Organic Lifestyle Comments Off on What If?
Organic farming and gardening represents a shift in thinking that can apply broadly to all the activities of life, bringing life-supporting perspective to actions by individuals, groups, and institutions.
It really involves moving beyond a human-centered point of view to a holistic view. The big problem with the human-centered point of view is that the end (human improvement of some sort) justifies the means. For example, in conventional farming and gardening, human beings have mastery over the farm and garden and all the creatures that affect them.
And that means lots of killing. Look at the words we use for the levers conventional agriculture applies to nature to grow our crops: pestiCIDES, herbiCIDES, fungiCIDES, ANTIbiotics. In other words, we kill off every life form except the desired crops.
The holistic view means that we study the way nature works and then try to emulate her in our farming and gardening, using the most benign methods first, and harsher methods only up to the point that we don’t cause damage to the web of life. The organic grower knows that if it takes wholesale slaughter to grow a crop, it’s best to find another crop to grow. And emulating nature means that the entire force of natural law is brought in to strengthen the process. Killing everything except the crops does exactly the opposite—it tries to defeat nature.
Instead of killing everything but the crops, organic growers promote biodiversity—nature’s system of checks and balances that produces natural good health. The soil is not just material that props up crops until we can flood them with soluble chemical fertilizers and plant and animal poisons. It is a living system that we enrich so that it too has a huge biodiversity that feeds plants what they want, in the amounts they want, when they want it. That’s what nature does. That’s a healthy ecology whether on the farm, in the garden, or out in wild nature.
Okay—that works for farming and gardening. Can it work in another area of life, such as social interaction? Lately, we’ve seen some horrific examples of the police function. A frightened cop is a very dangerous cop. I just saw a YouTube video of a guy pumping gas into his truck who was approached by a cop who challenged him. The guy reached into his truck for his ID, and the cop shot him down.
Michael Brown maybe gave Darren Wilson some lip or even tried to turn his gun away (who knows?), but Wilson unloaded his service revolver on the unarmed kid and you know the rest of the story. Killing. Over and over and over. Even right here in Santa Rosa, California, not more than 12 miles from me, a Latino kid with a plastic rifle was murdered by a Santa Rosa cop who thought maybe that thing was real.
What does the organic approach tell us about law enforcement? What, for instance, might Darren Wilson have done when an unarmed teenager displeased him? Now Wilson says he feared for his life, and that Brown was trying to wrest the gun from his hand. And that the next thing Wilson saw happening was that he was going to be murdered by this kid. I personally don’t believe a word of it, but let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Wilson’s telling the truth.
Let’s back up here. Let’s say Michael Brown and friends were walking down the street, blocking the roadway, and maybe giving the officer typical teenage attitude.
Let’s say Officer Wilson asked them to move off the street to legitimately open the roadway to traffic. Let’s say Michael Brown told him to shove it. Maybe at that point, Officer Wilson might have told young Mr. Brown that he was going to get a ticket for blocking a public roadway. Maybe Mr. Brown told Officer Wilson, “Yeah? Let’s see you give me a ticket.”
I’m not saying Brown actually said this, I’m just saying that sometimes teenagers can be a handful of badass.
Maybe Officer Wilson could have seen the big picture. Brown lives in his town. He knows where to find him. Brown was ignoring a lawful request by the cop to clear the street. The cop’s options were many. He could have gone to Brown’s parents and given them the summons. He could have called for backup and arrested Mr. Brown for non-cooperation with a law enforcement officer’s legitimate request, taken him to the cop shop, and arraigned him. It was, after all, a misdemeanor. In other words, Wilson could have used the least violent strategy first, then moved, step by careful step, to achieve the lawful aim of preventing blockage of a street to public traffic.
Why was Wilson’s gun even out in the first place? But it was out and, Wilson says, he and Brown were wrestling for control of it. So Officer Wilson shot and killed young Mr. Brown, an unarmed teenager, in what was obviously an emotional flareup. Isn’t that a lot like producing food by killing everything in the field except the crop?
What makes the situation so gut wrenching is the response of the prosecutor and the grand jury. It’s just so pitifully and painfully obvious that the white powers that be rigged the game from the outset, to make sure that the white cop walked.
Think I’m exaggerating? In addition to his duties as the St. Louis County prosecutor in charge of prosecuting Officer Darren Wilson, Robert McCulloch is also the President of The Backstoppers, an organization used to fundraise for police men and women in both Missouri and Illinois. Last August, his organization was affiliated with a T-shirt drive featuring a picture of Missouri and the statement, “I SUPPORT OFFICER D. WILSON,” which was set up to raise money for the Darren Wilson Defense Fund as well as The Backstoppers. So, the prosecutor charged with discovering whether Officer Wilson is guilty of murder is raising money for the cop being investigated.
Any parallels with the agricultural powers that be called Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, and the other dealers in agricultural poison? You decide. The organic solution would have been to leave the gun in the holster and give Mike Brown a ticket, not fire 12 bullets into him for a misdemeanor.
‘NO GMO’ CHIPS TURN OUT TO BE LOADED WITH GMOS
Xochitl, a company that makes tortilla chips, has gained a foothold in grocery stores across the United States in large part because of two words added to its package to reassure consumers: “No GMO.”
Its website shows that the chips are now in grocery stores across the country, and both organic and non-organic varieties are offered (both say “No GMO” on the bag). But according to a recent test conducted by Consumer Reports, the company has been lying about that important distinction. The recent Consumer Reports investigation found that the non-organic (but supposedly non-GMO) varieties of the chips actually contained over 75 percent GMO corn, based on tests of six different packages.
This is why we need mandatory GMO labeling with fully defined standards and verification. Anything less is unacceptable. Food manufacturers need to be held accountable and we need to know if it’s GMO.
FOOD GIANTS TURN HEALTHY YOGURT INTO JUNK FOOD
A new report called “Culture Wars: How the Food Giants Turned Yogurt, a Health Food, into Junk Food,” issued by The Cornucopia Institute, accuses Dannon, Yoplait, Chobani and other major marketers of misleading parents, who are looking for healthier foods for their families, into purchasing yogurts loaded with sugar and containing a myriad of questionably safe artificial sweeteners, colors, and emulsifiers.
The group alleges that agribusiness, in its marketing approach, has capitalized on yogurt’s historic, well-deserved, healthful reputation while simultaneously adulterating the product, sometimes illegally, to gain competitive advantage and popular appeal.
In addition to The Cornucopia Institute’s comprehensive report on the yogurt industry, they also released a related buyer’s guide rating 114 brands and separating the truly healthy options from those that would be found on any dietitian’s shortlist of foods to avoid.
You can read Cornucopia’s report at http://www.cornucopia.org/yogurt/
and see its buyer’s guide at http://www.cornucopia.org/yogurt-scorecard/
SAN JOSE TAKES THE LEAD IN SMART WASTE TECHNOLOGY
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and City of San José officials have toured the city’s Zero Waste Energy Development anaerobic digestion facility where food scraps are turned into renewable energy and compost for local farms.
The facility’s state-of-the-art anaerobic digesters use bacteria to break down food waste in an oxygen-free environment, converting it into methane biogas that’s burned to generate electricity. The facility can digest and compost 90,000 tons of food waste and produce 1.6 megawatts of electricity per year. San José aims to achieve zero waste by 2022 and diverts 74 percent of materials from landfills through reuse, recycling, composting, and anaerobic digestion.
INDIAN FILMMAKER DOCUMENTS GMO ABUSES
In his documentary, “Poison on the Platter,” Indian filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt examines how multinational corporations and government regulators have conspired to spread GE foods across India, reports Dr. Joseph Mercola’s website.
The film provides an insightful perspective about the global impact of GMOs. If you don’t believe contamination of our food supply by GMOs holds the potential for planetary disaster, you might change your mind after seeing this film. Mahesh Bhatt warns:
“In their mad rush to capture the multi-billion dollar Indian agriculture and food industry, the biotech multinational companies are bulldozing warnings by scientists about the adverse impact of GMO foods on health and the environment. This is hurtling mankind toward a disaster, which will be far more destructive than anything the world has seen so far, simply because it will affect every single person living on this planet.”
JUDGE BLOCKS MAUI’S LAW BANNING GMO CULTIVATION
A federal judge has ruled that Maui County, Hawaii, may not implement a new law banning the cultivation of genetically modified organisms until he considers arguments in a lawsuit against the measure.
Monsanto Co. and a unit of Dow Chemical Co. sued the county to stop the law. Employees of the companies and local Maui County businesses joined the lawsuit. They argue that the law would harm the economy and their businesses. They said the court has already ruled in another case involving a Kauai law regulating genetically engineered crops, that the state, and not the county, has jurisdiction over the issue.
Maui voters created the law with a ballot initiative. The measure was to take effect after officials certified the election results, which was expected later this month. Now both sides have agreed to delay the date the law goes into effect, U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren said in his ruling.
Kenneth Robbins, an attorney for the companies, said Kurren was saying in his ruling the plaintiffs have shown they could potentially suffer irreparable harm if the law goes into effect.
Michael Carroll, an attorney for the ballot initiative’s authors, plans to ask Kurren to hold off from deciding this case until a state court on Maui rules on a separate lawsuit his clients filed Wednesday. That lawsuit seeks to compel the county to implement the law. Carroll said Friday he’s hopeful the federal court will ultimately agree the issues should be decided in a Maui court.
Does ‘Gluten Allergy’ Really Have Anything to Do with Gluten?
Organic Lifestyle Comments Off on Does ‘Gluten Allergy’ Really Have Anything to Do with Gluten?
All of a sudden, my supermarket has a whole shelf of gluten-free products. Seems like everything now comes in a gluten-free version. But it wasn’t that long ago that most people had never heard of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, except that it was a necessary part of good, chewy, wholesome bread. What happened? Why so much gluten intolerance all of a sudden?
Well, why so much autism all of a sudden? So much diabetes? So much obesity? Could the allergic reaction to bread be attributed to something other than gluten? I mean, human beings have been eating wheat since the dawn of agriculture 10,000 years ago, and were probably gathering einkorn, modern wheat’s predecessor, for many years before that. All of a sudden everyone’s got a wheat allergy?
An intriguing blog called The Healthy Home Economist made a recent post that is astonishing, and it concerns wheat allergy. In the post, the author, who calls herself Sarah, with no last name, claims that just before harvest, most of the wheat used in our foods is sprayed with Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide and that what people are actually experiencing is a response to this toxic chemical.
“According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as of 2012, 99 percent of durum wheat, 97 percent of spring wheat, and 61 percent of winter wheat has been doused with Roundup as part of the harvesting process,” Sarah claimed, though a link to these USDA statistics was not provided. But a chart from a USDA database indicates that these wheats do receive applications of Roundup, even though there is no Roundup-resistant wheat that is approved for mainstream use in the United States.
I checked the Monsanto website regarding the application of Roundup to crops just before harvest (which means the herbicide residues are not only in every cell of the crop’s tissues, but also on the surface as a residue). Monsanto recommends spraying three or four days before harvest. You can check it yourself at http://roundup.ca/_uploads/documents/MON-Preharvest%20Staging%20Guide.pdf. At the site, farmers are encouraged to apply Roundup to many crops just before harvest, not just wheat but also barley, oats, canola, flax, peas, lentils, and dry beans.
One of the reasons to spray these food crops, Monsanto says, is to kill weeds that may have grown with the crop or will grow post-harvest. “Preharvest is the best time for controlling Canada thistle, quackgrass, perennial sowthistle, dandelion, toadflax, and milkweed. A preharvest weed control application is an excellent management strategy to not only control perennial weeds, but to facilitate harvest management and get a head start on next year’s crop,” Monsanto says.
And another reason to spray is to promote uniformity of ripening of the seeds to be used for human or animal food. And finally, when the wheat or other stalks die, they dry quickly and are easier on the farmers’ equipment, such as combines.
The Manitoba Pulse Growers’ literature warns farmers in that Canadian province to be aware that some countries require crops to contain “less chemical residue” than others. It states that, in the U.S., there are no marketing issues with excess Roundup residue on plants. The maximum residue level allowed is set, and provided farmers follow the directions on their Roundup labels, they don’t need to worry. Selling to Japan is a bit more difficult if farmers use pre-harvest Roundup treatments, because the maximum residue level of Roundup that Japan will tolerate on beans is “set at a rigidly low level.”
Preharvest spraying of this toxic chemical might help explain the results from a study released earlier this year that found higher than expected levels of glyphosate in breast milk samples. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup. Despite the herbicide being found in breast milk, urine, streams and waterways, and even rain, Monsanto maintains that the use of Roundup on feed crops and food crops alike is safe for animals and people under “present and expected conditions of use.”
Also, a new report by ConsumerReports.org points out that a gluten-free claim doesn’t mean the product is necessarily more nutritious, it may actually be less so; that consumers may increase their exposure to arsenic by going gluten-free, and a gluten-free diet might cause weight gain—not weight loss. And, most gluten-free foods cost more than their regular counterparts.
Still, a new survey of more than 1,000 Americans conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center found that about a third of people buy gluten-free products or try to avoid gluten. Among the top benefits they cited were better digestion and gastrointestinal function, healthy weight loss, increased energy, lower cholesterol, and a stronger immune system.
“While people may feel better on a gluten-free diet, there is little evidence to support that their improved health is related to the elimination of gluten from their diet,” said Trisha Calvo, deputy content editor, health and food, at Consumer Reports. “Before you decide to ride the wave of this dietary trend, consider why it might not be a good idea.”
Unless someone has a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease – an autoimmune condition in which gluten causes potentially life-threatening intestinal damage – Consumer Reports says there is little reason to eliminate gluten, and doing so may actually be a disservice to one’s health. Less than seven percent of Americans have these conditions.
A quarter of the people CR surveyed thought gluten-free foods have more vitamins and minerals than other foods. But CR’s review of 81 products free of gluten across 12 categories revealed they’re a mixed bag in terms of nutrition. Many gluten-free foods aren’t enriched or fortified with nutrients such as folic acid and iron as many products that contain wheat flours are.
And according to CR’s survey, more than a third of Americans think that going gluten-free will help them slim down, but there’s very little evidence that doing so is a good weight-loss strategy; in fact, the opposite is often true. Ditching gluten often means adding sugar, fat, and sodium, which are often used to pump up the flavor in these foods; these foods also might have more calories and consuming them could cause some people to gain weight.
If going gluten free means cutting down on the toxic load of glyphosate you’re getting, then it is a good thing. But you don’t have to give up eating healthy whole grain breads. Just choose organic.
THE TROUBLE WITH GLYPHOSATE
Shall we take a closer look at Roundup and glyphosate to see if it really is safe, especially if sprayed on crops just before harvest?
Glyphosate kills by inhibiting an enzyme (CYP 450) involved in the synthesis of amino acids. It’s absorbed through foliage and transported by the plant to growing points. Unable to make the amino acids necessary for life, the plant dies. Because of this mode of action, it is only effective on actively growing plants. It is not effective as a pre-emergence herbicide; that is, before the crop seeds sprout and start to grow.
Glyphosate may be the culprit behind many of the so-called “diseases of civilization” that have plagued humanity since the chemical was introduced into agriculture in the last third of the 20th Century, diseases that are escalating at alarming rates today. These diseases and conditions include birth defects, autism, gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, infertility, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and more.
That’s the conclusion of two scientists who looked over 286 studies of the biological effects of glyphosate and published their findings in the peer-reviewed journal Entropy in mid-April, 2013. These findings are a bombshell that, if confirmed by further scientific studies, could—and should–lead to a total worldwide ban on glyphosate. Women of child-bearing age, who plan to become pregnant, who are pregnant, or are rearing young children should pay close attention to the following information.
In their search of the literature, environmental scientist Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff, Senior Research Scientist at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, found a great deal of evidence that glyphosate suppresses and inhibits a human enzyme called cytochrome P450, known in scientific shorthand as CYP. Inhibiting enzymes is exactly how glyphosate works as an herbicide, because enzymes are catalysts for all sorts of functions in plants, and when they are suppressed, the plants die for lack of the ability to function properly. Something of the same effect may be at work in humans who ingest glyphosate from their food.
“Glyphosate’s inhibition of CYP enzymes is an overlooked component of its toxicity to mammals,” they write. “CYP enzymes play crucial roles in biology, one of which is to detoxify any foreign substances not normally found in living creatures, such as pesticides, industrial chemicals, pollutants, and drugs. Thus, glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. The negative impact on the body is insidious, and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems within the body.”
The authors show how glyphosate harms three crucial bodily functions. First, it interferes with CYP enzymes. Second, it disrupts our intestinal flora’s ability to construct important amino acids that build and repair the body’s cellular tissues.
Third, it impairs the movement of sulfate compounds in the blood. These compounds are especially important in the growth of infants, young children, and the developing fetus in pregnant women due to their role in forming and assigning jobs to hormones that direct normal fetal growth. Hormones are the body’s messaging system, telling tissues like stem cells how to grow and what to grow into. Endocrine disruptors like glyphosate impair the body’s hormonal messages. It’s as if your cell phone connections were garbled and mostly incoherent.
Glyphosate’s enzyme inhibition acts synergistically with the other two damaging effects—that is, it produces a more serious health effect than the sum of the individual effects.
In conclusion, the study’s authors write: “Given the known toxic effects of glyphosate reviewed here and the plausibility that they are negatively impacting health worldwide, it is imperative for more independent research to take place to validate the ideas presented here, and to take immediate action, if they are verified, to drastically curtail the use of glyphosate in agriculture. Glyphosate is likely to be pervasive in our food supply, and contrary to being essentially non-toxic, it may in fact be the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment.”
What the authors have done in this study of the scientific literature on glyphosate is to connect the dots, with each dot being one of the 286 studies.
Author Anthony Samsel is an environmental scientist with a long list of achievements in pollution control. He’s a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, and an organic farmer to boot. “Now that I’m retired, it’s time to help those who are victimized by industrial polluters,” he says. Now his work focuses on charitable community investigations of industrial polluters of air and water by hazardous chemical materials; agricultural pollution by pesticides, biocides, and genetically engineered materials, and their effects on public health and the environment.
He says that the information about glyphosate’s disastrous effects on human health have not been reported to the public before. “As far as I know, I have never seen CYP 450 enzymes referred to in a non-technical magazine,” he says.
“I started reading Organic Gardening magazine as a child in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I have owned and operated several commercial farm operations in New England. I now grow five acres of organic produce in New Hampshire, most of which is donated to the needy in this area.”
Author Stephanie Seneff told me that “I became interested in glyphosate through my research on autism. I have been alarmed by the recent increases in the incidence of autism in the U.S., and I am determined to figure out what environmental toxins may be at play. I have now become convinced that glyphosate plays a major role, although it is not the entire story.” The incidence of autism in America has risen by 30 percent just in the past two years.
“We did not do any new research other than predict the likely consequences of glyphosate, given the evidence available in the papers we reviewed. I don’t think anybody else has put together the story that’s in this paper, regarding how glyphosate can be linked up to syndromes like obesity, depression, and autism directly through its known actions on biological systems. So I would say that our findings and conclusions are new, rather than just a summary.”
Are there any other indications that glyphosate may be causing harm?
Three rivers come together and run through the Yakima Valley of Washington State. The Valley is home to a large portion of Washington’s fruit growing industry, and so in the 1960s, noxious weed control boards were established to keep weed competition with the fruit industry’s crops in check.
Barbara H. Peterson, writing in her informative blog, Farm Wars, details what happened next:
“Three Washington counties – Yakima, Benton, and Franklin – experienced an unusually high number of birth defects (800 percent higher than the national average) at around the same time as glyphosate was being used extensively for several years to eradicate noxious weeds on land and in the water. That birth defect is called anencephaly, or failure of the neural tubes that form the brain to develop. It’s almost always fatal. Could there be a connection?
“It appears that Yakima, Benton, and Franklin counties just happen to have three things in common – the Yakima River, a noxious weed eradication program using copious amounts of glyphosate for years on both land and in the river, and an increase in anencephaly, which glyphosate just happens to be suspected of causing.
“Considering the government’s propensity to ignore any connection between Monsanto’s glyphosate and health effects, and the fact that the EPA just raised allowable glyphosate levels, I think we can safely assume that the correlation between increased usage and these brain damaged babies will not be adequately investigated.”
Worldwide, annual use of glyphosate is projected to reach 1.35 million metric tons by 2016, according to Global Industry Analysts, Inc.
Now let’s look at some studies about glyphosate’s toxicity.
The headline in the Journal of Environmental and Analytical Toxicology reads: “Teratogenic Effects of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides: Divergence of Regulatory Decisions from Scientific Evidence.” Put in simpler terms, the headline means that the people responsible for making the safety rules for glyphosate are ignoring the evidence of its harm in animal development. This article cites a number of scientific studies showing that the chemical causes birth defects by interfering with retinoic acid, a signaling molecule derived in the body from vitamin A that guides embryonic development in all animals with backbones, from fish to humans. Despite many studies showing reproductive problems and birth defects in animals like frogs and rats, officials in the German Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety and European Union food safety officials minimized the potential for harm by relying primarily on studies paid for by Monsanto, Dow, and Syngenta that downplayed the problems.
The conclusion of the article’s eight scientists states, in part, “A substantial body of evidence demonstrates that glyphosate and Roundup cause teratogenic (a teratogen is an agent affecting an embryo or fetus) effects and other toxic effects on reproduction, as well as genotoxic effects (a genotoxin causes mutations by damaging an organism’s DNA)…Attempts by industry and government regulatory bodies to dismiss this research are unconvincing and work against the principle that it is the responsibility of industry to prove that its products are safe and not the responsibility of the public to prove that they are unsafe.”
Researchers in a French study exposed live human liver cells to glyphosate at lower levels than found in agriculture and reported that all the cells’ normal functions were disrupted within 24 hours. DNA damage was found at just five parts per million of the herbicide. The researchers concluded, “A real cell impact of glyphosate-based herbicides residues in food, feed or in the environment has thus to be considered, and their classifications as carcinogens/mutagens/reprotoxics discussed.” The title of their paper in Toxicology for August 21, 2009, is not weasel-worded: “Glyphosate-based herbicides are toxic and endocrine disruptors in human cell lines.”
A September, 2013, study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, is titled, “Glyphosate Induces Human Breast Cancer Cells Growth Via Estrogen Receptors.” In other words, when scientists added glyphosate to a petri dish with living human breast cancer cells, the cells started reproducing like crazy, an action that is the definition of cancer.
A French study found that very low doses of glyphosate reduced testosterone levels in male rats by 35 percent and caused cell death at higher levels. A study published in the journal Archives of Toxicology showed Roundup is toxic to human DNA even when diluted to concentrations 450-fold lower than used in agricultural applications. Industry regulators and long-term studies look at glyphosate in isolation, instead of looking at Roundup’s full formulation, which includes secret added ingredients. These “confidential” and unlabeled ingredients, when measured as a whole, affect all living cells, including human cells.
A study in Environmental Health Perspectives for June, 2005, tested glyphosate alone and as an ingredient in Roundup, which contains other chemicals beside glyphosate, on living placental cells—you know, those cells whose job it is to interface with the mother’s bloodstream to secure nutrients for the developing baby. Here’s the upshot, translated from the scientific jargon: “Here we show that glyphosate is toxic to human placental cells within 18 hours with concentrations lower than those found with agricultural use, and this effect increases with concentration and time or in the presence of the other ingredients in Roundup. Surprisingly, Roundup is always more toxic than its active ingredient (glyphosate). We tested the effects of glyphosate and Roundup at lower nontoxic concentrations on aromatase, the enzyme responsible for estrogen synthesis. We conclude that endocrine and toxic effects of Roundup, not just glyphosate, can be observed in mammals. We suggest that Roundup enhances glyphosate bioavailability and/or bioaccumulation.” In other words, the other ingredients in Roundup make it more toxic than glyphosate alone.
The other way that newborn babies can get glyphosate from their moms is through breast milk. A group called Moms Across America did research on glyphosate in American mothers’ breast milk at several locations across the country and found that indeed, it was in the milk at levels around 700 parts per billion. This is 700 times higher than allowed in Europe’s drinking water. And while 700 ppb is a lot, it is still less than the maximum allowable by the Environmental Protection Agency. And since the research was preliminary and not a rigorous scientific study, we need to make sure we don’t overstate the case here. And yet 700 ppb is frightening, because glyphosate at almost any level causes concern.
Moms Across America released the breast milk report to EPA in April, 2014. More recently, the group gave EPA a three-inch-thick binder full of studies showing harm to humans and other mammals, Here are just a handful of the many studies EPA was given:
Glyphosate was recently connected to increases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Peer reviewed studies show rats fed diets as low as 2 ppm of glyphosate were 70 percent to 80 percent more likely to develop tumors than rats not fed the chemical. Infertility, affecting both the sperm and the egg, was documented in animals subjected to glyphosate residue levels as low as .05 ppm. Birth defects in frog and chicken embryos resulted after being subjected to glyphosate residues of just 2.03 ppm.
The chemical is a chelator, making certain nutrients unavailable in foods.
Glyphosate has an antibiotic effect that kills gut bacteria at one-tenth parts per million. One of the levels found in breast milk was one-third greater than that. “Therefore we can surmise that many of our babies’ gut bacteria are being destroyed, weakening their immune systems,” the organization writes. And remember that study by Samsel and Seneff mentioned earlier? The study’s full title is, “Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases.” Some of the studies cited in this review connect glyphosate with autism. That’s a connection, not a cause-and-effect conclusion, but it should throw up a big warning flag for the EPA.
EPA, however, has said only that it will include Mothers Across America’s breast milk information in its review, which will take until sometime in 2015. During this wait time, MAA points out, the U.S. will continue to be Number One in the industrialized world for infant death on the baby’s first day. “Fifty percent more babies die in the U.S. on day one than all of the other industrialized nations combined,” MAA says.
About a million metric tons (about 2 billion, 205 million pounds) of Roundup are used on farms, gardens, and lawns worldwide every year in the most recent calculations. And so it’s found everywhere—in the air, water, and soil; in the plants grown in that soil, in the animals who eat those plants, and in the people who eat those plants and animals.
Glyphosate was detected in more than 75 percent of air and rain samples in the Mississippi delta region in a 2007 study.
The EPA in July, 2013, announced a final ruling to increase, yet again, the allowed residue of glyphosate in food and animal feed. Under the ruling, the allowed glyphosate level in animal feed has risen to 100 parts per million and 40 ppm in oilseed crops.
The EPA ruling defies sound science and undermines public health, yet the EPA claims glyphosate is only “minimally toxic” to humans, and 40 ppm is nothing to worry about.
But if Roundup is so toxic, why is everyone using so much of it? And why all around the world?
Roundup has been around since the 1970s, but it really became a super problem when the science of genetic engineering was perfected in the mid-1990s. Monsanto’s scientists—and its marketing executives—reasoned that if they could find a gene for glyphosate resistance and put it into major crop seeds, then farmers could pour on enough Roundup to kill weeds without harming the major crops. This would open up vast new markets for the herbicide.
As early as 1982, the scientists were looking for ways to make crops resistant to the herbicide, but first, they had to find the genetic key to that resistance. Remember that Monsanto had been making Roundup since the early 1970s, and waste water involved in the processing was stored in its waste ponds. Now, when you assault an organism—especially a microorganism—with a death-dealing chemical, you kill off most of a population, except for a few mutants who can resist the assault. These reproduce and soon you have a colony of resistant bacteria, or weeds, or insects, or what-have-you. It was then that Monsanto discovered the gene for glyphosate resistance in its waste water ponds, where they had inadvertently created the conditions nature needed to develop the gene in bacteria through mutation and natural selection. At the same time, genetic engineering—the swapping of genes among different orders of plants and animals—was a developing science, and by 1996, GMO soybeans were dubbed Roundup Ready and offered for sale on the market. Today soy, corn, canola, alfalfa, cotton, sorghum, potatoes, and wheat (under development) are Roundup Ready.
What this means to pregnant women and parents of young, developing children and those kids entering puberty is that those crops are not only GMOs (genetically modified organisms)—you know, the GMOs that Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, Syngenta, and other biotech firms don’t want you to know about on food labels—but they have also been grown with systemic Roundup. Remember, this chemical mixture is systemic. It’s in every cell of the plant. You can’t wash it off. It survives cooking, freezing, and canning. It goes into you and your offspring.
Monsanto says that by using Roundup Ready crops, farmers can reduce the use of this herbicide. But that’s nonsense. Farmers lavish Roundup on their crops and fields, as we’ve seen. Roundup use has quadrupled since the GMO crops were introduced.
Remember also that nature responds to death-dealing chemical assaults by creating mutations to counter the assaults. And so the use of Roundup on these GMO crops has resulted in races of superweeds that Roundup now can’t kill. In Monsanto’s version of the arms race, it suggested that Roundup be paired with Dow’s 2,4-D—another very toxic herbicide and one of the components of Agent Orange, the defoliant used to kill forests in Vietnam so our planes could see where to bomb.
The USDA was asked to approve the use of this double-whammy, supertoxic herbicide, and in the fall of 2014, did so. Will it kill the superweeds? Experience tells us that it will kill some of them—but not all. A few resistant weeds will survive, breed, and produce the next generation of super superweeds. And so on ad infinitum, with Monsanto, Dow and the rest laughing all the way to the bank, leaving farmers, the environment, and all of us out here in a world poisoned by glyphosate, holding the bag. And trying to learn how to protect our children.
Be aware that glyphosate-containing GMO corn and soy are almost ubiquitous in conventional processed foods like breakfast cereals, soft drinks, cookies, pastries, and so on. Read labels. If it contains corn and soy, it almost assuredly contains glyphosate.
So, given all this information, let me ask you two questions:
Do you think it’s wise to trust Monsanto when it says that Roundup is safe?
Do you need any more incentive to eat organic?
MAUI VOTES AGAINST GMOS, IS PROMPTLY SUED BY MONSANTO
Despite outspending citizens 87 to 1, the biotechnology industry, led by Monsanto, was defeated in Maui when that Hawaiian island’s citizens passed a GMO moratorium calling for a complete suspension of the cultivation of genetically engineered crops until studies conclusively prove they are safe.
Monsanto has announced it will file a lawsuit to challenge the moratorium. It is already suing the state of Vermont after that state passed a law requiring GMO foods to be labeled.
Ballot initiatives to label GMOs narrowly failed to pass in Oregon and failed miserably in Colorado on November 4 after the biotech industry and junk food makers spent many tens of millions of dollars to tell people—falsely—that labeling GMOs would raise their food prices, that anyone who is anti-GMO is anti-science, and that all of it, Roundup included, is perfectly safe.
I FOUND THIS GOOD IDEA ON FACEBOOK
From Klyda White: Instead of an oil sands pipeline, build a water pipeline from the Midwest and northern states to California. Same number of jobs created. Limit some of the flooding in these Midwest states. Help rebuild California’s water tables and irrigate all the fresh vegetables the country needs. And if it springs a leak, it would just be FRESH WATER spilling into rivers, lakes and the aquifer. Seems like win-win-win to me.
USDA Approves New GMO Potato, Alfalfa
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The Organic Consumers Association reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved a new GMO potato.
The “Innate” potato is made by the J. R. Simplot Company—the largest supplier of potatoes to McDonald’s restaurants. The USDA has also recently approved a new genetically engineered alfalfa.
Simplot wants consumers to believe that its new GMO potato is not only harmless, but the potato is bruise-resistant (which is really a benefit to commercial buyers and growers, not consumers), and that when heated to a temperature required for frying, the potato produces less asparagine, a naturally occurring amino acid that at high temperatures reacts with some sugars to oxidize into acrylamide. Acrylamide is recognized as a potential carcinogen.
In other words, the maker of the Innate GMO potato says it’s not only safe (the same claim Monsanto and Dow make about their GMO corn and soy products), it’s actually better for you than a non-GMO potato.
What Simplot doesn’t tell you is that the technology used to create the Innate potato—RNA interference, or RNAi—is considered by some scientists to be even more dangerous than the DNA manipulation technology used to create Roundup Ready and Bt crops.
INTERNATIONAL STUDY WILL INVESTIGATE GMOS, ROUNDUP
On Tuesday, November 11, a $25-million international study was launched that will put an end, once and for all, to the question of whether or not Monsanto’s Roundup is “safe,” the Organic onsumer’s association reports.
The study, the first of its kind, will be based on a variety of herbicide-resistant corn. Three independent scientists–from the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation in Moscow, from the University of California in Irvine, and from the Maltoni Cancer Research Center in Bentivoglio, Italy–will investigate the answers to these questions:
1. Is the GM food (or its associated pesticide; i.e. Roundup herbicide) toxic to organ systems over the long-term?
2. Does the GM food (or its associated pesticide) cause cancer?
3. Does the GM food (or its associated pesticide) reduce fertility or cause birth defects?
4. Is the mixture of chemicals present in Roundup herbicide more or less toxic than its active ingredient glyphosate?
PESTICIDES LINKED TO DEPRESSION IN FARMERS, FARM WIVES
Earlier this fall, researchers from the National Institute of Health finished up a landmark 20-year study of about 84,000 farmers and spouses of farmers since the mid-1990s to investigate the connection between pesticides and depression, a connection that had been suggested through anecdotal evidence for far longer, Modern Farmer magazine reports.
Dr. Freya Kamel, the lead researcher on the study, told Modern Farmer that “There had been scattered reports in the literature that pesticides were associated with depression. We wanted to do a new study because we had more detailed data than most people have access to.” That excessive amount of data includes tens of thousands of farmers, with specific information about which pesticides they were using and whether they had sought treatment for a variety of health problems, from pesticide poisoning to depression. Farmers were surveyed multiple times throughout the 20-year period, which gives the researchers an insight into their health over time that no other study has.
There’s a significant correlation between pesticide use and depression. The two types that Kamel says reliably moved the needle on depression are organochlorine insecticides and fumigants, which increase the farmer’s risk of depression by a whopping 90 percent and 80 percent, respectively. The study lays out the seven specific pesticides, falling generally into one of those two categories, that demonstrated a categorically reliable correlation to increased risk of depression.
These types aren’t necessarily uncommon, either. Malathion was used by 67 percent of the tens of thousands of farmers surveyed. Malathion is banned in Europe, but is a common pesticide not only on farms but around homes and gardens.
DR. MERCOLA’S FIVE FACTORS CAUSING OBESITY EPIDEMIC
Two out of three Americans are now either overweight or obese, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola (www.mercola.com).
Obesity has become the number one form of malnutrition in the country, and no group has been hit harder than children. Childhood obesity in the U.S. has nearly tripled since 1980, and one in five kids is now overweight by age six; 17 percent of children and adolescents are obese.
As noted in a recent article by investigative health reporter Martha Rosenberg, the weight of the average American increased by 24 pounds in the four decades between 1960 and 2000.
Contrary to popular belief, obesity is not simply the result of eating too many calories and not exercising enough. While those are part of the equation, there are a number of other environmental and lifestyle factors that are likely to play a much more significant role because most people don’t realize they’re affected by them, and therefore fail to address them. They are:
#1: Antibiotics in Food and Medicine. Eighty percent of all antibiotics used in America are fed to farm animals, which we eat. These antibiotics harm our gut bacteria, an essential part of a strong immune system and obesity control.
#2: Growth Enhancing Drugs and Hormones used on Farm Animals. They are used to fatten livestock and have the same effect on us.
#3: Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals. These are pervasive in food and the environment. The endocrine system is the master hormonal system, directing all kinds of processes in our bodies that keep us healthy and at a normal weight. When these chemicals disrupt the body’s messaging system, obesity is just one of the bad results.
#4: Artificial Sweeteners. The lure of artificial sweeteners is the idea that no- or low-calorie sugar substitutes will help you lose weight. But research has repeatedly shown that artificially sweetened foods and beverages tend to stimulate your appetite, increase cravings for carbs, and stimulate fat storage and weight gain.
#5: Junk Food Marketing. Not only are processed foods a direct cause of obesity, but they are aggressively marketed, especially to children. According to a 2013 report by the Institute of Medicine, children aged 2-11 now see an average of more than 10 television food ads per day. And 98 percent of these are for products that are high in fat, sugar, and/or sodium.
WHAT MAKES YOU THINK YOUR HALIBUT IS REALLY HALIBUT?
Oceana and Food and Water Watch reports that fraud is rampant at the fish market.
When grouper, halibut, and red snapper were DNA tested, they sometimes turned out to be king mackerel and tile fish, two types of fish the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises pregnant women and other sensitive groups to avoid due to high mercury content.
According to Oceana, more than 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, yet only one percent of these imports are inspected for fraud. Evidently, no one is minding the store. You can protect yourself by visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s website (seafoodwatch.org) to see what seafood choices are wise and to download a free app for your iPhone or Android device.
PEOPLE’S PARK REVISITED: NOW IT’S PEOPLE’S FARM
On an April morning in 2012, hundreds of people broke the lock on a fence surrounding the Gill Tract, a 14-acre plot of land owned by the University of California. They set about planting thousands of vegetable seedlings.
This was to protest the university’s plans to convert part of the Gill Tract into a commercial development. But the protestors also had bigger things on their minds, such as malnutrition among the poor. The Gill Tract protest, which has evolved and persisted for more than two years, has become a symbol of the subversive possibilities of urban agriculture.
There’s now a documentary about events at the Gill Tract called Occupy the Farm. The director of the film, Todd Darling, told National Public Radio that “What surprised me when I first got there was how much fun everybody was having. All these kids were running around. People from the neighborhood were there. I realized that doing this as a group, in a piece of open land, was fulfilling people in a way that everyone was surprised at. When people talk about growing food as community, as a way of building communities, I realized that it’s not just rhetoric, it actually is true. There’s something magical about that activity.”
Darling’s film highlights many of the big issues that motivated the protest’s organizers. “It certainly was a protest against the university’s plans to essentially privatize it by paving it over and leasing it out to commercial operations, but at the heart of it is the story of food and malnutrition in urban areas,” he says.
At the end of the first summer, the impromptu farmers harvested two tons worth of food. Darling says he was startled by the amount. “I came to realize how much food you could really grow in a small area,” he says.
Groups Against GMO Labeling: ‘Science Wins’
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The good citizens of Colorado have voted to keep themselves free of the knowledge of whether their food contains genetic modifications, and it looks like the good citizens of Oregon are following suit, although Prop 92—the ballot measure requiring such labeling–is trailing by a very slim margin in balloting that is, at this writing, still too close to call.
Funny—but in preliminary polling before the vote, the measure to label GMO food was leading by 30 percentage points. My, how tens of millions of dollars in propaganda money from Monsanto, Coke, Pepsi, et al, can turn a race around. What must they have told the folks in Oregon to make that poll lead evaporate? Let me guess.
How about, “Labeling GMOs will make your food cost more!” It’s an outright lie, of course. All Prop 92 required is a little more ink on the already-existing label.
Some sources are calling the defeat of the measures a win for science, as if the measures were a confrontation between “science” and…what? Sorcery? Witchcraft? Druidism?
The confrontation wasn’t between those things at all. The confrontation was between huge corporations that have found diabolically clever ways to sell toxic herbicides and plants modified to produce pesticides in every bite, and folks who want to avoid these things.
“Diabolically clever?” Isn’t that hyperbole, Jeff? No. The Environmental Protection Agency just declared that the neonicotinoid pesticides used to coat GMO seeds—pesticides that kill honeybees and cause declining bird numbers (see story later in this blog)—do not increase yields or save farmers money. Despite this, Monsanto has announced that it will continue to sell neonic-treated seeds. That’s diabolical, if not clever.
USDA APPROVES GMO POTATO
A potato genetically engineered to eliminate a potentially harmful ingredient that emerges in the high heat required for French fries and potato chips has been approved for commercial planting, the Department of Agriculture has announced, according to Andrew Pollack writing in The New York Times.
The potato’s DNA has been altered so that less of a chemical called acrylamide is produced when the potato is fried. Acrylamide has been shown to cause cancer in rodents and is a suspected human carcinogen. The newly designed potato also resists bruising.
The potato was developed by the J. R. Simplot Company, based in Boise, Idaho, one of the nation’s largest potato producers and a major supplier of frozen French fries to McDonald’s. The resistance to bruising is a characteristic long sought by commercial users of potatoes because the damage — which usually occurs during storage and shipment — makes them unusable.
Simplot is also applying for approval of another genetically modified potato that is resistant to late blight, the cause of the Irish potato famine. The U.S.D.A. is considering that application.
The approval applies only to growers in the United States. Other nations have their own rules — some of them much more stringent — on the growing of genetically modified foods. The European Union, for example, has been much more reluctant to approve the modified crops.
Potatoes are the latest genetically engineered crop to get approval in the United States. Others include corn, soybeans, alfalfa, canola, sugar beets, certain types of yellow squash and zucchini.
CLIMATE CHANGE DENIER TO LEAD ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE
Rebecca Leber, writing in The New Republic, points out that in handing Republicans control of the Senate, Americans effectively voted for the party’s hostile plans against President Barack Obama’s environmental legacy. Their votes also put the Senate’s environment and climate policy into the hands of the worst science-denier in national politics: Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, who is almost certainly the next chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Inhofe claimed in 2003 that global warming might help humanity. “It’s also important to question whether global warming is even a problem for human existence. Thus far no one has seriously demonstrated any scientific proof that increased global temperatures would lead to the catastrophes predicted by alarmists. In fact, it appears that just the opposite is true: that increases in global temperatures may have a beneficial effect on how we live our lives.”
Inhofe refuted climate change science in 2012 by citing the Bible. “[T]he Genesis 8:22 that I use in there is that ‘as long as the earth remains there will be seed time and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night.’ My point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”
ORGANIC FARMING SUPPORTS BIODIVERSITY
A recent meta-analysis published in the Journal of Applied Ecology compared biodiversity under organic and conventional farming methods by studying the findings from 94 studies, according to The Organic Center.
After confounding factors were accounted for, the results showed that organic farms had 30 percent more species than conventional farms, and this trend was seen consistently across literature published over the past 30 years. The majority of research comparing conventional and organic farming systems has taken place in developed countries, particularly Europe and North America, leaving a large gap in our knowledge and a need for more research on the effects of organic farming on diversity in tropical and sub-tropical areas.
“This analysis affirms that organic farming usually has large positive effects on average species richness compared with conventional farming. Given the large areas of land currently under agricultural production, organic methods could undoubtedly play a major role in halting the continued loss of diversity from industrialized nations,” the authors conclude.
NEONICOTINOID USE LINKED TO DECLINING BIRD POPULATIONS
Research has demonstrated that exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides is harmful to non-pest insects such as bees. Now, a new study published in the journal Nature demonstrates that the negative effects of these unintended exposures may reach much further up the food chain than scientists previously suspected.
Researchers from Radboud University in the Netherlands demonstrated that bird populations declined in areas where surface water contained concentrations of the neonicotinoid pesticide imidacloprid at 20 nanograms per liter. These declines were observed even when habitat destruction due to changing land use was accounted for.
The study also demonstrates insectivorous bird populations did not begin declining until the mid-1990s, when farmers in the region began using imidacloprid. The authors suggest that bird populations are not likely to be declining due to direct toxicity of the pesticide but in response to their declining food source—namely insects particularly sensitive to the chemical. Future pesticide regulation should take into account that more wildlife is at risk due to neonicotinoid use in conventional agriculture than was previously anticipated.
LOOK FOR CASCADE ICE SUGARLESS THIRST QUENCHER
A company in Washington State is marketing a product it calls Cascade Ice, and it carries the USDA Organic seal. It is water from a municipal water supply—actually a lake—in the foothills of the Cascade mountains, that is filtered and given a tiny drop of organic fruit essential oil for flavoring and a charge of carbon dioxide to make it bubbly. No sugar. No artificial sweetener. No high fructose corn syrup. Just water and that drop of organic essential fruit oil. It’s what you want to quench your thirst rather than a can of something bad for you from Coke or Pepsi.