Why Does the Government Support Agribusiness, Not Organic Farming?
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I remember reading that when George W. Bush left office, he had seeded the Federal Government’s bureaucracy with right-wing moles, so they would continue to pursue their reactionary policies even when the new Democratic President took over.
Maybe so, but after watching the performance of the Supreme Court, the U.S. Congress, and the Presidency for the past four-and-something years, I no longer think that secret right-wing moles are much of a problem. The problem is much broader and affects every branch and level of the Federal government. In essence, the government has lost the trust of much of the American public—and justifiably so.
Take the issue of labeling foods containing genetically modified ingredients. The people of the country want it. Almost every other industrialized country in the world requires it. It’s a common sense proposal. Why hasn’t it happened?
Well, government regulations require other ingredients to be on food labels—even the amount of fat, sodium, and other important constituents of food. Why couldn’t the Department of Agriculture simply make the rule? The answer, of course, is that the USDA could make that rule, but it doesn’t want to. And why not? Because the people who run the USDA and the FDA represent agribusiness, not the people of the country.
How so? Because the people who run these governmental agencies use a revolving door set up by the agribusiness corporations for them. As they leave government service, they enter the executive suites of agribusiness and biotech giants, where they are well compensated for having done their jobs well at the government agencies.
Well, then, couldn’t Congress—the representatives of the people—force them to label GMO foods by making a law to require such labeling? And again, the answer is of course the Congress could pass such a law, but it doesn’t and it won’t. Why not? Because the Senators and Representatives don’t represent the people of the United States, they represent giant agribusiness and biotech companies who fuel their re-election campaigns with oodles of cash. Max Baucus, a Senator who chaired the Senate Finance Committee, was known as “Senator K-Street,” because K Street houses the big lobbying firms that spend so much to make sure legislation benefits their clients instead of the public. Not only that, but there’s a revolving door built for Senators and Representatives too, and it revolves right into the suites of the K Street lobbying firms.
Well, isn’t this illegal?
It sure should be, but even if there are no laws preventing this kind of collusion and revolving door stuff, there should be. But who will write such a law, and who will pass it? Why, the very Congresspeople who benefit so handsomely from the collusion and revolving door. And even if it did get passed, it would be sent to a President who could decide to veto it. And why would he (or, some day, she) veto it, if it would benefit the people? Because the President wants to work with the Congress and doesn’t wasn’t to upset their lucrative apple carts.
And if it is already illegal for this kind of collusion, can’t the Justice Department and Federal prosecutors do anything about it? The answer is that of course they could do something about it, but they won’t. And why not? Well, when the big American and international banks were caught red-handed illegally manipulating interest rates, markets, and committing fraud by selling junk as valuable financial instruments (remember credit default swaps?), Attorney General Eric Holder said that not only were the banks too big to fail, they were too big to prosecute. He explained to reporters that he was not in the business of ruining our financial institutions. Calling his office “the Justice Department” is, I’m sorry to say, Orwellian at best.
But won’t the Supreme Court uphold the Constitution and its provisions for checks and balances that will prevent all these schemes? Oh, that’s right. Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Alito, and Kennedy are the ones who gave us Citizens United, allowing a tsunami of shadowy money into the electoral process—as if enough weren’t already there. How ironic that that case is called Citizens United, when it should be more properly called Citizens Shafted (and that’s a polite way of putting it).
Let’s be frank. We no longer have a country of the people, by the people, and for the people. The top one percent owns the lion’s share of the wealth and the rest of us struggle to get by. That hasn’t happened by accident. It’s happened by hook or crook—mostly crook—as the corporations have amassed power and influence and use it for their own benefit.
The Supreme Court has said that corporations are people. If so, then they are very selfish people and very bad citizens.
Let’s return to the initial issue: why does the government support agribusiness, not organic agriculture? Don’t be a chump. The big money is in selling the chemicals no matter how harmful they are. You ain’t gonna get rich selling compost. And getting rich is the name of the game.
WHY CAN’T WE BE MORE LIKE THE HUNGARIANS?
Almost 1,000 acres of GMO corn have been destroyed throughout Hungary, Ministry of Rural Development deputy secretary Lajos Bognar reports, according to Anthony Gucciardi on the website PlanetSave. The GMO corn has been plowed under, Bognar said. GMO seeds are banned in Hungary. Seed traders are required to make sure that their products are GMO free. But during an investigation, officials found Pioneer Monsanto products among the seeds planted.
SEN. ALAN SIMPSON SPANKED HARD
As long as this edition of Organic Food Guy is addressing politics, I was heartened by an all-American response that a Ms. Patty Myers made to former Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming, who recently called today’s senior citizens “the greediest generation” as he compared Social Security to a milk cow with 310 million teats. Patty is from Montana and she is responding to the former Senator’s plan for deficit reduction that included cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, as well as an increase in taxes. She obviously likes the straight talk. Here’s her open letter to the former Senator:
“Hey Alan, let’s get a few things straight!!!
1. As a career politician, you have been on the public dole (tit) for FIFTY YEARS.
2. I have been paying Social Security taxes for 48 YEARS (since I was 15 years old; I am now 63).
3. My Social Security payments, and those of millions of other Americans, were safely tucked away in an interest bearing account for decades until you political pukes decided to raid the account and give OUR money to a bunch of zero losers in return for votes, thus bankrupting the system and turning Social Security into a Ponzi scheme that would make Bernie Madoff proud.
4. Recently, just like Lucy & Charlie Brown, you and your ilk pulled the proverbial football away from millions of American seniors nearing retirement and moved the goalposts for full retirement from age 65 to age, 67. NOW, you and your shill commission are proposing to move the goalposts YET AGAIN.
5. I, and millions of other Americans, have been paying into Medicare from Day One, and now you morons propose to change the rules of the game. Why? Because you idiots mismanaged other parts of the economy to such an extent that you need to steal our money from Medicare to pay the bills.
6. I, and millions of other Americans, have been paying income taxes our entire lives, and now you propose to increase our taxes yet again. Why? Because you incompetent bastards spent our money so profligately that you just kept on spending even after you ran out of money. Now, you come to the American taxpayers and say you need more to pay off YOUR debt. To add insult to injury, you label us greedy for calling bullshit on your incompetence. Well, Captain Bullshit, I have a few questions for YOU:
1. How much money have you earned from the American taxpayers during your pathetic 50-year political career?
2. At what age did you retire from your pathetic political career, and how much are you receiving in annual retirement benefits from the American taxpayers?
3. How much do you pay for YOUR government provided health insurance?
4. What cuts in YOUR retirement and healthcare benefits are you proposing in your disgusting deficit reduction proposal, or, as usual, have you exempted yourself and your political cronies?
It is you, Captain Bullshit, and your political co-conspirators called Congress who are the ‘greedy’ ones. It is you and your fellow nutcase thieves who have bankrupted America and stolen the American dream from millions of loyal, patriotic taxpayers.
And for what? Votes and your job and retirement security at our expense, you lunk-headed leech.
That’s right, sir. You and yours have bankrupted America for the sole purpose of advancing your pathetic political careers. You know it, we know it, and you know that we know it. And you can take that to the bank, you miserable son of a bitch.
P.S. And stop calling Social Security benefits ‘entitlements.’ WHAT AN INSULT!!!! I have been paying in to the SS system for 48 years. It’s my money. Give it back to me the way the system was designed and stop patting yourself on the back like you are being generous by doling out these monthly checks.”
Well played, Patty.
SO, WHAT CAN WE DO?
First, as much as we hate to admit it, Americans must realize that the fix is in, the game is rigged, and the criminals who run our government, our corporations, and our financial system are in cahoots. The checks and balances that are built into our Constitution only work if the executive, legislative, and judicial branches aren’t in cahoots but are watchfully keeping an eye on one another. Right now, the three branches are all star gazing and whistling in the wind as the country and its people are being robbed blind.
So, this means that we the people need to clean house, put the star-gazers and criminals out to pasture or into jail, respectively. George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Don Rumsfeld are all war criminals. You know it. I know it. Everyone around the world knows it. Why haven’t they been prosecuted?
Second, the men and women who have headed our corrupt financial system have been colluding for profit and defrauding the public and institutional investors for years. Why aren’t they being prosecuted? Why do you think we can’t pass a law to mandate background checks so the insane and professional criminals can’t buy military weapons? Why are horribly toxic chemicals allowed in our food supply with no safety testing? Nothing gets done because nobody in the government wants it to get done. It’s the money!
1. We need to start a new political party that stands for restoring American integrity.
2. We need to vote honest people into office and insure their honesty by paying them a decent salary, but disallowing any outside money from donors big or small. Each candidate or incumbent will receive a fund of money to conduct an election or re-election campaign. No other money allowed. Period.
3. Each branch of government will have a special oversight committee to investigate the workings of the other two branches. It will have subpoena power. It will be able to hold people in the other branches in contempt of the Constitution if malfeasance or criminal activity is found. For conviction, two of the three branches must agree on the contempt charge. Upon final conviction, the committee can levy fines, dismissal from service, and jail time if appropriate.
That’s for starters.
Monsanto’s Roundup Triggers Modern Diseases
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Glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide) may be the culprit behind many of the so-called “diseases of civilization” that have plagued humanity since the last third of the 20th Century and are escalating at alarming rates today. These diseases and conditions include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, birth defects, and more.
That’s the conclusion of two scientists who looked over 286 studies of the biological effects of glyphosate and published their findings in the peer-reviewed journal Entropy in mid-April, 2013. These findings are a bombshell. They are, if confirmed by further scientific studies, the smoking gun that could lead to a total worldwide ban on Roundup and other brands of glyphosate.
“The industry asserts (glyphosate) is minimally toxic to humans, but here we argue otherwise,” state the authors—independent scientist Anthony Samsel and MIT scientist Stephanie Seneff. They note that residues of the herbicide are found in the main foods of the Western diet: sugar, corn, soy, and wheat. In their search of the literature, the scientists found that glyphosate suppresses and inhibits an enzyme called cytochrome P450, known in scientific shorthand as CYP. Inhibiting enzymes is exactly how glyphosate works as an herbicide, because enzymes are catalysts for all sorts of functions in the plants, and when they are suppressed, the plants die for lack of the ability to function properly. Something of the same effect may be at work in humans who ingest glyphosate on their food.
“Glyphosate’s inhibition of CYP enzymes is an overlooked component of its toxicity to mammals,” they write. “CYP enzymes play crucial roles in biology, one of which is to detoxify xenobiotics.” A xenobiotic is any substance not normally found in living creatures, such as pesticides, industrial chemicals, pollutants, and drugs. “Thus, glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and environmental toxins.” So Roundup, which in 1996 Monsanto said was “safer than table salt” and “practically non-toxic to mammals, birds, and fish,” not only damages our bodies, but enables other toxic compounds to more efficiently do their dirty work in our tissues.
“The negative impact on the body is insidious,” they write, “and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems within the body.”
The authors show how glyphosate harms three crucial bodily functions. First, it interferes with CYP enzymes. Second, it disrupts our intestinal flora’s ability to construct important amino acids that build and repair the body’s cellular tissues. Third, it impairs the movement of sulfate compounds in the blood. These compounds are especially important in the growth of infants, young children, and the developing fetus in pregnant women. Glyphosate acts synergistically with the other two damaging effects—that is, it produces a more serious health effect than the sum of the individual effects.
In conclusion, the study’s authors write: “Given the known toxic effects of glyphosate reviewed here and the plausibility that they are negatively impacting health worldwide, it is imperative for more independent research to take place to validate the ideas presented here, and to take immediate action, if they are verified, to drastically curtail the use of glyphosate in agriculture. Glyphosate is likely to be pervasive in our food supply, and contrary to being essentially non-toxic, it may in fact be the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment.” You can read the whole study yourself at Entropy 2013, 15, 1-x manuscripts; doi:10.3390/ e140x000x
Glyphosate is hard to escape in today’s world. Worldwide, annual use of glyphosate is nearing a million metric tons and is projected to reach 1.35 million metric tons within three years, according to Global Industry Analysts, Inc. One of the chief factors driving this growth is the use of Roundup Ready GMO seeds in world agriculture. Monsanto, for instance, derives almost half its revenue from the sale of Roundup, and from Roundup Ready seeds and products.
Check the labels of processed foods at your supermarket. Among the most frequent ingredients are soy and corn products. The alfalfa goes to feed the meat and dairy animals you eat. And there may be glyphosate contamination of the canola oil you use for frying and salad dressings. The answer for us, of course, is to eat organic.
Even the bees know this. Among the 286 studies cited by the authors of the Entropy study is one that appeared in the journal Ecological Applications, Vol. 15, no. 3, pp. 871-881, entitled, “Wild Bees Reject Genetically Engineered Crop—Potential Major Impact on Pollination.” The authors counted the bees working similarly sized stands of organic, conventional, and herbicide-resistant (Roundup Ready) genetically modified canola fields in northern Alberta, Canada. They also studied the number of seeds from each plant, which is an indication of how well the bees pollinated the flowers. “There was no pollination deficit in the organic fields, moderate pollination deficit in the conventional fields, and the greatest pollination deficit in the GM fields. Bee abundance was greatest in organic fields, followed by conventional fields, and lowest in GM fields,” the authors wrote.
Looks like we aren’t yet as smart as the wild bees, although we are better at killing them off with chemicals than they are at getting rid of us. It may turn out, however, that by killing them off we may be sealing our own fate as well because without our pollinators, our food supply disappears.
Big Biotech Plans Big Takeover
From Food Democracy now:
If you thought the Monsanto Protection Act was bad, wait until you hear about big biotech’s plans to permanently silence their critics in a state-by-state battle that strips local democratic decision making and puts America’s farmers, their seed supply, and local agriculture at risk.
Some thought that the Monsanto Protection Act would only last six months, but at Food Democracy Now we know the real problem is that this is a part of a larger effort by the biotech seed and chemical giants to permanently and legally protect their flawed GMO products.
Recently in the Oregon legislature, a dangerous bill, SB 633, passed out of the Rural Communities and Economic Development committee by a vote of 3 to 2. If SB 633 – which is being called Oregon’s Monsanto Protection Act – passes the legislature, it will permanently strip Oregon’s farmers and citizens of the right to make local agricultural decisions that protect area farmers, local economies, and organic seed production.
The region of Rogue Valley in Jackson County, a crown jewel of organic, non-GMO, and heritage seed production, is being put at risk of permanent genetic pollution should this bill pass.
Monsanto and the biotech industry are desperate to stop a farmer and citizen-led ballot initiative in Jackson County that would ban the growing of genetically engineered crops in that county. Local farmers and residents have sought a ballot initiative to protect local organic and conventional, non-GMO farmers, and their seed supply, from being contaminated by Monsanto’s GMO pollen.
Already, Monsanto’s lobbyists are crawling through the Oregon capital trying to round up votes before the truth can come out publicly that they’re working overtime to undermine America’s basic democratic rights once again. But we won’t let them get away with it.
Ominously, the Monsanto Protection Act, Section 735 of the continuing resolution, H.R. 933, that passed last month in Washington DC and prompted endless controversy, is now being cited as supporting evidence for the Oregon seed preemption bill. In an email to an Oregon constituent from Senator Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay), the bill’s chief sponsor and chair of the committee that just passed the bill, he makes clear he’s doing the bidding of Monsanto and the biotech seed industry.
According to Senator Roblan’s office:
“In essence, one reviewer of the act noted that ‘Even if the courts find that a (genetically engineered) crop shouldn’t be planted until more research is done about its safety, no one could stop that crop from being planted, even temporarily’ because Federal Law supersedes state law and most definitely, local Ordinance,” wrote Roblan’s office.
Under current Oregon law, local citizens have the right to make democratic decisions concerning local agricultural practices through ballot initiatives. And Oregon’s Monsanto Protection Act is seen as another corporate handout to agribusiness to protect biotech seed and chemical monopolies like Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta from the growing number of American farmers and citizens who have become concerned about the flaws of genetically engineered crops and outraged over the undemocratic lobbying practices that these giant multinational companies use to deceptively garner growth in the marketplace at the expense of human and environmental health and farmers’ livelihoods.
Last month, because more than 300,000 Food Democracy Now members stood strong against Monsanto, they have forced one U.S. Senator to publicly apologize, and the hometown newspaper of Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), the alleged man behind the original Monsanto Protection Act, issued a blistering editorial against him and members of Congress who voted for the continuing resolution in which the act was contained.
When Mom Gets Angry, Watch Out
Moms Across America is planning a million mothers’ march this July 4 to insist that GMO food be labeled as such. The organization says these mothers are angry at being told they have no right to know what’s in the food they feed to their families. It does seem idiotic that Big Ag, Big Chem, and Big Food take the position that it’s better if you don’t know what you’re eating, but they have enough money to throw at opponents to scuttle labeling laws. Well, as the famous newscaster once said, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any mo’.” Join with the mothers at http://www.momsacrossamerica.com/the_uprising
Superbugs Invade America’s Meat Counters
A new Environmental Working Group analysis shows most store-bought meat in 2011 contained antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
EWG’s analysis of data buried in the federal government’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System has found that store-bought meat tested in 2011 contained antibiotic-resistant bacteria in 81 percent of raw ground turkey, 69 percent of raw pork chops, 55 percent of raw ground beef and 39 percent of raw chicken parts.
“Consumers should be very concerned that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are now common in the meat aisles of most American supermarkets,” said EWG nutritionist Dawn Undurraga, the report’s principal author. “These organisms can cause foodborne illnesses and other infections. Worse, they spread antibiotic-resistance, which threatens to bring on a post-antibiotic era where important medicines critical to treating people could become ineffective.”
EWG researchers found that 53 percent of raw chicken samples were tainted with an antibiotic-resistant form of E. coli, a microbe that normally inhabits feces and can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, and pneumonia. The extent of antibiotic-resistant E. coli on chicken is alarming because bacteria readily share antibiotic-resistance genes.
As well, EWG found that antibiotic resistance to salmonella is growing fast: of all salmonella microbes found on raw chicken sampled in 2011, 74 percent were antibiotic-resistant, compared to less than 50 percent in 2002.
A significant contributor to the looming superbug crisis is the unnecessary antibiotic usage by factory farms that produce most of the 8.9 billion animals raised for food in the U.S. every year. Industrial livestock producers routinely give healthy animals antibiotics to get them to slaughter faster or prevent infection in crowded, stressful and often unsanitary living conditions.
Pharmaceutical makers have powerful financial incentives to encourage abuse of antibiotics in livestock operations. In 2011, they sold nearly 30 million pounds of antibiotics for use on domestic food-producing animals, up 22 percent over 2005 sales by weight, according to reports complied by the FDA and the Animal Health Institute, an industry group. Today, pharmaceuticals sold for use on food-producing animals amount to nearly 80 percent of the American antibiotics market.
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Tips for the Organic Minded
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You know how good olive oil is for you, right? The healthy Mediterranean diet is rich in the stuff. But did you also know that most olive oil sold in this country is rancid junk? It’s true—whole books have been written about the olive oil scams and frauds in our marketplace. And did you also know that one of the world’s finest—if not the finest—olive oils is produced in the California gold country, in a little town named Oregon House? It’s Apollo Olive Oil, given an award as one of the world’s Top 10 olive oils by I Maestri Oleari, the Italian masters of oil. Its Barouni—a type of olive native to Tunisia—just won Best of Show at the Los Angeles olive oil competition. As well it should have, because this year’s oil contains triple the antioxidants of even the best extra virgin oils, and like all Apollo’s oils, it’s organic. It contains a boatload of antioxidants because the good folks at Apollo crush and expel the oil from their fruit just minutes after picking, and they do it in a chamber flooded with nitrogen gas to keep oxygen away from the crushed fruit. Rancidity is the result of oxidation of the oil, which starts as soon as the fruit is picked. Apollo’s oil has an incredibly fresh and pure taste that shows the three major quality points of any good extra virgin oil—bitterness (yes, that’s a quality point), pungency (that peppery taste in the back of the throat), and fruitiness (it tastes like olives). The best way to avoid rancid junk oil is to know what the good stuff tastes like. Investigate further at www.ApolloOliveOil.com.
Another tip: If you or your family members are having a hard time becoming less meat-centric at the dinner table, author Lora Krulak has a book for you: “Veggies for Carnivores—Moving Vegetables to the Center of the Plate.” She doesn’t suggest giving up meat, but does show you how to prepare more and better-tasting vegetable dishes where meat isn’t the star of the show. It’s full of ideas for getting more veggies into the diet. Purchase on Amazon or from the publisher at www.changinglivespress.com.
Another tip: What do apples, cucumbers, eggplants, potatoes, and pears have in common? Their skins have more nutrients than their flesh and so, whenever possible, you should eat their skins as well as the interiors. Wash them well first, and always buy organic.
And finally, one more tip: Good old Mother Earth News has given birth to Mother Earth Living, a magazine about healthy, organic living. It’s chock-a-block with useful stories with titles like, “Why It’s Still Smart to Buy Organic,” “Natural Pain Relievers,” “The Farm Effect,” (about how living with the teeming microbes on an organic farm boosts your immune system), and much more. Check it out online, where you can also subscribe, at www.motherearthliving.com.
Toward a Cruelty-Free Food Supply
There’s a good chance you’ve never personally seen a factory farm, or as the industry calls them, Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). With good reason. The poultry, pork, beef and dairy industries know you’d be so appalled, you’d never buy another chicken wing or gallon of milk produced using their reckless, poisonous and senselessly inhumane methods, according to the Organic Consumers Association.
A River of Waste is a documentary that uncovers the ugly truth about factory farms in the U.S., their flagrant disregard for human health and safety, their reckless destruction of the environment, and their unconscionable treatment of animals.
(As an aside, some farm states are passing “Ag Gag” laws which criminalize documenting, photographing, videographing, or in other ways revealing what goes on at factory farms.)
The Worldwatch Institute calls factory farms “mini Chernobyls” because of the endless amounts of pollution they spew into the air, groundwater and soil. The American Public Health Association has called for a moratorium on new factory farm facilities. But realistically, the only way we’ll end factory farming is when we, as consumers, stop buying their products. You can watch the documentary at http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_27309.cfm which should help you decide to never buy anything produced on a factory farm again.
Sprouts Help Your Body Get More Nutrients from Your Food
Sprouts can contain up to 100 times more enzymes than raw fruits and vegetables, allowing your body to extract more vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fats from the foods you eat, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola.
The content of vitamins and essential fatty acids increases dramatically during the sprouting process. Depending on the sprout, nutrient content can increase as much as 30 times the original value within just a few days of sprouting, and minerals bind to protein during sprouting, making them more bioavailable.
Additionally, the sprouting process deactivates many of the anti-nutrients that are in the seeds—compounds that keep them from premature sprouting and lock up their nutrients until the proper sprouting conditions are met.
GE Trees Post Threat to World’s Ecosystems
“A Silent Forest: The Growing Threat from Genetically Engineered Trees” is a documentary that discusses how trees are being genetically altered to give them unnatural characteristics, such as the ability to kill insects, tolerate toxic herbicides, grow abnormally fast, or have decreased lignin for the convenience of the paper industry. These alterations may impact ecological systems on a grand scale, with potentially catastrophic effects,
Trees can live for decades and even centuries in the wild; once GE trees escape the confines of their plantation, they could prove to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate. Even worse, trees—including genetically altered ones–are able to spread their seeds and pollen for hundreds and even thousands of miles, making native forests vulnerable to cross-contamination, which poses an enormous threat to worldwide ecosystems. The biotech industry and U.S. government are rushing ahead without performing appropriate safety studies, doing everything they can to hasten the approval of GE technology, including, as we saw with the Monsanto Protection Act, placing biotech corporations beyond the reach of the courts and the law. And speaking of the Monsanto Protection Act, read on:
Monsanto Protection Act Puts Biotech Companies above the Federal Courts
Not even the U.S. government can now stop the sale, planting, harvest, or distribution of any GM seed, writes John Vidal in The Guardian, UK.
“Monsanto and the biotech industry wield legendary power,” Vidal writes. “A revolving door allows corporate chiefs to switch to top posts in the Food and Drug Administration and other agencies; American embassies around the world push GMO technology onto dissenting countries; government subsidies back corporate research; federal regulators do largely as the industry wants; the companies pay millions of dollars a year to lobby politicians; conservative think tanks combat any political opposition; the courts enforce corporate patents on seeds; and the consumer is denied labels and information about his or her food.
“But even people used to the closeness of the U.S. administration and food giants like Monsanto have been shocked by the latest demonstration of the GM industry’s political muscle. Little-noticed in Europe or outside the U.S., President Barack Obama has signed what has become widely known as ‘the Monsanto Protection Act.’
“The key phrases were added to the bill by the Missouri Republican senator Roy Blount, who is the biggest recipient of Monsanto’s political funds. (The actual wording was written by Monsanto itself and added by Blount as a rider to the Continuing Resolution that funds the government through September).
“According to an array of food and consumer groups, organic farmers, civil liberty and trade unions and others, the Monsanto Protection Act hijacks the Constitution, sets a legal precedent, and puts Monsanto and other biotech companies above the federal courts. It means, they say, that not even the U.S. government can now stop the sale, planting, harvest or distribution of any GM seed, even if it is linked to illness or environmental problems.
“The backlash has been furious. Senator Barbara Mikulski, chair of the powerful Senate appropriations committee which was ultimately responsible for the bill, has apologized. A Food Democracy Now petition has attracted 250,000 names and sections of the liberal press and blogosphere are outraged. ‘This provision is simply an industry ploy to continue to sell genetically engineered seeds even when a court of law has found they were approved by U.S. department of agriculture illegally,’ says one petition. ‘It is unnecessary and an unprecedented attack on U.S. judicial review. Congress should not be meddling with the judicial review process based solely on the special interest of a handful of companies.’
“Remarkably, though, it has also offended the Conservative right and libertarians. Freedom Works, the conservative think tank that helped launch the Tea Party, says corporations should ‘play by the rules of the free market like everyone else, instead of hiring insider lobbyists to rewrite the rules for them in Washington.’ Dustin Siggins, a blogger for the Tea Party Patriots, has called it a ‘special interest loophole’ for friends of Congress. ‘We are used to subsidies, which give your tax dollars to companies to give them advantages over competitors. We are used to special interest tax loopholes and tax credits, which provide competitive and financial benefits to those with friends in Congress. And we are familiar with regulatory burden increases, which often prevent smaller companies from competing against larger ones because of the cost of compliance. This is a different kind of special interest giveaway altogether. This is a situation in which a company is given the ability to ignore court orders, in what boils down to a deregulation scheme for a particular set of industries,’ he wrote.
“Even Monsanto appears a touch embarrassed. The company whose seeds make up 93 percent of U.S. soybeans, 88 percent of cotton, and 86 percent of corn–and which has just announced a 22 percent increase in earnings, has sought to align itself with others in the industry, even though it is far and away the main beneficiary. In a press release, Monsanto says, ‘We are pleased to join major grower groups in supporting the Farmer Assurance Provision (the name of the Monsanto Protection Act in the legislation), including the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Seed Trade Association, the American Soybean Association, the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, the National Corn Growers Association, the National Cotton Council, and several others.’
“The company’s friends are now on the defensive, seeking to blame ‘activists.’ Here is John Entine, director of the Genetic Literacy Project, and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the pro-business, anti-regulation think tank: ‘The legislation does not, as critics allege, allow farmers or Monsanto to sell seeds proven to be harmful. Rather, it provides legal consistency for farmers and businesses so that they will not be jerked around by temporary findings by competing court systems as activist challenges make their way up the legal food chain.’
“The only good news, say the opponents, is that because the Monsanto Protection Act was part of the much wider spending bill, it will formally expire in September. The bad news however is that the precedent has been set and it is unlikely that the world’s largest seed company and the main driver of the divisive GM technology will ever agree to give up its new legal protection. The company, in effect, now rules.”
How Monsanto Corrupts Regulators and Consolidates Its Power
One last report on the Monsanto Protection Act. Why all my focus on this one law? Because it sets Monsanto—of all companies—above the laws of the United States and outside the reach of the Constitution. If Congress can do this with Monsanto, who can’t they do it with? And that means we are no longer a country of laws, but a country of men (and a smattering of women legislators) who are bought by and beholden to the corporatocracy that has set itself above the law.
To wit: Monsanto may now plant genetically modified seeds even if a court of law orders them to stop. Yes, it has caused outrage from the left, the middle, and the right, but the newfound public outrage over the Monsanto Protection Act ignores the fact that Monsanto has already been above the law for decades, writes Aviva Shen in ThinkProgress.
“The Monsanto Protection Act is merely a drop in the bucket of government-embedded protections the agricultural giant already enjoys,” Shen writes. “The company has spent decades packing the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency with its own members. A new Food and Water Watch report maps out the many ways the company stacks the regulatory deck in its favor:
“Monsanto’s board members have worked for the EPA, advised the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and served on President Obama’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations. They presided over multiple universities in various senior positions, including South Dakota State University (with whom Monsanto has a significant research agreement), Arizona State’s Biodesign Institute, and Washington University in St. Louis…The prevalence of Monsanto’s directors in these highly influential positions begs a closer look at how they’re able to push the pro-GE agenda within the government and influence public opinion.
“An extended list of policymakers with Monsanto histories is available here.
“Monsanto insists that its revolving door is in overdrive because Monsanto employees are simply the best qualified for positions in these agencies, and certainly don’t hold onto their loyalty to the company in their new roles. (Yeah, right.)
“Yet it’s hard to ignore how Monsanto has benefited from these connections. The USDA has never denied a single application for Monsanto’s genetically engineered crops. USDA chief Tom Vilsack briefly considered limiting Monsanto’s alfalfa planting to protect organic crops from contamination, but deregulated it entirely instead. In another win for the company, their controversial growth hormone for cows was approved under Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto chief lobbyist-turned-USDA-administrator-turned-FDA Deputy Commissioner, even though the hormone was banned in the European Union, Japan, Australia, and Canada over health concerns. The hormone was approved in the U.S. after Monsanto employee Margaret Miller oversaw a report backing its safety, then took a job at the FDA and promptly approved her own report. And Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a Monsanto lawyer, will help decide a challenge to Monsanto’s GMO patents this year.
“The controversy behind the Monsanto Protection Act is a case study in Monsanto’s cozy relationship with regulators. In 2010, a federal judge chided the USDA for violating environmental law by rushing through approval of Monsanto’s genetically engineered Round Up Ready sugar beets. The judge ordered a halt on all planting of the beets until an environmental study was completed. Ignoring the court, the USDA deregulated the beets anyway, claiming that the delay would result in a sugar shortage.
“That’s because Monsanto controls 95 percent of the sugar beet market, making it virtually impossible for farmers to find alternatives. Industry consolidation among a handful of corporations has driven up seed prices and stifled innovation by smaller firms. It’s no wonder, then, that a massive beet shortage would have occurred if Monsanto’s beets had been delayed for a couple years of environmental review. With the help of complacent federal regulators, Monsanto is the only game in town.
“Despite having the full force of the government behind them, Monsanto’s products aren’t working. Their herbicide-resistant genes–the major selling point for their sugar beets, corn, soybean, and alfalfa crops–are actually breeding superweeds and superworms that have evolved to overpower the chemicals. When these GM crops were first introduced, Monsanto argued that the gene would let farmers cut down on the use of toxic pesticides and herbicides on their crops. As it turns out, farmers who’ve planted the GMO seeds have increased their use of these toxic chemicals threefold since the introduction of the GMO seeds, and have recently started applying even heavier doses of the chemicals to combat these new strains of pests. Though their products aren’t working, Monsanto has reaped abundant monetary benefits from its own failure. The company recently announced huge profits, largely due to a 37 percent increase in herbicide sales.”
Pesticide Makers Spend Millions to Deny Role in Bee Deaths
Organic Lifestyle Comments Off on Pesticide Makers Spend Millions to Deny Role in Bee Deaths
I have five apple trees in a small orchard behind my house. Yesterday, as I wandered through the orchard, enjoying the sight and smell of the pink-white apple blossoms, I noticed that there were no honeybees buzzing among the flowers. How can this be? I thought. But deep in my heart I knew the answer.
The chemical pesticide lobby is waging a multi-million dollar battle to prevent regulation of chemicals linked to the dramatic escalation in the deaths of pollinating bees over the past year.
According to Christina Wilkie, writing in the Huffington Post, CropLife America, the trade association that represents more than 90 of the world’s biggest agro-chemical manufacturers, spent nearly $2.5 million last year lobbying against bills that sought to increase oversight of chemical manufacturing and transfer, strengthen drinking water standards and fund research into the effects of pesticides on humans.
The lobbying expenses are part of an ongoing lobbying blitz launched in 2010 by the pesticide industry to fight any efforts by the Obama administration to regulate pesticides. Since 2008, Croplife America has poured $11.2 million into lobbyists, and another $643,000 into a PAC that backs congressional candidates sympathetic to the chemicals industry.
One class of pesticides that has international scientists and beekeepers increasingly worried are called neonicotinoids — a chemical cousin of nicotine. Last week a group of beekeepers and environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the EPA over its approval of certain neonics, as they are known.
CropLife argues that neonics are safe, and CropLife America president Jay Vroom told The New York Times this week that science “supports the notion that the products are safe and are not contributing in any measurable way to pollinator health concerns.” In 2011, Vroom earned $826,146 in salary and benefits from Croplife and its related entities.
The current chairman of Croplife America is John Croshniak, a pesticide specialist at the chemical giant DuPont. The former chairman, who stepped down in 2011, is Bill Bucknell, a senior executive in the pesticides division of Bayer, another one of the world’s largest chemical manufacturers of neonics.
How Organic Farming and Gardening
Represent New Heights of Human Achievement
There are about 10 trillion cells in the human body—cells that started out as one-celled creatures making their way alone in the world. As time went by, certain cells learned to cooperate, and use their special skill to augment the special skill of the other cells. And so simple organisms such as sponges came into being.
More time passed, and more and more cells joined in the cooperative venture, and so evolved fishes, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and eventually human beings. But a funny thing happened as more and more cells cooperated in the grand adventure of evolution. Self-awareness began to dawn. And then awareness, and then full consciousness, and then human consciousness, which is not only aware of itself and its surroundings, but is aware that it is aware.
Humans, working cooperatively, have achieved great things—the cathedral of Chartres, the U.S. Constitution, the immense edifice of science itself, where cooperative effort is studded with strikes of intellectual lightning from individuals (think E=mc2, or Newtonian mechanics).
Organic farming and gardening represent a further evolution, this time in the realm of feeding ourselves. Human organic growers cooperate not only with each other, but with Nature herself, to produce clean, wholesome, and nutritious food in such a way that all the creatures of the farm and garden are respected, cared about, and encouraged to thrive.
What happens, then when a cooperative human effort cooperates as a whole with something as fundamental as Nature? We are lucky to be alive to witness this now, because what happens is just emerging, and as we can see, when this cooperative effort is sincere, it is good, it is true, and it is beautiful.
Organic Beauty Products
The folks at Organic Beauty Now (www.organicbeautynow.com) have brought together a group of body care products made without the usual harsh, toxic chemicals. Ingredients are mainly organic or Biodynamic certified and cruelty free. Check out the website if you’re interested in these things. Me? I’m a guy. Unscented plain soap and water and maybe Weleda toothpaste is about as far as I go.
Monsanto Writes Its Own Rules, Prompts Outrage
While Monsanto executives may be rejoicing behind the closed doors of their corporate offices, they have also just stabbed themselves in the heart with the blatant and cocky decision to go through with the Monsanto Protection Act. Obama’s social media profiles are being blown up with thousands of enraged activists and concerned citizens who are demanding answers, writes Anthony Gucciardi in Natural Society.
Thanks to the alternative news covering every angle of the Protection Act and the absurd fact that Monsanto actually wrote the rider itself, people have now come to fully understand just how deep the corruption goes when it comes to Monsanto’s Big Food monopoly. And it doesn’t exempt the President.
It’s a well known fact that the Obama family actually eats from the White House organic garden and has full time staffers who maintain and harvest organic produce that comes from the garden. Many high level politicians actually refuse to eat anything but organic, as they are fully aware of what’s in ‘conventional’, GMO-loaded items. Yet, despite this knowledge, they are quite eager to push Monsanto’s GMOs and ruthless business model on the citizens of the United States.
Scanning just a few comments amid the thousands calling out Obama for his signature on the spending bill that contained the Monsanto Protection Act, we find seriously frustrated activists and voters who can’t believe what they are seeing. Even many Obama campaigners who came to the realization that Obama didn’t represent what they thought he did. One specifically mentions how Obama promised to label GMOs in 2007 upon his election as President–a promise that never came to fruition. In fact, no real attempts have been made at all by the administration.
Overall, the decision to go with such a major act of corruption has jump started a massive movement to hold politicians and corporations accountable for their betrayal of the U.S. public, Gucciardi writes.
GMO Wheat Could Damage Crucial Human Enzymes
Experts in the biotechnology field say that genetically altered (GMO) wheat currently in development could potentially silence human genes if ingested, resulting in premature death and risk of passing the defect on to future generations.
The wheat, developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), is engineered to turn off undesirable genes in the grains permanently.
However, the wheat genes intended to be silenced are a match for the human GBE gene sequence, according to Professor Jack Heinemann of the University of Canterbury’s Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety in New Zealand, who published a report: (http://www.inbi.canterbury.ac.nz/Documents/Reports%20and%20others/Heinemann-Report-20120828.pdf) on the experimental wheat.
“Through ingestion, these molecules can enter human beings and potentially silence our genes,” says Heinemann.
GBE dictates glycogen storage in humans. Children who are born without this enzyme tend to die by the age of about five. Adults with malfunctioning GBE genes can experience cognitive impairment, pyramidal quadriplegia, peripheral neuropathy, and neurogenic bladder.
The real danger behind this genetically modified variety of wheat is that scientists used double stranded RNA, or dsRNA, to achieve their desired results. Heinemann describes the dsRNAs present in modified wheat as “remarkably stable in the environment.”
The dsRNA is able to withstand processing and cooking, and can also survive the human digestive system and enter into the blood stream. It then circulates through the body, where it amplifies into more and different dsRNAs and alters gene expression.
These altered genes can be passed on to later generations, assuming the consumer doesn’t die of cancer or liver damage before procreating.
Using dsRNA to silence genes is not without precedent. Monsanto, the world’s largest manufacturer of bioengineered seeds, has published research in the past about how to commercially exploit the fact that dsRNA survives digestion in insects.
The company genetically engineered plants to produce dsRNA, which insects ingest when they eat the plant; the dsRNA survives digestion in the insect and then silences genes in the insect to stunt its growth and kill it.
While not yet commercialized, the GM wheat is currently undergoing field tests in Australia. If approved, it will likely be grown alongside conventional wheat and sold unlabeled to consumers.