Lie and Get Time on National TV; Tell the Truth and Go to Jail
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As Iraq began unravelling last week, did you notice who got serious national air time in the mainstream media?
There was Dick Cheney and his daughter telling America just how badly President Obama has mucked up the Iraq situation. There Cheney sits, in his comfy home, while George Bush paints at his cushy ranch (he’s about as good an artist as he was a President), and Don Rumsfeld—well, I don’t know where he is, but I’d guess he’s poolside in this hot weather with a mojito near at hand.
So the architects of America’s illegal and immoral invasion of a sovereign country are all okay and doing fine.
And what about the people who alerted our country to their illegal actions? I’m thinking of Chelsea Manning. She’s serving a 35-year sentence in Federal prison. And Edward Snowden? He’s in exile in Russia because if he came back to this country, he’d join Ms. Manning in a lengthy sentence in the pokey. And Julian Assange, the director of Wikileaks? Hiding out in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, unable to leave; a nice prison, but a prison nevertheless.
These were the people who told the truth about America’s unjustified invasion of Iraq and many other instances of our country’s crimes—like torture, indefinite detention without trial, mass surveillance of everyone, etc.
So the criminals get air time on TV and the folks who blew the whistle on them get sent to prison. But I suppose this shouldn’t be too surprising, since the banksters who almost destroyed our economy with toxic financial instruments they created to fleece the public are still walking free and many are still collecting obscene salaries. And the jerks at Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Nevada who pointed loaded weapons at Federal agents still walk free, except for the few who went on to murder police officers. Oh, and Bundy, who refuses to pay the government a million bucks in grazing fees he chalked up is still at his ranch.
Eric Holder, where are you?
FOOD SAFETY IS INSEPARABLE FROM ORGANIC FARMING
The following is excerpted from a recent post by Ralph Nader in Reader Supported News.
Across the country, consumers are demanding the right to know what is in their food, and [demanding the] labeling of genetically engineered food. It’s a vibrant and diverse coalition: mothers and grandmothers, health libertarians, progressives, foodies, environmentalists, main street conservatives and supporters of free-market economics. Last year, a New York Times poll found that a near-unanimous 93 percent of Americans support such labeling.
This is no surprise. Genetically engineered food has yet to be proven safe. In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) admitted in court that it had reached “”no dispositive scientific findings” about the risks of genetically engineered foods.
There is no scientific consensus about the risks of eating genetically engineered food, according to a statement last year signed by nearly 300 scientists. The scientists agree that “Concerns about risks are well-founded and that a substantial number of animal feeding studies and reviews of such studies…found toxic effects and signs of toxicity in animals fed genetically engineered food, compared with controls. Some of the studies give serious cause for concern,” the scientists write.
For example, a review of nineteen studies on mammals, published in Environmental Sciences Europe, found that the “data appear to indicate liver and kidney problems” arising from diets of genetically engineered food.
According to Consumers Union senior scientist Michael Hansen PhD, the ability of genetically engineered crops to induce allergic reactions is “a major food safety concern.”
When it comes to genetically engineered food, there are questions about risks, but no convincing answers. There is no mandatory pre-market safety testing for genetically engineered food.
These questions of risks and safety have festered for years because the big agrichemical companies use their intellectual property rights to deny independent scientists the ability to test genetically engineered crops, or to report their results. Scientific American called these restrictions on free inquiry “dangerous.” In a number of cases, the magazine reports, “experiments that had the implicit go-ahead from the seed company were later blocked from publication because the results were not flattering.”
When scientists do publish studies adverse to the interests of the big agrichemical companies, they are met with vicious attacks on their credibility, their science and even their personal lives.
Sixty-four nations have already required labeling of genetically engineered food, including the members of the European Union, Australia, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa, even Russia and China.
The food industry is feeling the pressure. Paul Bulcke, CEO of Nestle, the world’s largest food and beverage company, said that “It is not business as usual anymore. Pressure is mounting from all sides and angles.”
Despite the overwhelming popularity of labeling, Congress refused to act, so citizens took up the cause in their own states.
Under heavy corporate lobbying and deceptive TV ads, ballot initiatives for labeling of genetically engineered food were narrowly defeated by 51 percent to 49 percent in both California and Washington State. In May, legislation in the California Senate led 19-16, but failed without the 21 vote majority needed for passage.
Finally, on May 8, in a major victory, Vermont approved the first unconditional statewide labeling law for genetically engineered food. “Vermonters take our food and how it is produced seriously, and we believe we have a right to know what’s in the food we buy,” said Gov. Peter Shumlin.
Since then, the food and agrichemical industries have escalated to a full panic.
On June 13, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and three other trade associations — the heart of the junk food industry — filed a lawsuit in federal court to block the new Vermont labeling law. The good news is that people are rushing to Vermont’s defense, including Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, which will re-name one of its flavors “Food Fight! Fudge Brownie” to help fund a vigorous legal defense of Vermont’s new labeling law.
Elsewhere, industry is spending lavishly against the food movement. In New York State, the Daily News reported that “Trade organizations, farm groups and corporate giants such as Coca-Cola and Kraft have spent millions of dollars on lobbyists and campaign contributions to defeat” labeling of genetically engineered food.
The food industry is quick to scare consumers with the canard that labeling of genetically engineered food will raise food prices. But manufacturers change their labels often, so their claim doesn’t make sense. It has been debunked in an study by Joanna Shepherd Bailey, a professor at Emory University School of Law, who found that “consumers will likely see no increases in prices” as a result of labeling genetically engineered food.
In Congress, U.S. Rep Mike Pompeo (R-KS) introduced a bill at the behest of the Grocery Manufacturers Association–dubbed by its consumer opponents “the Deny Americans the Right-to-Know (DARK) Act”–to block any federal or state action for labeling of genetically engineered food. Sometimes, politics is drearily predictable: Can you guess Rep. Pompeo’s largest campaign contributor? You got it: Koch Industries.
But the shame is fully bipartisan: sleazy Democratic lobbyists like former US Senator Blanche Lincoln and Steve Elmendorf are plying their trade for Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association to keep you from knowing what’s in your food.
Meanwhile, the food disclosure movement is going full speed ahead with ballot initiatives for GMO labeling in Oregon and Colorado, as well as legislative efforts in many other states.
Perhaps most alarming is the corporate control of agriculture in the hands of the world’s largest agrichemical companies — Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Dow, Bayer, and BASF. “The Big 6 chemical and seed companies are working diligently to monopolize the food system at the expense of consumers, farmers and smaller seed companies,” said Philip H. Howard, an associate professor at Michigan State University.
These companies may be meeting their match in the mothers and grandmothers who have powered the movement for labeling of genetically engineered food. Like Pamm Larry, the pioneering grandmother who came up with idea reflected by the California ballot initiative for labeling.
Mothers know that food is love. Certainly, my mother did. She taught me early and often about how important it is to eat healthy food. She even wrote about these values in the book, It Happened in the Kitchen.
I’d like to think that she’d feel right at home with the mothers and grandmothers of today’s food movement. I sure do. In some ways, that’s the point: a movement that makes you feel at home: no wonder it’s so popular.
OBAMA SETS UP TASK FORCE TO PROTECT POLLINATORS
Beyond Pesticides is reporting that during the close of National Pollinator Week, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum on pollinator health to the heads of federal agencies requiring action to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels.” The President is directing agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, and to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy, including a Pollinator Research Action Plan. Beyond Pesticides applauds this announcement and action that recognizes and elevates the plight of pollinators in the U.S.
The memorandum recognizes severe losses in the populations of the nation’s pollinators, including honey bees, wild bees, monarch butterflies and others. In accordance with these losses and acknowledging the importance pollinators have to the agricultural economy, the memorandum directs federal agencies to establish a Pollinator Health Task Force, to be chaired by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), develop a pollinator health strategy within 180 days, and support and create pollinator habitat. This federal strategy will include a pollinator research action plan, with a focus on preventing and recovering from pollinator losses, including studying how various stressors, like pesticides, pathogens and management practices contribute to pollinator losses.
Federal agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and USDA have been slow to respond to pollinator losses and must take immediate action, especially on pesticides known to be toxic to bees and other pollinators.
The President highlights many factors that contribute to pollinator decline; however it is the neonicotinoid class of pesticides that have been receiving the most scrutiny from beekeepers and scientists. These pesticides are not only highly toxic to bees, but studies find that even at low levels neonicotinoids impair foraging ability, navigation, learning behavior and suppress the immune system, making bees more susceptible to pathogens and disease.
While EPA announced that it has released two tools in an effort to protect pollinators–its new Pollinator Risk Assessment Guidance, and new Residual Time to 25 Precent Bee Mortality (RT25 Data)–the agency still falls short of restricting the harmful systemic pesticides that are linked to bee decline, Beyond Pesticides reports.
Though the science very clearly points to neonicotinoids as a main culprit behind bee-deaths, and while successful organically managed systems prove that these pesticides are not necessary, the EPA has yet to take meaningful action to reduce exposure to these harmful chemicals. According to advocates, bee deaths in Oregon last week from the use of a neonicotinoid and mounting scientific evidence require an urgent response that necessitates removing these chemicals from the market. With continued incidents like these, beekeepers and many other concerned groups and citizens continue to urge the EPA to suspend the use of neonicotinoids.
As the EPA continues to stall, Beyond Pesticides, along with other groups are working to BEE Protective. Last year, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, and others filed a lawsuit against the EPA on its continued registration of these chemicals. The groups are also working to pressure on lawmakers in Congress to take action to protect pollinators. H.R. 2692, the Saving America’s Pollinators Act (SAPA), introduced last year by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D- OR), would suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until a full review of scientific evidence and a field study demonstrates no harmful impacts to pollinators. Three new co-sponsors signed on Friday, including Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-CA), bringing the total number of cosponsors to 68. With one in three bites of food reliant on pollinators, it is imperative that solutions be found quickly to protect bees and other pollinators.
STUDY LINKS AUTISM AND ORGANOPHOSPHATE PESTICIDES
The following report is by Lindsey Konkel, writing in Environmental Health News.
Babies whose moms lived within a mile of crops treated with widely used pesticides were more likely to develop autism, according to new research.
The study of 970 children, born in farm-rich areas of Northern California, is part of the largest project to date that is exploring links between autism and environmental exposures.
The University of California, Davis research – which used women’s addresses to determine their proximity to insecticide-treated fields – is the third project to link prenatal insecticide exposures to autism and related disorders.
“The weight of evidence is beginning to suggest that mothers’ exposures during pregnancy may play a role in the development of autism spectrum disorders,” said Kim Harley, associate director of University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health. She was not involved in the new study.
One in every 68 U.S. children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder – a group of neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by difficulties with social interactions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This study does not show that pesticides are likely to cause autism, though it suggests that exposure to farming chemicals during pregnancy is probably not a good thing,” said Dr. Bennett Leventhal, a child psychiatrist at University of California, San Francisco who studies autistic children. He did not participate in the study.
The biggest known contributor to autism risk is having a family member with it. Siblings of a child with autism are 35 times more likely to develop it than those without an autistic brother or sister, according to the National Institutes of Health.
By comparison, in the new study, children with mothers who lived less than one mile from fields treated with organophosphate pesticides during pregnancy were about 60 percent more likely to have autism than children whose mothers did not live close to treated fields. Most of the women lived in the Sacramento Valley. This class of pesticide was developed by the Nazis in the 1940s.
When women in the second trimester lived near fields treated with chlorpyrifos – the most commonly applied organophosphate pesticide – their children were 3.3 times more likely to have autism, according to the study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Chlorpyrifos, once widely used to kill insects in homes and gardens, was banned for residential use in 2001 after it was linked to neurological effects in children. It is still widely used on crops, including nut trees, alfalfa, vegetables and fruits.
“The study also is the first to report a link between pyrethroids and autism. Application of pyrethroids just prior to conception meant an increased risk of 82 percent, and during the third trimester, the risk was 87 percent higher.
That finding is particularly concerning because “pyrethroids were supposed to be better, safer alternatives to organophosphates,” said the study’s senior author, Irva Hertz-Picciotto, an epidemiologist who leads the UC-Davis project to investigate environmental and genetic links to autism.
Use of pyrethroids has increased in recent years, both on farms and in the home, due to bans of other insecticides. Some studies now suggest pyrethroids may carry risks for developing fetuses.
The autism risk that could be attributed to an individual pesticide is likely slight, said Alycia Halladay, senior director for environmental and clinical sciences at the nonprofit Autism Speaks. “We need to understand how multiple exposures interact with each other and with genetics to understand all that is involved in the causes of autism,” she said.
But while the risks reported in the study pale in comparison to some hereditary factors, Hertz-Picciotto said they are comparable to other risks for autism, such as advanced parental age or not taking prenatal vitamins.
“In any child who develops autism, a combination of genetic and environmental factors are at work. There’s an accumulation of insults to the system. What we’re seeing is that pesticides may be one more factor that for some kids may push them over the edge,” she said.
For the study, researchers obtained the women’s addresses and compared them to a state database that provides details about where, when and how often specific commercial pesticides were used. About one-third of the women lived within approximately one mile of pesticide-treated fields.
In 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency required buffers around fields near homes and schools to help reduce exposure to chlorpyrifos.
“Provided that pesticides are applied responsibly and according to federally mandated label instructions, people, including expectant mothers, should not be concerned about exposure to agricultural pesticides,” said Clare Thorpe, senior director of human health policy for CropLife America, which represents pesticide manufacturers.
More than 1.1 million tons of chlorpyrifos were applied to 22,000 California farms in 2012, down from 2 million pounds on 40,000 farms in 2005, according to the database from the state Department of Pesticide Regulation.
Most of the mothers lived near fields treated with several different pesticides over their pregnancies, so it’s difficult to tease apart the potential risk of individual chemicals, said epidemiologist Janie Shelton, the lead study author. Shelton is now a consulting scientist to the United Nations.
The study also reported an increased risk of developmental delays, but not autism, in kids whose moms lived near fields where carbamates, including methomyl and Sevin, were applied.
The researchers said that pesticides could impair brain development and signaling in a way that affects social interactions, learning and behavior.
Previous studies have also linked pesticide use in California to autism spectrum disorders. In 2007, Harley and colleagues found a two-fold increase in pervasive developmental disorders (the larger group to which autism belongs) among 531 children in California’s Salinas Valley whose mothers’ urine had higher levels of organophosphate pesticides. Another study from 2007 found that mothers who lived near fields with the highest applications of two now-banned pesticides – endosulfan and dicofol – were six times more likely to have kids with autism spectrum disorders.
In recent years, rates of autism have been on the rise in the United States. Between 2012 and 2014 alone, rates jumped 30 percent. The increase has largely been attributed to changes in diagnostic criteria for autism.
“Many children that we used to call intellectually disabled and many more with social deficits are now recognized as being on the autism spectrum,” said Kathy Katz, a pediatric psychologist at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC.
But some experts suggest that environmental exposures may also be contributing to the climbing rates. In California alone, autism diagnoses were up 600 percent between 1990 and 2001. Yet researchers found that only about one-third of the rise could be explained by changing diagnoses or kids being diagnosed at increasingly younger ages.
Earlier this year, scientists examining more than two million births in Sweden reported that inherited genes make up about 50 percent of a child’s autism risk, while environmental factors make up the other half.
It’s tempting to tie the increase in prevalence to environmental factors, said Halladay, but it’s hard to know for sure what’s going on, since some environmental risks have increased over the past few decades while others have decreased.
“Use of pesticides has gone up, so has autism. But air quality has also improved, and we know that air pollution plays a role in autism spectrum disorder risk,” she said.
Some studies are starting to look how environmental exposures may act differently in people whose genetics make them more susceptible. Earlier this year, researchers showed that people with a gene variant associated with autism and high exposure to air pollution had an increased risk of autism over people with the same gene variant but lower exposure to air pollution.
Next, Shelton hopes to look for autism risk from pesticide exposure among mothers with certain genetic variations.
“We need to know if some moms are at higher risk than others and what that risk is. Knowing who is most vulnerable is key to understanding how to better protect them,” she said.
STUDY LINKING GMO CORN AND CANCER REPUBLISHED
French scientists who in 2012 wrote a contested study linking pesticide-treated, genetically-modified corn with cancer in lab rats returned to the attack on Tuesday, republishing their work online, The Guardian reports.
Denying accusations of bad science, the team said the work, which was withdrawn by the journal that first printed it, had been republished in Environmental Sciences Europe, owned by Germany’s Springer group. The raw data has also been placed in the public domain for others to scrutinize, the researchers said.
“Censorship of research into the risks of a technology so intertwined with global food safety undermines the value and credibility of science,” the team said in a statement.
The research kicked up a hornet’s nest when it was first published in September 2012. Its authors, led by Gilles-Eric Seralini, a professor at the University of Caen in Normandy, said rats fed NK603 corn and Roundup herbicide developed liver and kidney disease and mammary tumors. NK603, made by Monsanto, has been genetically engineered to be immune to Roundup. As a result, farmers can spray their fields to kill weeds without harming their crops.
The authors stood by their original research and lashed out at the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology for withdrawing it–a great humiliation in the scientific world. The authors allege that the retraction derives from the journal’s editorial appointment of biologist Richard Goodman, who previously worked for Monsanto for seven years. (The timeline is that the study was published, then the journal brought the Monsanto employee on board, and then the paper was retracted.)
“Roundup formulations and Roundup-tolerant GMOs should be considered as (hormonal) disruptors and their present assessments on health are drastically deficient,” they wrote. Open publication in the Springer journal provides a forum “so that science can reclaim its rights against the pressures of the industry seeking to suppress whistle-blowers,” they said.
Why ‘Open Carry’ Is an Abomination
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If you read The Federalist Papers—an account of how our forebears reasoned out the Constitution of the United States—you’ll find that they were deeply concerned about the establishment of a standing Army overseen by the Commander-in-Chief. This was, most of them thought, a prescription for trouble down the road in the form of foreign entanglements and general military truculence. Rather, they thought that we simply had to guard our land and people by organizing civilian militias, very much the way Switzerland has done. In Switzerland, each male citizen is required to own, but not necessarily use, a rifle. Just in case those crazies in Germany, France, or Austria came barrelling over the border with the lust for conquest in their eyes.
That was the idea in 18th Century America, and why the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights states, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” In other words, if we’re not to have a standing Army, then we need the people to organize themselves into militias to defend ourselves.
In those days, “arms” were single-shot muskets that required wadding, ball, flint, tinder, gunpowder, and a ramrod. It was pretty much a rifle that could fire a shot and take another couple of minutes to reload. The framers of the Constitution could not have envisioned clips of many rounds, semi-automatic and automatic weapons, hollow-point bullets designed to tear up flesh and shatter bone, and all the rest of our sophisticated weaponry in long rifle and short handgun form.
These weapons that can fire off dozens of rounds in a few seconds are easily capable of cutting a human being in half—as was proven at Sandy Hook. School shootings have now become as common as postal shootings were in the 1990s. Remember “going postal?” Now parents are outfitting their kids with bullet-proof backpacks. And Joe the Plumber, bless his benighted soul, delivered the line that should be engraved over the entrance to the National Rifle Association: “Your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.”
I remember sitting on a quiet beach in Tobago about 30 years ago, hanging out with my good friend Osbert Mander, a local guy who took pity on me having to eat the greasy food served at my beach-side resort and invited me to his modest shack for fish stew: fish, potatoes, an onion, and some local herbs for flavor. There was no market in the tiny village of Black Rock where he lived, and I asked him where he got the fish. Here’s what he said:
“Every morning some of the village men go down to the beach and swim out to the boats anchored offshore. We have purse seines on those boats, and they pull them out across the mouth of the bay. They stay open all day until about five o’clock, when the men come back to the beach and swim out to the boats and draw up the purse seines, catching whatever swam in there during the day, hauling them to shore and dumping them on the beach.
“If someone in Black Rock is sick, we look through the catch for a shark and if there’s a shark, we cut out its liver and give it to the sick person. That will help. And then everyone in our village comes down to the beach to buy a fish for dinner, just for a few pennies, to keep up the nets. They cut the fish open and dump the guts on the beach. Then the men swim the nets back out to the boats, fold them up, and store them for the night.
“The dogs and cats and wild birds know of this ritual, and after everyone has taken their fish home, the animals come to the beach to eat the guts and waste—hundreds of birds, all the village dogs and cats. It’s very pretty to see and peaceful, and within 15 minutes after the people have left, the beach is perfectly clean.”
Osbert’s fish soup was delicious. But as we ate, he told me something. “I’d like to come to America—to Los Angeles—but I’m afraid. People are always getting shot and killed there,” he said.
Now I think of my friend Osbert and the gentle society of Black Rock in Tobago, where if you’re sick you get the shark liver, and where all the life there partakes of the daily catch in the purse seine. And I think, this is the way human life should be, and society should be organized.
And then I think of the men carrying loaded assault rifles into Target stores and restaurants, in an era where children are mowed down by the very same assault rifles and automatic weapons. And these men have the attitude, “You’ll take it and you’ll like it. Don’t mess with me. Your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.” And I realize what a sick sick sick sick sick society we have become.
MONSANTO SUES VERMONT OVER ITS GMO LABELING LAW
Tiny Vermont this month boldly went where no US state had gone before, enacting a law to require food producers who use genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to let consumers know of it on the packaging, according to a report by Gram Slattery of The Christian Science Monitor.
Now the state is going, perhaps just as boldly, to court.
A lawsuit filed recently challenges Vermont’s GMO-labeling law on grounds that it usurps federal regulatory authority and negatively affects interstate commerce. The new law, argues the coalition of industry groups that brought the federal suit, including the Snack Food Association (SFA) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), is arbitrary given the dearth of scientific evidence that GMOs have negative health effects. (Actually, there’s plenty of evidence that GMOs have frightening health effects. The SFA and GMA are really just fronting for Monsanto and the biotech industry.)
The labeling measures could pose a definite burden for industry: About 75 percent of processed foods available on supermarket shelves in the US contain GMOs, as well as 85 percent of unprocessed corn and 91 percent of unprocessed soybeans.
DEALING WITH INSURGENCIES—ALWAYS A MESSY BUSINESS
Bob Garcia writes:
If King George III had Obama’s mindset, he would have labeled the Colonists as terrorists and would have killed Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and Revere with drones — seizing Franklin in Europe to torture indefinitely.
I think King George had that mindset. He sent his Army here to put down the rebellion and would have hung the lot of the founders if he could have caught them. Remember Franklin’s saying, “Gentlemen, we must hang together or surely we will hang separately.”
IF FISH IS BRAIN FOOD, THEN FISH ARE BRAINY
According to a new paper scheduled for publication in the forthcoming issue of the esteemed journal Animal Cognition, “fish perception and cognitive abilities often match or exceed other vertebrates.” In fact, “fish have a high degree of behavioral plasticity and compare favorably to humans and other terrestrial vertebrates across a range of intelligence tests.”
The author of the paper, Dr. Culum Brown, is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Dr. Brown’s article, which is the first to distill for journal publication the voluminous research that exists into fish behavior and cognition, reviews the full range of ethological aptitudes, detailing dozens of studies and extrapolating from those results to determine what we do and do not know about fish. The areas considered include: evolution and biological complexity; sensory perception; cerebral lateralization; pain; and cognition (including learning and memory, social learning, social intelligence, tool use, and numerical competency).
With intriguing examples and reviewing all of the scientific literature to date, Dr. Brown concludes that “fish compare well to the rest of the vertebrates in most tasks,” differing little in cognitive and behavioral complexity from primates. For example, they:
• can “perform multiple complex tasks simultaneously” due to cerebral lateralization, a trait that was until recently thought to be uniquely human;
• can recall the location of objects using feature cues, a capacity developed by humans at approximately the age of six;
• “have excellent long-term memories” (including time-place, spatial, social, and aversive experiences);
• “live in complex social communities where they keep track of individuals and can learn from one another, a process that leads to the development of stable cultural traditions … similar to some of those seen in birds and primates”;
• “cooperate with one another and show signs of Machiavellian intelligence such as cooperation and reconciliation”;
• can use tools, another “in a long list of skills that was supposed to be unique to humans”;
• “use the same methods for keeping track of quantities as we do” (numerosity is another of the capacities that scientists once thought unique to human beings).
Unsurprisingly, considering their wide array of complex capacities, Dr. Brown also notes that of course fish feel pain, since “it would be impossible for fish to survive as the cognitively and behaviorally complex animals they are without a capacity to feel pain.” In the paper, he points out that pain perception is essential to animal survival, and that it has deep evolutionary origins across all vertebrate species.
This is the first paper produced with grant money from The Someone Project, an endeavor aimed at raising the public’s understanding of farm animal cognition and behavior.
DECIMATION IN THE PIG POPULATION
Did you know that over the past year, nearly 10 percent of the entire swine population in the US has been wiped out by a highly lethal virus? The virus, called Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv), has been—at least in part—traced back to pig’s blood used in piglet feed, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola’s website.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has announced that a federal order has been issued, requiring swine farmers to notify the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) if they suspect PEDv on their farm. The USDA is also allocating $4 million for research, and the development of a vaccine against the disease.
Dried blood plasma is a relatively new pig feed ingredient, described as a “unique protein source for early-weaned pigs” in a paper on swine nutrition by Professor Gary Cromwell.
In recent years, it’s been employed as an immune booster, and to enhance the growth rate and feed intake during the postweaning phase. In his paper, Professor Cromwell explains the process as follows:
“Most of the dried plasma is produced by American Protein Corporation, whose headquarters are in Ames, Iowa. This company collects and processes blood from a number of large hog slaughter plants throughout the country. At these plants, blood is collected in chilled vats and transported by insulated trucks to processing plants where the plasma is separated from the red blood cells. The plasma is then carefully spray dried. It is then shipped to ingredient suppliers and feed manufacturers throughout the feed industry for use in pig starter feeds. The red blood cells are also dried and shipped to ingredient suppliers and feed manufacturers.”
Okay—here’s the deal. Whenever you take body material from a large group of animals, you are very likely to be taking some disease from a few sick individuals with it. By then feeding it back to large groups of those same animals, what you are doing is spreading the disease as widely as possible. This is how mad cow disease was spread. It was the basis of the “Bug Juice” method of insect control I wrote about in the 1970s on Organic Gardening magazine, where a Florida entomologist said the way to control any pest is to collect a large number of them, whiz them up in a blender, strain out the juice, dilute it, and spray it on your crops. A few sick individuals then infect the whole population. It worked then, it works now, and it’s no different with blood-borne sickness with pigs.
STANDING UP FOR THE INTEGRITY OF THE ORGANIC MOVEMENT
Twenty organic farm and consumer groups have filed a legal petition with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to protect the authority and permanence of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The petitioners object to recent changes to the NOSB charter, renewed on May 8, 2014, that undermine the mandatory and continuing duties of the Board as established by Congress under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.
USDA mistakenly—or maybe not so mistakenly–re-categorized the NOSB as a time-limited Advisory Board subject to USDA’s discretion and a narrowing of responsibilities.
“These changes to the NOSB Charter are significant and directly controvert the specific mandates of Congress that NOSB is a permanent, non-discretionary committee that must fulfill a long list of statutorily mandated duties integral to the organic program,” said Aimee Simpson, policy director and staff attorney for Beyond Pesticides.
The NOSB, appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, is comprised of a wide swath of organic interests, including farmers, consumers, environmentalists, processors, a retailer, and a certifier. It is charged with a number of specific duties, including establishing and renewing the list of synthetic and non-organic materials allowed to be used in organic production, known as the National List.
“Congress created the Board so that a balance of organic interests, from consumer to industry, would have an irrevocable seat at the table in defining, maintaining and enhancing organic standards. That independent voice is now seriously jeopardized,” noted Paige Tomaselli, senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety.
In response to one of several recent moves by USDA to reclassify the NOSB’s role as a purely advisory and discretionary committee, petitioners urge USDA to reverse what they consider missteps. The petition finds that to comply with organic law, USDA must immediately revise the most recent NOSB Charter to accurately reflect the mandatory non-discretionary duties and ongoing status of the NOSB.
“The independence of the NOSB is the backbone of the system of organic governance that Congress set up to prevent the industry from being corrupted by undue agribusiness lobbying influence, a dynamic all too common in Washington,” stated Will Fantle, Research Director at The Cornucopia Institute. “It is questionable whether the law being debated in the 1990s would have received overwhelming organic community support if the powerful NOSB buffer, to prevent future corruption by moneyed interests, was not established.”
The groups signing the petition include: Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Cornucopia Institute, Food & Water Watch, Equal Exchange, La Montanita Co-op (New Mexico), Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Northwest Organic Farming Association (NOFA) Interstate Council, NOFA Connecticut, NOFA Massachusetts, NOFA New Hampshire, NOFA New Jersey, NOFA New York, NOFA Vermont, Organic Consumers Association, Organically Grown Company, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, and PCC Natural Markets.
As a lifelong Rodale employee, I ask why isn’t Rodale and the Rodale Institute in that group? C’mon people!
Public interest groups overwhelmingly condemn the “power grab” by the USDA, and contend that there is little doubt that the regulatory agency is now blatantly violating the will of Congress in regards to undermining the statutory power vested in the National Organic Standards Board.
In a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon strongly criticized the USDA actions and asked for their reversal.
“One of the most unique things about organic is that consumers can get involved in setting the standards behind the label. For that to remain true, we need to have a strong National Organic Standards Board process,” said Patty Lovera of Food & Water Watch.
Good Ideas Are a Dime a Dozen
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The President of a company where I once worked gave me a piece of wisdom that stuck with me.
“Good ideas are a dime a dozen,” he said. “What’s rare is someone who can take a good idea and realize it—make it into something worthwhile in the real world.”
Yeah. Good ideas are just “talk,” but doing something with them is “do.” In other words, you can talk the talk, but what counts is when you walk the walk.
That’s why I like Severine von Tscharner Fleming so much. Yes, she talks the talk about the need for young farmers, but then she walks the walk by being one herself. And a vigorous, energetic one at that.
She’s the director of The Greenhorns, a group of organic-minded young farmers and communicators in the Hudson Valley. Here’s how the organization defines its mission:
“The Greenhorns is a non-traditional grassroots non-profit organization made up of young farmers and a diversity of collaborators. Our mission is to recruit, promote and support the new generation of young farmers. We do this by producing avant-garde programming, video, audio, web content, publications, events, and art projects that increase the odds for success and enhance the profile and social lives of America’s young farmers.
“The news is in from urban, suburban and rural districts alike: America needs more young farmers and more young farmers want a piece of America. It will take millions of rough and ready protagonists of place to care for our ecosystems and serve our country healthy food in the years to come. The Greenhorns enable this critical meeting of minds, bodies, and land by helping young and aspiring farmers to navigate career paths, build skills, and connect with each other. Our multifaceted approach includes on-the-ground organizing of events and workshops, media production, and online coalition building.”
You can find out more by visiting www.thegreenhorns.net.
DROP A PILL INTO A GLASS OF WATER
TO SEE IF YOU’RE DRINKING PESTICIDES
It’s no secret that unwanted chemicals lurk in our food and drinks. But what if a little pill could warn us before we gulp down pesticide-laced water? Kristina Bravo of TakePart.com explains:
Researchers have been experimenting with an unlikely drugstore buy: dissolvable minty breath strips. A team from McMaster University in Canada discovered that pullulan, the same slimy fungus used to make the breath freshener strips, could also be used to make pills that contain pesticide-detecting enzymes. Just drop the pill in a glass of water, let it dissolve, and watch for any color changes.
“If the water doesn’t have any pesticides, [the water] actually forms a very strong blue. If it’s transparent at the end, it’s very contaminated,” said Carlos Felipe, the chemical engineering professor who led the study.
He said that testing water this way is a much cheaper alternative than other contamination screening processes. According to Felipe, producing 1,000 pills in one day would only cost a dollar. Countries such as India, where a large pesticide market compromises the water supply, could benefit from this quick and affordable technology.
Sana Jahanshahi-Anbuhi, the student who came up with the breath strip idea, will start a field test in Kerala, India, by the end of this year. The researchers are now looking into more applications. They said the pills could possibly contain vaccines, which otherwise need refrigeration, and E. coli–detecting molecules as well.
“We are currently working on detection of other contaminants [metals and E. coli] and starting on vaccine stabilization and delivery, which would have a tremendous impact for society,” Jahanshahi-Anbuhi said..
WHY IS THE FDA SO IGNORANT?
Perhaps you’ve heard that the FDA wants to ban wooden shelves for ripening cheese. Here’s a link to the story.
And now for comment by our Frencyh correspondent: “There is nothing new in cheese production – some years ago a European directive instructed the producers of Reblochon to abandon their traditional pine shelves and move to plastic, which was perceived as being easier to sterilize.
Disastro! The cheese did not ripen; moreover, it spoiled. Back to the lab-–the bacteria in pine resin are antiseptic and prevent the wrong bacteria developing in the cheese. Now pines shelves are solidly reinstated.”
That’s in France. Here in America, the FDA has, in an ignorant fit of trying to be helpful, attacked a fundamental technique of cheesemaking. I’m betting the wooden boards will be kept, because “Blessed are the cheesemakers.”
CALIFORNIA’S COTTAGE FOOD ACT GETS IT RIGHT
As opposed to the FDA getting it exactly wrong on cheese boards, California gets it exactly right on allowing people to make food for sale from their home kitchens.
On September 21, 2012, Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Homemade Food Act into law. This law amends the California Health and Safety Code to create a new category of food facility operation, which unlike other food facilities, can be operated out of a home kitchen.
This new category, known as a Cottage Food Operation (CFO), will allow home kitchens to make and sell non-potentially hazardous foods. Non-potentially hazardous foods are foods that are unlikely to grow harmful bacteria or other toxic microorganisms at room temperature.
The California Department of Public Health has established a list of current approved foods that meet the definition as non-potentially hazardous. Additional foods may be added and removed through a 30-day process. The list of current approved foods includes the following:
• Baked goods without cream, custard or meat fillings
• Candy, including chocolate covered nuts and dried fruit
• Dried fruit and pasta
• Dry baking mixes, granolas, cereals, and trail mixes
• Fruit pies, fruit empanadas, and fruit tamales
• Honey, jams, jellies and fruit butters
• Nut mixes, nut butters and popcorn
• Vinegar and mustards
• Roasted coffee and dried tea
• Waffle cones and pizelles
CFOs are required to obtain an annual registration or annual permit to operate through Sonoma County Environmental Health and Safety. CFOs may sell directly and indirectly to the public, depending on their class of operation.
Class A CFOs may sell cottage foods directly from their homes, certified farmers’ markets, bake sales, and community events. Class A operations will be required to complete a self-certification process and obtain an annual registration from Sonoma County Environmental Health and Safety.
Class B CFOs will be required to obtain an annual permit from Sonoma County Environmental Health and Safety and will be inspected annually. In addition to direct sales from home, they are also permitted to sell cottage foods indirectly from local shops, restaurants and other third party sales.
For more information, visit
The Most Important 90 Days of the Year
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One of the most common complaints about organic food that I hear is, “It costs too much. I can’t afford to eat organic food.” And I say, “You can’t NOT afford to eat organic food. The conventional and processed food you eat is really a delivery system for a host of toxic chemicals.” Besides, we are entering the season when organic food is cheaper than most conventional food sold in a supermarket—if you know where to look.
June, July, August, and early September is the time when organic fruits and vegetables from your own garden, from an organic farm, or a Farmers’ Market are cheapest, locally grown, and at their most nutritious and flavorful.
These 90 days come and go quickly, so we all need to act just as quickly to preserve as much as we can of this bounty to have for the other nine months of the year—you know, the months when the tomatoes don’t have much flavor, the fruits are coming from South America, and the vegetables are grown a thousand miles away in California or Florida.
First of all, these 90 days are the only time of the year when the seasonal fruits that are locally grown are available. This is especially true of the stone fruits—cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines—and berries—blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, huckleberries, blackberries, and others. Not only are these fruits horribly expensive in the off season, the varieties are usually limited to those that ship well, and that quality trumps flavor and nutrition. When the local fruits are in season, it’s much more likely that they will be a variety that’s been selected for flavor and nutrition because they don’t need to be shipped long distances.
And don’t forget wild foraged foods in the summer. Have you ever heard of wineberries? They are a brambleberry so fragile that they can’t be shipped and can barely be picked and sold at a roadside stand—even in areas where they grow wild. And yet they are as delicious a berry as you can imagine. If you live in a rural area of the Mid-Atlantic States, you’ll undoubtedly know wineberries. Pick them and freeze them in a single layer on trays in your freezer, then when they’re hard, transfer them to a freezer bag for adding to fruit compotes during the 50 weeks when you can’t otherwise get them at all.
The best way to handle those stone fruits and wild-foraged berries is by making a couple of quarts of honey-lemon syrup by mixing a half cup on honey with the juice of four or five lemons and dissolving this in two quarts of filtered or spring water. Place the mixture in a large bowl. Peaches should be freestone varieties and need to be peeled by plunging them in boiling water for a minute, then rinsing under cold water. The peel will strip off easily. Hold the peach in one hand, slice off segments with a knife with the other hand, and let the slices fall into the syrup. Nectarines, apricots, and cherries just need to be de-stemmed, pitted, and sliced as you wish. Add them to the liquid. Add any summer berries that you like, including wild-foraged wineberries and black cap raspberries. Ladle peaches, fruits, and berries into freezer bags—but not zip-lock bags—with just enough syrup to insure they’re covered when the bag is closed. Get freezer bags that you close with a twist tie. This is because you’re going to tighten the top of the bag so all air is excluded and the fruits are entirely under the syrup. Then freeze. When you want to use a bag, float it in a bowl of hot water from the tap, but don’t add more hot water later. In about 40-50 minutes, the fruits will be just thawed and really tasty.
If you’re into live-culture, probiotic, fermented foods, now’s the time to make your own pickles, chow-chow, sauerkraut, kim chee, pickled beets, and other pickled veggies. If you have room in your freezer, store them in there when they’re ready to eat, and when you thaw them out in the off months, they’ll still be ready to eat. Or, can them in a boiling water bath. This will kill the live cultures, but you can then store them on your cellar’ or pantry shelves, and they’ll still contain the enhanced flavors and nutrition that natural fermenting gives them.
Some foods store well in a cool cellar or storage room with no processing. Put down newspaper on the floor and lay winter squash like Butternut or Hubbard with thick skins on the paper so they don’t touch. They’ll keep through the cold months. Garlic and tight-necked yellow onions can be braided if you have their tops still attached, or in mesh bags in not. Just tie a piece of string tightly around the bag between each onion—again, so they don’t touch. Hang them from a rafter or pole in the storage room and they’ll keep well through most of the winter.
Root vegetables like carrots, beets, rutabagas, turnips, and potatoes can be stored in clean plastic garbage cans. Put in six inches of dry peat moss in the bottom, then cover this with a layer of the vegetables arranged so they don’t touch, then cover with another layer of peat moss. Add more root veggies and more moss until the can is full. Store this in as cool a place as you have, but one that won’t freeze. You can store a lot of root vegetables this way. When you retrieve some for dinner, wash them well to remove any moss.
Don’t forget drying. The Pennsylvania Dutch always made “schnitz,” the word means “cuts,” when the apples came ripe. They were made by coring and cutting apples into slices that were then strung on a long string and hung in the warm kitchen until dry. They could be eaten plain like fruit chews or re-hydrated in water. Make and can apple sauce with no added sugar. Invest in a food dryer and dry summer fruits.
And of course in high summer, when the tomatoes are perfect, buy some flats, plunge the tomatoes in boiling water, peel them and cook them down to sauce, then can the sauce. Some people simply put whole ripe tomatoes into freezer bags and freeze them, then thaw them out in winter as needed.
And the corn. It’s ripe and organic in high summer and as cheap as it will ever be. Don’t be tempted to freeze corn on the cob. It doesn’t work. When you try to thaw it out, the kernels turn to mush before the cob thaws out. Best to boil the corn just until it’s blanched, about two minutes, then cut it off the cob and freeze the kernels in meal-sized freezer bags. Before a winter dinner, thaw out the kernels by placing the bag in a bowl of water hot from the tap. When thawed, gently finish heating the kernels in a saucepan over low heat on the stove. You’ll be surprised how much they’ll taste summer fresh.
The same holds true for garden or English peas. Blanc them in their pods in boiling water for a minute or 90 seconds, drain, and freeze them in their pods. Thaw them in hot tap water when you’re ready to use them. The pods will have turned to mush, so discard them, but the peas inside will be lightly cooked. Finish cooking them with just a minute’s low heat in a sauce pan with a little water on the stove. They’ll also taste summer fresh.
If all this sounds like work, it is. But it’s pleasant work and valuable, because you’ll be eating the best organic food at its peak of flavor and nutrition all through the other nine months. It will cost you less than what you’d pay for conventional food at the store. And if you grow these foods yourself in your own garden, you’ll pay far less.
Paint Additive Being Used in Your Food
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Titanium dioxide is widely used around the world as an additive to white paint because its chemical make-up renders it very reflective of light. But it’s also being added to food for the same reason. But one molecular form of titanium dioxide is the shape called nanotubes—miniscule tubes that could pose a great danger to human health.
Right up front I’m going to give you the following URL:
This URL will take you to a website developed by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies that lists 96 common food products that add titanium dioxide to their processed foods. You know many of them: Fiber One, Trix, Good and Plenty, Hershey’s syrup.
Here is the first batch of products containing titanium dioxide, according to the Project. You can find all 96 products by following the URL.
Albertson’s: American Cheese Singles, Cheddar Cheese Stick, Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, Chocolate Syrup, Coffee Creamer, Cream Cheese, Golden Sandwich Cookies, Italian Cheese Blend, Mini-Marshmallows, Mozzarella Stick, Swiss Cheese Singles, Vanilla Pudding, and Whipped Cream.
Best Foods Mayonnaise, Betty Crocker: Mashed Potatoes and Whipped Cream Frosting, Blue Diamond Almond Beverage, Breathsavers Mints, Cadbury Milk Chocolate Bar, Carnation Breakfast Essential, Daisy Low Fat Cottage Cheese, Dannon Greek Plain Yogurt, Dentyne Fire Spicy Cinnamon and Ice Peppermint Gum.
That’s just under a quarter of the processed food products. And this chemical compound isn’t listed as an ingredient. Why? Good question. Let’s take a closer look at titanium dioxide:
Titanium dioxide accounts for 70 percent of the total production volume of pigments worldwide. It is widely used to provide whiteness and opacity to products such as paints, plastics, papers, inks, foods, and toothpastes. It is also used in cosmetic and skin care products, and it is present in almost every sunblock, where it helps protect the skin from ultraviolet light.
Many sunscreens use nanoparticle titanium dioxide (along with nanoparticle zinc oxide) which, despite reports of potential health risks, is not actually absorbed through the skin. Other effects of titanium dioxide nanoparticles on human health are not well understood. Nevertheless, allergy to skin application has been confirmed.
Titanium dioxide dust, when inhaled, has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as an IARC Group 2B carcinogen, meaning it is possibly carcinogenic to humans.
The safety of the use of nanoparticle sized titanium dioxide, which can penetrate the body and reach internal organs, has been criticized. Studies have also found that titanium dioxide nanoparticles cause inflammatory response and genetic damage in mice. The body of research regarding the carcinogenicity of different particle sizes of titanium dioxide has led the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to recommend two separate exposure limits.
There is some evidence the rare disease yellow nail syndrome may be caused by titanium, either implanted for medical reasons or through eating various foods containing titanium dioxide.
Yellow nail syndrome is characterized by marked thickening and yellow to yellow-green discoloration of the nails often associated with systemic disease, most commonly lymphedema and compromised respiration.
WE ARE MADE FROM SOIL, AIR, WATER, AND SUNLIGHT
The following is an excerpt from an essay by eco-activist Vandana Shiva, who understands our relationship to the soil.
“The claim that the Green Revolution or genetic engineering will feed the world is false. Intrinsic to these technologies are monocultures based on chemical inputs, a recipe for killing the life of the soil
“We are made up of the same five elements — earth, water, fire, air and space — that constitute the Universe. We are the soil. We are the earth. What we do to the soil, we do to ourselves. And it is no accident that the words ‘humus’ and ‘humans’ have the same root.”
And that’s why in organic farming and gardening, it’s axiomatic that we feed the soil and the soil feeds the plant. What we’re really doing is feeding the microbial life in the soil so it increases in biodiversity and health. It is these microscopic bits of life that do the work of imparting health to all the creatures that live from the plants that grow in healthy soil. Including us.
THE GRAS LIST: HOW THE LOOPHOLE SWALLOWED THE LAW
The Natural Resources Defense Council has sent the following press release and it’s well worth reading:
When President Eisenhower signed the Food Additives Amendment of 1958, he established a regulatory program intended to restore public confidence that chemicals added to foods are safe. In the intervening 56 years, the basic structure of the law has changed little. However, the regulatory programs the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) established to implement the law have fallen behind over time as the agency strived to keep up with the explosion in the number and variety of chemicals in food, and to manage its huge workload with limited resources.
The 1958 law exempted from the formal, extended FDA approval process common food ingredients like vinegar and vegetable oil that are “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). It may have appeared reasonable at the time, but that exemption has been stretched into a loophole that has swallowed the law.
The exemption allows manufacturers to make safety determinations that the uses of their newest chemicals in food are safe without notifying the FDA. The agency’s attempts to limit these undisclosed GRAS determinations by asking industry to voluntarily inform the FDA about their chemicals are insufficient to ensure the safety of our food in a global marketplace with a complex food supply. Furthermore, no other developed country in the world has a system like GRAS to provide oversight of food ingredients.
Because of the apparent frequency with which companies make GRAS safety determinations without telling FDA, NRDC undertook a study to better understand companies’ rationale for not participating in FDA’s voluntary notification program. First, we built a list of companies and the chemicals they made. Then we reviewed public records, the company websites, and trade journals to identify chemicals that appear to be marketed in the U.S. pursuant to an undisclosed GRAS determination, i.e. without notification to the FDA.
All told, we were able to identify 275 chemicals from 56 companies that appear to be marketed for use in food based on undisclosed GRAS safety determinations. This is likely the tip of the iceberg — we previously published in an industry journal an estimate that there have been 1,000 such undisclosed GRAS determinations. For each chemical we identified in this study, we did not find evidence that FDA had cleared them.
In addition, using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), we obtained from the FDA copies of communications between the agency and companies who voluntarily sought agency review of their GRAS determinations. We found that this glimpse into the review process shows that often the agency has had serious concerns about the safety of certain chemicals, and that companies sometimes make safety decisions with little understanding of the law or the science. As discussed later, companies found their chemicals safe for use in food despite potentially serious allergic reactions, interactions with common drugs, or proposed uses much greater than company-established safe doses.
On those occasions when the FDA is asked to review a GRAS determination, the agency rejects or triggers withdrawal of about one in five notices. Moreover, the public has even less information about the many substances with GRAS determinations that are never submitted to the agency in the first place — and which may pose a much greater danger. It is often virtually impossible for the public to find out about the safety — or in many cases even the existence — of these chemicals in our food.
NRDC believes that “Generally Recognized as Secret” rather than “Generally Recognized as Safe” is a better name for the GRAS loophole. A chemical cannot be generally recognized as safe if its identity, chemical composition, and safety determination are not publicly disclosed. If the FDA does not know the identity of these chemicals and does not have documentation showing that they are safe to use in food, it cannot do its job.
In an increasingly global marketplace where many additives and foods are imported into the United States, this loophole presents an unsettling situation that undermines public confidence in the safety of food and calls into question whether the FDA is performing its duty to protect public health.
The problem is rooted in a law adopted in 1958 when Eisenhower was president and Elvis was drafted. It is time for the FDA and Congress to fix the problems. In the meantime, consumers need to demand that their grocery stores and their favorite brands sell only those food products with ingredients that the FDA has found to be safe.
USDA APPROVES DOW’S ‘AGENT ORANGE’ GMO CROPS
The EPA is currently reviewing an application from the biotech giant, Dow Chemical Co., to approve Enlist Duo, a dangerous mix of glyphosate (the main ingredient in RoundUp) and the even more toxic weed killer, 2,4-D. Dow is hoping to be able to use Enlist Duo on the next generation of genetically modified crops, which Dow has engineered to withstand 2,4-D.
In other 2,4-D news, Pesticide Action Network’s Marcia Ishii-Eiteman sends this disquieting information:
“USDA has presented Dow AgroSciences with a bountiful gift: a virtual green light for the pesticide company’s new genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybean seeds. These crops are designed specifically to be used with Dow’s infamous herbicide, 2,4-D, which, along with 2,4,5-T made up Agent Orange, the toxic and carcinogenic defoliant used during the Vietnam War.
“Dow had been waiting two years for the go-ahead from USDA to start marketing its 2,4-D-resistant corn and soy. And it now appears the corporation will get what it wants, despite strong opposition from farmers, healthcare professionals and concerned communities across the country.
“Agricultural scientists warn that introduction of 2,4-D resistant crops is a very bad idea, and could lead to as much as a 25-fold surge in 2,4-D use across the country over the next six years. This would result in severe damage to vulnerable crops, loss of farm businesses, and harm to rural communities’ health.
“Still, prospects for agency support have always looked promising to companies like Dow and Monsanto, and USDA approved a whopping nine new GMO seeds in 2013 alone. But to date, nearly half a million Americans — including outraged farmers, sustainable agriculture, local food and environmental advocates, concerned doctors and public health professionals — have voiced their strong concern about the possible approval of 2,4-D seeds.
“Surprised perhaps by the vehement public opposition, USDA acknowledged last year that these 2,4-D crops could in fact cause “significant environmental harm,” and agreed to prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). But in the draft EIS released last week, USDA simply shrugged away all of the public’s concerns and announced its intention to approve both of Dow’s 2,4-D resistant crops.
“Given the agency’s track record, I wasn’t all that surprised to see USDA dodge its responsibility. But as I dug deeper into the 200+ page EIS, my jaw dropped. In the final paragraph at the end of the executive summary, USDA seemed to go off the rails.
“Apparently abandoning scientific rigor, USDA launched into a bizarre narrative that should the agency fail to approve Dow’s 2,4-D crops, farmers are “expected” to aggressively increase their tillage. This in turn “could” cause increased erosion, negative impacts on soil quality, worsening air and water quality, release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, exacerbation of climate change and finally, threats to biodiversity. Wow. And to think, all this could happen if we don’t get 2,4-D crops in the ground ASAP!”
NOTES ON THE BENEFITS OF ORGANIC PRACTICES
The Organic Center sends these tidbits along:
Eating Organic Reduces Pesticide Exposure: a new study published in the journal Environmental Research found that eating an organic diet for a week can reduce pesticide exposure. The research was led by Dr. Liza Oates, who examined pesticide metabolites in the urine of 13 individuals who consumed a diet of at least 80 percent organic over seven days, and a diet of conventional food for seven days. Dr. Oates’ team found that the total pesticide metabolite levels were reduced by up to 96 percent by eating organic, with an average reduction of 50 percent.
Study finds that Organic Food Consumption Benefits Public Health: a new study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health concluded that eating an organic diet can contribute to human well-being. The research was led by a Dr. Johansson of The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, who reviewed current research on the effect of organic agriculture and crops on public health. Finding a clear health advantage of consuming organic, her team states that “both animal studies and in vitro studies clearly indicate the benefits of consumption of organically produced food instead of that conventionally produced.”
Higher Pollinator Biodiversity in Organic Farms: several studies have shown that organic farming is beneficial for bees, but a recent study published in Animal Conservation takes a new perspective on ways that organic farming contributes to pollinator health. The study looked at the interaction between plants and pollinators, to see if insect-flower interactions were higher on organic farms. Specifically, they looked at the number of visits pollinators made to flowers in organic vineyards compared with conventional vineyards. They found that organically managed vineyards had significantly higher numbers of interactions between pollinators and flowers than those managed conventionally.
Organically Managed Soils Could Reverse Effects of Climate Change: The Rodale Institute has done some amazing science supporting the benefits of organic agriculture, and its new report, entitled “Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change,” maintains this high quality of investigation. Findings in the report include a decrease of annual greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent if management of all current cropland transitioned to regenerative organic agriculture. Transitioning global pasture would add to carbon sequestration by 71 percent. “We could sequester more than 100 percent of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices,” the report states.
AND NOW FOR SOME PROPAGANDA FROM THE SOYBEAN INDUSTRY
The following is from a press release from the Soyfoods Council:
“American consumers are discovering that soy ingredients offer not only a better-for-you nutrition profile, but also combine the characteristics of versatility and quality protein. Tofu and edamame are enjoying growth, including in prepared meals, while soymilk is found in energy drinks and other beverages. The Mintel study was conducted by tracking more than 30 soy ingredients and products in the Global New Products Database (GNPD) for retail food and beverage products in the U.S.
“Environmental awareness, the diet-and-health connection, and lifestyle considerations are all areas where soyfoods are an ideal fit today’s food preferences. Soy energy drinks, tofu, and soy protein-based meat substitutes are affordable, convenient ways to eat more healthfully. These products are readily available in retail stores.”
Watch out for that “environmental awareness” stuff, Soyfoods Council. People might discover that over 90 percent of soy produced in America is genetically modified to withstand heavy applications of toxic Roundup herbicide.
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR PALMYRA JAGGERY
Jaggery is a natural sweetener used in Asia and especially on the Indian and Pakistani subcontinent. It’s mostly made by rural farmers for home use, and it’s made by boiling down the sap of sugar cane, date palms, coconut palms, or palmyra palms until the sap congeals into a hard paste that’s then ground into fine particles.
Jaggery has many advantages over white sugar, and many more over chemical substitutes like Splenda and Sweet N Low. It leaves no unpleasant aftertaste like stevia, and has orders of magnitude more nutritional elements than agave nectar. It has a low glycemic index, contains important minerals like iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium, plus many vitamins. It’s one of the only bioavailable plant sources of vitamin B12.
In cooking and as a sweetener, only half as much palmyra jaggery is needed to rqual the sweetness of white sugar. It hasn’t been available in the U.S. except in Asian ethnic markets, but this fall, the Conscious Food Company in the UK is introducing it to the American market through the Kier Group (email: email@example.com). And yes, Conscious Food’s palmyra jaggery is certified organic.