The Answer to Our Problems: A Simple Leap of Faith
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Since it has become obvious that America is sliding backwards down a slippery slope toward corporate fascism and a military-surveillance state, I have been including articles about this sorry state of affairs in this blog about organic food.
I have been getting some feedback from readers that say they are tired of the drumbeat of gloom and doom, and wish we could focus on some solutions to our current problems. Well, we are in the midst of a pitched battle between the one percent corporatists, the banksters, the secret police surveillance crowd, and the 99 percent of the rest of us. It would always be nice in battle to leap over the enemy and simply land at the finish line and declare victory. But it’s not realistic. We need to know who is changing our country for the worse and how they are doing it. Otherwise, how can we oppose them? So I have been pointing to the complex web of problems that includes the NSA, Big Ag, the biotech industry, and many more secret and not-so-secret entities that rig the game in their favour, poison the earth, produce bad food, and trample our rights.
The answer to our problems, however, is not complex. The root of all the problems is fear, and the answer is faith—and I’m not talking about religion. Let’s examine this:
Until recently, America was a country of laws, not men—meaning that no person is above the law. The fundamental law of this country is still the Constitution. The bill of rights and subsequent amendments still guarantee our rights. The problem, though, is that the federal government and, increasingly, state governments, are contravening the Constitution with impunity. For just one example, the Bill of Rights guarantees that citizens should be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures unless there is probable cause of a crime being committed. But now we find that the National Security Agency (how Orwellian a name) has been busily conducting all kinds of unreasonable searches and seizures of our private information without probable cause and without any serious checks upon this confiscation. All in secret. And with secret courts. And the NSA is passing this information to organizations like the CIA, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and to local police departments—activities that fall far outside the Constitutional limits imposed on them. The result is that the police look more and more like the military every day, and instead of going just for bad guys, they are coming for us.
So—first of all, governments and their employees from the Federal to the local level need to start obeying the law. Easy enough to say, but what do you do when rogue, renegade, lawless governments and their flunkies just go ahead and violate the Constitution anyway? I mean, did you ever think you’d see the day in America when American citizens, no matter how loathsome, were summarily executed by the President of the United States without the due process afforded them by the Constitution, without arrest or arraignment, without trial? I never did. Did you ever think you’d see the day when those who blow the whistle on illegal murders and illegal spying on Americans would be punished by huge prison sentences and exile to foreign lands while the perpetrators of the murders and spying walk free?
It started with George Bush’s administration at 9/11. That horrific day so frightened the Congress that they passed the Patriot Act (Orwell again), which basically gave the executive branch carte blanche to do whatever it thought best to destroy the terrorists who had done this to us. Driven by fear, the Congress became cowards. Unfortunately, unscrupulous people in our government took carte blanche to mean they could get away with warmongering—literally—and torture, too. And remember that Scooter Libby took the fall for outing CIA undercover agent Valerie Plame, was convicted, sentenced, and pardoned. Once the dogs of war were loosed, all hell broke loose not only in the military and in the “security” agencies, but in the financial sector. Financial lawbreaking under Bush and now Obama will require more than one book to document. Suffice it to say we all know what a free-for-all it turned into.
To return to a country of laws, we first have to admit that the executive branch of the federal government has let us down and will not self-correct. The legislative branch is tied into partisan knots and has let us down. The judicial branch has given us Citizens United that allows unlimited and secret corporate money to corrupt our political system, and it has repealed a major provision of the Voting Rights Act that leaves millions of poor and minority people vulnerable to the loss of their right to vote. The Supreme Court has let us down. Laws are flouted. Fortunes are gouged out of the half-empty pockets of the poorest among us. The game is rigged. The crooks are in charge–and don’t you complain about it or you may find out what corporate fascism is really all about.
The answer? We still have the ballot, although Republican governors and their legislators are trying hard to rig the vote, too. Since the Supreme Court is appointed, and the President can be overruled by Congress, what we really need is for honest, true Americans who believe in our country’s highest ideals to be elected to office. Where will we find these law-abiding citizens who try to follow the law as best they can?
On the organic farm.
Really? We want Congress to be full of farmers? Well, no, but organic farmers offer us a model for how and why to return to our political senses, to live by the law, and to embody our ideals in our actions.
First of all, organic farming necessitates a leap of faith—and a particularly big leap of faith. Conventional farming is a farm-by-numbers approach, with its faith that chemicals will make everything absolutely predictable. At its root is fear: fear that the rains won’t come, fear that the rootworms will eat all the corn, fear of failure, fear of nature so intense that conventional farmers feel at war with nature. Kill the insects! Kill the weeds! Kill the fungus!
Organic farming on the other hand requires the farmer to put his or her faith in nature. This means stepping down off the homocentric pedestal where mankind is thought to be the crown of creation, and taking a more humble and integrated approach to nature. The organic farmer doesn’t pretend, like the mad scientists who are “improving” nature as they shift genes in and out of the DNA of nature’s perfectly crafted evolutionary creatures, that he knows better than nature what will work in the grand scheme of things. His stance is more modest. In fact, the organic farmer believes so strongly in nature and her ability to run things correctly that he tries to perceive her laws, rules, tendencies, and energies, and support them. If nature recycles nutrients slowly through decomposition in the soil, then the farmer builds a compost pile whose decomposition proceeds so furiously that it steams in the cold morning air. The organic farmer follows nature’s laws because he trusts that nature knows best. That puts him or her in the proper perspective vis a vis nature. The farmer is one more cog in nature’s engine, helping out, supporting life, increasing biodiversity, creating health.
It is just this change in attitude that’s needed in our politics. Instead of our politicians striving to beat the system, get rich, skirt the law, cause death and destruction, and declare their supremacy through their abuse of power, they need to make that same leap of faith as the organic farmers have made. Their role is not to game the system, but to be the helpers of society, to care for the less fortunate first, to find ways to enhance the quality of our political, social, and economic life. They need to make sure that the judiciary and the executive branches work with them in tandem to achieve these ends.
Idealistic? You bet. But what’s the alternative?
So the question becomes: how do lawmakers in Congress make this leap of faith? And the answer is they don’t. The politicians who now inhabit the trophic niches of our Federal government are a lost cause, corrupt almost to the last person, ready for history’s slag heap. Time to go, ladies and gentlemen. No thanks for your lack of service to the common good.
Now then, who’s willing to make that leap of faith? Let us know who you are so we can vote you into office. And so you don’t forget why you’re there, we’ll make sure that the cafeterias of the House and Senate office buildings serve wholesome organic food. And one last thing: when you get there, legislate the money out of politics. It’s greed that causes so many politicians to amass fortunes as they navigate in and out of government and the private sector. But what prompts greed is fear—the fear that you won’t be able to raise enough money to be re-elected, the fear that the other guy will have more than you, the notion that you are protected from calamity when you sit upon a pile of money. Don’t worry. Vote yourself fine salaries, paid for by all taxpayers, not just the Koch brothers–but not a penny more. No gifts, no time wasted on fund-raising, no backdoor deals allowed. Your bank accounts will not be secret. In fact, there will be no secrets involving the public business because the public must know what’s going on to avoid the return to the disgusting spectacle that is modern American governance.
TWO VIEWS OF THE FARM
Here’s the first view—very positive–from the Irish ‘Sunday Independent’, August 25, 2013:
“A groundbreaking new Irish technology, which could be the greatest breakthrough in agriculture since the plough, is set to change the face of modern farming forever.
“The technology – radio wave energized water – massively increases the output of vegetables and fruits by up to 30 percent.
“Not only are the plants much bigger but they are largely disease-resistant, meaning huge savings in expensive fertilizers and harmful pesticides. Extensively tested in Ireland and several other countries, the inexpensive water treatment technology is now being rolled out across the world. The technology makes GMOs obsolete and also addresses the whole global warming fear that there is too much carbon dioxide in the air, by simply converting excess CO2 into edible plant mass.
Developed by Professor Austin Darragh and Dr J.J. Leahy of Limerick University’s Department of Chemistry and Environmental Science, the eco-friendly technology uses nothing but the natural elements of sunlight, water, carbon dioxide in the air, and the minerals in the soil.
“The compact biscuit-tin-sized technology, which is called Vi-Aqua-–meaning life water-–converts 24 volts of electricity into a radio signal, which charges up the water via an antenna. Once the device is attached to a hose, thousands of gallons of water can be charged up in less than 10 minutes at a cost of pennies.
Speaking about the new technology, Professor Austin Darragh says:
‘Vi-Aqua makes water wetter and introduces atmospheric nitrogen into the water in the form of nitrates–so it is free fertilizer. It also produces the miracle of rejuvenating the soil by invigorating soil-based microorganisms. We can also make water savings of at least 30 percent. When the water is treated it becomes a better solvent, which means it can carry more nutrients to the leaves and stems and percolates better down into the soil to nourish the roots, which in turn produces a better root system. Hence the reason you need less water and why you end up with larger and hardier crops.’
“During recent successful tomato crop field trials in Italy, three of the country’s largest Agricultural Co-ops were so impressed with the results that they have now decided to recommend the technology to the country’s farming community.
Elsewhere, the Indian government has now concluded its own tests, which confirm that they are able to boost tea (plant) production by over a third while using far less water.
“In recognition of the groundbreaking technology, the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, London, recently took the hitherto unheard-of step of granting Professor Darragh and his team the right to use its official, centuries-old coat of arms on the new technology-–the first time ever that Kew Gardens has afforded anyone such an honor.
“The Kew Gardens botanists were not just impressed with the research; they used the technology to restore to life a very rare orchid which had been lying dormant and practically dead in a greenhouse bell jar since 1942. Amazingly, the orchid is now flourishing once again.”
So ends the news story from the Sunday Independent. Now, I know what you’re thinking. This sounds bogus, right? Too good to be true. Well, that’s what I thought, so I checked in with Kew, the most reputable botanical garden in the world and not an outfit that would espouse nonsense. Kew confirmed this story front to back. If you’re interested in knowing more, here’s the website: http://tredispace.com/viaqua/index.php/en/
So that’s the first view of the farm. How about here in this country? Are our farm leaders creating miracles like the Irish?
Here’s the second view of the farm, reported on August 18, 2013, by organic farmer Joel Salatin:
“Why do we need more farmers? What is the driving force behind USDA policy? In an infuriating epiphany I have yet to metabolize, I found out in a private policy-generating meeting with Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe. I did and still do consider it a distinct honor for his staff to have invited me as one of the 25 dignitaries in Virginia Agriculture for this think-tank session in Richmond.
“It was the first meeting of this kind I’ve ever attended that offered no water. The only things to drink were soft drinks. Lunch was served in styrofoam clam shells-–Lay’s potato chips, sandwiches, potato salad and chocolate chip cookie. It didn’t look very safe to me, so I didn’t partake. But I’d have liked a drink of water. In another circumstance, I might eat this stuff, but with these folks, felt it important to make a point.
“The big surprise occurred a few minutes into the meeting: US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack walked in. He was in Terry McAuliffe love-in mode. And here is what he told us: for the first time—2012-–rural America lost population in real numbers–not as a percentage but in real numbers. It’s down to 16 percent of total population.
“I’m sitting there thinking he’s going to say that number needs to go up so we have more people to love and steward the landscape. More people to care for earthworms. More people to grow food and fiber.
“What could be the most important contribution that increasing the number of farmers could offer to the nation? Better food? Better soil development? Better care for animals? Better care for plants?
“Are you ready? Here’s his answer: although rural America only has 16 percent of the population, it gives 40 percent of the personnel to the military. Say what? You mean when it’s all said and done, the whole reason for increasing farms is to provide cannon fodder for American imperial might? He said rural kids grow up with a sense of wanting to give something back, and if we lose that value system, we’ll lose our military might.
“So folks, it all boils down to American military muscle. It’s not about food, healing the land, stewarding precious soil and resources; it’s all about making sure we keep a steady stream of youngsters going into the military. This puts an amazing twist on things. You see, I think we should have many more farmers, and have spent a lifetime trying to encourage, empower, and educate young people to go into farming. It never occurred to me that this agenda was the key to American military power.
“Lest I be misread, I am not opposed to defending family. I am not opposed to fighting for sacred causes. I am violently opposed to non-sacred fighting and meddling in foreign countries, and building empires. The Romans already tried that and failed.
“But to think that my agenda is key to building the American military-–now that’s a cause for pause. I will redouble my efforts to help folks remember why we need more farmers. It’s not to provide cannon fodder for Wall Street imperialistic agendas. It’s to grow food that nourishes, land that’s aesthetically and aromatically sensually romantic, build soil, hydrate raped landscapes, and convert more solar energy into biomass than nature would in a static state.”
THE PARADIGM SHIFT IN AMERICAN FOOD
Brian Stoffel wrote the following for The Motley Fool, a newsletter for investors, published August 21, 2013. This is an exerpt from his entire story:
“There’s no doubt a fundamental shift is occurring in how Americans approach their food. Instead of blindly trusting that the industrial agribusiness model has consumers’ best interests at heart, people are starting to make informed decisions about where they get their food.
“Those decisions are causing the food industry to take a long, hard look at what the future model for food in America will be. As time goes on, two distinct patterns are taking hold.
“The first of these two is the organic movement. Though some argue that organic food has the same nutritional content as conventionally produced fare, there is little doubt that a move toward organically produced food is a safer, more sustainable, and environmentally friendly model than that used by big agribusiness. And if sales figures say anything, it’s that Americans are willing to pay more for these benefits.
“From 1998 to 2010 — the most recent year with reliable numbers — total food sales increased by 3.3 percent per year; after inflation, that number shrinks to 0.85 percent. But organic foods–after inflation–grew at 16 times that rate! And yet, there’s still a lot of room for growth: organic purchases accounted for only 4 percent of food sales in 2010.
“The second major movement of this paradigm shift is that of buying locally grown, in-season food. Because of the enormous carbon footprint associated with packaging and transporting goods from faraway lands, consumers are eating stuff that’s made in their own backyard.
“Buying locally and getting to know one’s farmer assures the consumer of the integrity of farming practices used. Farmers markets are one of the most popular channels for people to buy local.
“Between 1994 and today, the number of registered farmers markets has increased by 8 percent per year. And even though the past year showed much slower growth, this number doesn’t represent the number of vendors attending specific farmers markets, which can increase dramatically over time.
“Another popular method of consuming local food is via Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs). In this arrangement, people pay an up-front fee to a local farmer for a portion of the year’s harvest. Though the size of the harvest may vary, food is usually dropped off at a designated location on a weekly basis. Some CSAs even have work-share agreements, allowing people to pay reduced prices in return for working on the farm.
“It’s very difficult to pin down how many CSAs are in the United States. According to one source, there were as few as 50 in 1990, and Local Harvest estimates that there are at least 4,000 in existence today, representing 21 percent growth per year over the last quarter-century.
“Taken to the extreme, this could mean the end of investing in food companies altogether as it would be the independent, local farmer providing the vast majority of food for consumption. But the fact of the matter is that this extreme is nowhere in our immediate future. Instead, it’s important to identify companies that demonstrate a deep understanding for what these movements mean beyond surface-level posturing and use of buzzwords.
“Whole Foods would be the poster child for what the new food economy could look like. The company is way ahead of the curve when it comes to identifying the eco-friendliness of its products, and it was the first major grocer to require products with GMOs to eventually be labeled as such.”
THE LAST WORD GOES TO BILL MOYERS
Bill Moyers recently wrote the following on his website (BillMoyers.com). And you think my rhetoric is hot?
“The predators in Washington are only this far from monopoly control of our government. They have bought the political system, lock, stock and pork barrel, making change from within impossible.
“We are so close to losing our democracy to the mercenary class, it’s as if we are leaning way over the rim of the Grand Canyon and all that’s needed is a swift kick in the pants. Look out below.
“Sometimes I long for the wit of a Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. They treat this town as burlesque, and with satire and parody show it the disrespect it deserves. We laugh, and punch each other on the arm, and tweet that the rascals got their just desserts. Still, the last laugh always seems to go to the boldface names that populate this town. To them belong the spoils of a looted city. They get the tax breaks, the loopholes, the contracts, the payoffs.
“They fix the system so multimillionaire hedge fund managers and private equity tycoons pay less of a tax rate on their income than school teachers, police and fire fighters, secretaries and janitors. They give subsidies to rich corporate farms and cut food stamps for working people facing hunger. They remove oversight of the Wall Street casinos, bail out the bankers who torpedo the economy, fight the modest reforms of Dodd-Frank, prolong tax havens for multinationals, and stick it to consumers while rewarding corporations.
“We pay. We pay at the grocery store. We pay at the gas pump. We pay the taxes they write off. Our low-wage workers pay with sweat and deprivation because this town–aloof, self-obsessed, bought off and doing very well, thank you–feels no pain.
“The journalists who could tell us these things rarely do–and some, never. They aren’t blind, simply bedazzled. Watch the evening news–any evening news–or the Sunday talk shows. Listen to the chit-chat of the early risers on morning TV–and ask yourself if you are learning anything about how this town actually works.
“William Greider, one of our craft’s finest reporters, fierce and unbought, despite a long life in Washington, once said that no one can hope to understand what is driving political behavior without asking the kind of gut-level questions politicians ask themselves in private: ‘Who are the winners in this matter and who are the losers? Who gets the money and who has to pay? Who must be heard on this question and who can be safely ignored?’
“Perhaps they don’t ask these questions because they fear banishment from the parties and perks, from the access that passes as seduction in this town.
“Or perhaps they do not tell us these things because they fear that if the system were exposed for what it is, outraged citizens would descend on this town, and tear it apart with their bare hands.”
The Biodiverse, Organic Ecosystem within Us
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Let’s get to the bottom of this whole health question.
Looked at most broadly, we can easily see the health inherent in a natural climax ecosystem—one relatively undisturbed by mankind. It’s full of trophic niches; that is, food sources. For every food source, nature has evolved a plant or animal to take advantage of that food source. Everything eats something else, or uses its nutrients. The whole ecosystem interlocks like cogs and wheels. It’s the definition of health, because no one creature can overwhelm the system, causing wholesale destruction of other creatures, because all the creatures keep each other in check. It is as biodiverse as possible.
Organic or Biodynamic farmers and gardeners model their farms and gardens on the same idea. Put away the poisons. Let a thousand flowers bloom. Invite all the different insects into the ecosystem. Plant as many different crops as possible. Have a variety of farm animals. Stimulate soil health by recycling everything through a composting process. Create biodiversity and you’ll create health.
As humans, we also have an ecosystem that lives on us and within us, comprised of microbes. The totality of all the microbes that inhabit us is called our microbiome. The part of our microbiome that has the greatest impact on our health is our intestinal flora. Nine out of 10 cells in our bodies are these bacteria and yeasts that live in our guts. They make up an ecosystem. And when this ecosystem is most biodiverse—when it contains a healthy mix of bacteria and yeasts—it is most healthy, just like a climax ecosystem or an organic farm.
So how do we enhance the biodiversity of this internal ecosystem? By eating foods fermented with live cultures of bacteria and yeasts. Such foods include sauerkraut, yogurt, kim chi, kefir, kombucha, miso, cheese, pickles, tempeh, and more.
When we eat these living cultures of bacteria and yeast, they settle in our intestines and produce enzymes that release nutrients from the food we eat, they produce vitamins necessary for our health, they create conditions for good digestion and elimination, they coat the lining of our intestines and prevent pathogens from gaining a toehold within us and causing disease. They communicate with and stimulate our immune system. They communicate with our brains through the vagus nerve that runs from our gut to our brain. When this intestinal ecosystem is healthy, we are healthy.
We are part of nature. Nature knows best how to create health in her creatures. We simply need to get on board with her program. That’s why I wrote “The Essential Book of Fermentation.” It’s all in there, including recipes for dozens of live cultured fermented foods. I encourage you to get a copy not just because it’s my business, but rather because I know from personal experience how dramatic an improvement in health you’ll have and the world of good it will do you.
LIES THAT THE BIOTECH INDUSTRY TELLS ABOUT GMOs
The following article was written by Zack Kaldveer, assistant media director for the Organic Consumers Association, and was published on the Association’s website on August 21, 2013. You can find out more about this topic, and many others concerning organic foods, at the website, www.organicconsumers.org.
It’s déjà vu all over again. Last year a coalition of out-of-state, multinational biotech, pesticide and junk food corporations spent nearly $46 million to narrowly defeat Proposition 37, California’s GMO Labeling Initiative.
Now, the same who’s who of the world’s most notorious global corporate bad actors has descended on Washington State. Why? To try to stop Washington State voters from passing I-522, a citizens’ initiative that, if passed, will require mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in all food products sold in Washington State.
Like bad robots, they’re spitting out the same old, tired lies, designed to scare voters into voting against their own best interests.
Here are the lies. And the facts. Please read, print, email, roll up and stuff into a bottle you launch into the sea . . . whatever it takes to spread the word that while $46 million may buy a lot of lies, it doesn’t change the facts.
Lie: Labeling genetically engineered foods (GMOs) will cost taxpayers millions of dollars a year.
Truth: Empirical studies have concluded labeling would lead to no increases in prices. Since the European Union labeled GMOs in the 1990’s, there has been “no resulting increase in grocery costs.”
Trader Joe’s, Clif Bar & Co. and Washington’s own PCC Natural Markets all label their non-GMO product lines at no additional cost to consumers.
Lie: I-522 is full of arbitrary special interest exemptions that will just confuse consumers.
Truth: I-522 requires labeling for the GE foods that are most prevalent in the American diet – food on supermarket shelves. I-522’s exemptions are easy to explain and guided by common sense and the law:
• Restaurants – Restaurants and bake sales are not required to list the ingredients in their products. Requiring labeling for GMOs would have required tracking all the ingredients in restaurant meals, and since no other laws require that, it didn’t make sense for this one to.
• Meat, cheese, dairy and eggs from animals – These will be labeled if they come from genetically engineered animals. However, they are exempt if the animals ate genetically engineered feed but are not themselves genetically engineered. This exemption is common all around the world. It didn’t make sense for Washington’s law to be stricter than international standards.
• Alcohol – Alcohol labeling is regulated under different laws than food at both the federal and state levels. Because of the single-subject law that requires initiatives to apply to only one subject, alcohol couldn’t be included.
Lie: Consumers don’t need labels to avoid GMOs. All they need to do is buy certified organic products.
Truth: Food companies routinely and intentionally mislead consumers by labeling products “natural” in order to attract health-conscious consumers. Because the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) does not prohibit the use of the word “natural” on products containing GMOs, most consumers are fooled by this label. According to a recent poll by the Hartman group, 61 percent of respondents erroneously believed that the use of the word “natural” implies or suggests the absence of GMOs, versus 63 percent who correctly believed that the label “organic” means that a product is GMO-free. Food companies should be required, as they are in some 60 other countries, to clearly state that a product contains GMOs. If companies truly believe their GMO ingredients are perfectly safe, why spend millions to keep from having to label them?
Lie: Washington will be the only state in the nation to label GMOs, unfairly hurting farmers and the state’s multi-billion agricultural industry.
Truth: Washington won’t be the only state labeling GE foods. Connecticut, Maine, and Alaska have passed labeling laws and dozens of other states are considering identical proposals. Besides, 64 countries already require labeling, so many farmers are already used to labeling for exports. In fact, many Washington farmers support labeling because they believe that growing GMO crops destroys healthy soil, and because they sell crops to overseas markets that either require labels on GMO crops, or have banned them completely. These countries are increasingly concerned about U.S. non-GMO crops, such as wheat, that could be potentially contaminated by cross-pollination with GMO crops.
Lie: I-522 encourages shakedown lawsuits by giving trial lawyers an unprecedented new right to sue farmers, food producers and store owners over the wording on food labels.
Truth: I-522 offers no economic incentives for lawyers to sue. Consumers can’t file a class action suit against food producers without first giving the food producer a warning and the opportunity to comply with the law. As long as the defendant fixes the labels, then no class action is permitted. Once the class action option is off the table, a consumer could sue only to get a court order to require labeling, and only for the few dollars that consumer paid to buy the product. Where’s the incentive?
If the state brings a court action to enforce the new law, any penalties recovered by the state go only to the state – not the plaintiff or the lawyer. Food companies are required by law to label for ingredients, calories, etc., and there have been few violations. Why wouldn’t companies accurately label genetically engineered foods, too?
For the real story about abusive lawsuits by rapacious trial lawyers, check out what Monsanto is up to: suing farmers across the country for growing their own seeds.
Lie: Labeling GMOs creates a bureaucratic nightmare for grocers and retailers and requires the state government to monitor labels on thousands of food products in thousands of stores, costing taxpayers millions.
Truth: Under I-522, the person responsible for labeling processed foods is the person who puts the label on: the manufacturer. Retailers would only have to label the few raw commodities (sweet corn, papaya, squash) that are genetically engineered. They can either stick a simple label on the bin or, if they wish, they can ask their supplier for a sworn statement that the crop is not genetically engineered.
I-522 requires no costly testing for GE ingredients. No burdensome government oversight is necessary. The system is inherently designed to protect small grocers and retailers while providing consumers with the right to know what’s in their food without increasing grocery costs.
Lie: GE foods pose no health safety risks.
Truth: GMOs have never been proven safe. The FDA requires no pre-market health safety studies, and the only long term peer-reviewed animal study conducted involving GMO corn sprayed with Monsanto’s Round Up herbicide, found massive tumors, organ failure and premature death in rats. In addition, a growing body of peer-reviewed animal studies have linked these foods to allergies, organ toxicity, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune disorders, birth defects, high infant mortality rates, fertility problems, and sterility. Clearly, more independent, long term studies are warranted. Until GMOs are proven unequivocally safe, they should be labeled so consumers can avoid them if they choose.
Lie: GE foods are as, or more, nutritious than organic foods.
Truth: Organic foods, especially raw or non-processed, contain higher levels of beta carotene, vitamins C, D, and E, health-promoting polyphenols, cancer-fighting antioxidants, flavonoids that help ward off heart disease, essential fatty acids, and essential minerals. On average, organic is 25 percent more nutritious in terms of vitamins and minerals than products derived from industrial agriculture. Levels of antioxidants in milk from organic cattle are between 50 percent and 80 percent higher than normal milk. Organic wheat, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, onions and lettuce have between 20 percent and 40 percent more nutrients than non-organic foods.
A report released from the non-GMO corn company De Dell, in Canada, found GMO Corn has 14 parts-per-million (ppm) of calcium while non-GMO corn has 6130 ppm, or 437 times more. According to the report, non-GMO corn also has 56 times more magnesium and seven times more manganese than GMO corn.
Lie: The World Health Organization, American Medical Association, National Academy of Sciences and other respected medical and health organizations all conclude that GE foods are safe.
Truth: The United Nations/World Health Organization food standards group and the American Medical Association have called for mandatory pre-market safety testing of genetically engineered foods, a standard the U.S. fails to meet. A National Academy of Sciences report states that products of genetic engineering technology “carry the potential for introducing unintended compositional changes that may have adverse effects on human health.” Numerous public health and medical groups support the labeling of GE foods, including the American Public Health Association, Washington State Nurses Association, Breast Cancer Action, Allergy Kids Foundation, Autism One, and many others.
Lie: We need GMOs to feed the world.
Truth: Studies have proven that GE crops do not lead to greater crop yields. In fact, just the opposite is true. A 2009 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found GMO crops fail to produce higher yields. And a recently released, peer-reviewed study published in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability found that conventional plant breeding, not genetic engineering, is responsible for yield increases in major U.S. crops.
Lie: The creation of GE seeds is comparable to the cross-breeding that our ancestors did to create hardier versions of heritage crops.
Truth: Cross breeding is the product of guided natural reproduction, while GMOs are created in a laboratory using high-tech and sophisticated techniques. One of these techniques involves gene-splicing which is used to cross a virus or a bacteria with a plant. These untested, unnatural creations are the antithesis to what our ancestors did, and what responsible farmers do: cross-pollinate different varieties of the same plant to help naturally bring forth desirable characteristics.
Lie: GE crops reduce the need for pesticides and herbicides.
Truth: GE crops have dramatically increased the use of herbicides and pesticides. According to a new study by Food and Water Watch, the “total volume of glyphosate applied to the three biggest GE crops — corn, cotton and soybeans — increased 10-fold from 15 million pounds in 1996 to 159 million pounds in 2012” with the overall pesticide use rising by 26 percent from 2001 to 2010.
The report follows another such study by Washington State University research professor Charles Benbrook last year that found that overall pesticide use increased by 404 million pounds, or about seven percent, from 1996 and 2011. The use of GE crops are now driving up the volume of toxic herbicides needed each year by about 25 percent.
Lie: GE crops aren’t harmful to the environment.
Truth: Besides polluting the environment with herbicides and pesticides, GE crops are leading to biodiversity loss and the emergence of “super bugs” and “super weeds” that are threatening millions of acres of farmland, requiring the need for even more dangerous and toxic herbicides.
GE crops, and the toxic pesticides they are designed to withstand, are endangering numerous critical species, including the honey bee, frogs, birds, fish and the Monarch Butterfly.
And don’t forget our air and water. The island of Molokai in Hawaii has had its air and water quality destroyed by Monsanto’s almost-2000-acre test facility. The same is true worldwide, with many areas around GMO farms reporting horrific bloody skin rashes, an uptick in asthma, and toxic pesticides that leach into the groundwater.
Because gardening threatens the security of the corporate state and their monopolized avenues of distribution of dead food grown by large agribusiness in depleted soils requiring harmful chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, supporting the chemical industry, but lacking nutrition that caters to the pharmaceutical industry’s distribution of harmful drugs to relieve the symptoms of diseases brought about by the lack of nutrition, many municipalities have outlawed gardens in lieu of lawns that inundate our environment with even more poisonous chemical fertilizers and weed killers that caters again to the chemical companies further poisoning our environment, and around and around we go, but not around the mulberry bush, for that would be illegal to grow in your front lawn, and unlawful to eat for its nutritional value, and would attract the authorities who would use swat teams to raid your home grown food patch that wasn’t properly inspected by government agents working to protect corporate profits from any infringements upon their distribution rights.
THE THREAT FROM ANTIBIOTIC USE ON THE FARM
Donald Kennedy was commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from 1977 to 1979. He is now professor emeritus of environmental science at Stanford University. Here are a few excerpts from a piece he wrote for the Washington Post on August 23, 2013.
When I was commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the agency’s national advisory committee recommended in 1977 that we eliminate an agricultural practice that threatened human health. Routinely feeding low doses of antibiotics to livestock, our scientific advisory committee warned, was breeding drug-resistant bacteria that could infect people. We scheduled hearings to begin the process of curtailing the use of penicillin and other antibiotics for this purpose, but Congress halted the effort before it started.
New guidelines cannot come soon enough. More antibiotics were sold for use in food animal production in 2011, the last year for which complete data are available, than in any prior year. The FDA annually examines bacteria on retail meat and poultry, and each year the bugs show more resistance to antibiotics. Moreover, several new studies using genetic analysis demonstrate with great precision the evolution and transmission of resistant pathogens not traditionally linked to food. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus is a troublesome new source of livestock-associated infections, and the E. coli that cause drug-resistant urinary tract infections can also be transmitted to people via food.
HOW TO CREATE AN AUTHORITARIAN STATE
Organic food is produced by law-abiding farmers—that is, farmers who follow nature’s laws. Their fields are full of checks and balances between plants and animals that keep disease at bay. Such a farm is a place of health. Now transfer those notions to our nation’s politics, as Juan Cole did recently on Reader Supported News, when he wrote: “How to Create an Authoritarian State in 10 Easy Steps.”
1. Misuse the legitimate concept of a Top Secret government document (say, the date of D-Day) and extend classification to trillions of mundane documents a year.
2. Classify all government crimes and violations of the Constitution as secret.
3. Create a class of 4.5 million privileged individuals, many of them corporate employees, with access to classified documents but allege it is illegal for public to see leaked classified documents.
4. Spy on the public in violation of the Constitution.
5. Classify environmental activists as terrorists while allowing Big Coal and Big Oil to pollute and destroy the planet.
6. Share info gained from NSA spying with the DEA, FBI, and local law enforcement to protect pharmaceuticals and liquor industries from competition from pot, or to protect polluters from activists.
7. Falsify to judges and defense attorneys how allegedly incriminating info was discovered.
8. Lie and deny to Congress you are spying on the public.
9. Criminalize the revelation of government crimes and spying as espionage.
10. Further criminalize whistleblowing as “Terrorism,” arrest innocent people, detain them, and confiscate personal effects with no cause or warrant (i.e. David Miranda, partner of Glenn Greenwald).
Presto, what looks like a democracy is really an authoritarian state ruling on its own behalf and that of 2000 corporations, databasing the activities of 312 million innocent citizens, and actively helping destroy the planet while forestalling climate activism.
Or, as Chris Hedges writes on Truthdig:
“The swift and brutal verdict read out by Army Col. Judge Denise Lind in sentencing Pfc. Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison means we have become a nation run by gangsters.
“It signals the inversion of our moral and legal order, the death of an independent media, and the open and flagrant misuse of the law to prevent any oversight or investigation of official abuses of power, including war crimes. The passivity of most of the nation’s citizens–the most spied upon, monitored and controlled population in human history–to the judicial lynching of Manning means they will be next. There are no institutional mechanisms left to halt the shredding of our most fundamental civil liberties, including habeas corpus and due process, or to prevent pre-emptive war, the assassination of U.S. citizens by the government, and the complete obliteration of privacy.
“Manning’s sentencing marks one of the most important watersheds in U.S. history. It marks the day when the state formally declared that all who name and expose its crimes will become political prisoners or be forced, like Edward Snowden, and perhaps Glenn Greenwald, to spend the rest of their lives in exile. It marks the day when the country dropped all pretense of democracy, obliterated checks and balances under the separation of powers, and rejected the rule of law. It marks the removal of the mask of democracy, already a fiction, and its replacement with the ugly, naked visage of corporate totalitarianism.
“State power is to be, from now on, unchecked, unfettered and unregulated. And those who do not accept unlimited state power, always the road to tyranny, will be ruthlessly persecuted. On Wednesday we became vassals. As I watched the burly guards hustle Manning out of a military courtroom at Fort Meade after the two-minute sentencing, as I listened to half a dozen of his supporters shout to him, “We’ll keep fighting for you, Bradley! You’re our hero!” I realized that our nation has become a vast penal colony.
“If we actually had a functioning judicial system and an independent press, Manning would have been a witness for the prosecution against the war criminals he helped expose. He would not have been headed, bound and shackled, to the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. His testimony would have ensured that those who waged illegal war, tortured, lied to the public, monitored our electronic communications and ordered the gunning down of unarmed civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen were sent to Fort Leavenworth’s cells. If we had a functioning judiciary the hundreds of rapes and murders Manning made public would be investigated. The officials and generals who lied to us when they said they did not keep a record of civilian dead would be held to account for the 109,032 “violent deaths” in Iraq, including those of 66,081 civilians. The pilots in the video that showed the helicopter attack on unarmed civilians in Baghdad that left nine dead, including two Reuters journalists, would be court-martialed.”
The Nature of Reality
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I once went to a symposium in New York City that featured physicist David Bohm, neuroscientist Karl Pribram, and eastern mystic Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan. They each gave a talk about the nature of reality.
The talk that most excited me was David Bohm’s. His idea was that everything we see and experience “out here” is what he called the “explicate order.” That is, the world we are familiar with unfolds from an unseen place he called the “implicate order,” which is a world behind the world, from which time, space, matter, and all that they form, emanates.
I liked that idea—that there is some kind of matrix of energy and meaning out of which our physical world flows, or unfolds.
Pribram’s idea was that it all happens in our minds. That reality is like a huge soup from which our brains/minds construct our human version of reality. And that, a fox, for instance, would perceive other ideas and pieces of reality from this soup to construct the world that makes sense to a fox, so it can make its way in its own world. And so with all creatures.
Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan was a Sufi master, He taught in the tradition of Universal Sufism, which views all religions as rays of light from the same sun. I believed that, too. The light that illumines the minds of the world’s creatures is one and the same. It turns on the fox, it turns on the hawk, it turns on the human being as it shines into the soup of implicate reality, from which each creature draws meaning and interprets the world.
Quantum mechanics tells us that the soup of reality is fundamentally energy probabilities—Bohm’s implicate order–and that it is only when we look at the soup that the probabilities turn into what we think of as reality—Bohm’s explicate order. Another way of looking at this is that the world we perceive is a very detailed hologram constructed by our minds from the energy probabilities. That’s why light operates as a wave until you try to measure its position, whereupon it turns into—or more precisely, acts like—particles. And light really does that, as many physicists have shown over and over.
So what’s that have to do with organic food? I don’t know precisely, except that the nature we see around us is our human reality, and that a system like organic agriculture that tries to follow nature is producing food that in some sense is more real than the product of conventional agriculture. It certainly is less harmful, tastes better, and is more nutritious.
APPLE GROWN IN 12TH CENTURY UNTIL TODAY IS HEALTHIEST FOR US
Researchers claim that the Pendragon apple, which has been grown in England since the 12th century, contains higher levels of plant chemicals linked to health benefits–including reducing inflammation and lowering blood sugar–than other varieties, according to Kate Devlin, writing in The Telegraph, UK.
The apple came out on top in a test of 12 organic and three conventionally grown apples, beating rivals such as Golden Delicious, Royal Gala, and Cox Orange Pippin. “Of all the organic varieties, Pendragon was the best apple variety and contained seven of the eight kinds of healthy components at the highest levels,” said pharmacist Michael Wakeman, who led the study and presented his findings to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s annual conference in Manchester.
“In contrast, the non-organic apples consistently had low levels … in both the flesh and the peel,” said Wakeman.
SWAT TEAM RAIDS ORGANIC FARM, BAGS BERRIES AND OKRA
A small organic farm in Arlington, TX, was the target of a massive police action that included aerial surveillance, a SWAT raid, and a 10-hour search, according to Radley Balco, writing in The Huffington Post.
Members of the local police raiding party had a search warrant for marijuana plants, which they failed to find at the Garden of Eden farm. But farm owners and residents who live on the property told a Dallas-Ft. Worth NBC station that the real reason for the law enforcement exercise appears to have been code enforcement.
The police seized “17 blackberry bushes, 15 okra plants, 14 tomatillo plants … native grasses and sunflowers,” after holding residents inside at gunpoint for at least a half-hour, property owner Shellie Smith said in a statement. The raid lasted about 10 hours.
The city of Arlington said in a statement that the code citations were issued to the farm following complaints by neighbors, who were “concerned that the conditions at the farm interfere with the useful enjoyment of their properties and are detrimental to property values and community appearance.”
The raid on the Garden of Eden farm appears to be the latest example of police departments using SWAT teams and paramilitary tactics to enforce less serious crimes. Police in St. Louis County, MO, brought out the SWAT team to serve an administrative warrant. The police report explained that all felony warrants are served by a SWAT team, regardless whether the crime being alleged involves violence.
In recent years, SWAT teams have been called out to perform regulatory alcohol inspections at a bar in Manassas Park, VA; to raid bars for suspected underage drinking in New Haven, CT; to perform license inspections at barbershops in Orlando, FL, and to raid a gay bar in Atlanta where police suspected customers and employees were having public sex. A federal investigation later found that Atlanta police had made up the allegations of public sex.
Radley Balko is a senior writer and investigative reporter for The Huffington Post. He is the author of the new book, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces.
VIDEO OF LAME CATTLE PUTS DRUG IN SPOTLIGHT
At a beef industry conference in Denver recently, the animal health auditor for meat producer JBS USA presented a video showing short clips of cows struggling to walk and displaying other signs of distress, the Reuters news service reports. The animals appeared to step gingerly, as if on hot metal, and showed signs of lameness, according to four people who saw the video.
The people in attendance said the video was presented by Dr. Lily Edwards-Callaway, the head of animal welfare at JBS USA, as part of a panel discussion on the pros and cons of using additives fed to cattle in the weeks before slaughter to add up to 30 pounds to bodyweight and reduce fat content in the meat.
The video was shown on the same day the nation’s largest meat producer, Tyson Foods Inc, declared it would no longer accept cattle that had been fed the most popular brand of the feed additive, called Zilmax, a powerful and fast-selling product from pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. Tyson, in a letter to its cattle suppliers, said the decision resulted not from food-safety questions but its concerns over the behavior of animals that animal health experts said could be connected to the use of Zilmax.
COPS AND CORPORATE FRIENDS INFILTRATE ECO-ACTION CAMP
After a week of careful planning, environmentalists attending a tar sands resistance action camp in Oklahoma thought they had the element of surprise, but they would soon learn that their moves were being closely watched by law enforcement officials and by Trans-Canada, the very company they were targeting, according to Adam Federman, writing in EcoWatch.
On the morning of March 22, activists had planned to block the gates at the company’s strategic oil reserves in Cushing, OK, as part of the larger protest movement against TransCanada’s tar sands pipeline. But when they showed up in the early morning hours and began unloading equipment from their vehicles, they were confronted by police officers. Stefan Warner, an organizer with Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, says some of the vehicles en route to the protest site were pulled over even before they had reached Cushing. He estimates that roughly 50 people would have participated. The act of nonviolent civil disobedience, weeks in the planning, was called off.
“For a small sleepy Oklahoma town to be saturated with police officers on a pre-dawn weekday leaves only one reasonable conclusion,” says Ron Seifert, an organizer with an affiliated group called Tar Sands Blockade. “They were there on purpose, expecting something to happen.”
Seifert is exactly right. According to documents obtained by Earth Island Journal, investigators from the Bryan County Sherriff’s Department had been spying on a Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance training camp that took place from March 18 to March 22 and which brought together local landowners, indigenous communities, and environmental groups opposed to the pipeline. Not only that, but the environmental groups had been infiltrated by local police and Trans-Canada security forces.
Jeff’s comment on this: I would bet they were tipped off by info from the NSA, which we now know has been collecting all our private data and sharing it with police across America, in direct contravention of the Constitution of the United States. It was settled many years ago by Supreme Court Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis Brandeis that such actions are called “prior restraint,” and are disallowed by the Constitution.
WORSE THAN THE MONSANTO PROTECTION ACT?
If you thought the Monsanto Protection Act was bad, the secret trade deals called the TPP and TAFTA are a global nightmare, according to Food Democracy Now.
Right now two secret trade agreements, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), also called the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), are being negotiated behind closed doors.
Sound familiar? Earlier this spring, “The Monsanto Protection Act” was negotiated in secret and now Monsanto and the biotech industry are at it again.
Just as we’re on the verge of winning GMO labeling in the U.S. and countries across the planet are rejecting GMO crops, these new global trade agreements could eliminate the ability of countries to label GMOs or impose common sense regulations on the sale of genetically engineered seed and food within their own countries.
Without your help, these trade agreements could open the floodgates to potentially harmful and untested GMOs all over the world. This could undermine the recent labeling victories in Connecticut and Maine.
According to a recent op-ed in The New York Times, the TPP would set new rules for everything “from food safety and financial markets to medicine prices and Internet freedom.” Even after 17 rounds of negotiations, the level of secrecy regarding the draft proposals of the TPP has been called “unprecedented.”
Right now, Monsanto and more than 600 other multinational corporations and industry front groups are working hand in glove with the Obama administration to draft secret global trade agreements that will undermine the democratic rule of law and place our legal protections in the hands of shady corporate lobbyists.
Even worse, a biotech and pesticide industry lobbyist that once represented Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, and other biotech giants is working as the Chief Agricultural Negotiator for the U.S. government.
If ratified, the TPP would impose punishing restrictions on local democracy, giving multinational corporations like Monsanto and the biotech industry the unprecedented right to demand taxpayer compensation for policies that corporations deem a barrier to their profits– like GMO labeling and bans on these crops at the national, state, or local level.
Tell Congress and President Obama that it’s outrageous to negotiate secret trade agreements behind closed doors. Stop the TPP and TAFTA–the global Monsanto Protection Act on steroids! Every voice counts!
LAFORET WINES FOR SUMMER
Here’s a tip about some pleasant summery wines from Joseph Drouhin under the Laforet label that will complement your organic garden produce. They are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir sourced from several appellations around Burgundy, France, and sold here in the United States for between $9 and $10 a bottle. The wines are fresh-tasting, clean, with a pleasant acidity, making them fine with casual food. And the prices are hard to beat for such good quality.
IF NOT YOU, WHOLE FOODS, WHO?
Will the supposed champions of consumers’ right to know, the Organic and “Natural” Elite, please stand up and be counted? That’s the question Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association wants answered.
Will the wealthy corporate giants of the organic food, “natural” products, and vitamin supplements industries–Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, UNFI (United Natural Foods), Stonyfield Farm, Hain Celestial, White Wave, Horizon Organic, Ben and Jerry’s, and their trade associations, the Organic Trade Association and the Natural Products Association, put their money where their mouths are?
Two and a half years after coming under fire for trying to arrange a back-door deal with Monsanto and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow for the “peaceful coexistence” of genetically engineered (GE) and organic food, and one year after sitting on their hands while Big Food and Big Biotech dumped $46 million into defeating a popular California Ballot Initiative that would have required mandatory labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and outlawed the routine industry practice of fraudulently labeling GMO-tainted foods as “natural,” the majority of the Organic and Natural Elite are “missing in action” once again, even as the decisive November 5 Washington State Ballot Initiative (I-522) to label GMO-containing foods draws near.
A dozen or so organic companies, retail stores, consumer organizations, and supplements manufacturers, including Dr. Bronner’s, Organic Consumers Association Fund, Mercola.com, Nature’s Path, Presence Marketing, PCC Markets, Center for Food Safety, and Food Democracy Now, have made significant contributions to the Yes on I-522 campaign. Yet the bulk of the industry, as well as major labor, environmental, and “progressive” groups, are still throwing in what amounts to pocket change, or nothing at all.
As the evermore frantic apologists for genetic engineering and junk food have recently pointed out in closed-door meetings arranged by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), a state GE labeling law passing in Washington, on top of the laws already passed in Connecticut and Maine, will likely mark the beginning of the end of genetically engineered foods and beverages in North America.
Just as in Europe, where GE foods must be labeled, once labels for “Frankenfoods” are in place, consumers will not buy them and grocery stores and product manufacturers will not sell them. So farmers will gradually stop growing them.
So Long America, It’s Been Good to Know Ya
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Remember when all those Tea Party guys entered the House of Representatives in Washington after the 2010 mid-term elections and they read the entire Constitution of the United States out loud? I thought at the time they were just wrapping themselves in the American flag and grandstanding. Little did I know what they were really doing. They were saying goodbye to the Constitution.
Despite the President’s recent assurances that there’s no spying of American citizens going on, and certainly no peeks into the content of Americans’ communications, we now know the NSA collects voluminous data on Americans’ communications and whereabouts, including content, and funnels select information to the military, to the Drug Enforcement Agency, to the Internal Revenue Service, to state and local police, and to many other governmental agencies–and who knows who else?—all secretly, illegally, and most importantly, unconstitutionally. Why do you think the cops knew every move of the Occupy Wall Street movement a couple of years ago? Paranoia? No—more like the Prism.
When the NSA uses its Prism software to target someone, it doesn’t just target that individual. It makes a pyramid with the target person at the top. On the next level down are close friends and relatives, people they communicate with, business contacts, Facebook friends, internet acquaintances, Google contacts, people they phone and who phone them. On the next level down are all the similar connections between the people on the second level, and below that are the connections between all the third level people.
The result is a pyramid of who-knows-who, and woe betide if there are suspicious names in that pyramid, even if the target person doesn’t know them. Kind of looks like a prism, hence the name. And just for laughs, one of the software vendors for this kind of government spying is an outfit called Palantir, which, you may remember, is the name of Sauron’s “seeing stones” in The Lord of the Rings that allowed the evil lord to see into enemy territory. How apt.
And now this, reported by Glenn Greenwald, writing in the Guardian (UK):
“A Texas-based encrypted email service named Lavabit that was used by Edward Snowden has announced that it is shutting itself down in order to avoid complying with what it perceives as unjust secret U.S. court orders to provide government access to its users’ content. ‘After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations,’ the company’s founder, Ladar Levinson, wrote in a statement to users posted on the front page of its website. He said the U.S. directive forced on his company ‘a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit.’ He chose the latter.”
Yes, Levinson deserves the praise of every American for refusing to become complicit in crimes against the American people. And so does Edward Snowdon, the whistleblower who the government wants tried for espionage for revealing that the government is spying on everyone. And so does Bradley Manning, who revealed the murder of innocent people in Baghdad by a U.S. helicopter crew and will soon be sentenced to a long prison term for his efforts.
It all makes Dick Nixon’s break-in of Democratic headquarters at Watergate seem like small potatoes, doesn’t it? And Nixon had to resign. It goes well beyond Joe McCarthy’s alcoholic rants against Communists in the State Department and the military. After all, he was just one rogue Senator. This modern secret, shadow government, that’s like a Big Brother to us all, involves the whole governmental infrastructure and all three branches of government.
I do hope that we, as Americans, can find our way out of this mess before it’s too late, for the direction we’re now going leads to fascism. Just ask anyone who’s lived in a country with an intimidated press, secret police, secret courts, and a free pass to torture and kill people. Which is what modern America has become.
We have the tool to extricate ourselves. It’s called the ballot box, and if we as citizens do our due diligence, we will vet candidates for office and only vote for those who say plainly and loudly how they will end this slide into the pit. Similarly, we should be thinking about impeachment of those public servants who have broken their oath to preserve and protect the Constitution. The Constitution says such people can be impeached if convicted of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” An everyday sex act was enough to get Bill Clinton impeached—although thankfully not convicted. Setting up a secret shadow government that violates the First, Fourth, Eighth, and possibly other amendments in the Bill of Rights as it spies on Americans should easily qualify for impeachment and conviction of those elected officials who have violated their oath of office.
Some day, when this nightmare is over and the government is again functioning by, for, and of the people, it’s possible to envision an America that stands for honesty and friendship in the world. Instead of governmental-corporate collusion leading to the abuses of the Monsantos of the world, our Department of Agriculture might again stand for helping real farmers, not corporate behemoths, and support the practice of an ethical agriculture: organic agriculture. Maybe then the EPA will actually protect the environment instead of the abuses of corporations the way it did when it raised the level of glyphosate allowed in our food supply. Perhaps the FDA will again protect our food, the SEC will make sure investors aren’t being cheated by big Wall Street investment banks, and that huge banks are broken up and again function as safe depositories of our wealth.
Maybe then our government will stop violating the law.
STRONG SUPPORT FOR LABELING GMO FOODS
Ever wonder why so many people buy the corporate line that GMO foods are no different and just as safe as non-GMO foods? One reason is that supposedly honest publications like The New York Times repeat the lies with a straight face. Take, for instance, Allison Kopicki’s article in the July 24, 2013, Science Section. Here’s what she wrote:
“Americans overwhelmingly support labeling foods that have been genetically modified or engineered, according to a New York Times poll conducted this year, with 93 percent of respondents saying that foods containing such ingredients should be identified.
“Thirty-seven percent of those worried about G.M.O.’s said they feared that such foods cause cancer or allergies, although scientific studies continue to show that there is no added risk.”
Really, Allison? Scientific studies continue to show that there is no added risk? Did you do any research on that? What do they teach you in Journalism school these days? Had you done some basic research, you’d have found plenty of scientific studies—not done by Monsanto or its pals—that show otherwise.
Here—I’ll help you. Just paste this in your browser and then do a little follow-up:
FUKUSHIMA IS HERE!
The organic tribe are the people who want to eat clean food, protect the environment, and ban toxic agricultural chemicals from farms and the food supply. And that includes the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, right now the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant on the east coast of Japan is dumping 300 tons of highly radioactive water into the Pacific every day—and has been doing so for about 18 months. Of course, the Pacific is big and will dilute that radiation, but strong ocean currents—especially the Japan current that takes water up to the Aleutian Islands and then down the west coast of North America, is moving that radiation closer to us. Want to see the extent of the poisoning of the Pacific with radioactive cesium after 10 years? Check this out:
THE SUPERIOR NUTRITION IN ORGANIC FOOD
While it’s generally agreed in the natural health arena that organically produced fare is superior in safety compared to crops that utilize GMOs or chemical pesticides, the fact that it’s more nutritious might be overlooked by consumers, says Carolanne (www.Thrive-Living.net), reporting in Natural News.
Conventional growers insist there isn’t a substantial difference between the two, yet several studies have found otherwise she says. In the battle between conventional versus organic, research has shown the latter to be the victor with higher levels of vitamins and minerals as well as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-3 fats.
After reviewing 41 published studies examining the nutritional content of conventional and organically grown crops, certified nutrition specialist Virginia Worthington discovered organic food rated significantly higher. Findings include greater levels of vitamin C (27 percent), iron (21.1 percent), magnesium (29.3 percent) and phosphorus (13.6 percent). She also notes that organic crops had lower nitrates and heavy metal contamination. Worthington’s results can be found in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
Likewise, a study led by Alyson Mitchell at the University of California-Davis found free radical scavenging flavonoids were notably higher in organic tomatoes. Over the course of 10 years, organically produced tomatoes were compared to their conventional counterpart. The organic fruit was shown to contain between 79 and 97 percent more flavonoid, aglycones, quercetin and kaempferol than conventionally grown tomatoes.
A study in the Journal of Dairy Research investigated the chemical composition of milk sourced from conventional and organic dairy sheep and goats in Greece. One hundred and sixty two milk samples were taken over three months. Results showed fat content was lower in the organic milk compared to conventional. Additionally, the researchers discovered:
“Milk from organic sheep had higher content of essential fatty acids in MUFA, PUFA, alpha-LNA, cis-9, trans-11 CLA, and omega-3 FA, whereas in milk from organic goats alpha-LNA and omega-3 FA content was higher than that in conventional milk. These differences are, mainly, attributed to different feeding practices used by the two production systems.”
According to the study, organic milk has a greater nutritional value (due to its fatty acid profile) compared to conventional milk when “produced under the farming conditions practiced in Greece.”
Similar results were found with cow’s milk. A team of researchers at the Institute of Food Science and Nutrition in Piacenza, Italy, evaluated the fat composition of organic bulk milk as well as conventional. Once again, organically produced milk had higher levels of CLA. “The animal diet appears to be the factor which has the highest effect on the CLA concentration in milk and milk products and an organic diet based on fresh or dried forage, that is rich in CLA precursory fatty acids, may improve the yield of fatty acids with beneficial effects on health.”
MONSANTO AND FRIENDS CLEVERLY PRETEND TO CARE
Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at the Center for Food Safety at Eco-Watch, has responded to a new public relations blitz from the agrichemical industry. The promotional campaign includes a one-sided website sponsored by Dow, Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, DuPont and the Council for Biotechnology Information.
Earlier this year, the Center for Food Safety published a report revealing how big food and agricultural corporations hide behind benign-sounding organizations and use these groups to tout misleading information about chemicals and new food technologies.
“Polls consistently show that consumers don’t want products tainted with poisons and they don’t want genetically modified foods. Instead of responding to concerns about the safety of these products, the industry has created a charade of transparency on their new website, innocuously named ‘GMO Answers,’ said Kimbrell. “A staunchly biotech industry funded website, it masks any real transparency on the issue of GMO while attempting to pacify information-hungry consumers.”
“Whenever their products are scrutinized and called into question, the agrichemical industry consistently turns to bigger and better PR rather than addressing the real issues at hand. The American people won’t be fooled by a website or a PR campaign,” said Kimbrell.
ANOTHER WHISTLEBLOWER REAPS THE WHIRLWIND
USDA inspector Tammy Schrier has launched a fast-growing campaign on Change.org in response to what she calls “retaliation” for her husband Jim’s attempts to stop illegal abuse of pigs during an inspection at a Tyson hog facility.
Schrier, a USDA inspector in Columbus Junction, IA, says that her husband Jim, who is also a USDA inspector, was reassigned to a slaughter plant 120 miles away from his family as retaliation for calling out violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. The federal law states that animals killed for food must be “insensible to pain” at the time of slaughter. She started her petition on Change.org asking the USDA’s Food and Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) to bring Jim back home to work.
“It’s intimidating to speak out against the USDA — especially when they’re also my employer,” said Tammy Schrier. “I look at the support from 125,000 people who have signed my petition on Change.org and see the heartfelt comments from the community and other inspectors that really make me optimistic that Jim will be allowed back home soon.”
New signatures on Schrier’s petition are sent via email to Daniel Engeljohn, the deputy administrator of FSIS. In late June, Engeljohn refuted the claims of Jim being punished for acting as a whistleblower. In a recent Kansas City Star cover story, “Animal abuse persists at some slaughter plants,” Engeljohn said there is a “history” to the case and that there is a “broader perspective here, not just the humane handling.”
The thousands of comments left by Jim’s supporters at www.change.org/bringjimhome include Washington, IA, resident Jerry Vonnahme who wrote, “I am a retired USDA Meat Inspector and have worked with Jim for over 20 years. Jim helped train me when I first became an inspector. He is one of the best inspectors that I know.”
Jim Schrier hopes to move out of his hotel room and back home as soon as possible to be with his family upon the arrival of their first born grandchild this fall. He believes his 30 years of USDA experience and support from the community paint a different picture than the USDA is claiming.
“People are commenting on the Change.org petition and talking about how they also saw problems when they worked at this facility or how I’ve encouraged them to do their job with integrity,” said Jim Schrier. “These are Iowans just like Tammy and me who are trying to make sure workers are treated safely and fairly when raising concerns about pigs suffering from broken backbones or slaughtered while conscious.”
Jim and Tammy are currently working with the Government Accountability Project’s Food Integrity Campaign to seek a resolution with the plant’s management and USDA officials, and are hopeful that the petition will help Jim and prevent others from being transferred in the future.
WHERE’S THE PINK SLIME?
Hamburger chef Jamie Oliver has just won a battle against one of the largest fast food chains in the world. After Oliver showed how McDonald’s hamburgers are made, the franchise announced it will change its recipe.
According to Oliver, the fatty parts of beef are “washed” in ammonium hydroxide and used in the filling of the burger. Before this process, the food is deemed unfit for human consumption. “Basically, we’re taking a product that would be sold in the cheapest way for dogs, and after this process, is being given to human beings,” Oliver said. The food industry uses ammonium hydroxide as an anti-microbial agent in meats, which has allowed McDonald’s to use otherwise “inedible meat.”
Besides the low quality of the meat, ammonium hydroxide is harmful to health. Oliver calls it, “the pink slime process.”
“Why would any sensible human being put meat filled with ammonia in the mouths of their children?” Oliver asked. In one of his initiatives, Oliver demonstrates to children how chicken nuggets are made. After selecting the best parts of the chicken, the remains (fat, skin and internal organs) are processed for these fried foods.
Even more disturbing, because ammonium hydroxide is considered part of the “component in a production procedure” by the USDA, consumers aren’t told when the chemical is in their food.
On the official website of McDonald’s, the company claims that their meat is cheap because, while serving many people every day, they are able to buy from their suppliers at a lower price, and offer the best quality products. The company denied that the decision to change the recipe is related to Jamie Oliver’s campaign. On the site, McDonald’s says that they have abandoned the beef filler from its burger patties.
YOUR DAILY DOSE OF POISON—NOW MADE IN CHINA
A number of Chinese companies are hoping to move into the American pesticide market in a big way, according to two experts who track the lucrative industry in both countries, according to Connor Adams Sheets, writing in the International Business Times.
As the government of China, the world’s second-largest economy, looks to enter new industries in hopes of boosting China’s rapidly decelerating economic growth, some of these so-called “ag-chem” firms are already making headway in Western markets.
That shift has led to more than half of the agricultural chemicals used in the United States being made in China, according to Telisport Putsavage, a pesticide industry expert and environmental counsel at the Sullivan & Worcester law firm in Washington, D.C.
In 2010, China’s chemical production output surpassed that of the United States for the first time, and pesticide companies played a key role in driving that growth. And the next step in China’s bid to increase market share of the industry will see Chinese companies attempting to sell their own brands of products in the United States.
“What’s happening, and the evolution we see coming in the future, is that gradually the bigger Chinese producers are going to try to move up the value chain and create their own brand presence here in the U.S.,” Putsavage said. “The larger companies, which are well into the hundreds of millions in revenue, are beginning to explore, and in some cases are actually making moves into the U.S.”
One key sign of this expansion came in 2011, when ChemChina — China’s largest generic ag-chem company with $31.97 billion in annual sales — acquired the world’s largest generic ag-chem producer, Israeli giant Makhteshim Agan Industries, for $2.4 billion. The acquisition, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described at the time as “a big achievement for the economy of Israel,” was an even bigger boon for China, and it illustrates the scope of the international aspirations of the nation’s pesticide producers.
The Makhteshim Agan deal was a major coup not only because it expanded ChemChina’s production capabilities but also because it helps position the Fortune 500 company to enter the American pesticide market.
“Maktheshim Agan has built themselves as the largest supplier of generic ag-chem because of their aggressive marketing and also because of their inroads into the American market, which is very hard to get into. Think of it as getting into a supermarket and getting shelf space,” Leonard Miller, a fellow counsel of Putsavage at Sullivan & Worcester, explained. “With all this stuff that they’re making in China, they’re poised to really come into the U.S. with brand recognition.
And the Chinese government has taken note of the progress, Putsavage says, as it has launched a five-year plan to reduce the number of pesticide plants — of which there are many, owned by a wide range of companies of varying size and market penetration–and create a field of about 20 Chinese ag-chem firms with strong international presence.
Meanwhile, Chinese companies are opening pesticide-producing plants across the United States as the first stage in what Miller describes as “a tide that’s coming” that will revolutionize the American pesticide industry. Currently there are 450 ag-chem production establishments pursuing registrations to come into the United States, only about 15 of which have actually obtained them, Putsavage said. But many of the rest likely won’t be far behind.
One goal for the Chinese companies, Putsavage explained, is to sell directly to farmers rather than be at the mercy of the 12 distributors in the U.S. ag-chem market today. “There is money to be made, and what the Chinese are starting to do is to recognize that and to try to get the extra value that comes from selling into the US market and to the final consumer,” Miller said.
Verjus–The Magic Ingredient
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At the point called veraison, when wine grapes first begin to show a color change as they ripen, they are still low in sugar and high in acid. If they are then harvested, crushed, pressed, and strained, the result is a bright, acidic liquid called verjus (pronounced ver-ZHU), French for “green juice.”
The folks at Kokomo Winery (www.kokomowines.com) in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley make a small amount of this wonderful product each year. You can contact them through their website to buy a bottle. Because verjus isn’t alcoholic, it can be shipped to any state.
Verjus has a neutral flavor, but like lemon juice, has a good strong acidic bite. When you are having a salad and a glass of wine with dinner, vinaigrette salad dressing might be too…well, vinegary, and spoil the flavor of the wine. Verjus won’t do that, but will brighten your salad just as well if not better than vinegar.
It also makes a fine base as a marinade for chicken or shrimp—or even as the sole ingredient of a marinade. Acid makes food mouth-watering, and so a splash on steamed vegetables will brighten their flavor. Mix it with a good, peppery olive oil and brush it on fish before broiling or baking.
It substitutes beautifully for lemon juice or vinegar in any recipe. It can even be made into a sorbet as a palate cleanser between courses of a fine meal.
ORGANIC EGGS? USDA AND FDA REDEFINE THE RULES
Are the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined to keep chickens penned up, and rob consumers of the right to real free-range organic eggs?
It would seem so, according to the Organic Consumers Association.
First, the USDA’s National Organics Program refuses to enforce standards set by the National Organic Standards Board requiring organic farmers to allow their hens access to the outdoors. Responding to complaints that organic farmers were violating the standards, the NOP said the farmers have more “urgent” matters to deal with.
Now, the FDA wants to make it nearly impossible for organic farmers to raise free-range hens. The FDA says it’s risky for organic farmers to let their hens come in contact with wild birds. So the FDA is proposing costly, redundant and onerous so-called food safety measures on organic farmers who let their hens outdoors.
The USDA and the FDA need to hear from us. Eggs from organic free-range hens raised outdoors are more nutritious than eggs from hens kept indoors and raised exclusively on grain. Not to mention how much more the animals suffer from being penned up.
Also from OCA:
Sales of certified organic products are projected to reach approximately $35 billion in 2013, or 4.5 percent of total grocery sales. That number amounts to only half the sales of so-called “natural” products—uncertified foods routinely produced with pesticides, chemical fertilizers, animal drugs, GMOs, and sewage sludge – which are expected to exceed $70 billion in 2013.
Unfortunately many if not most consumers are unclear about the qualitative difference between certified organic and most so-called “natural” products. (While the term “organic” is defined by law, the term “natural” has no legally defined meaning.) If “natural” food products containing GMOs, synthetic chemicals, and chemical residues had to be truthfully labeled, organic sales would likely double within a short period of time.
SUPREME COURT RULES DRUG COMPANIES EXEMPT FROM LAWSUITS
In a 5 to 4 vote, the US Supreme Court has absolved pharmaceutical companies, and over 80 percent of all drugs prescribed in the US, of legal liability for fraud, mislabeling, side effects, and accidental death, according to Christina Sarich, writing in Waking Times.
Karen Bartlett tried to sue Mutual Pharmaceutical Company after taking an anti-inflammatory drug called Sulindac due to a sore shoulder. It was this drug that caused toxic epidermal necrolysis just three weeks after taking the pharmaceutical. Her flesh began to peel off so badly it resembled a third degree burn, and it left her disfigured.
When Bartlett sued in a New Hampshire state court, she won the case and was awarded $21 million in damages. The FDA then went on to force both Mutual and Merck & Co. to include warnings about the side effect on drug labels going forward, but nine years later, after lengthy appeals by the drug companies, the Supreme Court has overturned that ruling. The high court stated as the reason for their verdict that “all generic drugs and their manufacturers are exempt from liability for side effects.”
Reuters news service reported that one critic of the decision, Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group stated, “Today’s court decision provides a disincentive for generic makers of drugs to monitor safety of their products and to make sure that they have a surveillance system in place to detect adverse events that pose a threat to patients.”
And that’s to say the least. What possible explanation can there be for letting pharmaceutical companies off the legal liability hook for possible adverse reactions that aren’t listed on the labels? Oh…that’s right. This is the Roberts Court, the one that opened the floodgates of corporate cash to flow into American politics via the Citizens United verdict.
CONTAMINATED POLLEN CAUSING BEE DIE-OFF, STUDY SUGGESTS
Todd Woody, writing in Quartz online journal, says that in a first-of-its-kind study published in PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a witch’s brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives.
Researchers collected pollen from hives on the east coast whose bees were pollinating cranberry, watermelon and other crops and fed it to healthy bees. The healthy bees then showed a significant decline in their ability to resist infection by a parasite called Nosema ceranae. The pollen was contaminated on average with nine different pesticides and fungicides, although scientists discovered 21 agricultural chemicals in one sample. Scientists identified eight agricultural chemicals associated with increased risk of infection by the parasite.
Most disturbing, bees that ate pollen contaminated with fungicides were three times as likely to be infected by the parasite. Widely used, fungicides had been thought to be harmless for bees as they’re designed to kill fungus, not insects, on crops like apples.
“There’s growing evidence that fungicides may be affecting the bees on their own and I think what it highlights is a need to reassess how we label these agricultural chemicals,” Dennis van Engelsdorp, the study’s lead author, told Quartz.
Labels on pesticides warn farmers not to spray when pollinating bees are in the vicinity but such precautions have not applied to fungicides.
Bee populations are so low in the US that it now takes 60 percent of the country’s surviving colonies just to pollinate one California crop, almonds. And that’s not just a west coast problem—California supplies 80 percent of the world’s almonds, a market worth $4 billion.
“The pesticide issue in itself is much more complex than we have believed,” van Engelsdorp says. “It’s a lot more complicated than just one product, which means of course the solution does not lie in just banning one class of product.”
The study found another complication in efforts to save the bees: US honey bees collected pollen from nearby weeds and wildflowers as well as commercial crops, but that pollen was also contaminated with pesticides even though those plants were not the target of spraying. “It’s not clear whether the pesticides are drifting over to those plants but we need take a new look at agricultural spraying practices,” says van Engelsdorp.
Fungicides and pesticides aren’t applied to crops and nearby weeds by themselves. Of course they drifted onto the weeds. It’s not only “spraying practices” that need to get a new look, but the use of fungicides, pesticides, and herbicides by the millions of tons in so-called modern agriculture that needs to be stopped.
NEW STUDY LINKS GMOS TO LEUKEMIA
A study recently published in the Journal of Hematology & Thromboembolic Diseases underscores the potential leukemogenic properties of the Bt toxin built into the genetic structure of almost all GMO foods that are currently planted on more than 3.9 million acres of crops in the US.
The new study states that the Bt pesticide engineered into crops contributes to health problems including blood abnormalities, hematological malignancies (blood cancers) like leukemia, suppression of bone marrow proliferation, and abnormal lymphocyte patterns.