FDA: Compost Is Yucky
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Evan Halper of the Los Angeles Times recently wrote about Pennsylvania organic farmer Jim Crawford, who was loading crates of freshly picked tomatoes onto trucks heading for an urban farmers market when he noticed a federal agent approaching.
A tense conversation followed as the visitor to his farm—an inspector from the Food and Drug Administration—warned him that some organic-growing techniques he had honed over four decades could soon be outlawed.
“This is my badge. These are the fines. This is what is hanging over your head, and we want you to know that,” Crawford says the official told him.
In a nutshell, the FDA is claiming that compost made from manure and other organic matter can spread disease when used to fertilize organic crops, and so farmers will have to allow their compost to rot for nine months or more. Plus, the FDA is loading organic growers with a whole other set of burdensome rules. All in the name of insuring the safety of our food supply.
This is the same FDA that allows the worst kind of toxic chemicals in our food supply, including the endocrine disruptor glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. So—toxic chemicals okay. Compost not okay. But wait a minute. Composting is a process by which beneficial microorganisms blaze through organic matter with such fury that pathogenic organisms are killed. It’s a way of colonizing decaying manure and plant material with beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms that support a healthy soil. What’s going on?
Well, two things. First, in 2010, after a years-long campaign, food-safety activists persuaded Congress to give the FDA authority to regulate farm practices. “They are going to drive farms out of business,” said Dave Runsten, policy director for Community Alliance with Family Farmers in Davis, California.
The FDA has ample experience breaking up unsafe pharmaceutical factories and food processors but is still finding its way around family farms. At a recent congressional hearing, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) seized on one draft set of rules in which the FDA declared kale is “never consumed raw.”
“I was going to offer to make a kale salad for you,” she said to Michael Taylor, a deputy FDA commissioner. “It causes you to wonder if those who are writing these rules have ever set foot on a farm.”
And that brings us to the second thing that’s going on: Michael Taylor. He’s the former Monsanto executive now in charge of food safety at the FDA, and an indefatigable promoter of GMOs and Monsanto’s burgeoning sales of herbicides that support these genetically engineered crops.
The FDA has backed away from some of its positions, and Taylor points out that thousands of the smallest farms would be exempt from new inspections under an agreement negotiated in Congress. “This is the first time that the FDA will have regulated produce safety on the farm,” he said in an interview. “It is understandable people have concerns and questions,” he added. “We have learned a lot during this last year.” Sounds nice, but Taylor’s actions speak louder than words. He was behind the FDA’s recent decision to allow double to quadruple the amount of glyphosate in the nation’s food supply.
Compost is the source and destiny of all life and the very foundation of health on an organic farm or in an organic garden. The same cannot be said of glyphosate. For the FDA to increase allowable levels of this toxic chemical in food while at the same time impugning compost as a source of sickness and disease exposes the real agenda of the FDA. And that is to give big corporate agriculture all the support it needs while driving organic family farmers out of business.
This has been going on since the FDA attacked J.I. Rodale as a quack at the very beginning of the organic movement in America. It reached crisis level in the 1970s, when corporate agriculture drove so many families off their farms that farmers were driving their tractors to protest rallies in farm state capitals, and some were committing suicide.
The organic community—that’s you—is really all that stands in the way of corporate agriculture’s total domination of the food supply. The good news is that our community is growing larger and stronger every year.
MONSANTO’S ‘SCIENCE’ IS REALLY JUST PROPAGANDA
To hear the pesticide and junk food marketers of the world tell it, anyone who questions the value, legitimacy or safety of GMO crops is naïve, anti-science and irrational to the point of hysteria, according to Katherine Paul and Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association. Their recent essay on this topic is so important, I’m reproducing it here. The following is their essay:
How long can Monsanto ignore the mounting actual scientific evidence that their technology is not only failing to live up to its promises, it’s putting public health at risk?
Jim Goodman, farmer, activist and member of the Organic Consumers Association policy advisory board, recently wrote about Monsanto’s deceptive use of the expression “sound science.”
Simply put, ‘sound science’ always supports the position of industry over people, corporate profit over food safety, the environment and public health.
Here are five new reports and studies, published in the last two months, that blow huge holes in Monsanto’s “sound science” story. Reports of everything from Monsanto’s Roundup causing fatal, chronic kidney disease to how, contrary to industry claims, Roundup persists for years, contaminating soil, air and water. And oh-by-the-way, no, GMO crops will not feed the world, nor have they reduced the use of herbicides and pesticides.
1. Monsanto’s Roundup linked to fatal, chronic kidney disease. Article in Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, February, 2014.
What happens when you mix glyphosate, the key active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, with “hard” water? That is, water that contains metals, such as calcium, magnesium, strontium and iron, either found naturally in the soil, or resulting from the use of chemical fertilizers?
The glyphosate becomes “extremely toxic” to the kidneys.
That’s the theory put forth by researchers trying to uncover the mystery of thousands of deaths from chronic kidney disease among people in farming areas of Sri Lanka, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.
2. Monsanto’s Roundup persists in soil and water. U.S. Geological Survey report in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, February, 2014.
Monsanto has always insisted (despite evidence to the contrary) that its Roundup herbicide is benign, that its toxicity doesn’t persist.
But that’s only half the story, according to a study published this month in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. Researchers now say that if you study only the key active ingredient, glyphosate, you might, as Monsanto claims, determine that Roundup is benign.
But there are other ingredients in Roundup, including one called Aminomethylphosphonic acid, or AMPA. The study, called “Pesticides in Mississippi air and rain: A comparison between 1995 and 2007,” found that glyphosate and its still-toxic byproduct, AMPA, were found in over 75 percent of the air and rain samples tested from Mississippi in 2007.
What does that mean for you? According to one analysis, “if you were breathing in the sampled air you would be inhaling approximately 2.5 nanograms of glyphosate per cubic meter of air. It has been estimated the average adult inhales approximately 388 cubic feet or 11 cubic meters of air per day, which would equal to 27.5 nanograms (billionths of a gram) of glyphosate a day.”
3. GMO crops have led to an increase in use of pesticides and herbicides. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report, February, 2014.
The USDA, which, gauging from its track record has never met a GMO crop it didn’t like, published a report substantiating what responsible, independent scientists have been saying all along. Genetic engineering does not result in increased yields (as industry would have us believe)—but it has led to the increased (not decreased, as industry claims) use of pesticides and herbicides.
To be fair, the report gives overall favorable reviews to GMO crops. Not surprising, given the agency’s cozy relationship with Monsanto. But that makes it all the more telling that the once staunch-defender of GMO crops is now raising questions about industry’s long-term, decidedly unproven and unscientific, claims that biotechnology is the best thing since sliced (GMO wheat) bread.
4. Pesticides are more dangerous than we thought. Article in BioMed Research International, February, 2014.
More bad news on pesticides. A study published in BioMed Research International this month says that it’s not just the toxic chemicals we need to worry about in pesticides. It’s the inert ingredients, and how they interact with the active, toxic ingredients.
Typically, studies conducted to determine the safety of pesticides focus exclusively on the active ingredients. But scientists at the University of Caen tested eight commercial products, including Roundup, and found that nine of them were hundreds of times more toxic than their active ingredient alone.
Which product won the “Most Toxic” award? Monsanto’s Roundup, which was found to be “by far the most toxic of the herbicides and insecticides tested,” according to the study.
5. Small-Scale, organic farming needed to feed the world. U.N. Commission on Trade and Development, December 2013.
In December 2013, the U.N. Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) released the results of a lengthy, in-depth study that blows a huge hole in one of Monsanto’s favorite claims, that we need GMOs to feed the world. The study, entitled, “Wake Up Before it is Too Late,” concluded with this warning: Small-scale organic farming is the only way to feed the world.
According to an analysis by one of the report’s contributors, the report contains in-depth sections on the shift toward more sustainable, resilient agriculture; livestock production and climate change; the importance of research and extension; the role of land use; and the role of reforming global trade rules.
More than 60 experts from around the world contributed to the report.
Clearly the evidence—real, scientific evidence—against GMO crops is mounting, when five new anti-GMO studies and reports surface in a matter of a couple of months.
How much more will it take before the USDA, FDA, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stop supporting an agrochemical industry under attack from the scientific community, and start putting public health before corporate profits?
In December, more than 200 scientists, physicians, and experts from relevant fields, signed a statement declaring that the biotech industry is deceiving the public when it claims that GMOs are safe. There is, the group said, no “scientific consensus” to support industry’s claims that GMOs are safe.
But as new studies surface every day, it’s become increasingly clear that among credible physicians and scientists, the consensus is that we’d better wake up, soon, to the risks and threats posed by a reckless technology that has been allowed to dominate our food and farming systems, unchecked, for far too long.
A STANDING OVATION FOR ‘THE SYMPHONY OF THE SOIL’
“Unfolding with gentle joy and an unexpected beauty, this ode to the miracle of the Earth’s topmost layer gives us a newfound respect for the ground beneath our feet.” –New York Times, Critics Pick
“Symphony of the Soil,” the latest documentary from the director of “The Future of Food,” is now available on DVD.
“Symphony of the Soil” explores the complexity and mystery of soil. Filmed on four continents, the film portrays soil as a protagonist of our planetary story. In a skillful mix of art and science, the film reveals soil for what it really is: a living organism and the foundation of life on earth.
Its creators hope it will inspire people to stop treating soil like, well, dirt. You can watch the trailer by visiting http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5QYZ-LRXW4.
How Organics Respects the Rule of Law
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Those who practice agriculture or horticulture using the organic method are following the rule of law—nature’s law. Her laws are fairly simple, but they are profound, and contravened at our peril. The salient laws can be summarized as follows:
1) Healthy soil is a living organism comprised of myriad microscopic bits of life, miniscule plants, fungi, worms, and a host of other denizens, all functioning together in a working ecosystem. The farmer or gardener’s job is to support and improve this organism by recycling every bit of organic waste material back into the soil through the composting process.
2) There is no place on the farm or garden for manmade toxic chemicals—pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, antibiotics, or hormones. Attempts to control life on the farm or in the garden by killing “bad” creatures only selects for the development of more troublesome pests and diseases. Nature’s law says all life forms are good, all necessary, and all contribute to a healthy ecosystem. Shakespeare said this 400 years ago in Romeo and Juliet, when the Friar remarked, “None so vile that on the earth doth live, but to the earth some special good doth give.”
3) Inserting genes from one genus into another genus, such as is done with genetically modified organisms, is an abomination and a complete contravention of nature’s elaborate system of keeping genus and species apart for very good reasons. No good will ever come of it, but much harm will.
4) Creating a farm or garden of a single crop will only encourage that crop’s predators and parasites to attack it. Rather nature’s law is to create a multiplicity of different crops. In diversity is stability.
5) Possession is nine-tenths of the natural law. If the soil and crops are diverse and part of a healthy ecosystem that thoroughly colonizes its niche, pathogens will still be present, but they will not be able to cause disease because all the trophic niches will be occupied. In other words, they won’t be able to get enough of a toehold to break out into disease.
6) Insects are the censors of nature, the way top-level predators like wolves keep herds of caribou healthy by picking off and devouring the weakest. Insects attack the weakest plants first, helping to insure that only the healthiest plants survive.
7) Following nature’s laws produces a confluence of benefits, many of which are unforeseen. Transgressing nature’s laws produces a perfect storm of problems, most of which are unanticipated.
Now let’s move from agriculture and horticulture to society and the rule of law. In this country, the basic law of the land is the U.S. Constitution, a brilliant document that, through its system of checks and balances, mimics nature’s laws as they operate to create healthy ecosystems, where health is the result of the checks and balances among the creatures that make up the interconnected web of life.
So, what about the rule of law and the primacy of the Constitution in America, 2014. How are we doing?
Well, the Constitution and its Bill of Rights guarantee freedom of speech and of the press. But our federal government is claiming that newspapers like The New York Times, which is reporting on the revelations of the National Security Agency’s documents provided by Edward Snowden, should be prevented from such reporting. I suspect the framers of the Constitution would applaud Edward Snowden.
The Fourth Amendment guarantees that citizens should be safe from government intrusion into their private and personal affairs without probable cause that crimes are being committed, and yet the NSA and other governmental agencies are intruding on our privacy wholesale, in direction contravention of the Constitution.
The Constitution guarantees that no person shall be deprived of life or liberty without due process of law, but the President has now determined that he can order the murder of American citizens by drone attacks without due process of law, in direct contravention of the Constitution. Not only that, he claims the right to direct lethal attacks against citizens of other countries that he declares are terrorists who threaten America, even if the attacks kill innocent civilians, without oversight or acquiescence from Congress. No President should have this power of life and death to use as he alone chooses. Is he any better than any other dictator in this regard?
Those who lie to Congress are supposed to be arraigned as felons, but our security officials lie to Congress without legal action, as James Clapper did when he told Congress that the NSA was not spying on American citizens. Outing a CIA agent is supposed to be a felony, but when Valerie Plame was outed, the culprit wasn’t prosecuted. Two black teenagers were recently murdered in Florida, but neither of their attackers was convicted of murder. Laws are flouted all the time in our lawless society. Children are gunned down by the dozens in schools but Congress will pass no laws to curb gun violence because of gun zealots like Ted Nugent who calls the President a “subhuman mongrel,” and this is a President who, at a State of the Union speech, was yelled at by a member of Congress who shouted, “Liar!”
Wall Street bankers committed all kinds of financial crimes but are not prosecuted. Yet an 84-year-old nun who trespassed at a Tennessee nuclear facility, exposing its security breaches, gets three years in prison. The men who murdered the black teenagers in Florida go free while a woman who fired a warning shot into the ceiling to stop her abusive husband from attacking her gets hard time.
Uh—rule of law? Excuse me? Those who think we are living in a civil society are delusional. It’s time for a change. You see what contravention of the rule of natural law has done to our food supply. The erosion of the Constitution is having the same toxic effect on our society.
PRENATAL PESTICIDE EXPOSURE RESULTS IN LOWER CHILDRENS’ IQS
According to The Organic Center, a study carried out by a team at the Columbia University Center for Children’s Environmental Health focused on children born to a group of 265 mothers living in low-income, public housing. By age seven, children born to mothers in the group with the highest exposute to pesticides scored 5.5 percent lower on a common test of working memory and 2.7 percent lower in terms of IQ, compared to children born to mothers in a low-exposure group. The study suggested that even very low exposures might lead to some reduction in mental abilities.
Another study, carried out by U.C. Berkeley scientists, in cooperation with the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas, measured urinary metabolites of insecticides during pregnancy, and then from children at six months of age, and periodically through age five. A variety of intelligence and learning tests were used to measure the mental abilities of 329 children at age seven. Children born to the most heavily exposed mothers had an IQ deficit of seven points, or about 7 percent, compared to the low exposure quintile.
The senior author of this study, Brenda Eskenazi, told CNN.com that the impacts on intelligence found in their study were similar in magnitude to the adverse impacts associated with high lead exposures, in the 1960s and 1970s, and were comparable to a child performing six-months behind average in a school population.
The research team also reported that about 25 percent of pregnant women in the general U.S. population are exposed to organophosphate insecticides at levels comparable to the average Latino farm women included in this study.
A third study was carried out at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and measured prenatal organophosphate pesticide metabolite levels in urine and blood samples from 404 pregnant women. The babies of about 30 percent of the women in the study were at higher risk following exposures to OP insecticides.
These children suffered a 4 point decline in one measure of mental function.
Dr. Phil Landrigan, Director of the Mt. Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center called the findings of the three studies “shocking” in a New York Times health blog (Tara Parker-Pope, April 21, 2011). He went on to say –
“Babies exposed to the highest levels [of OPs] had the most severe effects. It means these children are going to have problems as they go through life.”
“When we took lead out of gasoline, we reduced lead poisoning by 90 percent, and we raised the I.Q. of a whole generation of children four or five points. I think these findings about pesticides should generate similar controversy, but I’m cautiously optimistic that they will have the effect of having the EPA sharply reduce the use of organophosphate pesticides.”
Not to be cynical, Dr. Landrigan, but don’t hold your breath.
POLAND BANS PLANTING OF MONSANTO’S GMO CORN
Following the anti-Monsanto activism launched by nations like France and Hungary, Poland has announced that it will launch a complete ban on growing Monsanto’s genetically modified strain of corn.
The announcement, made by Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki, sets yet another international standard against Monsanto’s genetically modified creations. In addition to being linked to a plethora health ailments, Sawicki says that the pollen originating from this GM strain may actually be devastating the already dwindling bee population.
“The decree is in the works. It introduces a complete ban on this strain of maize in Poland,” Sawicki stated to the press.
Similar opposition to Monsanto occurred on March 9th, when seven European countries blocked a proposal by the Danish EU presidency to permit the cultivation of genetically modified plants on the entire continent. France lead the charge against GMOs by asking the European Commission to suspend authorization of Monsanto’s genetically modified corn. What’s more, the country settled a landmark case in favor of the people over Monsanto, finding the biotech giant guilty of chemical poisoning.
In a ruling given by a court in Lyon (southeast France), grain grower Paul Francois stated that Monsanto failed to provide proper warnings on the Lasso weed killer product label which resulted in neurological problems such as memory loss and headaches. The court ordered an expert opinion to determine the sum of the damages, and to verify the link between Lasso and the reported illnesses. The result was a guilty charge, paving the way for further legal action on behalf of injured farmers.
Since 1996, the agricultural branch of the French social security system has gathered about 200 alerts per year regarding sickness related to pesticides.
Nations are continually taking a stand against Monsanto, with nations like Hungary destroying 1000 acres of GM maize and India slamming Monsanto with “‘bio-piracy” charges.
Guess Who Owns Organic?
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In 1995 there were 81 independent organic processing companies in the United States, according to The Cornucopia Institute. A decade later, Big Food had gobbled up all but 15 of them, and the trend continues today.
Corporate consolidation of the food system has been largely hidden from consumers. That’s changing, thanks to tools such as Philip H. Howard’s widely circulated, “Who Owns Organic?” infographic. The chart provides a snapshot of the structure of the organic industry, showing the acquisitions and alliances of the top 100 food processors in North America. The chart empowers consumers to see at a glance which companies dominate the organic marketplace.
Dr. Howard released an update of the chart on February 13. It is posted prominently on the right-hand margin at www.cornucopia.org, or you can see it by visiting http://www.cornucopia.org/wp-content/uploads/2006/12/Updated-Organic2014.pdf.
The chart shows that many iconic organic brands are owned by the titans of junk food, processed food, and sugary beverages—the same corporations that spent millions to defeat GMO labeling initiatives in California and Washington. General Mills (which owns Muir Glen, Cascadian Farm, and LaraBar), Coca-Cola (Honest Tea, Odwalla), J.M. Smucker (R.W. Knudsen, Santa Cruz Organic), and many other corporate owners of organic brands contributed big bucks to deny citizens’ right to know what is in their food.
I contacted Dr. Howard and asked him how he thought this massive consolidation and co-option of organic food producers by Big Ag and Big Food is affecting the organic industry’s integrity. Does the USDA Organic seal still convey a guarantee that these foods are truly organic? He replied:
“Perhaps the most common response after big food takes over an organic brand is to reduce the commitment to certified organic, and sell more products that are ‘natural,’ since people don’t always read the labels carefully. Certifiers I’ve talked to have more confidence in CCOF and Oregon Tilth than QAI, but technically they are all supposed to follow the same USDA standards. They’re pretty confident in certified foods from the US and Latin America, but skeptical of organic foods from China,” he wrote in an email.
He also mentioned the fact that The Cornucopia Institute has revealed that the big corporate food companies that now own most of the organic producers have packed the National Organic Standards board with people friendly to them and have worked to weaken organic standards in order to increase profits. In a glaring example, WhiteWave Foods, a division of the dairy giant Dean Foods, announced that it has introduced non-organic grocery products under its Horizon label. Horizon Organic, primarily marketing dairy products, is the largest organic label in the marketplace and, up until the third quarter of 2013, was selling exclusively organic products. So—don’t be fooled. Avoid Horizon products, even if they purport to be organic, because their integrity is eroding fast.
“Consumers who want food companies that embody more of the original organic ideals,” he wrote, “would do well to seek out products from independent organic firms. Given the very uneven playing field they are competing on, independent organic processors are unlikely to survive without such support.”
Tools such as Howard’s infographic and The Cornucopia Institute’s scorecards rating organic brands of dairy, eggs, soy foods and breakfast cereals empower consumers to make those choices. The updated chart and scorecards are available for download at www.cornucopia.org.
MONSANTO ACTS MORE THUGGISH BY THE DAY
The following is excerpted from Dr. Joseph Mercola’s website:
At a January, 2014, Monsanto shareholders’ meeting, two rather disturbing trends took place (though, admittedly, neither was entirely surprising).
First, it was readily apparent that the company has no intention of taking steps to label genetically modified (GM) foods, and any such proposals by shareholders do not stand a chance of being voted through.
Second, Monsanto’s power doesn’t end outside of their boardroom. At least two dozen on-duty police were on hand to “control” the 30-40 peaceful protestors in favor of mandatory GMO labeling. Police dressed in military fatigue uniforms were on hand at the shareholder meeting displaying their power, or rather Monsanto’s. In all, 10 protestors were arrested, including a woman in her 60s who was pulled over for holding a sign out her car window and arrested for “impeding traffic.”
Taxpayers aren’t only footing the bill for Monsanto’s police force outside of their shareholder meetings. A report by Food & Water Watch has also revealed that taxpayer-funded U.S. State Department officials have actively promoted the commercialization of biotech seeds, even going so far as to facilitate negotiations between foreign governments and Monsanto. The report, which included a review of nearly 1,000 diplomatic cables (released by WikiLeaks in 2010) of correspondence between the State Department and embassies in more than 100 countries, details how the State Department promotes the genetically modified seed industry’s global agenda.
The European Union (EU) has historically taken a strict, cautious stance regarding GM crops, much to the chagrin of Monsanto. US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks showed the US government conspired to find ways to retaliate against Europe for refusing to use GM seeds, mainly by engaging in aggressive trade wars against reluctant nations.
$3 MILLION TO STUDY IMPACT OF CHEMICALS ON BRAIN DEVELOPMENT
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced over $3 million in grants to research institutions to better understand how chemicals interact with biological processes and how these interactions may lead to altered brain development.
The studies are focused on improving EPA’s ability to predict the potential health effects of chemical exposures. The University of California, Davis (UC Davis) is one of the four grantees to receive $800,000 to conduct research on developmental neurotoxicity.
“This research will transform our understanding of how exposure to chemicals during sensitive life stages affects the development of the brain,” said Lek Kadeli, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “By better predicting whether chemicals have the potential to impact health and human development, these grants will not only advance the science necessary to improve chemical safety but protect the well being and futures of children in this nation.”
UC Davis will conduct research to demonstrate how the thyroid hormone (TH), which is responsible for neurodevelopment, is affected by toxic chemicals. Research will also provide insight into which parts of the neurodevelopment systems are susceptible to disruption, and improve assessments used to show impact to human health.
In addition to UC Davis, other recipients include: North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C., The University of Georgia in Athens, Ga., and the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif.
Is ‘Science’ Just Corporate Lies?
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In the February 10th issue of The New Yorker, Rachel Aviv has written a piece of investigative journalism about a tenured, full professor at the University of California, Berkeley, whose epidemiological work revealed that atrazine, an herbicide manufactured by Syngenta Corporation that’s the second most popular herbicide in the world after Monsanto’s Roundup, causes sexual organ deformities and serious gender abnormalities in amphibians. His work contributes to current research that finds elevated levels of sexual deformities in human babies of mothers who live in areas where atrazine contaminates the drinking water.
Despite Dr. Hayes’s careful science, and the work of other respected scientists, the Environmental Protection Agency keeps approving the chemical’s use, basing its approval on studies paid for by—who else?—Syngenta. Reminds one of the EPA’s continual approval of Monsanto’s Roundup glyphosate herbicide, doesn’t it? Well, Syngenta’s co-opting of the EPA is the carrot in the company’s carrot-and-stick approach to dealing with Dr. Hayes, according to The New Yorker article.
The stick is Syngenta’s campaign to discredit Dr. Hayes, his work, his wife, his background, and to destroy his reputation as a scientist. The article points out that there are whole companies of so-called scientists devoted to discrediting scientific work that threatens the corporate profits of agricultural chemical companies, among other facets of Big Food. I encourage you to read the article, entitled, “A Valuable Reputation.”
Now for some examples. In its February 2, 2014, edition, The New York Times published the following op-ed piece, entitled, “We Need GMO Wheat.” It was written by Jason Lusk, a professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State, and the author of “Why You Shouldn’t Buy Organic,” that ran in the Huffington Post on April 18, 2013; the op-ed piece in the Times was co-authored by Henry I. Miller, a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institute, a conservative think tank, and the author of a book entitled, “The Frankenfood Myth.” Here’s part of what they had to say:
Three crops — corn, soybeans and wheat — account for a vast majority of the value of America’s agricultural crop output. But wheat is different in one important respect. While more than 90 percent of the nation’s corn and soybean acres are now planted with seeds genetically engineered to resist insects, herbicides or both, there is not a single acre of genetically engineered wheat being grown commercially in the United States.
Wheat farmers have suffered as a result, as have consumers of bread and pasta, who have been paying higher prices than they might have because fewer and fewer acres are planted in wheat. Without the benefits of the newer molecular techniques of genetic engineering, the nation’s wheat industry will continue to struggle against other commodities that have adopted biotechnology, and against the drought conditions out West. All of this is happening as the planet’s population increases and global wheat demand expands in response.
Why has wheat lagged behind? One reason is that, back in the mid-1990s, corn and soybean farmers avidly embraced the nascent biotechnology revolution, snatching up new, genetically engineered seed varieties. But wheat farmers balked at the potentially higher prices of these new seeds and feared that anti-genetic engineering views held by some of our trading partners would hurt exports.
Today, it’s easy to see why corn and soybean farmers made the switch. Crop yields have increased and farmers have been able to reduce their use of chemical insecticides and shift to less toxic herbicides to control weeds. They’ve also made more money. Over the same period, the amount of land planted in wheat has dropped by about 20 percent, and although yields have increased, productivity growth has been lower than for the crops genetically engineered with molecular techniques.
Monsanto recently said that it had made significant progress in the development of herbicide-tolerant wheat. It will enable farmers to use more environmentally benign herbicides and could be ready for commercial use in the next few years. But the federal government must first approve it, a process that has become mired in excessive, expensive and unscientific regulation that discriminates against this kind of genetic engineering.
The scientific consensus is that existing genetically engineered crops are as safe as the non-genetically engineered hybrid plants that are a mainstay of our diet. The government should be encouraging and promoting these technologies.
There are so many outright lies in this opinion piece that it’s hard to know where to begin. Suffice it to say that GMO crops do not increase yields—just the opposite. Farmers haven’t been able to reduce their use of chemical insecticides and shift to less toxic herbicides—just the opposite. And government approval is not “excessive, expensive, and unscientific” if approval is based on real science and not “science” paid for by the very corporations government is supposed to be regulating. It’s how a sane society keeps itself safe. Finally, there is no “scientific consensus” that GMO crops are as safe as non-GMO crops.
But rather than going over the duplicitous op-ed piece point by point, let me note the following piece published by CNN from Professor David Schubert of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. He addresses the real facts about GMOs and the need for labeling them.
“Most people like to know what they are eating,” Professor Schubert writes. “However, labeling for genetically modified organisms is not required in any state. This is largely because of the money expended by GM seed producers toward blocking food-labeling laws.
“A common claim made by this group is that GM foods have been proved safe to eat and that there is a global scientific consensus to support this statement; therefore, no labeling is needed. However, an examination of the scientific data, along with discussions on this topic in other countries, show that both claims are blatantly false. What is the evidence that some GM foods are hazardous to human health and that consumers should be able to make a choice based upon this information?
“When GMOs were introduced nearly 20 years ago, there was the promise of crops with increased yields and resistance to flooding and salt. Since then, traditional breeding methods have created commercial varieties with these traits, while genetic engineering has created none. For example, recently published data show that conventional breeding of corn and soy increases yields to a greater extent than GM technologies.
“With the promise of reducing the use of agricultural chemicals, most of the current GM crops are supposedly either insect or herbicide resistant. In reality, GM crops have fostered an epidemic of herbicide resistant weeds and insects that are no longer killed by the built-in toxins.
“The result is a massive increase in herbicide use — an additional 527 million pounds over the past 16 years. The major herbicide, glyphosate, is found inside the GM plants we eat, leading to its detection in people. Future GM crops will likely trigger a greater use of more toxic herbicides such as 2,4-D, a component of the Agent Orange defoliant deployed in Vietnam. In addition to these problems, there is increasing evidence that GM crops and the chemicals required for their production are harmful to humans.
“An Associated Press story in October documented the large increase in cancer and birth defects in commercial farming areas of Argentina since the introduction of GM crops. These data confirm recent animal studies showing that GM corn and the herbicides sprayed on it caused a dramatic increase in cancer in the same strain of rats used in FDA drug safety tests. Another large study showed an increase in severe stomach inflammation in pigs caused by GM feed containing insecticidal toxins, a condition that would likely lead to cancer in humans.
“As a result of these new revelations about GM technology, the industry is making a major public relations effort to promote itself, often falsely claiming that there is a ‘consensus’ among scientists that the technology is safe.
“In reality, there is no evidence that GM food is safe for human consumption, nor is there any consensus on this topic within the scientific community. It is critical for the public to educate itself about the realities of GMOs and not be fooled by the rhetoric from companies that sell it.
“Most of the world has studied this issue and concluded that GMOs are not worth the risk. Passing GM labeling initiatives in states will be the initial demonstration that the public understands what is at stake. At the very least, labeling may help reverse the unsustainable trend in this country towards ever increasing industrial GMO farming.”
The take-away from the New Yorker article about Dr. Hayes, the Times’ op-ed piece flacking for the biotech industry, and Professor Schubert’s piece calling out Messrs. Lusk and Miller is that what we always thought of as science—the unbiased empirical search for the truth—is really two realms today. One realm is science as it should be, done by reputable scientists uncorrupted by money, whose findings are repeatable by unbiased researchers. The other is phony “science,” created in corporate boardrooms as illusion for the public, as scientific Potemkin villages designed to influence public opinion, as PR smoke and mirrors—“truthiness,” as Stephen Colbert called it.
In addition to phony science, the big corporations tend to have a “profit before people” mentality that leads them to discredit real science and destroy the reputations of real scientists who expose problems with their products.
Isn’t this the way the mob operates?
TOXIC CHEMICALS FOUND IN CHILDREN’S CLOTHING
A recent report by Greenpeace detected toxic chemicals in a wide range of children’s’ clothing, The Organic Center reports.
Investigators looked at 82 items of children’s apparel from 25 different countries. Analyses were conducted to detect the presence of nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), phthalates, organotins, per/poly-fluorinated chemicals (PFCs), and antimony. Researchers found traces of all of these chemicals in many of the children’s products examined, which means that clothing may be a significant source of exposure to pollutants for children.
To avoid many toxic chemicals, make sure to look for the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) symbol when you are shopping for children’s clothing. Any chemical inputs in GOTS certified fabrics such as dyes, auxiliaries and process chemicals must be evaluated and meet basic requirements on toxicity and biodegradability. Additionally, printing methods using phthalates and PVC are prohibited under GOTS certification, so it’s the best way to ensure that your clothing is free of toxic chemicals.
ORGANIC SOYBEANS SHOW SUPERIOR NUTRITIVE VALUE
Organic soybeans have a healthier nutritional profile than conventionally grown soybeans, according to a recent article in the journal Food Chemistry. The study compared organic soybean batches from Iowa with genetically modified (GM) soybeans and conventional non-GM soybeans grown in the same state. Researchers found that “organic soybeans showed the healthiest nutritional profile with more sugars, such as glucose, fructose, sucrose and maltose. Organic soybeans also had more total protein and zinc, and contained less total saturated fat and total omega-6 fatty acids than both conventional and GM-soy. Another interesting find of the study was that GM soybeans contained high residues of pesticides, showing 3.3mg/kg of glyphosate and 5.7 mg/kg of AMPA. These contaminants were not found in non-GM soybeans, and support previous research suggesting that the use of GM crops enables higher use rates of some pesticides.
We’ve Got to Do Something about Glyphosate
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According to the well-respected and peer-reviewed scientific journal called Toxicology, a study sponsored in part by the National Institutes of Health concluded that “glyphosate-based herbicides are toxic and endocrine disruptors in human cell lines.”
Let’s unpack this statement. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, Monsanto’s herbicide. Despite Monsanto’s assurances of Roundup’s safety, this study conclusively shows its toxicity. In addition, the chemical is an endocrine disruptor. The endocrine system is the master hormonal system in humans and many animals. Hormones are the molecules that instruct the body’s other systems what to do, when to do it, how to act, and—most importantly—how to develop. To disrupt the endocrine system is to turn a smoothly running system with all communication lines open and functioning into a Tower of Babel.
How serious is this? I urge you to find a copy of a book entitled, “Our Stolen Future,” published by Plume Publishing (an imprint of Penguin), and written by Dr. Theo Colborn, senior scientist at the World Wildlife Fund and a world-recognized expert on endocrine-disrupting chemicals; Dianne Dumanoski, a journalist for the Boston Globe and recipient of the Knight Fellowship in Science Journalism at MIT, and John Peterson Myers, director of the W. Alton Jones Foundation, which supports efforts to protect the global environment. Al Gore wrote the introduction.
Of this book, The New York Review of Books wrote, “Its subject is so important and its story so powerful that it deserves to be read by the widest possible audience…The authors refuse to let the profound implications of their work propel them into intellectual sloppiness or theatrical overkill.” In other words, it’s a fine piece of fact-based journalism about the poisoning of our endocrine systems by agricultural and food processing chemicals.
So glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor. And Monsanto, of course, has created “Roundup Ready” crops that can withstand applications of glyphosate that kill other plants such as weeds. How much glyphosate is being used these days? Well, glyphosate is the word’s best selling herbicide, used on over 150 crops in over 90 countries. Today glyphosate can be found in products like Roundup, Touchdown, Rodeo, and others. Worldwide, over 60,000 TONS of the chemical are spread on crop fields.
But surely the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t allow harmful amounts in our food, right? Wrong.
The EPA recently upped the allowable levels of glyphosate residue in many food crops. Last spring, when the media was focused on the Senate’s passing of the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act,” the EPA, at Monsanto’s bidding, quietly promoted the rule change that doubles allowable glyphosate levels in oilseed crops–sesame, flax, and soybean–from 20 parts per million to 40 ppm. It also raises the permitted glyphosate contamination level for sweet potatoes and carrots from 0.2 ppm to 3.0 ppm for sweet potatoes and 5.0 ppm for carrots–15 and 25 times the previous levels.
Glyphosate is not just another scary thing to be afraid of. It—like genetic modification biotechnology, another Monsanto brainchild—messes with the control panel of life, especially of life developing in the womb that must rely on the correct hormones at the correct levels to develop safely into a healthy human being.
It seems that Monsanto has our federal government in its pocket. The list of revolving door suits switching from Monsanto to the government and back again, with stops in between to haul in some big money by lobbying legislators is quite long. Michael Taylor, formerly Monsanto’s public relations flack, is now Deputy Commissioner for Foods at the Food and Drug Administration, charged with keeping our food supply wholesome and safe. He has worked tirelessly to gut the Delaney Amendment, a 1958 law that says no substance known to cause cancer can be put into the food supply. He has prompted both courts and regulatory commissions to agree with him that if a substance only causes a little cancer, it’s quite all right.
The real problem is Congress, bought and sold by Monsanto. In the coming elections for House and Senate, we should make sure to ask every candidate where he or she stands on the question of the safety of glyphosate and GMO crops. Unless that candidate is firmly against these life-destroying chemicals and lab processes, don’t vote for him. Or her, although it’s hard to see why any woman would want to protect a chemical that interferes with the normal development of babies in the womb.
Glyphosate is everywhere, but it still pays to fight this plague by eating organic. Organic food has been shown to have far less residue of this poison than conventional crops. That’s especially important for women of child-bearing years who either are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.