by Dr. Monika Krüger reveal that “all cows investigated at the eight Danish dairy farms excreted glyphosate in their urine.”
This study follows two studies during the last year that have caused shockwaves around the globe regarding the dangers of the glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide-– the world’s best selling brand.
First, in September, 2012, in a study published in “Food and Chemical Toxicology,” researchers found that rats fed a diet containing NK603 Roundup-tolerant GMO corn or given water containing Roundup at levels permitted in drinking water and GMO crops in the U.S., developed cancers faster and died earlier than rats fed on a standard diet. They suffered breast cancer and severe liver and kidney damage.
Following that study, results of tests commissioned by Friends of the Earth Europe showed that people in 18 countries across Europe were found to have traces of the weed killer glyphosate in their urine.
The evidence suggesting that Roundup should be removed from shop shelves worldwide is building and this latest Danish cow study only adds to the pressure on farming organizations and food regulatory bodies to take action.
As the Danish dairy cow study states: “The intensive use of glyphosate has led to its wide-spread contamination of different ecosystems where it influences plants, microorganisms, animals and many components of the food chain.” You can find the full study at www.gmoevidence.com.
GLYPHOSATE ENHANCES GROWTH OF CARCINOGENIC FUNGUS
A new study reveals that Roundup herbicide enhances the growth of aflatoxin-producing fungi, lending an explanation for the alarming increase in fungal toxins recently discovered in U.S. corn, and revealing another way in which GMO farming is seriously undermining food quality.
The study may help to explain recent observations that GMO corn heavy markets, such as the U.S., have a significant aflatoxin problem. Aflatoxin is known to be one of the most carcinogenic substances in existence. The aflatoxin B1 strain is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as “Group 1, carcinogenic to humans,” with an LD50 (the dose that acutely kills 50 percent of a test group of rats) of 5mg/kg. Compare that to a 6.4 mg/kg LD50 for potassium cyanide, which is used in lethal injection.
The researchers discovered that glyphosate enhanced the growth of the aflatoxin-producing Apergillus fungus, and at concentrations lower than the range generally detected in soils destined for crop production.
The discovery that glyphosate enhances fungal growth contradicts several previous studies, including a 2007 study performed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which did not find that glyphosate increased Aspergillus flavus growth. The authors of the new study note that their findings are consistent with research on similar fungal strains, such as Fusarium, which possesses high tolerance to applied doses of glyphosate, and rust fungi and blight fungi, which exhibit enhanced growth on glyphosate-amended media.
NEWLY APPROVED GMOS RESIST SUPER-TOXIC HERBICIDES
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has quietly approved the first of a new generation of genetically engineered (GMO) crops resistant to herbicides even more toxic than glyphosate. The first crop to pass the low regulatory bar was a Bayer soybean variety genetically engineered to withstand direct application of the herbicide isoxaflutole (IFT), which according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a “probable human carcinogen.”
“Bayer’s new GMO soybeans represent the next wave in agricultural biotechnology-–crops that dramatically increase famers’ use of and dependence on toxic herbicides,” said Bill Freese, science policy analyst at Center for Food Safety (CFS).
IFT is presently a minor corn pesticide, used on just seven percent of the nation’s corn. In detailed scientific comments submitted to USDA, the Center for Food Safety projects at least a four-fold rise in national use of this toxic herbicide thanks to these new GMO soybeans, and a host of related human health and environmental harms.
Bayer is marketing the soybeans as a solution to massive weed resistance spawned by first-generation Roundup Ready crop systems sold by Monsanto.
IFT has many of the qualities that make a pesticide harmful: toxicity, persistence, presence in surface and groundwater sources of drinking water, and environmental impacts.
IFT is an EPA-designated “probable human carcinogen” based on induction of liver and thyroid tumors in rats, and liver tumors in mice that were fed low levels of the substance over time. It also exhibited developmental (fetal) toxicity in rabbits. IFT and its primary breakdown product DKN persist in the environment, and have been found in over three-fourths of samples tested from Iowa rivers. IFT is toxic to many aquatic organisms, and to wild plants and many crops (e.g. vegetables) that can be harmed by direct application, water contamination, or spray drift.
IFT is so toxic that its use in agriculture has been banned in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. “What’s so incredible is that the U.S. and world media have entirely missed the biotechnology industry’s game plan, even though the facts couldn’t be plainer,” said Freese.
“Generation One herbicide-resistant crops are Monsanto’s Roundup Ready varieties, resistant to the herbicide glyphosate. Skyrocketing use of glyphosate with these crops has made biological deserts of our fields,” said Freese.
Glyphosate has virtually wiped out milkweed, the Monarch butterfly host plant, in many Midwestern corn and soybean fields, and this is an important factor in the precipitous decline in Monarch populations in North America. Glyphosate formulations are extremely toxic to frogs, and likely one cause of the worldwide decline in amphibian populations.
“Roundup Ready crop systems have also driven an epidemic of glyphosate-resistant weeds found in half of farmers’ fields. These resistant weeds are now serving as pretext and marketing ploy to sell farmers on the new wave of ‘next-generation’ herbicide-resistant crops that fill the industry’s product pipeline,” added Freese.
“It’s quite ironic that supposedly ‘cutting-edge’ biotechnology is taking American agriculture a half-century and more backwards into a more toxic past,” Freese said.
Dow AgroSciences is awaiting USDA approval of 2,4-D-resistant corn and soybeans. 2,4-D is one of the oldest herbicides, introduced in the 1940s. It formed part of Agent Orange used in the Vietnam War. Medical scientists have linked 2,4-D exposure to an often fatal immune system cancer in farmers; and there is suggestive evidence linking 2,4-D and related chlorophenoxy herbicides to adverse reproductive impacts. CFS projects that 2,4-D use in agriculture will increase four-fold or more, to well over 100 million lbs. per year, if Dow’s crops are approved.
“It’s not only Dow. The pipeline includes Monsanto soybeans and cotton resistant to dicamba herbicide, which was introduced in the 1960s,” said Freese.
Epidemiological studies have found evidence linking dicamba to increased risk of cancer in farmers, while other studies show potential developmental and neurotoxicity.
BASF, another chemical company, has soybeans resistant to a class of herbicides known as imidazolinones, one member of which (imazethapyr) has been linked to bladder and colon cancer. Syngenta has soybeans resistant to HPPD inhibitors, a class of herbicides that includes isoxaflutole and which inhibit a liver enzyme with potentially toxic consequences. Most of these crops will come “stacked” with resistance to glyphosate and glufosinate.
“The biotech industry is bringing on a veritable ‘herbicide Armageddon,’ with ever increasing use of herbicides on GMO crops that will likely drive evolution of ever more intractable weeds resistant to multiple herbicides.
“Don’t listen to the industry hype,” Freese concluded. “Biotechnology means toxic, unsustainable agriculture. We need to evolve our agriculture beyond antiquated, pesticide-promoting GMO crops towards cutting-edge agroecological techniques for managing weeds instead of eradicating them. Organic agriculture is one path, low-input systems that minimize pesticide use is another.”
INCOME INEQUALITY WAY WORSE THAN YOU THINK
Want to have some fun? Follow this web address and play the YouTube video:
Oh, the Irony of Calling It the Independent Women’s Forum
On October 8, the Independent Women’s Forum and the Heritage Foundation sponsored a panel discussion in Washington, D.C., entitled, “Genetically Modified Foods: The Truth about Labeling.”
The thrust of the panel discussion was that those who want to see GMOs labeled are spreading “misinformation” and “confusing consumers.” As opposed to a free and open discussion about GMOs, the panel was set up to attack those who are demanding labeling. The press release announcing the panel discussion graphically shows that. Here’s what the press release said:
“This dynamic panel discussion will examine the history and science of genetically modified foods (or GMOs), their current use and benefits, and why GMO labeling is not only unnecessary but would also do a disservice to consumers. There is significant misinformation and confusion about GMOs, which now makes up a major part of the American diet. Anti-GMO activists are seeking to combat GMOs by pushing for labeling mandates on the state and federal levels. These mandates are being promoted as pro-consumer but their effect will be the opposite by creating greater misinformation.”
Well, I can understand why the Heritage Foundation, a well-known right wing arm of the billionaire’s club known as the Republican Party, would be behind this propaganda festival, but the Independent Women’s Forum? The press release describes this organization thusly:
“Independent Women’s Forum is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) research and educational institution dedicated to building awareness of the ways that women benefit from limited government, personal liberty, and economic freedom, and by countering those who seek to ever expand government in the name of protecting women.”
Wow. Sounds good. Who doesn’t want women to have “personal liberty” and “economic freedom?” Ah, but all is not what it seems. Might there be more to the picture?
Who really is the Independent Women’s Forum? I checked with SourceWatch, the online service that reveals who’s behind these ubiquitous front groups. According to SourceWatch:
“The Independent Women’s Forum is an anti-feminist organization predominately funded by conservative U.S. foundations, including the Koch brothers’ Claude R. Lambe Foundation. On its website, it describes its mission as being ‘to rebuild civil society by advancing economic liberty, personal responsibility, and political freedom. IWF builds support for a greater respect for limited government, equality under the law, property rights, free markets, strong families, and a powerful and effective national defense and foreign policy.’”
As an example of such support, an article by Sally Patel in IWF’s “scholarly”magazine, The Women’s Quarterly, stated that “the battered women’s movement has outlived its useful beginnings.” (Thank goodness there are no more battered women!) SourceWatch continues:
“Founded by Ricky Silberman in 1992, the IWF grew out of the ad hoc group, ‘Women for Judge (Clarence) Thomas.’ While claiming to challenge ‘radical feminists,’ IWF primarily targets mainstream feminists and feminist organizations, as exemplified by such figures as Hillary Rodham Clinton and such groups as the American Association of University Women.
“IWF is a secular counterpart to Religious Right women’s groups like Eagle Forum and Concerned Women for America, but these groups often work together. People for the American Way describe IWF as a group that ‘opposes affirmative action, gender equity programs like Title IX, and the Violence Against Women Act.
“IWF members include academic women who are paid to write papers that denigrate the idea of equity for girls and women in education. One of these papers, by Judith Kleinfeld, a professor of psychology at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, has questioned an MIT study on discrimination against women in MIT’s science department, calling its findings ‘junk science.’
“In May, 2010, IWF started supporting a group called ‘Balanced Education for Everyone,’ whose goal was to stop the teaching of global warming in U.S. schools. The group claimed teaching it scares children unnecessarily. The ‘Balanced’ group has since disbanded.
“IWF’s head Michelle Bernard has now re-emerged at the head of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics, and Public Policy. The Bernard Center’s website lists no donors, no history and no contact information other than a Post Office box in Potomac, Maryland. Analysts from the Bernard Center have written about ‘misguided’ food and nutrition policy, and the need for more charter schools.”
If any women reading this would like to tell the IWF what you think of this Koch brothers’ front group and its stance on women’s issues, you can contact Victoria Coley, Director of Communications, Independent Women’s Forum. Its website is www.iwf.org. Ms. Coley’s email address is email@example.com, and her cell is (443) 758-6077.
Finally, why is this information posted on a website devoted to organic food?
Okay, to answer that question, we first have to step back from this issue and take a more comprehensive look at our society. Think of our economy as a continent drained by major rivers and smaller tributaries. The rivers and tributaries run with money. The major rivers are segments of the economy like agriculture, manufacturing, energy, and finance. Major money flows down these rivers, and over the years, the smart and unscrupulous have found ways to dominate these money flows and turn their profits into their own bank accounts. The bigger they got, the less money there was for the people who created this flowing wealth. Finally, today, we have obscene wealth inequality. In the realm of agriculture and food processing, we have a system designed to maximize profits for giant corporations like Cargill and Monsanto; processing companies like Pepsi, Coke, and Kraft, and retailers like Safeway, Giant, and ShopRite. Conventional agriculture has crafted a system that maximizes profit and minimizes expenses—that is, the quality of their products is the least of their concerns. Their profits are enormous.
Organic agriculture has been, is now, and will be for the foreseeable future locked into a death struggle with conventional agriculture.
The billionaires who are behind the right-wing conservative political front groups are the power behind these abuses. They use their enormous profits to lie to the public about health issues and the safety and nutritional value of organic food. They are the powers behind Big Oil, Fracking, Big Ag, Big Biotech, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and the whole dirty system that has sickened America and the world. They are not just anti-feminist, or anti-women; they are pro-profit, and their anti-women stance simply supports that.
The dysfunctional government is their politics, the banksters loot our economy, America’s income inequality is their plan, Big Brother is here and he is watching us, our food system ruins the environment as it feeds us poisons, we imprison more people per capita than any other country in the world, our drones fly in countries around the world killing people, our citizens are armed to the teeth with weapons designed for the battlefield and the insane among us regularly start shooting, and there’s more.
In the face of all these problems there are bright spots. Organic food, grown and raised on clean, environmentally sound, and humane farms is one of the brightest. It’s all of a piece, don’t you see? In this next article, we glimpse part of the political piece of “the system,” and the rivers of money that support it.
It seems hard to believe, but our very way of life is under severe attack right now from those who have shut down the government and threaten economic default. It is very much a plot by the Koch brothers and their cronies to crash the system so they can gain the levers of power. Yes, it’s crazy. And if God’s in his or her heaven it won’t work, but push has come to shove. May our President stand strong and refuse to negotiate with those who have placed a grenade on the table with the threat that if they don’t get their way, they will set off the grenade.
When the dust settles, maybe Americans will come to see how Big Ag and Big Food have sickened us and ripped us off, just like the Tea party has done with our politics, and start supporting the organic farmers among us.
THOM HARTMANN PULLS THE LID OFF THE TEAPOT
The following is an excerpt from a recent article by Thom Hartmann, Progressive author and radio talk show host.
The Tea Party’s astroturf roots should have been obvious to anyone paying attention to their rallies. Back in 2009, for example, Americans for Prosperity, the pet-project of the oil-rich Koch Brothers, actually bussed Tea Party “activists” around the country to protest President Obama’s proposed healthcare law.
Margaret Thatcher, the UK’s conservative prime minister from 1979 to 1990, once said that “There is no such thing as society, there is only a collection of individuals.” A similar thing can be said about the Tea Party: there is no such thing as the Tea Party, only a collection of individual billionaires and their front groups.
And in January of 2010, five right-wing justices on the Supreme Court handed that collection of individual billionaires a big gift with their decision in the Citizens United case. Their decision declared money as speech and stripped the government of many of its powers to restrict corporate electioneering. The Supreme Court essentially gave the billionaires behind the Tea Party the power to hire their own army of politicians to wreak havoc in Congress, politicians who said they fought for “liberty,” but were really working in the interests of the corporate billionaire class.
That’s why the number of actual Tea Party “activists” has declined so quickly from the heady days of 2010. Now that the Kochs and their allies can buy their own lawmakers, they don’t really need any more of those spunky “activists” dressed in tri-corner hats or people to harass liberal politicians like they did back in 2009 and 2010. They can now count on people like Pete Sessions and Ted Cruz to do their bidding on Capitol Hill. Both received ample campaign donations from groups like the Club for Growth and Koch Industries.
And right now, those bought politicians are towing the “Billionaire Party” line to a T. They’ve shut down the government in what seems to be an attempt to sabotage Obamacare and prevent the media from informing Americans about how to use its insurance exchanges.
Make no mistake about it, this has always been the end goal of the Tea Party. It wants to destroy government’s ability to protect middle-class working people, pad the wallets of its billionaire sponsors, and erase the legacy of the New Deal.
But thankfully there’s an antidote.
And that antidote is rolling back the Supreme Court’s Citizens United doctrine that corporations are people and money is speech.
If we want to take back our hijacked democracy from the billionaires and their lackeys in Congress, then we need to take away their lifeblood: the uncontrolled flow of corporate money into our elections.
A FREE GMO MINI-SUMMIT
The Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) has joined with food and sustainability activist John Robbins and his son, and with The Food Revolution Network (FRN) to bring you the first ever GMO Mini-Summit.
They’ve gathered experts, researchers, and activists to share what they’ve uncovered about this pivotal topic during a three-day online summit, and it’s happening October 25-27.
Learn about studies that reveal the health effects of GMOs and Roundup on animals, humans and the environment; what doctors and scientists are really saying about GMOs in relation to allergies, autism, and leaky gut; how to help your family eat healthier and avoid GMOs; ways to get involved and become active in furthering the GMO labeling and tipping point efforts.
The summit is free to listen in, and will be offered for purchase so you can tune in at leisure and share with others. If you’re interested, visit this website: http://gmosummit.org/?orid=89790&opid=56
WASHINGTON COURT RULES AGAINST MOMS FOR LABELING
Unlike California, where giant junk food companies like Pepsi, Coke, Kellogg’s, Kraft, and General Mills made their donations public by donating outright to the opposition to the labeling of genetically modified food ingredients, in Washington, these “trusted” American brands are secretly bundling their donations and giving them to the Grocery Manufacturers Association in an effort to launder the money and hide how much they’re willing to give to kill GMO labeling. (The answer is over $17 million so far.)
In an effort to get to the bottom of this campaign deception, a group of local Washington moms has filed a suit against the GMA to find out who was paying big money to manipulate public opinion.
Rather than comply with Washington election law and reveal their donors, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the NO on 522 campaigns filed a countersuit against the Washington mom’s group, Moms for Labeling.
Last week, in a perversion of justice, a Washington judge sided with Monsanto and the GMA and ruled against the moms, slapping them with a $10,000 fine.
In other words, how dare mothers who want to know what they are feeding their children demand to find out? Shut up, moms. Sit down. Back to your kitchens and your nurseries. Stop asking questions. And pony up $10,000 to give to Monsanto and the food polluters for the trouble you put them through.
It’s enough to make you sick to your stomach.
My Quest for a Non-GMO Corn Tortilla
On nights when we don’t have a lot of time to cook, our go-to default dinners are tacos. We look around the fridge for some meat—usually organic chicken I’ve cooked out on the gas grill—plus some tomatillo salsa, onion, tomato, lettuce, cilantro, grated cheese, black beans heated and mashed, a minced jalapeno, and some salsa picante like Melinda’s habanero sauce.
For the tortillas, we’ve been buying Mi Rancho’s organic corn tortillas, but recently I started thinking back to my days in Rockland County, New York, living the hippie life, and how Carlos Pena made wonderful, puffy tortillas on his kitchen stove from scratch.
At that time, the only Mexican grocery store anywhere near us was an hour away, on 14th Street in Manhattan. It offered our only source of masa harina—the nixtamalized corn flour used to make tortilla dough. Carlos had a tortilla press, a simple contraption he used to press out the flat circles of dough he flipped into a pan. As they cooked, they puffed up like pita breads do. We loaded them with whatever we had on hand and fed our multitudes well. So, I thought, why not make my own tortillas from scratch again, like we did at Carlos and Barbara’s house in the late 1960s?
Except now, there’s a problem. About 95 percent of the corn grown in the U.S. is Monsanto’s GMO corn. I sure didn’t want to make my tortillas from that crap. Big bags of Manseca masa in Lola’s—my local Mexican supermarket here in Santa Rosa, California–weren’t organic, so no guarantee there that the corn wasn’t GMO. I bought a tortilla press for $12 but not the flour. Over at my local Whole Foods, the only masa harina with a chance of being organic was Golden Masa Harina Corn Flour from Bob’s Red Mill in Oregon; so, with hope in my heart, I bought a one-pound bag.
At home, I went online to Bob’s Red Mill’s website, where I found that Bob’s says the corn is organic, but because it’s soaked in lime before being dried and ground, it can’t be labeled as such. Soaking the corn kernels in lime water is called nixtamalization, and it changes the amino acid profile of the corn, making its lysine and tryptophan amino acids more available, resulting in a greater abundance of niacin—the shortage of which causes a terrible disease called pellagra. Nixtamalization was discovered by Mexico’s native populations thousands of years ago. Pellagra can be common in people who obtain most of their food energy from corn, notably people who live in rural Central and South America, where corn is a staple food. If corn is not nixtamalized, it is a poor source of lysine and tryptophan, thus of niacin. If the national organic rules say that nixtamalization disallows corn that’s grown organically from being labeled organic, than the rules are wrong and need to be changed. There’s nothing un-organic about soaking corn kernels in water that contains wood ashes—as the Native Americans did—or in lime water, which is just naturally occurring calcium carbonate—limestone—that is already allowed as a soil and compost ingredient under the national organic rules.
Back in the day, we’d line our tortilla press with cellophane or plastic bread bags cut open, but I thought I’d be a bit more modern, and slit open and trimmed a one-gallon zip-lock freezer bag that has a little more substance to its plastic. You don‘t put a ball of dough directly on the press, or it will likely stick to the pressing surfaces and make a mess.
Making the dough involved adding about 1 1/8th cup of filtered water and a half or quarter teaspoon of salt to a cup and a three quarters of masa harina. Add the salt to the masa in a large bowl, then add the water a bit at a time, stirring well as you go. When the dough is together, knead it by hand for about five to seven minutes, until the dough is smooth. If the dough is too wet, it will spread out too thinly and stick to the plastic, if it’s too dry it will make a crumbly tortilla. When it’s just right, it makes a smooth paste that easily forms a non-sticky ball in your hands. It may take a little fiddling with the dough until you learn what is right.
Make the dough into balls just a tiny bit larger than a golf ball. The plastic bag is placed so that one half is laid on the bottom of the press. The dough goes on that, then the other half of the plastic is brought over and laid on the dough. Then you place the top plate of the press on top of the top piece of plastic, grab the lever and press it down. Use medium pressure—too much pressure will make a thin tortilla that may stick to the plastic. It’s perfect when the lever just touches the stop on the press, without you exerting hard pressure.
Get a cast iron griddle or skillet and rub the cooking surface with a few drops of canola oil. Get the pan medium hot before putting in the first tortilla. Too hot will burn the tortilla, too cool and it will take forever to cook. Lift the handle and top of the tortilla press and take the plastic “sandwich” with the tortilla in the center, and open the plastic, turning it over so the tortilla itself lies against the palm of one of your hands. Peel off the plastic with your other hand. A nice 5- or 6-inch tortilla should now be free.
Place the tortilla in the pan and cook for 50-60 seconds, then with a spatula, flip it and cook for another 50 or 60 seconds. It should be nice and hot, and fragrant as well, with a smell like roasting corn or popcorn cooking. If your masa harina is ground fine enough, the tortilla may puff up. Unfortunately for me, Bob’s Mill masa is not ground fine enough to puff. It makes a tasty tortilla, but it’s a non-puffer.
The tortillas fresh off the griddle or skillet should be immediately given a simple filling of whatever kind of taco you want. Have all fillings ready to roll as the tortillas come out of the pan. Don’t overload the taco with fillings. A few used with restraint make a better taco than one overloaded and dripping with juices from the salsas and other wet ingredients.
Many people like to make their tacos with two tortillas placed together and then given the fillings. I do that because there’s less chance of the tortillas disintegrating from the wet ingredients and I also get more of the good fresh corn flavor. If you want to use two, buy a tortilla basket and pop the first one in there to keep toasty warm while the second one is cooking. You want fresh hot tortillas for your wonderful, home-made, organic tacos.
Here’s a list of ingredients typically used to make tacos—but of course not all at once. You might set all these out if feeding a lot of guests so people can pick and choose among the ingredients. Make sure all ingredients—especially the tortillas—are organic. If you’re making fish tacos from ocean fish, the fish won’t be organic because wild caught fish are not allowed the organic label by law. But wild caught fish like sole, halibut, or sea bass are always preferable to farmed fish.
Finely chopped Romaine lettuce
Chopped and drained tomatoes
Chopped onions, either raw or cooked until golden
Black beans drained, heated, and mashed
Carnitas—cubed (1/4 to ½ inch) boneless pork fried in a little oil
Chopped jalapenos, serranos, or—if you’re crazy—habaneros
Battered and fried fish
Queso cheese, or grated parmesan or feta
Carne asada—grilled and thinly sliced beefsteak
Chicken breast sliced and cooked in a little oil in a pan until done
You can always add anything you like or subtract anything you don’t like, but to learn what you favor the most, patronize those taco trucks you see being thronged at dinnertime by the Latin community. Their tacos are usually excellent and inexpensive, and will give you an idea of the right proportion of filling ingredients to tortillas.
Home-made organic tacos are a great way to feed friends and family really tasty food for not very much money.
GUESS WHO’S MONSANTO FRIENDLY AFTER ALL
Katherine Paul and Alexis Baden-Mayer wrote the following extremely important and enlightening article for the Organic Consumers Association website for September 25, 2013. For related articles and more information, please visit the Association’s “Millions Against Monsanto” page and “Politics and Democracy” page at www.organicconsumers.org.
While consumers battle on for laws mandating the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food products, some lawmakers are taking the GMO labeling debate in a different direction. And it’s a direction that’s anything but consumer friendly.
Last month, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) asked the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to finalize its 2001 guidance on voluntary labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The senators advertised their request as a move intended to benefit consumers. But in fact, a federal voluntary labeling plan plays right into the hands of the biotech and big food industries.
How? Worst-case scenario, once the FDA finalizes its GMO labeling guidance, industry uses the FDA guidance to preempt state laws requiring mandatory labeling of GMOs. Currently, states have the right to enact GMO labeling laws precisely because the FDA has not formally ruled on GMO labeling.
Second, the FDA’s guidance on voluntary GMO labeling could be used to put an end to existing, legitimate voluntary non-GMO labeling efforts. By allowing the FDA, which has previously (and controversially) ruled that GMO and non-GMO foods are “substantially equivalent,” the FDA could rule against non-GMO or GMO-free labels on the basis that they mislead consumers by implying that there’s a difference between GMO and non-GMO foods.
On August 22, Sen. Warren and Sen. Udall sent a joint letter to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration urging the agency “. . . to finalize its guidance document on labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) marketed as food or food additives…We encourage the FDA to implement a regulatory framework that will promote transparency for consumers while providing producers with the certainty they need to label their products appropriately.”
Coming from Sen. Warren, whose reputation as a staunch consumer advocate is near-legendary, the letter to the FDA looks like another example of the Massachusetts senator going to bat for consumers – specifically, the 93 percent of Americans who want mandatory GMO labeling laws.
Until you take a closer look.
The 2001 Guidance Document, 00D-1598, that Warren and Udall reference in their letter is intended to provide guidance for voluntary labeling, not the mandatory labeling consumers are fighting for. Yet nowhere in the letter to the FDA, or in the press release issued by Warren’s office, does the word “voluntary” appear.
Oversight? Or did Senators Warren and Udall intentionally omit the word “voluntary” in the hope that consumers wouldn’t notice?
Senators Warren and Udall both refused to support federal legislation that would have required mandatory labeling of foods containing GMOs. Both also voted against an amendment to the farm bill that would have protected states’ rights to label GMOs.
Are Senators Warren and Udall simply misinformed on the merits of voluntary labeling versus mandatory labeling? Or have they joined the cast of lawmakers toiling behind the scenes on behalf of Monsanto, not consumers?
Monsanto likes to cry “unfair” when it comes to the issue of state GMO labeling laws. The biotech giant has even threatened to sue states that attempt to pass their own GMO labeling laws, on the basis that state labeling laws violate interstate commerce rules, which makes them illegal.
Despite Monsanto’s yet-untested threats, current law supports states’ rights to enact their own food labeling laws, as long as two conditions are met. First, the state must produce compelling evidence that the law is needed to protect the health or safety of citizens. And second, there must be no pre-existing FDA regulation governing the label in question.
State GMO labeling laws currently meet those conditions. But that could change if the FDA heeds Senators Warren’s and Udall’s call to finalize its 2001 guidance on voluntary GMO labeling. And industry knows it.
Increasingly, retailers see the wisdom (read marketing advantage) of voluntarily labeling products that contain GMOs. Whole Foods Market earlier this year that its stores would label GMOs by 2018. Consumers have no problem with retailers who voluntarily label GMO products in their stores. Nor do they have a problem with manufacturers who subject their products to GMO testing and have them certified by a third party, such as the Non-GMO Project.
But a voluntary labeling scheme written by the biotech industry-friendly FDA? That’s a whole other ball of wax.
Here’s our first clue that FDA guidance on GMO labeling won’t address consumer concerns. The “solution” proposed by Senators Warren and Udall has the support of industry, including the International Dairy Foods Association, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a big funder of campaigns in California and Washington aimed at defeating state GMO labeling laws.
Monsanto itself has publicly endorsed the FDA’s 2001 guidance on voluntary labeling, in a statement published on the company’s website.
And no wonder. The FDA has a history of using food labeling guidance to promote industry’s interests over those of consumers.
Case in point. In 1990, the FDA declared recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), a genetically engineered hormone used to increase milk production in dairy cows, safe. In 1993, the FDA gave Monsanto the green light to use rBGH.
Consumers, influenced by studies citing health risks associated with rBGH, raised a stink. Some milk producers responded to consumer concerns by refusing to use the hormone. They also began marketing their products as rBGH-free.
That didn’t sit well with Monsanto, which saw consumer demand for rBGH-free milk as a threat to its bottom line. The biotech giant complained to the FDA that rBGH-free labels were misleading because, after all, the FDA had ruled that GMO and non-GMO foods were “substantially equivalent.”
The FDA compromised. Under the 1994 Food Labeling Guidance, the FDA said it would allow rBGH-free labels on dairy products, but only on the condition that the label also stated that there was “no significant difference” between milk produced using rBGH and milk produced without the hormone.
Not satisfied with the FDA’s ruling, rBGH-free dairies took Monsanto and the FDA to court. They won by proving that milk produced with rBGH is compositionally different than milk produced without the hormone.
But the courts and consumers could face a much higher climb when it comes to challenging the FDA on “GMO-free” labels. If the FDA heeds the call to finalize its 2001 guidance on voluntary labeling of GMOs, it could spell the end of GMO-free labeling. And that would leave consumers with no mandatory labeling, and no reliable voluntary labeling.
Here’s why. According to the FDA’s yet-to-be finalized 2001 guidance, “genetic modification” means the alteration of the genotype of a plant through the use of any technique, new or traditional. The word ‘modification,” says the FDA, covers a broad range of activities that could result in a change in the composition of food, including adding, deleting or altering hereditary traits.
Under those guidelines, most, if not all, cultivated crops have been genetically modified – though not necessarily through bioengineering technology. So, by the FDA’s reasoning, any label that includes the word “modified” – as in “not genetically modified” or “GMO-free” – is technically inaccurate, unless used clearly in a context that refers to bioengineering technology. Moreover, the term “GMO free” may be misleading on most foods, according to the FDA, because most foods do not contain organisms (seeds and foods like yogurt that contain microorganisms are exceptions). Again, by that reasoning, it would likely be misleading to suggest that a food that ordinarily would not contain entire “organisms” is “organism-free.”
And there’s more. The FDA says that any label suggesting that a food was not bioengineered or does not contain “bioengineered ingredients” could be considered misleading if it implies that the labeled food is superior to foods that are not labeled GMO-free. Again, based on its previous ruling that there GMO and non-GMO foods are “substantially equivalent.”
Bottom line? If the FDA finalizes its guidance on voluntary GMO labeling, where does that leave consumers? Right where they are now. In the dark.
Katherine Paul is director of communications and development for the Organic Consumers Association. Alexis Baden-Mayer is political director for the Organic Consumers Association.
HOW TO CREATE SUPERWEEDS? USE MORE HERBICIDES
The following article is from our friends at Just Label It (www.justlabelit.org).
An article titled,“What Happens When Weed Killers Stop Killing?” in Science magazine for September 20, 2013, ad this summary: “Farmers in the United States are heading for a crisis. In parts of the country, weeds resistant to the world’s most popular herbicide, glyphosate, now grow in the vast majority of soybean, cotton, and corn fields. Weeds that can shrug off multiple other herbicides are also on the rise. At an American Chemical Society symposium, chemists said they have little to offer: Few new weed killers are near commercialization, and none with a novel molecular mode of action for which there is no resistance.”
More than fifteen years ago, when the first herbicide-tolerant GE crops were planted in U.S. soil, some experts warned that the technology would accelerate the development of superweeds that would be resistant to the herbicides used with the crops. They were right. Superweeds, which evolve to withstand the very chemicals designed to kill them, have now become an epidemic on farmland in many locations across the country.
The most common superweeds are resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s popular herbicide Roundup, but resistance is appearing to herbicides used with other GE crops as well. Today, more than 61.2 million acres of U.S. farmland are infested with weeds resistant to Roundup, which has been the world’s best-selling weed killer for 32 years.
As weeds became resistant, growers have applied still more herbicides to try to control them. A recent study found that over the years from 1996 to 2011, the use of GE crops increased herbicide use by 527 million pounds, putting consumers and the environment increasingly at risk.
The emergence of glyphosate-resistant superweeds has led growers to turn to older herbicides such as dicamba and 2,4-D, an ingredient used in Agent Orange, the notorious Vietnam War era defoliant, resulting in the emergence of weed species that are resistant to multiple chemicals. Both dicamba and 2,4-D are volatile chemicals that evaporate and can drift well beyond their targets, especially in warmer weather, posing a significant public health risk to nearby rural communities.
The strategy of combating weeds by engineering crops that can withstand herbicides and then blasting fields with those chemicals is no match for evolutionary adaptation, as demonstrated by the rapid growth of superweeds across the country. This approach leads to a dangerous, toxic dead end, one that will leave the landscape infested ever more varieties of resistant superweeds while and undermining efforts at safe, sustainable farming.
Additionally the superweed epidemic affects each farmer’s bottom line. According to the article in Science, “for cotton grown in the South, the cost of using herbicides has climbed from between $50 and $75 per hectare a few years ago to about $370 per hectare today.” The need to apply more and more herbicides will continue to make farmers’ costs skyrocket, making this practice profoundly unsustainable.
Dow, Bayer CropScience, Syngenta, and Monsanto are all developing new seed varieties resistant to herbicides other than glyphosate, which will make it easier for farmers to use alternative weed killers. However, Science magazine acknowledges a bleak future for farmers that continue to rely heavily on the seed and herbicide combo. “If there is an overreliance on them, they will fail and fail rapidly.”
There is no question that GE technology will continue to drive up the costs of food production, increase the use of harmful chemicals and undermine efforts for a sustainable food system. We as citizens need the right to choose if we want to support this disastrous scenario.
What Is Consciousness?
Those of us who choose to eat organic food make a conscious decision based on what we have learned about the poor quality and dangers of conventional food and the positive and healthy aspects of organic food. That conscious decision brings up a more fundamental question—one that is well worth thinking about. And that is: what exactly is consciousness?
It may seem strange in this age when science has answers for most of the fundamental ways in which the world works, but science still has no answer for the question, “What is consciousness?” All of us experience it almost constantly, every day, and yet it slips the grasp of scientific inquiry because it’s an existential and ontological reality, rather than a physical one that science can test.
For instance, my body is a mostly-harmonious collection of physical cells. How is it possible that a collection of cells is able to be aware of the physical world and encompass the vastness of the universe that reveals itself at night, let alone do the math required for theoretical physics.
It’s the mind, you might say. What is the mind? Well, you might say the brain is the organ of the conscious mind, the way the eyes are the organs of seeing, the ears are the organs of hearing, the olfactory nerves are the organs of smell, the taste buds are the organs of taste, and nerve endings are the organs of touch. And you could say that this brain takes the inputs from the five senses and integrates them into a consciousness of the whole that we call the mind.
But what is mind? Is it the physical brain? Or does mind arise from the brain the way that our visual perceptions arise from the effect of light on our retinas? Is the brain like the retina, the cochlea, the olfactory nerves, the taste buds, and the skin sensors—the actual organs that create our sense impressions? We’re actually back at square one, because the brain is made of cells—neurons and other brain tissues. How does consciousness, or mind if you want, arise from a collection of these cells? We can say that our visual perceptions arise from photons of light hitting our retinas, which send signals to our brains, which turn those signals into images on our mind’s visual screen, but that doesn’t tell us anything about how those images prompt feelings, understandings, insights, and quizzical awareness in our minds.
It’s quite mysterious—and science still doesn’t have a clue about how our cells can somehow produce a conscious being who can look at, hear, smell, taste, touch the world, and then find meanings and values that touch off emotions of fear, love, hope, appreciation, revulsion, and many other reactions, and then most mysteriously of all, open original insights into the meanings and values of the world both personal and universal.
I’ve been wondering about this for years and in recent years, had the gut feeling that clues to the answer lie in the realm of quantum behavior—the physics that governs tiny particles that make up the atoms that make up the molecules that make up the cells that make up our bodies.
For instance, when scientists started to investigate this quantum realm, they found all kinds of weirdness. In the famous “double slit experiment” that has now been replicated thousands of times, always with the same result, they found that electrons and photons fired at an impervious plate with two slits in it don’t act like the minute particles they are supposed to be, they act like waves. Waves pass through both slits at once—think about it–and interfere with one another, producing an interference pattern on the back wall where, if they were truly particles, they would have marked the back wall with images of the two slits through which they passed.
What’s even weirder, when they fired one electron or photon at a time at the plate with the slits, the so-called particles went through both slits at once, just like waves, producing the interference pattern on the back wall.
So the scientists decided to set up an observation device focused on the slits, to see which slit the particles actually went through. And they found that when they looked, the particles went through only one or another of the slits as particles and the interference pattern characteristic of waves disappeared.
It was as though the particles left the gun as waves and remained waves as long as no one was watching the slits. As soon as someone was observing the slits, they changed from waves into particles. It was as if the electrons or photons knew someone was watching them, and changed their state of being.
Whoa, Nellie. Now that’s quantum weirdness at its weirdest. But it’s absolutely true and has been replicated scientifically thousands of times. When you ask quantum physicists how this can be, many will shrug and say they don’t know. Others may say that by observing particles’ behavior, we “collapse the wave function.” This means that physical reality in the quantum world is just waves of probability until we look at it, whereupon the probabilities turn into the particles that make up what we call reality. In other words, we can’t pinpoint reality until we look at it, after which it becomes physical. In other words, we create reality by looking at it.
Some physicists theorize that the entire universe is a hologram, activated by a universal consciousness that shines through a field—like a laser shining through a holographic plate where all the information is in every part of the plate—thus producing a reality that can only be seen by creatures within the hologram who perceive the holographic reality. That’s us. And the foxes, and birds, and amoebas, and every other creature that shares our world. Although we may perceive the same scenery as a fox, we don’t attach the same meanings and values to that scenery as a fox. The aspect of consciousness that creates us as individual humans is different than the aspect of consciousness that creates the fox. If the universe is truly a hologram, then consciousness is the laser light, and the holographic field is a fluid, amorphous soup of infinite potentials and possibilities waiting for finite creatures like you or me or the fox to look at it and collapse its wave function into physical reality.
Okay—all of this has been a set-up so you can understand my recent epiphany. I was standing on my neighbor’s deck, looking out at an oak tree about 30 feet away, and wondering how it is that somehow, the reality of that oak tree is in my mind—in my head?—well, somehow within me. I remembered my philosophy course in college where we learned about Bishop George Berkeley, who lived in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Berkeley denied the existence of material substance and instead contended that familiar objects like tables and chairs are only ideas in the minds of perceivers, and as a result cannot exist without being perceived. I think Berkeley intuited the truth, although scientific proof lay over 200 years in the future. Today, theoretical physicists and their “string theory” posit a universe of at least five dimensions, from which comes the explanation for quantum weirdness. Fascinating, but let’s not go there, lest we become entangled in all those strings and never get back to my epiphany.
As I contemplated the tree and me, and struggled with the idea of consciousness and reality, it occurred to me that not only did I perceive the tree, but the tree somehow perceived me. Not that the tree has a brain like mine, but that it possessed consciousness of some sort. And that my act of perceiving and the tree I perceived were tied closely together on some level. It was a very strong feeling—a gut feeling that it was right. It made me think about quantum entanglement.
Quantum entanglement is when two particles are connected in a mysterious way. No matter how far apart they are, when something happens to one, the same thing also happens to the other. When Albert Einstein found out that there was quantum entanglement, he threw this explanation into the hat: it’s not mysterious at all, he said. Take, for instance, a pair of gloves. One of the gloves is put into one box, the other glove into a second box, and the boxes are moved so that one is in San Francisco and the other is in New York. You don’t know whether the right-handed glove is in New York or San Francisco. It’s indeterminate—a matter of probability. But if you open the box in New York and see a right-hand glove, then you are not only certain about which glove is in New York, but you are also certain a left-hand glove is in San Francisco. The uncertainty about which glove is where instantly vanishes for both gloves, though you only looked at one.
So scientists tested this, and it turns out Einstein was wrong. It wasn’t like the gloves at all. Somehow, the particles are exactly equivalent, and even at great distances, remain entangled, and if something happens to one, then the same thing instantaneously and for no apparent reason happens to the other. More quantum weirdness.
So, was I entangled with the tree? I was thinking about that when the possible holographic nature of the universe flooded back into my mind. Of course! The infinite consciousness that creates the holographic tree also creates the holographic me! It’s all consciousness. I’d been looking at the question backwards. Consciousness doesn’t arise from us; we arise from consciousness. The whole universe is infinitely conscious, and from this unity of an infinite consciousness of infinite possibilities emerges the manifold things of our finite world. In this process infinite possibilities are collapsed into just one possibility, which is our reality.
A synonym for consciousness is awareness of information. When you are unconscious—knocked out by a general anesthetic, for instance—you have no information. Even when you’re asleep and dreaming, there’s information there. But not when you’re given a general anesthetic. That experience is: you fall asleep without knowing it and suddenly you’re in the recovery room. Time ceased to be. Nothing happened. The time under the anesthetic is simply missing.
To be conscious means you are processing information. Computers process information. And scientists are working hard right now to create artificial intelligence; that is, computers that not only process information using rules that we program into them, but computers whose programs allow them to creatively process information to discover new things. This will take enormous amounts of computing power if and when AI is achieved. That’s why many scientists are hard to work right now looking to invent the quantum computer. If achieved, computers so small they can hardly be detected with the naked eye will have more computing power than all the world’s computers today put together.
It seems that as we delve deeper into the quantum world and the nature of consciousness, what we are doing is the finite equivalent of what the infinite consciousness does in creating this holographic universe. Creating that tree and me on the deck wondering about my relationship to it? Piece of cake for an infinite consciousness with infinite information.
Here’s the kicker. Some physicists theorize that our holographic universe may be a creation of the almost limitless computing power of quantum computers run by our descendents in the far distant future. If so, our world and us within it may simply be a simulation run by our descendents who have infinite consciousness at their fingertips.
THE MONSANTO PROTECTION ACT IS GONE!
Following outrage and activism from food safety advocates, the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act” was removed from the new spending bill designed to avert a government shutdown.
The biotech rider – which protected biotech giants like Monsanto and its genetically modified seeds from litigation in the face of possible health risks– was sneaked into the temporary budget bill that six months ago was rushed through to again avoid a shutdown. Most Congress members who voted through the spending bill had not even read the controversial earmark.
According to a statement from the office of Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), “This is a victory for all those who think special interests shouldn’t get special deals. This secret rider, which was slipped into a must-pass spending bill earlier this year, instructed the Secretary of Agriculture to allow GMO crops to be cultivated and sold even when our courts had found they posed a potential risk to farmers of nearby crops, the environment, and human health. I applaud the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have worked hard to end this diabolical provision.”
ANOTHER REASON TO EAT ORGANIC MEAT
Police in Xi’an province in China reported that they had found and seized more than 22 tons of fake beef at a local factory. Get this: the “beef” was actually made from pork (which is considerably cheaper than beef) that had been treated with chemicals including paraffin wax and industrial salts to make it look like it came from a cow.
The Shanghaiist newsletter reports that the factory sold more than 1,500 kilos (3,300 pounds) of the fake beef to local Chinese markets at around 25 to 33 yuan ($4 or $5) per kilo. Six workshops that were producing the fake beef have been discovered and shut down.
This isn’t the first instance of fake meat being sold in China. In May of this year, Medical Daily reported that 904 people were arrested in China for “meat-related offenses” over three months at the beginning of 2013. Included in these arrests was one gang of meat crooks who made over 10 million yuan ($1.6 million) by selling rat, fox, and mink meat at markets.
BIG AG WANTS AN END TO PASTURE-RAISED FARM ANIMALS
Under pressure from Big Ag, the Obama administration is moving forward with plans that could put key segments of the organic industry out of business, according to Robert Gammon, who wrote the following article for the Cornucopia Institute (www.cornucopia.org), a Wisconsin-based environmental and consumer group that advocates for organic and pastured farming throughout the country:
Over the past half-decade the pastured-food industry has grown rapidly in Northern California. Eco-conscious farmers and consumers have increasingly realized that allowing livestock—including cattle, sheep, and chickens—to graze on grasses and eat other foods found naturally in the environment is even better for the planet, and more humane, than most organic practices.
In fact, some foodies and environmentalists call pastured food “beyond organic.” Yet the Obama administration, facing intense pressure from Big Agriculture, is moving forward with new federal rules that could put some members of the pastured-food industry out of business.
Federal regulators are pushing the proposed new rules, contending that they will limit outbreaks of food-borne illnesses. But critics say the new regulations miss the mark, because there have been no widespread outbreaks linked to pastured food in the United States. They also fail to address the real culprit behind food-borne illnesses: factory farms, in which animals are forced to live in close confinement amid filthy and dangerous conditions that produce deadly pathogens, such as salmonella and E.coli 0157:H7.
The new rules also could decimate many mid-sized farms that produce organic fruit and vegetables. The rules call for a one-size-size-fits-all approach that applies the same sterilization standards for processing vegetables—such as bagged lettuce and spinach, which have been repeatedly linked to human illness —to growing organic vegetables, which has not been associated with outbreaks.
And the rules will be expensive for organic vegetable farmers to adopt and thus could force them out of business, too. “These rules will not improve food safety,” said Tom Willey, owner of T&D Willey Farms, an organic farm in Madera, California, that supplies vegetables to Berkeley Bowl and Monterey Market.
The proposed regulations stem from the Food Safety Modernization Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in early 2011 following years of news stories about contaminated foods sickening thousands of people nationwide. The law designated the US Food and Drug Administration with establishing protocols to ensure public health and safety. But the proposed rules fail to adequately address factory farming and instead target organic and pastured foods.
Organic pastured-chicken-egg farming appears to face the most serious threat. In recent years, the pastured-egg industry has expanded throughout the Bay Area. Berkeley Bowl and Whole Foods, for example, now regularly stock pastured-egg brands such as Alexandre Kids, Marin Sun Farms, and Vital Farms.
The eggs come from chickens that spend most of their lives outdoors on pastureland, pecking on grasses and consuming bugs and other foods that chickens eat naturally. They’re true “free-range” birds. Unfortunately, the term free-range has been corrupted in the US agriculture industry to include chickens whose only access to the outdoors is screened-in porches. And the new rules would effectively force pastured chickens indoors, too, and put an end to pastured-egg farming.
The FDA views contact between wild animals and egg-producing chickens as a threat to public health — even though the evidence of such a threat is scant. As a result, the agency is planning to require pastured-chicken farmers to build giant netting around and over their pastureland or erect huge walls surrounding their property to keep wild animals at bay. “It’s silly,” said Blake Alexandre, co-owner of Alexandre Kids organic pastured eggs, which is based in Crescent City, near the Oregon border. “When our chickens are outdoors grazing, they’re exposed to everything.”
At Alexandre Kids, the chickens graze on pastureland, sleep in a movable henhouse, and are protected from predators by sheep dogs. The Alexandres also rotate their chickens through their property during the year, so building giant netting or big walls would be unworkable.
“It would be impossible to adhere to any of these guidelines in a pastured-chicken environment,”said Mark Kastel of the Cornucopia Institute, which is also helping lead a nationwide campaign to stop the proposed new rules from going into effect. The group and other environmental organizations acknowledge, however, that they face an uphill battle, considering the influence that major agribusinesses wield in Washington. Many of those large corporations view organic and pastured food as threats to their bottom line.
If adopted, the new rules for pastured-chicken farms would apply to those with more than 3,000 egg-laying hens. Alexandre said his farm has about 2,500 hens and is approaching 3,000 because of consumer demand. And environmentalists say that small farms with fewer than 3,000 birds are not really exempt from the new rules either. FDA site inspectors could still shut down a small farm — without an appeals process — if they did not think it was taking adequate steps to keep pastured chickens separate from wild birds, Kastel said.
In lieu of netting or walls, pastured-chicken farmers also could meet the FDA guidelines by using sound cannons, which supposedly would scare away wild birds. But the sound cannons also would likely scare their chickens, too. “They’re not going to be laying eggs if they’re scared,” Kastel noted. “It’s a harebrained scheme based on no research at all.”
The new rules also would create a major advantage for large organic producers who have come under heavy fire from environmentalists. Under federal law, broiler and egg-laying hens are not supposed to be called organic unless they have true access to the outdoors. But the US Department of Agriculture has allowed some large farms to use the organic label, including Judy’s Family Farms — which is owned and operated by Petaluma Farms of Petaluma — even though their chickens live in cramped conditions, only have access to screened-in porches, and cannot really go outside. The Cornucopia Institute and other environmental groups have repeatedly complained about Judy’s Family Farms, and have threatened to sue the USDA over the past year. But the FDA’s proposed rules would apparently side with large producers like Judy’s, whose screened-in porches keep its chickens separated from wild animals. In fact, under the proposed rules, Judy’s practices — not pastured farming — could be codified as the desired way to raise organic chickens.
In many ways, the FDA’s proposed regulations mark a resurgence of 20th-century farming practices and a rebuke to artisanal, farm-to-table eating that has become so popular in Northern California in the 21st century. In the FDA’s view, nature is a threat to human health, and the best way to keep consumers safe is through sterilization and antibiotics — even though these types of factory-farming protocols have increasingly been linked to human illness and death, and the proliferation of so-called super bugs that are immune to antibiotics and kill 23,000 people each year.
But many environmentalists increasingly contend that true organic, pastured-food practices that embrace nature — rather than attempt to sterilize it — represent the better path to food safety. “Healthy, diverse ecology helps exclude pathogens,” Willey argued, pointing to the Cornucopia Institute’s recent white paper on the FDA’s proposed rules, “Food Safety Theater,” which includes references to research on food safety in organic farming and critiques on factory farms and food sterilization. “[The FDA's] emphasis on sterility just cripples diverse environments and makes them more susceptible to pathogens.”
The Cornucopia Institute is urging those who wish to speak out against the FDA’s proposed rules to sign a proxy letter that the group will then send to Washington, DC. The letter can be found at Cornucopia.org.
SEWAGE SLUDGE OK, COMPOST NOT OK SAYS FDA
Violating the explicit language of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FMSA), the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Proposed Produce Rule gives a complete pass to imported vegetables grown with sewage sludge, contaminated to various degrees with heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatiles, flame retardants, pharmaceuticals, steroids, hormones, radiologicals, and undescribed contaminants. At the same time, the Proposed Rule makes it more difficult for U.S. organic farmers to use compost.
It’s amazing, writes Daniel B. Cohern in Food Safety News (www.foodsafetynews.com). Read more at the News’s website.