Monsanto and the Junk Food Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know What’s in Your Food
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The Chefs’ Collaborative, an organization of professional chefs from around the country, are encouraging Californians to vote for Prop 37, which will require food containing genetically modified ingredients (GMOs) to be so labeled. This organization has been a long-time supporter of organic food—and why not? These professionals want to put the best-tasting dishes on their tables, and that means choosing organic ingredients whenever possible. And since organic foods are not allowed to be made from or contain GMOs, their preference naturally extends to the backing of the food labeling requirement.
In announcing their support of Prop 37, this is what Chefs’ Collaborative had to say:
“As chefs, we are on the frontlines of feeding America and we have an enormous stake in ensuring transparency in our food system. It is our duty to nourish our guests, both in body and soul. However, we can’t prepare the best food we know how when information about the ingredients we purchase is hidden from us with labels that are missing basic facts. This includes foods that are genetically engineered or contain GMOs. While Proposition 37 does not require restaurants to label their food as genetically engineered, it provides chefs the ability to knowingly source ingredients made without GMOs.
“Fifty countries around the world–representing more than 40 percent of the world’s population–already require GMO labeling, including all of Europe, Japan, India and China. Polls show that more than 90 percent of Americans want to know if their food is genetically engineered.
“We demand the right to know what’s in our food and we are adding our collective voices to this movement!”
In other news about this important food measure, Tom Fendley of the California Right to Know public interest group (www.carighttoknow.org) says the following:
“Farmers overwhelmingly support Prop 37. They agree that we have the right to know what they’re growing for us. In fact, more than 2,000 farmers and agricultural organizations say Yes on 37, including the National Family Farm Coalition, the California State Grange, and California Certified Organic Farmers.
“Monsanto and the rest of the Big 6 pesticide companies hide behind people like Ted Sheely in their Million Dollars a Day television ads. Sheely grows genetically engineered cotton in the San Joaquin Valley on his 8,700-acre farm. At least we suspect it’s genetically engineered cotton. Food companies aren’t required to tell us, even it winds up in our food as cottonseed oil.
“Ted appears in one of the many TV ads deliberately lying to California voters about Proposition 37. The ad featuring Sheely asserts that Prop 37 will raise food costs by ‘billions of dollars.’ There is no independent evidence—nor coherent logic—supporting that claim, of course. Prop 37 simply requires a label on genetically engineered foods, which will cost consumers, well, nothing.”
In yet further news about Monsanto and friends’ propaganda, Zack Kaldveer of OpEdNews writes to tell us that “The $36 million No on 37 campaign, bankrolled by $20 million from the world’s six largest pesticide companies, has been caught in yet another lie, this time possibly criminal.
“To date, the No on 37 campaign has been able to repeat one lie after another with near impunity. But has this pattern of deceit finally caught up to it?
“Yesterday, the Yes on 37 campaign sent letters to the U.S. Department of Justice requesting a criminal investigation of the No on 37 campaign for possible fraudulent misuse of the official seal of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“The No on 37 campaign affixed the FDA’s seal to one of the campaign’s mailers. Section 506 of the U.S. Criminal Code states: ‘Whoever…knowingly uses, affixes, or impresses any such fraudulently made, forged, counterfeited, mutilated, or altered seal or facsimile thereof to or upon any certificate, instrument, commission, document, or paper of any description…shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.’
“The letter also provides evidence that the No on 37 campaign falsely attributed a direct quote to the FDA in the campaign mailer. Alongside the FDA seal, the mailer includes this text in quotes. ‘The US Food and Drug Administration says a labeling policy like Prop 37 would be ‘inherently misleading.’ The quote is entirely fabricated. The FDA did not make this statement and does not take a position on Prop 37.
“In addition, the three identified authors of the ‘Rebuttal to Argument in Favor of Proposition 37’ include a Dr. Henry I. Miller, who is identified solely as Founding Director, Office of Biotechnology of the Food & Drug Administration. Dr. Miller in fact, does not currently work for the FDA in any capacity – as millions of California voters have been erroneously led to believe.
“This is not the first blatant act of deception that the No on 37 campaign has been caught perpetrating on the citizens of California – particularly relating to their ‘top scientist’ Dr. Henry Miller.
“Miller has a sordid history of parroting the talking points of some of the world’s most notorious corporate bad actors: he’s a founding member of a now defunct tobacco front group that tried to discredit the links between cigarettes and cancer, he’s repeatedly called for the reintroduction of DDT — known to cause premature birth, fronted for an oil industry funded climate change denial group for Exxon, claimed that people exposed to radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster ‘may have benefitted from it,’ and attacked the FDA’s efforts to ensure proper vetting and testing of new drugs’ safety while urging it to outsource more of its functions to private industries.
“This is the man the No on 37 campaign has portrayed to voters as an arbiter of good science and promoted as an expert worthy of our trust. In reality, Miller is nothing more than a corporate shill that will say whatever his paymasters ask him to, be it Exxon, Phillip Morris, Monsanto, or DuPont.
“Does the No on 37 campaign stand behind Miller’s fringe views on tobacco, climate change, nuclear radiation and DDT?
“Who should we trust when it comes to our right to know what’s in the food we eat: Monsanto, DuPont, and Henry Miller, or the millions of California consumers and leading consumer, health, women’s, faith-based, labor and other groups; 61 countries that already require GMO labeling; and a growing stack of peer-reviewed research linking genetically engineered foods to health and environmental problems?
“Who has our best interests at heart, the pesticide and junk food industry, or Prop 37 supporters like Consumers Union, California Nurses Association, California Democratic Party, California Labor Federation, United Farm Workers, American Public Health Association, Sierra Club, Whole Foods Market, California Council of Churches, Organic Consumers Association, Center for Food Safety, Consumer Federation of America, Public Citizen, and Food Democracy Now!?”
The Journalist’s Dilemma
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Living in California, I have been inundated with TV ads from No on 37—the ballot measure that would require GMO foods to be labeled. The No ads, paid for by a $34 million of war chest from Monsanto and pals, are full of lies: that labeling GMOs will cause food prices to rise for millions of people, that California farmers will be at a disadvantage. The lies are spewed by doctors, Nobel laureate, and farmers.
Take, as a for-instance, the dog food vs. steak bit, where the No on 37 ad asks, “Why does a can of dog food require a GMO label, when your T-bone steak doesn’t?” Well…dog food in a can or a bag is a processed food, which may contain soy, corn or other additives – some or all of which may be genetically modified. Under Prop 37, it gets a label.
That T-bone? Maybe the cow ate genetically modified corn. But the cow itself was not genetically modified. If you eat cereal that contains genetically modified corn, that doesn’t mean YOU are genetically modified, does it? Now, a piece of genetically engineered salmon – where the fish itself was genetically altered? Under prop 37, that gets a label, too.
The dog food vs. steak argument is nonsense – intended to confuse and detract from the real issue: the right to know what’s in your (or your dog’s) food. For more information debunking the lies put out by No on 37, visit this website, print out the article, and give it to your confused friends and/or family: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_26457.cfm
The Yes on 37 folks have no such war chest, and little money to blanket TV with propaganda. All they have is a proposal to label GMO foods so that people can know what they’re eating. The situation perfectly describes the journalist’s dilemma.
Journalism is the pipeline that feeds information to the public so that an informed electorate can make responsible decisions at the ballot box. All journalists are taught in J-School (I can attest, since my degree is in Journalism) that the goal is objectivity. What this comes down to is that “there are two sides to every story,” and you owe it to the readers to get both sides. Real journalism has no agenda, favors no viewpoint, and seeks only to tell the truth. Noble goals all, but there is a dilemma here for journalists.
I write a great deal about organic food and farming and about the problems caused by conventional farming. I have found, through the years, that proponents of conventional farming and food manufacturing have a hidden agenda—well, maybe not so hidden. The agenda is to maximize profit. To do this they practice factory farming, using toxic chemicals to the detriment of the environment and the health of the soil, the plants and animals farmed from that soil, and the people who farm and eat those plants and animals. Factory farming is big business and farmers’ associations hire public relations firms and lobbyists to lie about the benefits and safety of its methods and to arrange for legislation that benefits them at the cost to the national welfare.
You can point your finger at me and say, “Well, right there you show your bias. You’re biased against conventional farming.”
And I say, no I’m not. I’m simply telling the truth. I write about the benefits to the soil, the plants and animals that live from that soil, and the people who farm and eat those plants and animals. That’s one side of the story. But the other side isn’t a balanced recitation of all the good things brought to us by Big Ag. The apologists for factory farming tell a pack of lies—about how genetic modifications are so safe they don’t even need to be tested. About how DDT was so safe there were no ill effects from its widespread use in the 1940s and 50s. About how Round-Up herbicide is a boon to farmers and allows for beneficial no-tillage forms of farming.
When it comes to organic versus conventional farming, one side says forthrightly what it’s doing while the other side obfuscates and lies. Is it right to present the two sides as equally valid? Wouldn’t the true journalist examine the facts and then conclude that one side is telling the truth and the other side is lying? Isn’t that the real honest truth? To equate truth-telling with lying is bad journalism, in my opinion.
To give an example, Democrats in Congress and the White House want to assure citizens that both Medicare and Social Security will continue to be solvent many years into the future and have promulgated plans to do that. The plans are simple and understandable. Neither Medicare nor Social Security is really in trouble if we make a few tweaks. The Republicans say that we need to cut these “entitlements,” though Social Security is no entitlement: it’s money you put aside during your working years that you get back when you retire. They say both programs will go bankrupt in the foreseeable future. But it’s just lies. The truth is that the Republican Party has been against the social safety net since Social Security was instituted under Franklin Roosevelt and Medicare under Lyndon Johnson. The lies are a smokescreen to hide their real agenda, and that is to pull the safety net away from those who can least afford to lose it because of the conservative philosophy that caring for one another is socialism and un-American.
So what’s a journalist to do? Treat both sides as equally valid, when one side wants to fix social programs while the other side wants to destroy them and lies about their intentions? I don’t think so.
And that’s why I started Organic Food Guy. Yes, I understand that the pursuit of profit is the name of the conventional food production game. But it has created a toxic mess. Organic farming protects the environment and the lives in the ecological web of life. The two are not equal. And that’s the truth.
The Biotech Industry’s Lies Are Working
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Living in California, I have been subjected over the past 10 days to a tsunami of TV advertising claiming—as I knew it would—that labeling food containing genetically-modified ingredients will shoot food prices through the roof “for those least able to pay for it” and hurt California farmers by making them less competitive with farmers in other states that, it’s presumed, will be free to dish out low-cost GMO ingredients to consumers kept in the dark about their presence in what they eat.
These ads are paid for from the $36 million war chest put together by the biotech industry’s main players, including Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, Cargill, BASF, Bayer, Syngenta, Coca Cola, Pepsi, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association that includes the biggies like General Mills and its ilk.
Polls taken before this slew of horse pucky hit the flat screens showed about 75 percent of likely voters favored Prop 37, which would require foods containing GMO ingredients to be labeled as such, while about 25 percent were against it. In just 10 days, that has turned around so that now, just 48 percent favor Prop. 37 while 40 percent are against it. And the deluge of lies continues. It’s depressing to think that by November 6 Prop 37—a sensible measure to allow us to make choices about what we put into our bodies—may be defeated because of a concerted campaign of lies.
We know the ads are lies because more than 40 countries around the world require GMO foods to be labeled, including the members of the European Union, and food prices have not risen. Farmers in these countries are not at a disadvantage. In fact, organic food that is always free of GMO ingredients is more popular than ever. What has changed is that the safety of GMO foods is being questioned in those countries, and profits for biotech corporations are threatened.
So, where do we stand today about our understanding of the health and societal effects of genetic modification of foodstuffs? Read on.
GMO wheat may kill children by age five. A strain of genetically modified wheat developed by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) may cause major health problems for people who eat it, according to Professor Jack Heinemann of the University of Canterbury, who studied the wheat. The wheat has not been approved for human consumption–yet. Heinemann held a press conference recently at which he said, “What we found is that the molecules created in this wheat, intended to silence wheat genes, can match human genes, and through ingestion, these molecules can enter human beings and potentially silence our genes. These findings are absolutely assured. There is no doubt that these matches exist.”
The gene in question expresses an enzyme crucial to human development. “If the wheat silences (that is, turns off) the same gene in humans as it does in wheat,” said Professor Judy Carman of Flinders University and Scott Kinnear, director of the Safe Food Foundation, “well, children who are born with this enzyme not working tend to die by age five.”
The healthy food movement gets political, and it’s about time. Writing in The New York Times, food activist Michael Pollan made this cogent point: “Sooner or later, the food movement (that’s us) will have to engage in the hard politics of Washington—of voting with votes, not just forks…Next month in California, a few million people will vote with their votes on a food issue. Already, Prop 37 has ignited precisely the kind of debate…that Monsanto and its allies have managed to stifle in Washington for nearly two decades.”
Unfunded Stanford study connected to plenty of funding. Remember that Stanford study that concluded there was no real evidence that organic food was any more nutritious than conventionally-grown food? And that the 12 academics who participated did so with no funding? Well, it turns out that they may not have received funding directly for that study, but they have been taking money from—wait for it—big tobacco, big chem, big ag, and Monsanto. Fancy that. Who would’ve thought such a thing? For more info, visit www.cornucopia.org.
“How Mitt Romney helped Monsanto take over the world.” That’s the title of a must-read article in Mother Jones magazine in September, written by Tom Philpott. In case you had no idea who is the man behind the smiling handsome curtain of Mitt Romney’s face, Philpott is the Toto who reveals that man behind the curtain. Turns out that one big reason why Monsanto is the out-of-control, environmentally-destructive juggernaut it is today, is Mitt Romney. I encourage you to read the article at http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/09/romney-monsanto-bain.
Genetically modified seeds dramatically increase pesticide use. That’s the finding of a Washington State University study. “So here it is,” says Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, a senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network, “the pesticide industry’s dirty little secret: GE seeds are no green solution to the world’s food needs, but are rather the growth engine of the world’s biggest pesticide companies.”
The WSU study, authored by Professor Charles Benbrook, a former director of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals that GE crops—170 million acres of them in the U.S. alone—have driven up overall pesticide use across the country, with almost half a billion more pounds applied from 1996 to 2011. In 2011, GE crops were treated with an average 20 percent more pesticides than non-GE crops.
One problem is that at least two dozen types of weeds have become resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Round-Up, the herbicide, so farmers are using more and more of the plant toxin, plus even more dangerous herbicides like paraquat, for which a full hazmat suit is required when applying it. Now a new raft of seeds resistant to 2,4-D is being readied for USDA approval. You may remember 2,4-D as one of the ingredients in Agent Orange, the mutagenic, carcinogenic, neurotoxic defoliant we sprayed across the jungles of Vietnam to expose the “enemy’s” hiding places. Children were and are especially susceptible to damage from this chemical. The use of this dangerous chemical is expected to increase 25-fold over the next seven years if the 2,4-D resistant corn seed from Dow AgroScience is approved.
Now for the good news. Agence France-Presse reports that the “Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, famed for seeking ‘happiness’ for its citizens, is aiming to become the first nation in the world to turn its home-grown food and farmers 100 percent organic.”
Its approach to economic development centers on protecting the environment and focuses on mental well-being. Its developmental model measures Gross National Happiness instead of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Reminds me of the time when there was a country devoted to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” somewhere close to here geographically but pretty far away in spirit.
Would You Visit This Website?
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I was doing some research on bees the other day and Googled the topic. One of the top pages to come up was the Organic Consumers Association, which put information on its website about Rudolf Steiner’s famous lectures on bees. But under the website address there appeared a sentence in bright blue type:
This site may harm your computer
Really? The Organic Consumers website contained malware? I didn’t believe it, so I Googled the OCA and a long list of topics on the site came up, many of which carried the same warning. So I clicked through to the site’s page on Steiner’s bee lectures and my Internet Security software didn’t make a peep. So I went to Google’s headquarters website to see what the warning was about and discovered that two pieces of malware had been attached to the OCA’s sites in the past 90 days. That’s why Google’s automated software had posted the warnings. The question became: who attached the malware to the OCA’s site?
Well, Google has a link that identifies who attached the malware. Turns out it was the “Center for Consumer Freedom.” I checked Sourcewatch, a site that identifies groups like the Center for Consumer Freedom and this is how they described the organization: It’s “a front group for the restaurant, alcohol, tobacco and other industries. It runs media campaigns that oppose the efforts of scientists, doctors, health advocates, animal advocates, environmentalists and groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, calling them ‘the Nanny Culture — the growing fraternity of food cops, health care enforcers, anti-meat activists, and meddling bureaucrats who know what’s best for you.’”
The Organic Consumers had titled their online site about Steiner’s bee lectures, “Why the Bees Are Dying,” and of course the answer is a pesticide. Other sites marked with the warning included OCA’s “About Us” site. Now, would you visit a website that carried the warning, “This site may damage your computer?” No—you’d be foolish to do it. I did it because I smelled a rat, and sure enough, when I dug into it, there was the rat, prettily named the Center for Consumer Freedom, just like those right-wing super-PACs with the pretty names like American Crossroads and Americans for Prosperity. Dirty tricks are their game and corporate right-winger is their name.
In another instance of this kind of chicanery, you may have noticed in the news lately that “The Alliance for Food and Farming” has been attacking the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of fruits and vegetables most likely to be contaminated with pesticides. The attacks run along the lines of the carrot (“Don’t worry, pesticides won’t give you cancer.”) and the stick (denouncing the EWG). But who could The Alliance for Food and Farming be? It sure is a pretty name, sort of like the Center for Consumer Freedom. Well, Sourcewatch says that the Alliance “acts as a front group for the fruit and vegetable industry, claiming the safety of numerous pesticides. According to its website, the group was formed in 1989 and currently has a membership of approximately 50 agricultural groups representing a wide range of organizations including commodity boards, major farm groups and individual grower/shippers. It was registered as a non-profit in 1997 and does not disclose its member organizations.” (Emphasis mine.) While it doesn’t disclose its members, it does list its advisory board and guess what? It’s a mouthpiece for chemical agriculture.
Here’s the kicker: The Federal Government recently awarded the Alliance and other apologists for Big Chemical Ag a grant of $180,000 to propagandize the American people about the benefits of spreading poisons on our food supply. That $180,000 comes from our tax dollars. We are paying to be told to shut up and eat our pesticides.