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Frankenfish, Just in Time for Halloween

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Scientists have genetically engineered a new kind of GMO salmon by inserting DNA from an eel-like organism into the fish’s DNA to make the fish grow abnormally fast, the Yes on 92 campaign in Oregon has announced.

And the scary part? This franken-salmon is on track for approval by the FDA, meaning it could be sold unlabeled alongside natural salmon in grocery stores across the country.

“Here in Oregon,” the Yes campaign writes, “salmon is part of our heritage, and it’s important to us to know whether the salmon we’re eating has been genetically altered in a lab. In the closing days of this campaign, we’ll be airing a powerful new TV spot about this creepy GMO salmon.”



It should be easy enough to make sure that all the ingredients in this marvelously tasty dish are organic. The recipe is from Ruth Barnes’ book, “Sharing Morocco,” from Greenleaf Group Press in Austin, Texas. Ruth’s heritage is in the Maghreb and it comes through beautifully in her recipes.

6 lamb shanks
½ tsp. salt plus more for seasoning the lamb shanks
½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning the lamb shanks
6 Tbl. olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. (or 2 16-ounce cans) tomatoes, diced
2 Tbl. Tomato paste
1 tsp. paprika
½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. allspice
3 bay leaves
3 cups low sodium beef stock
½ bunch Italian parsley, chopped, for garnish
1 package Mediterranean couscous

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F.
2. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the lamb shanks
3. In a large Dutch oven on medium heat, add three tablespoons olive oil. Sear three lamb shanks on all sides for three minutes, remove to a platter and sear the other three shanks for the same amount of time.
4. In the same pot, add the remaining three tablespoons of oil and sauté the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic until tender, about 5-7 minutes.
5. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, paprika, cumin, allspice, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and bay leaves. Stir well. Return the lamb shanks to the pot, add the beef stock, cover, and bring to a low boil for 3-4 minutes.
6. Remove the pot from the heat and place, covered, in the oven. Cook for two hours, until the lamb is very tender.
7. Just before the lamb is done, prepare the couscous according to the package directions.
8. Place the couscous on a platter, top with the lamb, vegetables, and contents of the Dutch oven, and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately. Serves 4-5.



Do you know that Newman’s Organics pet foods aren’t necessarily made with organic ingredients? That’s because “Newman’s Organics” is the trade name of the company and not a description of the contents of the can.


Well, now the kind folks at G2CPartners, a California PR firm, have sent information about pet food labels that define exactly what the labels mean. The definitions are very similar to those used for human food, but it’s good to be reminded. Here’s what they wrote:

It’s kind of scary that people trust pet food manufacturing companies and the government regarding the labeling of pet foods. Knowledge is power; and knowing what the ingredients are and what the labels mean will help you to keep your pets healthy.

Pet Foods with Organic in the Name or Trademark – A brand name or trademark is merely the name that a person or company chooses to call itself. A pet food company named something like Big Bob’s Organic Pet Foods can be filled with nasty and disgusting animal by-products, but people may think that they are buying healthy and organic pet foods for their dogs and cats. The word organic in the brand name is usually fiction.

Pet Foods Displaying the Word Organic Outside of the Brand Name – Pet foods labeled organic must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients. Synthetics that are necessary during the practice of manufacturing are acceptable.

Pet Foods Labeled 100 Percent Organic – These pet foods must contain all organic ingredients, other than salt and water. Again, synthetics that are necessary to follow good manufacturing procedures are acceptable.

Pet Foods Stating Made with Organic Ingredients – This can be tricky for pet owners, as it implies that all of the ingredients are organic. This is not the case as those labeled Made with Organic Ingredients need only contain 70 percent organic ingredients. Each organic ingredient must be listed as organic on the package.

Pet Foods with the USDA Certified Organic Seal – Pet foods bearing the USDA Certified Organic seal offer a bit more appeal to consumers. These products must have at least 95 percent organic ingredients.

While organic certifying agencies like Quality Assurance Alliance operate around the world, it’s hard to trust suppliers in countries like China to have scrupulously followed organic principles in acquiring or raising food for pets. The best bet for quality assurance is to look for brands made from ingredients grown and certified in the United States by certifying agencies like CCOF, Oregon Tilth, etc.



The Institute for Responsible Technology cautions us that if you are still reeling from the news of the latest round of approvals for “Agent Orange” corn and soy, please sit down. More hopped up toxic combinations are on the way.

Monsanto has a new “triple stack” GMO cotton up for deregulation with tolerance to dicamba, glyphosate, and glufosinate herbicides. They call it another tool for fighting superweeds. These glyphosate-resistant weeds have more than doubled since 2009 and are currently spread over 70 million acres.

(I say it’s another tool for selling toxic chemicals. I mean, think about it. The more superweeds, the more herbicides Monsanto and Dow can sell, right? They don’t want to conquer superweeds. They want to sell herbicides. That’s their business.)

Dicamba is a strong herbicide that has been associated with a number of health and environmental effects including reproductive effects, neurotoxicity, kidney/liver damage, not to mention that dicamba, like 2,4-D, is toxic to fish, toxic to birds, and harmful to pets.

People are becoming increasingly alarmed about the escalation to greater and greater amounts of toxic chemicals, and what appears to be an extraordinary insensitivity to public opinion. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), and other members of Congress are speaking up. “Right now we are witnessing agribusiness attempt to wield its powerful influence over federal regulators. They want EPA and USDA to rubberstamp another set of genetically engineered crops rather than listen to the scientific community,” says Rep. Peter DeFazio, (D-Oregon).

Pingree and DeFazio also weighed in on EPA’s approval of Dow’s combination of glyphosate and 2,4-D herbicides for use against superweeds. “We are concerned that EPA failed to thoroughly examine all of the significant health and environmental risks of 2,4-D including that of inhalation and aggregate exposure; the risks of 2,4-D exposure to threatened and endangered species; and the risks posed by shifts in use patterns of 2,4-D as a result of the GE cropping systems. Most alarming is EPA’s failure to apply the additional 10-fold safety factor, as mandated under the Food Quality Protection Act, to protect children, who are especially susceptible to harm from pesticide exposure. The 10-fold safety factor is required by law to safeguard against the potential health risks for young children and infants that would result from the widespread use of 2,4-D on GE crops.” The 10-fold safety factor refers specifically to cumulative risk assessments which may be required to take into account potential pre- and postnatal exposure.


Do unto Others as You Would Have Them Do unto You

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If I said that cruelty to animals is a blot on our humanity, then someone might counter by saying that what we do to each other is just as bad or worse than what we do to animals. And they’d be right.

But pointing out that the reservoir of human cruelty is plenty big enough to cover animals, other humans, and even nature herself is no reason to dismiss it as inevitable.

If the organic method teaches us anything, it’s that all of Mother Nature’s creatures—plants and animals—need to be treated with respect. And that biodiversity is healthier than limited diversity and species extinction. And that the more diverse any ecology is, whether wild or on the farm or in the garden or just in our backyards or even in our intestinal flora, the healthier it is.

The founders of the American political system knew that in the real world, especially the political world, there will be good guys and bad guys, and that the best way to insure an orderly politics is to set up a system of checks and balances, where if one branch of government steps out of line, the other branches will haul it back into line. It’s the same in nature: checks and balances are maximized in biodiverse ecosystems. The good guys eat the bad guys. The bad guys eat the weak plants. The strong plants support the good guys and the bad guys.

The point is that all creatures need to be treated with respect. As Shakespeare wrote 400 years ago, “For nought so vile that on the earth doth live, but to the earth some special good doth give.” In regards to farm animals—chickens, turkeys, ducks, fish, pigs, beef cattle, sheep, and so on—it must be recognized that each animal has a nature and an ecological purpose that needs to be respected.

What does it mean to put a chicken in a cage so tiny it can hardly turn around for its entire life? It means the same as doing that to you. It demeans us as human beings to treat animals with no regard to their ecological purpose, their meaning, or their needs.

That’s yet another reason why organic farming and culture is so benign. No antibiotics to force quick growth. No hormones to force milk production. No GMOs in the feed. And—it’s to be hoped some day—no fattening cattle on grain for the last few months of their lives. Cattle, after all, are grazing ruminants whose natural food is grass.

It would be nice to have all our food produced on family farms where all the animals are allowed to play their natural roles, like the movie “Babe.” Granted that’s not feasible. But cattle should graze, chickens should scratch, pigs should root. The organic farm should show the way forward for American farming, away from the cruelties perpetrated on our farm animals today, and toward an integrated system of farming that animals can enjoy until the time comes for us to enjoy them.



The California Department of Food and Agriculture has published a draft of an environmental plan giving the agency authority to spray toxic pesticides anywhere in California, at any time into the indefinite future, even on organic farmland and crops. The blanket approval would allow no opportunity for affected communities or farmers to stop the spraying.

According to the plan, the state’s agency would have the right to approve new pesticides and other expansions of the spray program with no public review, notice, or analysis of the health and environmental impacts on specific locations to be sprayed.

The plan, described in the Statewide Plant Pest Prevention and Management Programmatic Environmental Impact Report (PEIR), relies on a list of 79 pesticides and other chemicals, including substances linked to cancer, birth defects, miscarriages, and reproductive system impacts. Many of the pesticides are also lethal to bees and other pollinators, fish and other aquatic life, birds, and mammals. Among the PEIR pesticides are several neonicotinoids, which many scientists believe are directly linked to the collapse of honeybee populations.

The environmental review’s cursory analysis of the health and ecological impacts of these chemicals fails to answer many essential questions, such as the effects of pesticide exposure on infants, pregnant women, and other sensitive populations;
children whose schools could be sprayed under the plan; rivers, streams, and drinking water wells.

The plan directly threatens organic farming—one of California’s fastest-growing industries—because organic farmers could be forced to spray non-organic pesticides as part of state treatment programs. Although the state’s review admits that “treated products would not command the typical premium prices demanded for organic produce in the marketplace,” it dismisses the impact of spraying on organic farmers by asserting that they could simply switch to conventional farming.

Tell CA Dept of Food & Ag you “absolutely oppose the Statewide Pest PEIR (Problematic Environmental Impact Report). Here’s where you can contact them: http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/peir/#comment

The deadline for public comments is Oct 31.



Over the past few years, the Organic Trade Association has received increasing criticism for lobbying efforts that have allegedly helped water down the federal standards governing organic farming and food production, according to The Cornucopia Institute, an organic watchdog group based in Wisconsin.

The latest dustup in Washington surrounding OTA activities concerns their attempt to sell Congress, and the organic farming community, on a scheme that will tax farmers and other industry participants to do research and promotional work.

“Trying to recruit farmers is an attempt by the OTA to redeem their damaged credibility and sell their agenda on Capitol Hill,” said Mark A. Kastel, Codirector at The Cornucopia Institute. “The agribusiness lobby is also attempting to dilute the influence of nonprofit groups and cooperatives that legitimately represent the interests of family-scale farmers — and frequently differ with the OTA on regulatory policy.”

Over the past two years the OTA has run into a buzzsaw of opposition from farmers, and the groups that represent them, after proposing a commodity checkoff that would create an estimated $40 million per year. “Farmers are understandably skeptical about being forced to pay into such a fund because of a long history of corruption, mismanagement and lack of effectiveness in existing checkoff programs showcasing milk mustaches, ‘incredible edible eggs,’ and ‘the other white meat’ (pork),” Kastel said.

The OTA is held in low esteem by many farmers and organic food advocates because of its past history and alleged duplicity in dealing with other interests in the organic food movement. “This move is consistent with a long pattern of agribusiness executives treating family farmers as ignorant and naïve,” said Richard Parrott, a Buhl, Idaho, organic beef and crop producer who has been certified since 1992. “Why should farmers trust corporations that buy organic commodities from factory farms, and have pitted U.S. farmers, like me, against Chinese exports, when they tell us they are looking out for our interests?” One of the crops Parrott produces is dried beans, an organic commodity that has been dominated by imports for a number of years.

The trade-lobby group is also looked at as a major political force behind recent highly controversial moves at the USDA that significantly water down the independent power of the National Organic Standards Board, an expert advisory panel Congress set up to protect organic rulemaking from undue corporate influence.

When the OTA started out, during the 1980s as the Organic Foods Production Association of North America (OFPANA), the organization was widely recognized as an umbrella group with many farmers, organic certifiers, nonprofits and processors (all of which, at the time, were independently owned). Since then, the OTA has morphed into what The Cornucopia Institute calls “just another powerful, trade-lobby group funded and controlled by multibillion-dollar, multinational food corporations.”

The OTA is now controlled and funded by large corporate agribusinesses such as Smucker’s, General Mills, Hershey, and Kellogg’s. Unlike the majority of organic farmers, many of the most active and influential members of the OTA earn the majority of their revenue selling non-organic food.

In recent years, there have been virtually no working farmers as OTA members (other than a few that are affiliated with the corporate participants), and a large percentage of the nonprofits were given, unsolicited, free memberships.

“When they doubled their dues a few years ago they lost most of their farmers and other individual members,” added Kastel. OTA membership now costs between hundreds of dollars a year to $35,000 per year, on a sliding scale (and many corporate members make additional contributions in the tens of thousands of dollars).

The OTA just created a new class of membership, with $50 a year dues, for small farmers with gross annual revenue of under $250,000. The farmers also have to be members of one of the organizations represented on the OTA’s Farmer Advisory Council.

Smaller farmers as OTA members would be in stark contrast to existing members such as Aurora Organic Dairy, a giant vertically-integrated operation with a number of facilities in Texas and Colorado milking thousands of cows each. Aurora was found by USDA investigators to have been “willfully” violating organic standards, one of the largest scandals in the industry’s history, but they continued as OTA members and Aurora executives even subsequently served as spokespersons for the group.

Cornucopia, a 10,000-member, nonprofit, farm policy research group characterized the lobby group’s recent public relations push as “a not-so-veiled attempt by the OTA to greenwash their corporate approach to organics.”



The Center for Food Safety recently announced that GMO soy engineered by Monsanto for heavy pesticide exposure has been found in infant formula purchased in Portland, Oregon.

Finding soy in infant formula that has been genetically engineered by Monsanto specifically to survive high levels of toxic pesticides is exceptionally troubling– and it makes a powerful case for the GMO labeling that would happen under Oregon’s Measure 92, which seeks to have GMO foods labeled as such.



The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution reported that an August sample of ocean water taken off the coast of Vancouver, British Columbia, tested positive for cesium-134, one of the radioactive elements released as a result of the Fukushima disaster. This same group also found traces of Fukushima radiation as far down the Pacific coastline as California.

In the almost four years since the Fukushima meltdown and disaster, the ruined nuclear plant has been releasing 300 tons of highly radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean every day.

Is it time to think about avoiding Pacific seafood harvested from Alaska to Mexico? We have this report from the non-governmental organization, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute on Cape Cod, but have you heard anything from the Federal agencies tasked to protect our food supply? FDA? Nothing. EPA? Nada. USDA? Bupkis.


The Least We Can Do Is the Best We Can Do

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Yes, it’s infuriating to know that the biotech and pesticide industries are out there spreading lies, poisoning the food supply, killing the bees, polluting the soil and water, and on and on and on.

We can rage against the machine—and I often do in this blog—but there’s something else we can do, something positive. We really have no control over Big Ag and its tentacles, so what do we have control over? Where do we call the shots?

At home, in our personal lives. It’s here, in our real world, where what we do has real consequences. Tonight I mentioned to Susanna that on a visit to my son and daughter-in-law, I tasted a cup of Keurig coffee—you know, the machine where you put a pre-measured plastic cup of ground coffee beans in the machine and it brews a cup for you on the spot. I allowed that it was actually a pretty good cup of coffee.

“I wouldn’t want that machine,” she said. “All those plastic cups going into the trash.” Right. When you brew a cup in your stainless coffee pot, nothing gets thrown away but the coffee grounds—and they don’t actually get thrown away, either. They are an excellent ingredient in the compost. Or, in our case, in the bucket of vegetable kitchen slops that I feed to our three worm beds.

The grody kitchen slops—only vegetable waste, no animal products, no onion family members, no hot chili peppers—go into the bins, and within a week or two, our indefatigable red wiggler worms turn it into the most sweet-smelling, nutrition-packed worm castings ready to nourish something in our garden that will nourish us.

On our acre and a half, we grow prune plums, ‘Santa Rosa’ plums, red peaches, three kinds of cherries, ‘Hachiya’ persimmons, ‘Snow Queen’ nectarines, black ‘Mission’ figs, ‘Wonderful’ pomegranates, Asian pears, ‘Bartlett’ pears, ‘Golden Delicious’ apples, ‘Gravenstein’ apples, ‘Rome Beauty’ apples, almonds, grapes, ‘Meyer’ lemons, ‘Bearss’ limes, ‘Marsh’ grapefruit, and a slew of ornamentals too numerous to mention.

Our eight raised beds this summer grew ‘Sparkle’ strawberries, spinach, ‘Little Gem’ lettuces, ‘Crane’ melons, butternut squash, okra, cowpeas, English peas, tat soi, lacinato kale, curly leafed kale, borage, cucumbers, two kinds of zucchini, crookneck summer squash, ‘Detroit Dark Red’ beets, ‘Danvers Half-Long’ carrots, ‘Early Girl’ and ‘San Marzano’ tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, and jalapeno peppers.

The fruit became jams and preserves, peaches became sliced peaches frozen in honey-lemon syrup, wild-picked blackberries became blackberry jam, tomatoes became canned tomato puree, the beets became pickled beets, the cucumbers became pickles, all to be consumed when the cold weather shuts down the trees and gardens. And all organic and packed iin re-useable Mason jars and plastic Zip-Loc freezer bags.

Since we do everything organically, and eat only organic food, the wildlife that visits our property is safe. The birds are safe, the insects thrive, the soil is improved with compost as it yields its bountiful crops, the deer need not worry (although they are not given access to the gardens), the wild turkeys and the quail and mice and occasional country rat and the foxes, bobcats, and mountain lions do their dance of life and death. The gophers are troublesome, but what would paradise be without trouble? Still, we cohabit this property with the little buggers. We see red-tail and red-shouldered hawks, barn owls, great horned owls, kites, the occasional golden eagle, pileated woodpeckers, phoebes, and other marvelous birds—and we know all of them are welcome and safe here.

As for ourselves and our pets—Mishka the dog, Tiki the cat, and Petunia the chinchilla—we all eat only organic food and so are not poisoning ourselves and the earth with the toxic products of the ugly conventional food system.

When we do shop at Whole Foods and our local organic farmers markets, we buy grass-fed, organic beef, local organic lamb, local organic cage-free chicken and turkey, and our eggs are from an egg lady whose hens run among the goats and peck out fly eggs to enrich their yolks.

In other words, we take care that what we do supports nature and does the least harm possible. It’s the least we can do. If everyone did it, that would be the best we could do.



On October 15 the Environmental Protection Agency approved Enlist Duo, a toxic herbicide made from Agent Orange ingredient 2,4-D and Monsanto’s Roundup. This noxious mix of chemicals will now be used on Dow’s new herbicide-resistant GMO corn and soy seeds, which have already been approved by the USDA.

Dow now has permission to unleash up to 176 million more pounds (according to the USDA, though scientists predict much more) of 2,4-D into the environment, according to the Organic Consumers Association.

And that will mean about another $1 billion in sales for the Gene Giant.
It’s enough to make you sick. Literally. But it’s also reason to keep up the fight. The National Resources Defense Council immediately sued the EPA, and other groups have suggested they’ll do the same.



Children living on the Hawaiian island of Kaua‘i are being threatened by exposure to chlorpyrifos, a synthetic insecticide that is heavily sprayed on fields located near their homes and schools.

For decades, researchers have been publishing reports about children who died or were maimed after exposure to chlorpyrifos, either in the womb or after birth. While chlorpyrifos can no longer legally be used around the house or in the garden, it is still legal to use on the farm. But researchers are finding that children aren’t safe when the insecticide is applied to nearby fields.

In 1995, the EPA found that Dow had violated federal law by covering up its knowledge of these health problems for years. In 2004, then-New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer found that Dow had been lying about the known dangers of the pesticide in its advertising for nearly as long. Together, the EPA and the State of New York have levied fines against the company approaching $3 million.

On Kaua‘i, subsidiaries of four transnational chemical companies—Dow Chemical, DuPont, Syngenta, and BASF—spray chlorpyrifos and several other potent pesticides to protect their experimental genetically engineered crops (GMOs) against a wide variety of bugs and weeds. Because of the heavy pesticide use, Kaua‘i’s GMO testing fields are among the most toxic chemical environments in all of American agriculture.


Dr. Joseph Mercola recently posted these functions of curcumin—the bioactive compound in turmeric. Curcumin is available through Dr. Mercola’s website (http://shop.mercola.com) or elsewhere online and at organic supermarkets like Whole Foods and Wegman’s. It will pay to shop around.

Curcumin, a bioactive ingredient in the curry spice turmeric, exhibits over 150 potentially therapeutic activities.

Curcumin is capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier, which is one reason why it holds promise as a neuroprotective agent.

Recent animal research suggests another bioactive compound in turmeric called aromatic-turmerone can increase neural stem cell growth in the brain by as much as 80 percent at certain concentrations.

The findings suggest aromatic-turmerone may help in the recovery of brain function in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and stroke.

Previous research has also shown that curcumin may help inhibit the accumulation of destructive beta-amyloids in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients, as well as break up existing plaques.

Curcumin also has the most evidence-based literature supporting its use against cancer of any other nutrient studied, including vitamin D.



The following is by Ronnie Cummins and Katherine Paul of the Organic Consumers Association:

In 2011, we wrote an article exposing the then-popular trend in food marketing—promoting local foods as sustainable, healthy, or natural, even when they weren’t.

As we wrote at the time, “local” often means nothing more than food that has been sourced from within a prescribed geographic area. (According to Walmart and Big Food, “local” refers to anything produced within a 400-mile radius). But because a growing number of conscientious consumers actively seek out the “local” label—and are willing to pay a premium for it—corporations routinely co-opt the term so they can sell more product, at higher prices, in order to increase profit margins by promising (but not actually delivering) added value.

Fast forward a couple of years, and we see that sales of “local” food are still on the rise, as are sales of “natural” and more recently, “Non-GMO” foods. And today, just as they were a few years ago, consumers are still being duped by corporations that use these labels to pass off products as something they aren’t.

The fact is, none of these labels—local, natural or non-GMO—on its own provide a guarantee that the food behind the label is either healthy, sustainable, or natural.

There is only one food label that provides that guarantee: USDA Organic. And because organic food sourced locally is not only healthy, sustainable, and natural, but also supports small farmers and contributes to strong communities, today’s Gold Standard for the health-conscious and environmentally and socially concerned consumer is USDA organic and local.



Fructose, a sugar widely consumed in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, may promote obesity and diabetes by overstimulating a hormone that helps to regulate fat accumulation, reports New York Times writer Anahad O’Connor.

The study, carried out at Harvard Medical School, marks the first time that scientists have identified a hormone that rises sharply and consistently in response to eating fructose. The finding suggests that people may vary in their sensitivity to the sugar, and that eventually it may be possible to test an individual for susceptibility to illnesses linked to weight gain.

When ingested—and it’s not only found in sweet drinks but in products as diverse as English muffins and chocolate pudding–the vast majority of fructose goes to the liver, where it stimulates the production of triglycerides, some of which are packaged into lipoproteins with cholesterol and secreted into the bloodstream.



The following was written by Willie Nelson for Reader Supported News:

“Last month at Farm Aid 2014, I was lucky to meet Phillip Barker, a Black farmer who, like many minority farmers, lost much of his farmland as a result of discriminatory lending practices by banks and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Today, Phillip and his wife Dorathy farm the 20 acres they were able to hold on to in Oxford, North Carolina. Their farm is one of two Black dairy farming operations in the state of North Carolina. They also operate a nonprofit organization, Operation Spring Plant, which provides resources and training to minority and limited resource farmers, including a program that introduces young people to farming and provides youth leadership training. Phillip said one of his goals is to provide tools for the next generation and to help young people ‘come back to the farm to understand the wealth of the land.’

“Wealth of the land.” That’s a powerful phrase.

“Phillip believes the next generation must see a sustainable livelihood from the land, but the wealth he refers to can’t be measured only in dollars. It is measured in the experience of working on the land, tending the soil, and caring for the animals and crops that grow from it. It’s measured in the ability to be independent, to feed himself and his family. It’s measured in the way he and Dorathy sustain and strengthen their community. It’s measured in being rooted to a place and passing something valuable to the next generation.

“It seems to me that understanding the real wealth in the land is key to a sustainable future for all of us.

“Our greatest challenge is in re-visioning how the majority see “wealth.” The wealth of the land cannot be boiled down to the investors’ return on investment. It cannot be gauged by the commodities it returns to us — in gallons of oil and bushels of corn.

“The drive to extract as much value from the land as possible — to maximize production without regard to whether we’re exhausting the soil, to give over our farmland to Wall Street investors, to seize land held by families for generations for corporate profit — bankrupts the land, our food, our nation and our future.

“We need to redefine wealth as the ability to make a decent living from the land and sustain it for the next generation. To grow crops for food and fuel while simultaneously enriching the soil upon which future crops depend. To support a family and a community. To work in partnership with nature to protect our health and the health of our planet. As caretakers of our soil and water, this has been and always should be the essential role of the family farmer.

“Today, fewer than two percent of us live on farms. Clearly, we can’t all be family farmers, but we can all shift our priorities to ensure we’re doing our best to support them and encourage new farmers to get started on the land. Playing music to bring awareness is how I started Farm Aid in 1985, and it’s how I continue to support the people who best know how to care for the land: our family farmers. Each and every one of us has the power to do what we can to support and sustain family farmers. Our common wealth depends on it.”

I would only add this to Willie’s wise statements here: it’s our organic family farmers, certified or not, who “work in partnership with nature to protect our health and the health of our planet.”


U.S. Foreign Policy and the Gordian Knot

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If you’re wondering what discussion of U.S. foreign policy has to do with organic food, just bear with me.

The Gordian Knot—a legend from antiquity–was a knot in a rope that tied an oxcart to a post, a knot so intricate that no one could untie it because they could not find its ends. That is, until Alexander the Great came along and, presented with the challenge of untying the knot, drew his sword and with one stroke cut the knot in two, after which it became easy to untie.

There’s the warrior for you: decisive, thinking outside the box, goal-oriented.

Cut to today where President Obama is faced with his version of the Gordian Knot: the U.S. needs to fight and defeat the Islamic State (ISIS), which right now is in a pitched battle with Syrian and Iraqi Kurds. To defeat ISIS, he needs to help the Kurds with troops, but he has pledged not to send American “boots on the ground.” Turkey is right there with a mighty military that, if it joined forces with the Kurds, could defeat ISIS, but Turkey has been fighting Kurdish separatists for four decades. The sight of Kurds and Islamic jihadists slaughtering each other is much to Turkey’s liking, so the Turks are so far sitting this one out, which is alienating its American allies, who are desperate for it to join the fight. Meanwhile, America is trying to assist “moderate” Syrian rebels who are trying to oust the Syrian government of President Bashir Assad. But it was the rebel movement that spawned ISIS and Al Qaeda-affiliated groups, along with more moderate rebel groups. Al Qaeda and Isis are our sworn enemies. Meanwhile, Iraq is slowly being devoured by ISIS. Iraq’s military, despite a trillion dollars of our support, is feckless. Meanwhile, Iran is allied with Assad’s government, and so is Hezbollah in Lebanon—and this troika is bombing the moderate rebels as well as the civilian population of Syria. And it’s these rebels we need to fight ISIS. Turkey, meanwhile, would love to see Assad gone and many in that country are urging it to join with the Kurds and rebels to defeat the Assad regime, so far without success. And so we are in the middle of the shifting sands of Middle Eastern politics, blood feuds, religious sectarianism, ancient animosities, tribal hatreds, and murderous barbarians. It’s indeed a Gordian Knot.

Alexander would have waded into this hot mess and killed them all. Not an option for Obama. How does Obama cut this Gordian Knot? Turkey has suggested establishing a neutral zone along its border with Syria and Iraq with a no-fly zone overhead. But so far we’ve rejected it. However, we could begin to cut that knot if we accepted Turkey’s proposal. We have put together a coalition of Arab and European states to fight ISIS. The coalition could also establish that zone and stock it with enough troops to prevent ISIS’s incursions. There’s reason for Palestinians and Israelis to join that humanitarian effort, too. All refugees—those fleeing ISIS, Syrians, Iraqis, Kurds, all the polyglot religious adherents of the region—welcome and cared for. Many countries could provide food, medicine, shelter, and educational services for the children. And IFOAM—the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements—in addition to being an advocacy organization—could organize organic food aid for the dispossessed. Just look at the slaughter going on: Assad has killed 200,000 of his own citizens. Iraq has lost hundreds of thousands. ISIS seems intent on pursuing religious and ethnic genocide. Certainly a safe haven is needed. Certainly the organic community could make a big difference with food aid.

Am I a dreamer here? Well, I’m not the only one.



The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ignoring more than 60 members of Congress and a half a million citizens, has approved a deadly new herbicide, Dow’s Enlist Duo, made from a combination of Monsanto’s Roundup and Dow’s “Agent Orange” 2,4-D, the Organic Consumers Association reports.

The new herbicide will be used on Dow’s newly approved corn and soy crops, engineered to withstand massive doses of the new “Deadly Duo” herbicide.
And why are these genetically re-engineered corn and soybeans needed? To withstand the new Enlist Duo herbicide from Monsanto and Dow. And why is Enlist Duo herbicide needed? Because Roundup alone has caused the emergence of super-weeds that have developed resistance to it. So in the twisted logic of Monsanto, Dow, and the EPA, the way to defeat herbicide-resistant weeds, whose development was caused by the use of herbicide to begin with, is to come up with even more toxic herbicide. It’s really less about weed control and more about having product to sell to farmers, isn’t it?

Where will the vast percentage of these new crops go? To feed animals on factory farms.

With the approval of Dow’s Enlist crops and Deadly Duo herbicide, the EPA, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which also signed off on the crops, have signaled that they have no intention of ending the rampant escalation of the use of increasingly toxic poisons by industrial agriculture.

The only way to stop them is by shutting down demand for GMO crops. That will take millions of consumers switching to organic, non-GMO food at the supermarket—and that means boycotting meat, eggs and dairy from factory farms. It also means labeling GMO foods so we can boycott them.

The profits to be gained for Monsanto and Dow from sales of the new seeds and double-dose herbicide does reveal why Big Ag, Biotech, and the pesticide industry has ponied up $100 million to defeat GMO labeling laws in Oregon and Colorado next month.



Remember how the federal government recently decided to finally take on the major threat that antibiotic resistance poses to human health, yet somehow failed to address the meat and poultry industries’ routine overuse of antibiotics—despite acknowledging that said overuse is definitely contributing to the problem? Well, new data out from the FDA shows just how big of an oversight this is. The gist: more antibiotics are being fed to livestock than ever. And you can bet that humans are going to pay the price. So writes Lindsay Abrams in Salon.

Between 2009 and 2012, the FDA report finds, the amount of antibiotics deemed medically important for humans that were given to farm animals increased 16 percent. More than two-thirds of those were tetracyclines, which humans depend on to treat everything from acne to Lyme disease to chlamydia, and which are already becoming less useful as resistance takes hold. Also increasing in use, The New York Times notes, are cephalosporins (used for pneumonia, strep throat and skin and urinary infections, they’re “particularly popular among pediatricians”), despite the fact that the FDA moved to restrict their use in 2012.
The antibiotic industry’s go-to excuse—that they’re mostly using the drugs for disease prevention—continues to ring false. In 2012, the FDA data shows that “antibiotics with a proven use for growth-promotion outsold antibiotics with only a therapeutic use by a ratio of 2.2:1.”

“We know that the overuse of antibiotics on the farm is leading to more antibiotic resistant pathogens that threaten humans–-and FDA’s own figures show that the agency’s inaction is making the problem worse,” said New York Congresswoman Louise Slaughter in a statement. “Until the FDA enacts a mandatory regulation that puts human health before industry profits, Americans will continue to live under an increased threat of untreatable infection.”

And who are the major players in this industry? They include Archer-Daniels-Midlands, Bayer, Elanco, Novartis, and 22 others—many of them also manufacturers of agricultural pesticides.



Experimental genetically engineered (GMO) wheat was discovered in July, 2014, at a Montana research facility that has not legally grown the variety since 2003, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has revealed.

“Once again, USDA and the biotech industry have put farmers and the food supply at risk,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for Center for Food Safety. “Coexistence between GMO and non-GMO crops is a failed policy that fundamentally cannot work. Genetic contamination is a serious threat to farmers across the country.”

In the same announcement, USDA closed its investigation into a May, 2013, GMO wheat contamination episode in Oregon without any explanation for the incident. That contamination episode led to closures of vital export markets and a class action lawsuit against Monsanto by wheat farmers.

“Just as USDA closes one fruitless investigation, it tries to bury the story of yet another contamination. USDA cannot keep treating these as isolated incidents; contamination is the inevitable outcome of GMO crop technology,” said Kimbrell. “It’s time for Congress to take definitive action.”

Monsanto is currently in the process of settling a class action lawsuit brought by wheat farmers impacted by the Oregon contamination episode, which forced exports to several Asian and European markets to be suspended and cost farmers millions of dollars. USDA records reveal that Monsanto has conducted 279 field tests of herbicide-resistant wheat on over 4,000 acres in 17 states since 1994. Monsanto has received at least 35 notices of noncompliance from 2010 through 2013, more than any other company.

“Farmers, not the biotech industry, are on the hook for these contamination episodes. There must be accountability for Monsanto,” said Kimbrell. “USDA should, at a minimum, immediately place a moratorium on open-air field testing of genetically engineered crops.”

After a decade of field trials, Monsanto dropped efforts to introduce Roundup Ready GMO wheat in 2004 in the face of intense international opposition from consumers, farmers, wheat millers, and food companies. However, after a six-year hiatus, Monsanto once again began extensive field-testing of GMO wheat in 2011.

Opponents of GMO wheat have long argued that it would contaminate conventional wheat, making it unsellable to many markets that reject GMO products. The U.S. is the world’s biggest exporter of wheat, an $8 billion business. A 2005 study estimated that the wheat industry could lose $94 to $272 million if GMO wheat were introduced. Past transgenic contamination episodes involving GMO corn and rice have triggered over $1 billion in losses and economic hardship to farmers.

In late 2005, the USDA’s own Inspector General issued a scathing report detailing numerous violations of agency rules in regulating genetically engineered crop field trials. USDA officials did not know the locations of many field trials it was charged with regulating, and did not conduct required inspections of others. In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences also criticized serious deficiencies in USDA’s regulation of genetically engineered crops.

In 2013, Center for Food Safety joined over 150 organizations and businesses in a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack calling on the agency to protect the wheat industry by implementing necessary protections from GMO contamination.



There is a disturbing parallel between the exponential growth of biotech agriculture and the spread of a cancer in the human body, writes Jeff Ritterman, M.D. in Truth-Out.

Cancers are cells that reproduce rapidly and haphazardly with no regard for the greater good of the organism. Cancer cells consume valuable energy, starving out normal cells. They grow so wildly and so quickly that they crowd out their neighbors. They send off emissaries to start new cancer colonies. They make harmful substances that damage healthy cells. They spread relentlessly. In the final sad irony, when the cancer cells reach their growth peak, they kill their host and die in the process.

Like a cancer, biotech agriculture has crowded out its neighbors and is spreading relentlessly. Also like a cancer, it makes harmful substances. Roundup is one of them. As more acreage comes under GM cultivation, we can expect Roundup use to continue to increase. Roundup kills plants, causes birth defects in vertebrates, and is linked to cancer. Can a living planet withstand the continuous assault from this poison any more than the human body can withstand the attack from an aggressive cancer?

Read the whole article at http://truth-out.org

Jeff Ritterman, M.D. is vice president of the board of directors of the SF Bay Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. He is the retired chief of cardiology at Kaiser Richmond and a former Richmond, California, city councilman.



Almost 3 billion gallons of oil industry wastewater have been illegally dumped into central California aquifers that supply drinking water and farming irrigation, according to state documents obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The wastewater entered the aquifers through at least nine injection disposal wells used by the oil industry to dispose of waste contaminated with fracking fluids and other pollutants.

The documents also reveal that Central Valley Water Board testing found high levels of arsenic, thallium, and nitrates—contaminants sometimes found in oil industry wastewater—in water-supply wells near these waste-disposal operations.

“Clean water is one of California’s most crucial resources, and these documents make it clear that state regulators have utterly failed to protect our water from oil industry pollution,” said Hollin Kretzmann, a Center attorney. “Much more testing is needed to gauge the full extent of water pollution and the threat to public health. But Governor Brown should move quickly to halt fracking to ward off a surge in oil industry wastewater that California simply isn’t prepared to dispose of safely.”

The state’s Water Board confirmed beyond doubt that at least nine wastewater disposal wells have been injecting waste into aquifers that contain high-quality water that is supposed to be protected under federal and state law.


The Inherent Morality of the Organic Ideal

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Most people, if not all, are inculcated with a sense of morality as they grow up. It begins with “Don’t hit your sister,” (or brother), and the learning curve takes the child through the socializing steps that lead to an ethical, moral adult.

Well, now the Supreme Court, in its recent decision of Citizens United, tells us that corporations are people. But corporations act like selfish, unscrupulous, sociopathic criminals. Their motivation is to create wealth for themselves. They trash the world, frack the earth, poison the people and animals who depend on them for food, tear open nature’s precious genomes and create monsters, destroy the environment, pay their employees pittances and their executives obscenely large salaries. If real people acted the way corporations do, they’d be in jail, or in mental institutions.

So why should corporations be allowed to act like criminals, if they are indeed people. How come they don’t have to behave ethically and morally, but we actual people do?

The answer, of course, is that they aren’t people. Their behavior is only restrained by laws, but these days, they own the lawmakers, and so they’ve been deregulated. The restraints are off. They do what they want. And so they proceed to plunder and pillage, and if they were sexual beings, they’d rape.

I’m sorry, but the Roberts Supreme Court—that legacy handed to us by George W. Bush—is the worst excuse for a Supreme Court since Roger Taney’s Court handed down the Dred Scott decision in 1857. Google it, if you’re interested.

There can be no progress on controlling corporate excess and turning back the march toward extinction represented by global climate change until our economic system is seen as a way of doing business by the corporations, of the corporations, and for the corporations. There is little morality at all to it, if one defines morality as creating conditions that benefit everyone equally. It is inherently not only amoral, but immoral. People starve, are homeless, die in the streets, while Exxon and the Koch brothers see millions of dollars pour into their bank accounts day by day by day.

What would a moral way of doing business look like? It would look a lot like the way a single, moral human being would act. Here are some bullet points:

• It would be kind. There would be work for everyone, meaning work wouldn’t be shipped overseas to factories staffed by impoverished workers who would accept starvation wages simply to survive. Workers would be paid a fair wage. Men and women would be paid the same for the same work. Workers would be treated with respect, and treated fairly. Kindness is a virtue. Companies would act virtuously.
• It would respect the beauty of the earth and the earth’s natural systems. Instead of mountaintop removal to get at dirty coal, it would turn its muscle toward renewable energy sources—solar, wind, hydroelectric, heat pumps, and many other non-extractive and gentle methods of generating power. It would pattern agriculture on nature’s systems, rather than on toxic chemicals to kill and pollute nature’s systems.
• It would be transparent and true. The lies, subterfuges, coverups, lobbying, under-the-table money, propaganda, and all the rest of the dirty dealing would stop. Truth would be counted at a premium, just as it is with human beings.

There’s lots more to this, but the idea is simple. Once you know what organics is all about, you understand that it is a moral system of developing our life-support systems for food and livelihood. As we would be ourselves, as persons, that’s how our economic system should be—and all our systems, really.

What Citizens United says is that the anti-social, rapacious, selfish system of our economy is what humanity is all about. It’s a horrible perversion of the truth. In my opinion, Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Kennedy should all be recalled, for they are a danger to us all and to the American way of life.



The United States Department of Agriculture has announced that it will spend $52 million to support local and regional food systems like farmers’ markets and food hubs and to spur research on organic farming, according to The New York Times.

The local food movement has been one of the fastest growing segments of
the business, as consumers seek to know more about where, how and by
whom their food is grown. But local farmers still struggle to market their food. Distribution systems are intended to accommodate the needs of large-scale commercial farms and growers. Grocery stores and restaurants largely rely on big distribution centers and are only beginning to figure out how to incorporate small batches of produce into their overall merchandise mixes.

Farmers’ markets are proliferating around the country, increasing 76 percent
to 8,268 since 2008, according to the Agriculture Department.

The $52 million will be the first outlay to local and organic enterprises of
the farm bill signed into law by President Obama in February, which tripled
the amount of money aimed at that sector to $291 million. The organic
business, which has long complained that the Agriculture Department does
not support it financially, will get $125 million over the next five years for
research and $50 million for conservation programs.



Scientists have long recognized the dangers of cadmium (Cd) exposure to the human body. This heavy metal is emerging as a major cause of vascular disorders, common cancers, osteoporosis, and kidney disease, and can also cause damage to the body’s reproductive and neurological systems. While tobacco smoke can be a significant source of exposure for smokers, the primary source of cadmium exposure for nonsmokers is through consumption of plant-based foods contaminated with Cd from pesticides.

A survey of all previous pertinent research (meta-analysis), appearing recently in the British Journal of Nutrition, concluded that organically grown foods are on average 48 percent lower in Cd than conventionally grown foods. Now, in an invited commentary appearing in the same journal, Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute cardiovascular research scientist James J. DiNicolantonio, Pharm.D., and Mark F. McCarty, B.A., place this finding in the context of the growing epidemiology linking Cd exposure to adverse health outcomes, and conclude that consistent consumption of organic foods over a lifetime could be expected to favorably influence health and mortality risk.

“For years, nutritionists and consumers have struggled with the question, ‘is organic really better?’” said Dr. DiNicolantonio. “What analysis of this research reveals is that, due to the serious health impacts of cadmium exposure and the markedly lower levels of Cd in organically grown foods, the long-term consumption of such foods is likely to be notably protective with respect to a wide range of common pathologies.”



Consumers Union is disputing claims made in ads opposing Measure 92, the Oregon ballot initiative that would require GMO foods to be so labeled, that labeling will force farmers and food producers to spend “millions” and increase food costs for consumers.

The group also takes issue with the assumptions made by industry-funded studies that it says have overestimated the cost of similar GMO labeling proposals in California, Washington and New York.

“Industry cost estimates incorporate unrealistic assumptions about how GMO labeling requirements will drive food producers to switch to all organic ingredients, which would be much more expensive. However, there is no factual basis for this assumption and we believe producers will continue to sell GMO foods once they are labeled, and many consumers will continue to buy them, with no discernible price impact,” asserted CU. “Measure 92 simply requires foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled so that consumers can make an informed choice.”

Genetically engineered foods are already required to be labeled in 64 foreign countries, including many where American food producers sell their wares. Labeling has not increased food prices in those countries, according to Consumers Union.

“Producers are required to label foods that are frozen, from concentrate, homogenized, or irradiated, as well as a food’s country of origin. Poll after poll has found that more than 90 percent of consumers want foods that are genetically engineered to be labeled,” CU noted.

In addition to the Oregon initiative, a GMO labeling requirement is on the ballot in Colorado in November. Vermont has already passed legislation requiring GMO labeling, and legislatures in dozens of other states are considering similar labeling bills.



According to a study conducted by scientists from Harvard University and published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, neonicotinoid residues are often found in many of the most commonly consumed fruits and vegetables.

Neonicotinoids are the most common class of insecticide used in conventional agriculture, and are applied directly to the plant or the soil where they can be taken up by roots and stored in plant tissues. Results from the study suggest that exposure to neonicotinoid insecticides in produce sold for human consumption may be more common than previously thought.

“All fruit and vegetable samples, with the exception of nectarine and tomato, tested positive for at least one neonicotinoid,” and most fruits and almost half of all vegetables tested had residues of at least two different neonicotinoids, the study found. Neonicotinoids have been implicated as a cause for honeybee die-offs, and recent studies suggest they may also have negative health effects on mammals. The authors have called for an assessment of dietary neonicotinoid intakes and the potential effects they may have on human health.


Andre Leu is a longtime organic farmer in Australia and current President of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). He has written a book entitled “The Myths of Safe Pesticides,” and it’s one that should wake people up to the fact that our pesticide-drenched conventional food supply is poisoning the environment, farm workers, and the public. Here are the myths he explodes:

The “Rigorously Tested” Myth. Are pesticides tested for safety before going on the market?

The “Very Small Amount” Myth. Can even a small amount of chemical residue be harmful?

The “Breakdown” Myth. Do pesticides rapidly biodegrade, and are the breakdown products truly harmless?

The “Reliable Regulatory Authority” Myth. Do the regulatory authorities review unbiased evidence before declaring a product safe?

The “Pesticides Are Essential to Farming” Myth. Are pesticides the only thing keeping our planet from starvation?

Leu shows in detail how they are all myths, without much basis in reality. It’s an important book, has a foreword by Vandana Shiva, amd is published by Acres USA. Buy a few copies to give to folks who tell you that you are being alarmist to eat organic food, and that the food supply is perfectly safe. If they read this book, they will change their minds.