The Nature of Health
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We’ve all heard it a thousand times: “Your health is the most important thing. Lose your health and you’ve lost everything.”
But what is health, exactly? Some might say that it’s freedom from disease, but that’s not the right focus. As we proceed through life, we get sick from time to time. It’s how our bodies develop antibodies as defenses against diseases, so that we don’t keep getting the same disease over and over again.
Well, then maybe it’s freedom from chronic conditions like diabetes or emphysema. One can be free from chronic disease yet still be unhealthy, due to a poor diet or lack of exercise, or bad habits like smoking or doing drugs. So lack of disease is not necessarily an indication of good health. Lack of disease is just the baseline and starting point from which true health develops.
Health is something more fundamental. It’s beyond any symptoms or lack thereof. It is the birthright of every living system—whether individual creature, ecological association of creatures, or even the global web of all life—and it emerges to the degree that these systems are operating at full potential.
Too much of the way we live and do things today interferes with our ability to operate at full potential, and thus impedes our health rather than supporting it. Despite the propaganda of corporate agriculture, it’s obvious that our chemical-drenched and overly-processed food is harming us. Change is desperately needed, and not just in the matter of our food, but in just about every area of life.
Many of the needed changes are already afoot, although in early stages. More and more food is being grown organically. The problem of income inequality is getting more attention. Climate change is at least being addressed.
So, what do these systems and many others that affect global health have in common? Where is the template for change on this meta level? Let’s see if we can find it, starting with the life sciences.
Every creature is an interconnected web of life processes. Scientists over the centuries have worked to disentangle this web and study its parts and their functions. Any scientist who has studied anatomy, physiology, microbiology, cell biology, and similar fields will tell you that the interconnections are myriad, that living systems are mind-bogglingly complex.
But what if we went in the opposite direction? Instead of pulling life apart to see how it works, what if we discovered insights so deep that the welter of information about the life sciences pulls together, and what heretofore seemed to be unconnected facts are now seen as varied expressions of overarching principles? As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Our globe…is a transparent law, not a mass of facts. The law dissolves the fact and holds it fluid.”
There may have been a time when one human mind could hold all the available knowledge of the life sciences, but that time isn’t now. Ask a scientist if he or she can keep up with the tsunami of information in their field that comes at them every day, and chances are they will say, “No way.” It is time to think about synthesizing rather than simply explicating our knowledge. In this way we’ll find clues to true health.
Every individual life has a job within the context of an ecology. The wolves cull the browsers. The browsers keep down the woody plants, allowing meadows to grow. The meadows offer food and habitat for plant-eating insects. Plant-eating insects cull the weak meadow plants. All are different forms of life, but all are following nature’s ecological rule: “The interaction of predator and prey promotes the health of the whole system.”
And what is mankind’s ecological role? Genesis 2, verse 15 says, “And the Lord put the man into the Garden of Eden to dress it and keep it.” If we read this metaphorically, the world is the Garden of Eden and our job is to dress and keep it—to protect it, in other words. Not a job we’ve been doing too well of late.
Another of nature’s organizing principles might be called, “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” We see this in microbes that develop resistance to antibiotics, in the super weeds that are plaguing farmers who douse their fields with herbicides, and in insects that evolve resistance to pesticides. Setting out to kill whole populations of any organism puts evolutionary pressure on that organism to learn to live with the deadly agent. If a farmer spreads pesticide on 10,000 acres of cotton, it’s a guarantee that there will be a few mutant boll weevils that are immune to the pesticide’s killing power. They breed and you soon have a field full of boll weevils that can ignore the pesticide.
A sad corollary to this principle is that thoughtless human activity is driving many species to extinction, not by applying toxic agents, but simply through habitat loss due to human occupation and our lack of concern for a healthy environment. We might call this natural imperative to protect nature, “Think holistically and think long-term.” By thinking holistically, we take all of nature into account when we act, and by thinking long-term, we assess the consequences of our actions into the future.
There’s another natural principle that could be called, “Possession is nine-tenths of the law.” In farmland fertilized organically with bacteria-laden and nutrient-rich compost, disease-causing microorganisms have a difficult time gaining a toehold. The good guys overwhelm the bad guys. The same principle holds true in the human gut. When the gut is thoroughly colonized by probiotic cultures, such as found in kefir and sauerkraut, disease-causing bacteria are muscled out by the healthful microbes. So it behooves us to make sure we are farming in ways that support a strong, biodiverse ecology of life-giving organisms.
All living things transmit the instructions for reproduction through DNA, yet all DNA is made from just four building blocks. It’s a language with just four letters, but they are enough to make everything from a yeast cell to an elephant. All living things also use four major elements to construct their tissues: hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen.
One more principle could be called, “Waste not, want not.” Nature recycles those four major elements and a raft of trace elements in smaller amounts, and recycles them over and over. A bit of your body may once have been a dinosaur, a fish in the ocean, and a saber-tooth tiger before it got to you. The recycling starts with the modest microorganisms and soil creatures, and builds its way in increasing complexity towards the champion example of living complexity. No, not human beings, but rather the loblolly pine with 22 billion combinations of those four letters in its strands of DNA. By comparison, a human being is built from just three billion of the four letters.
From the life in the soil all other life springs. As Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet, “That which is nature’s mother is her tomb. What is her burying grave, that is her womb.” In the climax ecosystem of a virgin forest, all the nutrients are recycled. In a tropical forest where it’s always hot, almost all the nutrients are up in the trees, in the parasitic plants that grow on the trees, in the arboreal animals, birds, insects, and so on. If a leaf falls, it’s quickly decomposed by bacteria into its constituent nutrients that are hauled back up into the forest canopy to build new tissue. As life approaches the colder climates, where winter slows and then halts the recycling process, more and more of the organic matter is stored in the duff of the forest floor. Enter a forest in the Mid-Atlantic States and the duff may be less than a foot thick and the topsoil below it a couple of feet thick. But enter a Canadian forest and the duff and topsoil may be many feet thick. The environmental conditions may change, but the recycling principles are the same.
A healthy soil is one where the life in the soil has what it needs to function as it should and grow healthy plants. Healthy plants are those that have the nutrients they need to carry out their personal and ecological functions. The animals that eat those plants similarly get the nutrients they need to assume the roles nature has fitted them for. Thus health is something that comes up from the soil through the web of life to form fully functional climax ecosystems. At death, microbes return the nutrients in the once-living tissue to the soil, where they are food for the next generation of beings.
The soil, therefore, is the source and destiny of life, and the engine that churns the elements as they become an endless succession of living creatures.
Nature’s laws, then, are variations on a theme of cooperation and competition. And cooperation and competition in turn are two sides of the same coin. Cooperation promotes health, but so does competition. Symbiotic relationships in nature–such as the colonization of plant roots by fungus that scavenges phosphorus and feeds it back to the plant and the sticky sweet sap that the plant exudes to feed the fungus–is an example of cooperation promoting health. In rutting season, bucks vie with one another and the winner impregnates the does, passing his genes on to posterity—an example of competition promoting the health of the herd.
Ideally, this is how it works, and how it has worked through the vast stretches of time leading up to the Anthropocene—that is, the age of the dominance of mankind. Yet look around today and you see lots of illness and obesity, but precious little climax ecosystem. There is no question that we, an aggressive species of primate, are not only overpopulating the planet but are also on a killing spree that’s causing wholesale species extinction.
Change toward a healthier way to conduct our social, economic, political, and personal lives depends on recognizing the fundamental laws of nature, then reconstituting our ways of living to follow those principles. Nature’s basic rule that conflates all the others is pretty simple. We need cooperation and we need competition, in equal measure, for they are the yin and yang of life, the unity that transcends duality. Our current society, at least in America, puts the emphasis on competition, which throws everything out of whack.
But wait, someone might say, don’t employees cooperate at work to produce a product or a service? I’d venture to say that there is just as much competition and jockeying for position and favor among a corporation’s hourly employees as among the salaried workers. And look at our Congress: very little cooperation, overwhelming competition, a broken system. The proper balance is achieved in team sports, where the competition between teams and even between teammates for a spot on the starting line-up is fierce, but no team will be a winning team if its players don’t cooperate.
Both cooperation and competition need a goal. It may even be the same goal. But the end—the goal—doesn’t justify the means. Reaching the goal at all costs and by any means necessary is out-of-control competition. Cooperation keeps rampant competition in check, and competition whets the appetite for cooperation.
So what do we get when we set up our systems—from supplying food to building innovative technologies—to imitate nature’s imperative for cooperation and competition allied to reach a goal? We get a confluence of unforeseen benefits. The country of Denmark has come a long way in showing us how this works. Not only do the Danes reach their goals, they do so as the happiest people on earth, many studies show. Freedom from worry because of a strong, cooperative social safety net reduces stress and promotes mental and physical health. Health and happiness go hand in hand.
Just recycling nutrients on the organic farm through the agency of compost produces a huge confluence of unexpected benefits. More spongy organic matter in the soil means the soil holds more water and, as shown in recent droughts, makes the soil more drought resistant. The compost favors the growth of fungal mycelia in the soil, allowing plants to communicate with one another through a kind of living internet under the ground. And so when insects attack one plant, it signals others to start producing insect-repelling substances in their leaves, lessening the damage and thwarting the attack. Suffice it to say that by following nature’s rules, you are playing nature’s game, and that game is benign, holistic, and long-term.
A moment’s reflection will reveal that playing by any other set of rules, such as making the bottom line the most important product of any business, gives you a confluence of unexpected detriments. By using poisons to kill weeds, you encourage the development of weeds that defeat the purpose of the poisons. Did the makers of Roundup foresee that?
When how we act reflects how all of nature’s rules come together in the unity of cooperation and competition in balance, there will be enormous repercussions in all the areas of life. For instance, in any personal relationship, there’s competition for each partner’s time, there are competing demands, differences of opinion, problems that need solving, competition with yourself to prioritize needs and wants. A loving relationship will mean that cooperation is the salve that heals the wounds and the glue that holds the partners together when forces are working to pull them apart. Love is cooperation and is found at one pole of life; competition is selfishness at the other pole of life. They reside together within all of us. Strangely, they complement each other. A hill presupposes a valley.
Only by keeping this balance in mind will we reach the place where our biological and spiritual systems operate at full capacity, where these systems are whole and sound, and where true health—and happiness–are found.
Agribusiness’ Big Lie Exposed
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In last week’s Organic Food Guy, I posted an astonishingly good piece of reporting by Jonathan Latham, PhD, executive director and co-founder of the Bioscience Resource Project, based in Ithaca, New York, that originally appeared in the Independent Science News.
In his article (you can read it by visiting organicfoodguy.com and in the upper right corner where it says “Recent Posts,” click on How the Food War Can Be Won), Latham reveals that we in America have been fed a Big Lie by agribusiness. The lie is that the burgeoning human race will outrun the world food supply within a few decades and only agribusiness and large-scale, corporate conventional agriculture can possibly feed all the people that will overrun the planet by then.
Latham points out that far from running out of food, the world is awash with food and will continue to be for as far into the future as we can see. He provides the details for this assertion in his article.
Of course it’s in the interest of agribusiness firms to scare everyone into thinking that we face imminent starvation and that they are our salvation.
As a journalist, it’s my job—and my duty—to be skeptical. Is Latham’s Big Lie true? Is there really an agribiz PR strategy to convince the country that only Big Ag can save us from the impending days of famine? I thought I’d check, so I googled “World Food Crisis,” and sure enough, within the first few items to come up was a website from Monsanto. Very slick, very friendly, and very much the scare tactic that Latham exposed.
Here are the first few paragraphs on the site:
“Our world’s food system is a balance of farmers, grocers and companies who work together to provide fresh foods year round. In the next 50 years, our society will have to produce more food than it did in the past 10,000 years combined in order to meet the needs of nearly 2 billion more people.
“It’s one of the greatest challenges facing humankind, and it’s one we’re committed to help addressing by directly working with others to help solve.
“We’re one of many organizations working towards creating a more food-secure world. Thinkers from the Global Harvest Initiative, World Economic Forum and World Food Prize Foundation agree–addressing the food challenges of tomorrow requires innovative, thoughtful action today. From Africa to Asia, and here in our own backyard, we’re putting our heads together to make this vision a reality.”
Wow—we’re going to have to produce more food in the next 50 years than all the food produced since the dawn of agriculture 10,000 years ago. Sounds like we need a miracle. Maybe the miracle will come from the institutions the Monsanto website mentions, like the Global Harvest Initiative.
According to SourceWatch, a website that parts the curtains of corporate and political front groups to see who’s really behind them, “the Global Harvest Initiative is a campaign to encourage a second Green Revolution based on a baseless claim that the world must double food production by 2050 to feed a growing population.”
The organizations that make up GHI as of 2013 include DuPont, Elanco, IBM, John Deere, and Monsanto, all agribusiness giants promoting large scale conventional agriculture and GMO seeds.
The World Economic Forum includes 1,000 of the largest corporations in the world.
The World Food Prize Foundation is an outgrowth of the Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s when an agronomist named Normal Borlaug tried to end world hunger by bringing chemical agriculture to replace the indigenous agriculture of native peoples worldwide. Borlaug was lionized as the man who saved a million lives, but this is a phony narrative. He was really the man who replaced sustainable native agriculture with conventional chemical agriculture.
University of Indiana historian Nick Cullather wrote a book called “The Hungry World” about all this in 2010. Mother Jones’ book reviewer Tom Philpott, in his review of the book, wrote, “As for Borlaug, a future Nobel laureate and putative savior of India’s famine-stalked masses who died in 1999, he learned in Mexico to see modernization as a transition from lower to higher levels of soil nutrients; i.e., energy-intensive, soil-degrading synthetic fertilizers.
“By the end of the Mexico chapter, Cullather has already shattered the Green Revolution myth and exposed it as something like a lunge, and a not very well thought-out one, to replace other societies’ farming systems with our own highly problematic one. The Mexico effort’s one unambiguous success was in creating an attractive development model: Take hybridized (or now, GMO) seeds, douse them with imported fertilizers, add water and pesticides, and get more food.”
The annual meeting of the World Food Prize Foundation was held in Iowa at the end of 2014, and dubbed “The Year of Norman Borlaug.” Speakers included Dr. Marco Ferroni of Syngenta, Dr. Catherine Feuillet of Bayer CropScience, Dr. Robert Fraley and Kerry Preete of Monsanto, Dan Glickman and Tom Vilsack, the former and current U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture respectively, Dr. Claudia Garcia of Elanco, Paul Schickler of DuPont, Tom Leech of Walmart, John May of John Deere, Esin Mete of the International Fertilizer Industry Association, and Dr. Margaret Zeigler, executive director of Global Harvest Initiative.
The speakers focused on what they called, “The Greatest Challenge in Human History:
Can we sustainably feed the 9 billion people who will be on our planet by the year 2050?”
Notice that they used the word sustainable. Anyone who knows conventional agriculture knows that it is not sustainable. Sustainable means that farms can be run efficiently forever by recycling nutrients, rather than importing chemicals that over time poison the farm environment. So what are these agribiz giants doing talking about sustainability?
Well, a quick look at Monsanto’s corporate website (Monsanto.com) reveals in its first sentence that “Monsanto is a sustainable agriculture company,” and invites visitors to click through to a three-minute propaganda film entitled, “Monsanto’s Commitment to Sustainable Agriculture.”
Of course, there are farmers and institutions that either practice or promote true sustainability: organic and Biodynamic farmers, others who may not identify with those terms but farm without using conventional methods, and then there are institutions like the International Organization of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), the British Soil Society, the Permaculture people, the Organic Consumers Association, the Rodale Institute, and many more that are working tirelessly to advance the cause of real sustainability. Note that none of them appear in the ranks of the agribusiness PR people, lobbyists, and high tech farm groups that run with Monsanto. In fact, if you examine the farming methods that are truly sustainable, you realize that organic agriculture can easily feed the world in perpetuity while improving the soil, protecting the environment, and providing livelihood to millions of folks. But none of this is in the purview of Big Ag because it is not really interested in feeding the world sustainably, it is interested in selling product and reaping profit.
Bottom line: Latham is exactly right. The notion that famine is in our future and only agribusiness can save us is a Big Lie promoted to convince people that corporate agriculture is in the best interests of the human race.
BEWARE OF BARRON’S ‘QUICK CHECK GUIDE TO ORGANIC FOODS’
Ninety-five percent of the book is simply a listing of calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, protein, and total carbohydrates for the panoply of organic foods. The problem chapters come at the beginning of the book, where the author, Barbara Wexler, a graduate of the Yale University College of Medicine, presents the value of genetically modified foods without mention of the many studies that have shown the problems, such as direct ill effects of GMOs on the digestive system, and especially the effect of the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) used in abundance on GMO crops, which de-activates an enzyme crucial to the production of proteins in both plants and animals. She gives organic foods a general pat on the back for the cleanliness without any mention of the many studies that show their nutritional superiority and health-building consequences. All in all, the book, which purports to be a reference for those wanting to eat organic foods, seems more like an apology for conventional foods than an investigation of the health value of organic food and the benevolent agriculture that produces it.
PARCHMENT BAG COOKING FROM SIMPLY ORGANIC
Simply Organic is selling kits for quick and easy meals when time is short and the body exhausted after a day of work. The kit is called Steam Gourmet and consists of a parchment bag and a packet of seasonings. You buy (organic) skinless, boneless chicken breasts on the way home, sprinkle them with the seasonings on both sides, place them in the parchment bag and fold it to seal, place the bag in the oven and bake according to the instructions on the kit. The bag seals in moisture and flavors, and the breasts emerge perfectly cooked and seasoned. Add organic salad and whole grain bread and the entire meal is ready. Clean-up is simple and everything is organic.
A NEW WAY TO PREVENT GMO CONTAMINATION IN THE WILD
Could genetically modified bacteria escape from a laboratory or fermentation tank and cause disease or ecological destruction? New York Times’ science writer Andrew Pollack asks this all-important question in the January 21, 2015, newspaper.
This is not known to have occurred, he says, perhaps forgetting that several rogue genes have escaped into open fields around America, contaminating wheat crops, corn crops, wild weeds, and threatening species that rely on those plants with extinction (cue the photo of the monarch butterfly). But, he writes, two groups of scientists reported on Wednesday that they had developed a complex technique to prevent it from happening.
The scientists have given a common type of bacterium a unique genetic code that makes it dependent for survival on unnatural amino acids that must be fed to it. If such organisms escaped into the wild, where those amino acids are not available, they would die. First of all, Pollack doesn’t mention that the “common type of bacterium” is E. coli, an inhabitant of the human gut that can cause violent illness and, under certain circumstances, death.
Second, organisms tend to find their way around man-made attempts to thwart them. The more aggressively you assault an organism, the more evolutionary pressure you put upon it to find a way around the assault. How long before E. coli or other organisms that need that “unnatural amino acid” to survive learn to manufacture that amino acid or commandeer some other organism to manufacture it for them?
“It really addresses a longstanding problem in biotechnology,” said Farren Isaacs, an assistant professor of molecular, cell, and developmental biology at Yale, who led one of the research groups. He called it a “really compelling solution to engineering biocontainment, or biological barriers that limit the spread and survival of organisms in natural environments.”
Scientists are so cocksure that they have solved the GMO containment problem that they may be unpleasantly surprised at life’s ability to tenaciously evolve ways to stay alive. I certainly am not anti-science. I am anti-hubris among scientists who plunge ahead in the firm belief that they know better than nature.
SABRA HUMMUS CONTAINS GMO SOYBEAN OIL
Green America’s GMO Inside campaign has announced a major new push to get Sabra, the world’s largest manufacturer of hummus, to drop genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from its popular hummus dip.
GMO Inside and allies will mobilize public pressure on Sabra with a call-in day of action, a petition, social media outreach and other steps. The campaign comes just one week before Super Bowl XLIX, which will prominently feature Sabra as the official hummus of the NFL.
Green America’s GMO Inside campaign is also demanding that Sabra’s parent company, PepsiCo, end its multi-million dollar funding of anti-GMO labeling campaigns around the country. Most recently, PepsiCo. spent $4 million to fight GMO labeling initiatives in Oregon and Colorado, and over $8 million in total fighting labeling.
To date, over 13,000 consumers have signed GMO Inside’s petition urging Sabra and PepsiCo to go non-GMO and for PepsiCo to certify Sabra products through a third party non-GMO-verification. Information about Green America’s GMO Inside campaign is available online at http://gmoinside.org/sabra/.
“Consumer demand for organic and non-GMO foods is growing,” said John W. Roulac, GMO Inside co-chair. “Sabra has already moved some of its products to non-GMO; doing the same for its signature dip will allow the firm to meet growing customer demand.”
“Consumers are upset that Sabra’s parent company PepsiCo has spent a total of $8.6 million to deny them their right to know about GMOs,” stated Nicole McCann, campaign director of Green America’s GMO Inside. “As awareness grows about the risks of GMOs, consumers are shifting their support away from companies and brands contributing to anti-labeling efforts, as well as products containing GMO ingredients.”
“By continuing to use genetically engineered soybean oil, produced with toxic pesticides that put humans, pollinators, and the planet at risk, Sabra is supporting an unsustainable food system that largely benefits big chemical and agribusiness corporations,” said Lisa Archer, food and technology program director at Friends of the Earth.
WHEN A CEREAL BOX TELLS A BIG FAT LIE
General Mills’ Vanilla, Chocolate and Cinnamon Chex boxes all proudly display a label that should make many health-conscious consumers happy: “no high fructose corn syrup.”
The only problem: it’s not true, according to Credo Action.
These General Mills products all contain a super-concentrated sweetener that is made from high fructose corn syrup, and within the Big Ag industry is literally called “HFCS-90” or high fructose corn syrup-90.
But then the Corn Refiners Association changed the name to “fructose.” And now General Mills is not only disingenuously hiding their corn syrup behind this innocuous alias–the company is bragging that it’s products don’t contain any!
The “fructose” label is especially nefarious, since fructose is a naturally occurring fruit sugar, and HFCS-90 is a highly concentrated, highly processed product that is molecularly different from the fructose you would eat in your apple. The corn industry waves away HFCS-90 as a minor ingredient, stating “HFCS-90, is sometimes used when very little is needed to provide sweetness.” But that’s clearly not the case. According to the label, there is actually more HFCS-90 in Cinnamon Chex than there is actual cinnamon.
Clearly, General Mills is eager to make these claims as many consumers are increasingly avoiding high fructose corn syrup over health concerns. The drastic increase of this cheap sugar replacement in the past 40 years has coincided with skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes and other metabolic diseases. And while the science is still emerging, a number of studies – including one just released from the University of Utah – have found evidence that high fructose corn syrup is more toxic than sucrose, or traditional sugar.
Of course, both sugar and high fructose corn syrup are unhealthy in large amounts. But making healthy choices starts with understanding what we are eating. And as long as companies like General Mills are not only changing the names of ingredients, but also flat-out lying on the front of the box, informed choices are that much harder.
JUST HOW BAD ARE MONSANTO AND FRIENDS?
Here’s the executive summary of a 60-plus pager report written by Gary Ruskin for the non-profit U.S. Right to Know, entitled, “Seedy Business.” If you’d like to read the whole report, you can find it at https://www.organicconsumers.org/sites/default/files/seedybusiness.pdf.
For anyone reading this who thinks that anti-GMO folks are hysterical anti-science nut jobs, let me just say that I’ve had my finger on this pulse since 1970, and what Ruskin writes is the absolute truth. The Big Ag companies are as bad as he says, and in my opinion, worse, because they know the death and destruction they cause, but can’t stop themselves due to the extremely lucrative results of their work. What do you call someone (or some business) that causes death and destruction for self-aggrandizing profit? Whatever your term for that kind of sociopathy, it applies here. So—here’s the summary:
Since 2012, the agrichemical and food industries have mounted a complex, multifaceted public relations, advertising, lobbying and political campaign in the United States, costing more than $100 million, to defend genetically engineered food and crops and the pesticides that accompany them. The purpose of this campaign is to deceive the
public, to deflect efforts to win the right to know what is in our food via labeling that is
already required in 64 countries, and ultimately, to extend their profit stream for as long as possible.
This campaign has greatly influenced how U.S. media covers GMOs. The industry’s PR
firm, Ketchum, even boasted that “positive media coverage has doubled” on GMOs.
Due to this influence over the media, the public hears mostly what the industries claim: GMOs are safe, and anyone who disagrees or raises questions is not trustworthy. This report will show how the industries have manipulated the media, public opinion and
politics with sleazy tactics, bought science and PR spin. It will describe fifteen things that Big Food is hiding with its slick PR campaign on GMOs.
#1: The agrichemical companies have a history of concealing health risks from the public. Time and again, the companies that produce GMOs have hidden from consumers and workers the truth about the dangers of their products and operations. So how can we trust them to tell us the truth about their GMOs?
#2: The FDA does not test whether GMOs are safe. It merely reviews information submitted by the agrichemical companies.
#3: Our nation’s lax policy on GMOs is the work of former Vice President Dan Quayle’s
anti-regulatory crusade. It was designed and delivered as a political favor to Monsanto.
#4: What the agrichemical and tobacco industries have in common: PR firms,
operatives, tactics. The agrichemical industry’s recent PR campaign is similar in some ways to the most infamous industry PR campaign ever – the tobacco industry’s effort to evade responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans each year.
#5: Russia’s PR firm runs the agrichemical industry’s big PR salvo on GMOs. We don’t
trust the PR firm Ketchum when it spins for Russia and President Putin. Why should we trust its spin on GMOs?
#6: The agrichemical industry’s key front groups and shills aren’t trustworthy. Many of
the industry’s leading advocates have records of defending the indefensible, or other scandals and conduct that inspire no confidence.
#7: The agrichemical companies have employed repugnant PR tactics. These tactics
include attacks on scientists and journalists, and brainwashing children.
#8: The agrichemical companies have a potent, sleazy political machine. They have
allies in high places, and employ their power vigorously – and sometimes corruptly — to protect and expand their markets and their profits from GMOs.
#9: Half of the Big Six agrichemical firms can’t even grow their GMOs in their own
home countries. Because of the health and environmental risks of GMOs, citizens of
Germany and Switzerland won’t allow farming of BASF, Bayer and Syngenta’s GMO seeds.
#10: Monsanto supported GMO labeling in the UK but opposes it in the USA. Although
Monsanto is based in St. Louis, Missouri, Monsanto believes that British citizens deserve stronger consumer rights than Americans do.
#11: The pesticide treadmill breeds profits, so it will likely intensify. It is in the financial
interest of the agrichemical companies to promote the evolution and spread of the most pestilential superweeds and superpests, because these will spur the sale of the greatest
quantities of the most expensive pesticides.
#12: GMO science is for sale. Science can be swayed, bought or biased by the agrichemical industry in many ways, such as suppressing adverse findings, harming the careers of scientists who produce such findings, controlling the funding that shapes what research is conducted, the lack of independent U.S.-based testing of health and environmental risks of GMOs, and tainting scientific reviews of GMOs by conflicts of interest.
#13: There are nearly no consumer benefits of GMOs. The GMOs that Americans eat are
not healthier, safer or more nutritious than conventional foods. They do not look better,
nor do they taste better. By any measure that consumers actually care about, they are not in any way an improvement. Profits from GMOs accrue to the agrichemical companies, while health risks are borne by consumers.
#14: The FDA and food companies have been wrong before: they have assured us of the
safety of products that were not safe. Many drugs and food additives that the FDA allowed on the market have subsequently been banned because they were toxic or dangerous.
#15: A few other things the agrichemical industry doesn’t want you to know about
them: crimes, scandals and other wrongdoing. The agrichemical industry’s six major firms — Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, DuPont, Bayer and BASF — have been involved in so many reprehensible activities that documenting them would require at least an entire book.
How the Food War Can Be Won
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The following article could very well be the most important article you’ll read anywhere in 2015. I know it’s long, but settle in a comfy place and read it top to bottom. You will have your mind expanded.
It was written by Jonathan Latham, PhD, executive director and co-founder of the Bioscience Resource Project, based in Ithaca, New York, and was posted January 12, 2015, in the Independent Science News. It is so important that I am re-posting it (almost) in its entirety.
What Latham does in this article is to expose the behind-the-scenes underpinnings of how and why agribusiness has managed to take over the world’s agriculture when it obviously is detrimental to the health of nature and nature’s creatures. I have added a few parenthetical bits of information. Here it is:
Consider this: Researchers from Iowa have shown that organic farming methods yield almost as much crop as conventional methods using agricultural chemicals. Other researchers, from Berkeley, California, have reached a similar conclusion. (In fact, many studies show organic yields can exceed conventional yields.) Indeed, both of these findings met with a very enthusiastic reception. The enthusiasm is appropriate, but only if one misses a deep and fundamental point: that even to participate in such a conversation is to fall into a carefully laid trap.
The strategic centerpiece of Monsanto’s Public Relations campaign, and also that of just about every major commercial participant in the industrialized food system, is to focus on the promotion of one single overarching idea. The big idea that industrial producers in the food system want you to believe is that only they can produce enough for the future population.
Thus non-industrial systems of farming, such as all those that use organic methods or non-GMO seeds, cannot feed the world.
(They’ve been saying this for decades. If you’re old enough, you may remember Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz’s response when asked about organic farming in the 1970s. He said, “Who’s going to decide which 50 percent of the world’s population will starve if we switch to organic farming?”)
To be sure, agribusiness has other PR strategies: “Agribusiness is pro-science; its opponents are anti-science,” and so on. But the main plank has for decades been to create a cast-iron moral framing around the need to produce more food.
Therefore, if you go to the websites of Monsanto and Cargill and Syngenta and Bayer and their bedfellows: the US Farm Bureau, the UK National Farmers Union, and the American Soybean Association, and CropLife International, or The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Rockefel;l;er Foundation, USAID, or the international research system (CGIAR), and now even NASA, they very soon raise the “urgent problem” of who will feed the expected global population of nine or 10 billion in 2050.
Likewise, whenever these same organizations compose speeches or press releases, or videos, or make any pronouncement designed for policymakers or the populace, they devote precious space to the same urgent problem. It is even in their job advertisements. It is their Golden Fact and their universal calling card. And as far as neutrals are concerned it wins the food system debate hands down, because it says, if any other farming system cannot feed the world, it is irrelevant. Only agribusiness can do that.
Yet this PR strategy has a disastrous foundational weakness. There is no global or regional shortage of food. There never has been and nor is there ever likely to be. India has a superabundance of food. South America is swamped in food. The US, Australia, New Zealand and Europe are swamped in food. In Great Britain, as in many wealthy countries, nearly half of all row crop food production now goes to biofuels, which at bottom are an attempt to dispose of surplus agricultural products. China isn’t quite swamped but it still exports food and it grows 30 percent of the world’s cotton. No foodpocalypse there either.
Of all the populous nations, Bangladesh comes closest to not being swamped in food. Its situation is complex. Its government says it is self-sufficient. The UN world Food Program says it is not, but the truth appears to be that Bangladeshi farmers do not produce the rice they could because prices are too low due to persistent gluts (1).
Even some establishment institutions will occasionally admit that the food shortage concept-–now and in any reasonably conceivable future-–is bankrupt. According to experts consulted by the World Bank Institute there is already sufficient food production for 14 billion people-–more food than will ever be needed. The Golden Fact of agribusiness is a lie.
So, if the agribusiness PR experts are correct that food crisis fears are pivotal to their industry, then it follows that those who oppose the industrialization of food and agriculture should make dismantling that lie their top priority.
Anyone who wants a sustainable, pesticide-free, or non-GMO food future, or who wants to swim in a healthy river or lake again, or wants to avoid climate chaos, needs to know all this. Anyone who would like to rebuild the rural economy or who appreciates cultural, biological, or agricultural diversity of any meaningful kind should take every possible opportunity to point out the evidence that refutes it.
Granaries are bulging, crops are being burned as biofuels or dumped, prices are low, farmers are abandoning farming for slums and cities (and people in some industrialized countries throw up to a third of the food they buy into the garbage). Anyone could also point out that probably the least important criterion for growing food is how much an acre of farmland yields. Even just to acknowledge crop yield as an issue for anyone other than the individual farmer is to reinforce the framing of the industry they oppose.
The project to fully industrialize global food production is far from complete, yet already it is responsible for most deforestation, most marine pollution, most coral reef destruction, much of greenhouse gas emissions (according to The New York Times, “2014 now surpasses 2010 as the warmest year ever in a global temperature record that stretches back to 1880), the most habitat loss, most of the degradation of streams and rivers, most food insecurity, most immigration, most water depletion, and massive human health problems. Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to say that if the industrialization of food is not reversed, our planet will be made unlivable for multi-cellular organisms. Our planet is becoming literally uninhabitable solely as a result of the social and ecological consequences of industrializing agriculture. All these problems are without even mentioning the trillions of dollars in annual externalized costs and subsidies.
So, if one were to devise a strategy for the food movement, it would be this. The public already knows (mostly) that pesticides are dangerous. They also know that organic food is higher quality, and is far more environmentally friendly. It knows that GMOs should be labeled, are largely untested, and may be harmful. That is why the leaders of most major countries, including China, dine on organic food. The immense scale of the problems created by industrial agriculture should, of course, be understood better, but the main facts are hardly in dispute.
But what industry understands, and the food movement does not, is that what prevents total rejection of bland, industrialized, pesticide-laden, GMO food is the standard acceptance, especially in Western countries, of the overarching agribusiness argument that such food is to feed the world.
But, if the food movement could show that famine is an empty threat, then it would also have shown, by clear implication, that the chemical health risks and the ecological devastation that these technologies represent are what is unnecessary. The movement would have shown that pesticides and GMOs exist solely to extract profit from the food chain. They have no other purpose. Therefore, every project of the food movement should aim to spread the truth of oversupply, until mention of the Golden Fact invites ridicule and embarrassment rather than fear.
Food campaigners might also consider that a strategy to combat the food scarcity myth can unite a potent mix of causes. Just as an understanding of food abundance destroys the argument for pesticide use and GMOs simultaneously, it also creates the potential for common ground within and between constituencies that do not currently associate much: health advocates, food system workers, climate campaigners, wildlife conservationists and international development campaigners. None of these constituencies inherently like chemical poisons, and they are hardly natural allies of agribusiness, but the pressure of the food crisis lie has driven many of them to ignore what could be the best solution to their mutual problems: small scale farming and pesticide-free agriculture. This is exactly what the companies intended.
So divisive has the Golden Fact been that some non-profits have entered into perverse partnerships with agribusiness and others support inadequate or positively fraudulent “sustainability” labels. Another consequence has been mass confusion over the observation that almost all the threats to the food supply (salinization, water depletion, soil erosion, climate change, and chemical pollution) come from the supposed solution–-the industrialization of food production. These contradictions are not real. When the smoke is blown away and the mirrors are taken down, the choices within the food system become crystal clear. They fall broadly into two camps.
On the one side lie family farms and ecological methods. These support farmer and consumer health, resilience, financial and democratic independence, community, cultural and biological diversity, and long term sustainability. On the other side is control of the food system by corporate agribusiness. Agribusiness domination leads invariantly to dependence, uniformity, poisoning, and ecological degradation, inequality, land grabbing, and, not so far off, to climate chaos.
One is a vision, the other is a nightmare: in every single case where industrial agriculture is implemented, it leaves landscapes progressively emptier of life. Eventually, the soil turns either into mud that washes into the rivers or into dust that blows away on the wind. Industrial agriculture has no long-term future; it is ecological suicide. But for obvious reasons, those who profit from it cannot allow all this to become broadly understood. That is why the food scarcity lie is so fundamental to them. They absolutely depend on it, since it alone can camouflage the simplicity of the underlying issues.
Despite all this, the food and environmental movements have never seriously contested the reality of a food crisis. Perhaps that is because it is a narrative with a long history. As early as the 1940s, the chemical and oil industries sent the Rockefeller Foundation to Mexico to “fix” agriculture there. Despite evidence to the contrary, the Rockefeller scientists delivered a now-familiar narrative: Mexican agriculture was obviously gripped by a production deficit that could be fixed by “modern” agribusiness products., 2010). This story later became the uncontested “truth” that legitimized the green revolution and still propels the proliferation of pesticides, fertilizers, GMOs, and other agribusiness methods into every part of the globe.
Yet in the age of the internet it is no longer necessary to let an industry decide where the truth resides. It is possible to restore reality to the global discussion about food so that all potential production methods can have their merits fairly evaluated. Until this is done, agribusiness and chemical industry solutions will always be the default winner, alternative agriculture will always be alternative, if it exists at all.
The evidence with which to contradict the lie is everywhere; but in an unequal and unjust system truth never speaks for itself. It is a specific task that requires a refusal to be intimidated by the torrents of official misinformation and a willingness to disentangle oneself from the intellectual web of industry thinking. (That will often mean ordinary people acting alone.)
The task requires two things; the first is familiarity with the basic facts of the food system. Good starting points (apart from the links at the end of this article) are “Good Food for Everyone Forever” by Colin Tudge or “World Hunger: Twelve Myths” by Joseph Collins, Peter Rosset, and Frances Moore Lappe.
The second requirement is a shift in perception. The shift is to move beyond considering only physical goals, such as saving individual species, or specific political achievements, and to move towards considering the significance of the underlying mental state of the citizenry.
Companies and industries pay huge sums of money for public relations. PR is predicated on the idea that all human behavior is governed by belief systems. PR is therefore the discovery of the structure of those belief systems, mainly through focus groups, and the subsequent manipulation of those belief structures with respect to particular products or other goals.
Thus human reasoning, which asks questions like: Is it fair? What will the neighbors think? can be accessed and diverted to make individuals and groups act often against their own self-interests. Two important general rules are that it works best when people don’t know they are being influenced, and that it comes best from a “friendly” source. PR is therefore always concealed, which creates the widespread misunderstanding that it is rare or ineffective.
Anyone who desires social change on a significant scale should seek to understand this, and its corollary, that the food crisis lie is far from the only lie. As philosopher Michel Foucault documented for madness and also criminality, many assertions constituting supposed “reality” are best understood as establishment fabrications. Those described by Foucault mostly have deep historical roots; but others, such as the genetic origin of disease, or the validity of animal experiments, are untruths of recent origin. The function of these fabrications is always social control. As Edward Bernays, the father of modern PR, long ago wrote:
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”
The possibility of manipulating habits and opinions, which he also called “the engineering of consent” was not an idle boast. Foucault, who was concerned mostly with the power held by governments, considered that the fabrications he had identified were not conspiracies. They were emergent properties of power. Power and knowledge grow together in an intertwined and mutually supportive fashion. He argued that knowledge creates power but is also deferential to power and so is deformed by it. An example is when US newspapers decline to use the word “torture” for when torture is used by the US government, which euphemistically calls it “enhanced interrogation.” These newspapers and the US government are together doing what Foucault theorized. The US government gets to torture and gains power in the process while the public is simultaneously deceived and disempowered. In this way the preferred language of the powerful has historically and continuously evolved into the established public truth, to the disadvantage of the people.
Bernays, however, worked mainly for corporations. He knew, since some of them were his own ideas, that many of the more recent fabrications were not emergent properties but were intentionally planted.
The essential point, however, is to appreciate not only that companies and others deliberately engineer social change; but also that when they do so it begins with the reordering of the “reality” perceived by the people. The companies first create a reality (such as Mexican hunger) for which their desired change seems to the people either obvious, or beneficial, or natural. When it comes, the people therefore do not resist the solution, many welcome it.
Dictators and revolutionaries provide an interesting lesson in this. The successful ones have achieved sometimes extraordinary power. As always, they have done so first by changing the opinions of the people. The dictator, like any corporation, must make the people want them. As a general rule, dictators do this by creating new and more compelling false realities on top of older ones.
Hitler, to take a familiar example, harnessed a newly synthesized idea (German nationalism) to a baseless scientific theory (of racial genetics) and welded this to pre-existing “realities” of elitism and impugned manhood (the loss of WWI). These ideas were instrumental in his rise to power. But the important lesson for social change is that none of the ideas used by him possessed (now or then) any objective or empirical reality. They were all fabrications. It is true Hitler also had secret money, bodyguards, and so on, but so did others. Only Hitler found the appropriate combination of concepts able to colonize the minds of enough German people.
But Hitler is not known now for being just another leader of Germany. He is infamous for two events, the holocaust and World War II. The same lessons apply. Millions fought and died for almost a decade in a struggle to assert ideas that could have been destroyed by the intellectual equivalent of a feather. But that is how powerful ideas are.
The lies told in more democratic societies are not so very different to those used by Hitler in the sense that the important ones have predictable properties that can be categorized and sorted. What the food scarcity lie has in common with Hitler’s use of race, and with myths of nationalism, or of modern terrorism, and many others, is the creation of a threat, in this case of famine and possible social breakdown. The creation of an internal or external threat is thus the first category of lies.
The second category recognizes the necessity of “efficient government.” No government can issue direct and separate orders to all the people all the time. Nor can it possess the resources for physical enforcement of those orders. It must therefore find ways to cause the people to govern, order, and regiment themselves, in exquisite detail. Therefore, governments supply and support guiding principles in the form of artificial unifying but ill-defined aspirations, such as “progress” or “civilization.” Typically, they also strongly encourage the desirability of being “normal;” and especially they reinforce elitism (follow the leader), and so on.
Another structural category follows from the recognition that the effective operation of power over others, unless it is based on pure physical force or intimidation, usually requires an authoritative source of ostensibly unbiased knowledge. The population must be “convinced” by an unimpeachable third party. This function is typically fulfilled by either organized religion or by organized science. Scientific or religious institutions thus legitimize the ideas (progress, hierarchy, normality, inequality, etc.) of the rulers. These sources conceal the use of power because they combine the appearance of authority, independence and disinterestedness. These qualities are all or partly fictions.
Another category are fabrications intended to foster dependence on the state and the formal economy. These aim to undermine the ancient dependence of individuals on the land and each other, and transfer that dependence to the state. Thus the worship of competition, the exaggeration of gender differences, and genetic determinism (the theory that your health, personality, and success derive only from within) are examples of fabrications that sow enmity and isolation among the population.
Another important category, which includes the myths of papal infallibility, or scientific and journalistic objectivity, exist to reinforce the power of authority itself. These fabrications act to bolster the influence of other myths.
The above list is not exhaustive, but it serves to introduce the idea that the organizing of detailed control over populations of millions, achieved mostly without resorting to any physical force, requires the establishing and perpetual reinforcement of multiple interlocking untruths. This itself has important implications.
The first and most important implication is that if the lies and fabrications exist to concentrate and exercise power over others (and then conceal their use), then it also follows that genuinely beneficial and humanitarian goals such as harmony, justice, and equity, require retrieval of the truth and the goals will follow naturally from that retrieval.
The task of anyone who wants harmony, justice, and peace to prevail therefore becomes primarily to free the people from believing in lies and thus allowing them to attain mastery over their own minds. At that point they will know their own true needs and desires; they will no longer “want” to be oppressed or exploited.
The second implication of this entwining of knowledge with power is that, when properly understood, goals of harmony, understanding, health, diversity, justice, sustainability, opportunity, etc., are not contradictory or mutually exclusive. Rather, they are necessarily interconnected.
The third implication is that an empire built on lies is much more vulnerable than it seems. It can rapidly unravel. Think of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
Given that resources are limited, the problems of achieving broad social justice, of providing for the people, and of restoring environmental health consequently become that of discerning which of the lies (since there are many) are most in need of exposing; and perhaps in what order.
Thus the necessary shift in perception is to see that, as in most wars, the crucial struggle in the food war is the one inside people’s heads. And that the great food war will be won by the side that understands that and uses it best.
This food war can be won by either side. The natural advantages of the grassroots in this realm are many. They include the power of the internet-–which represents a historic opportunity to connect with others; second, that it takes a lot less effort to assert the truth than it does to build a lie–many people only need to hear the truth once; and thirdly, that in this particular battle the non-profit public-interest side doesn’t necessarily need a bigger megaphone because, unlike the industry, they are (broadly) trusted by the public.
Consequently, it is perfectly possible that a lie that took several powerful industries many decades to build up could be dismantled in months. It is necessary only to unleash the power of the truth and to constantly remember the hidden power of the people: that all the effort industries put into misleading them is an accurate acknowledgement of the potential of that power.
There are many writers and NGOs, such as Pesticides Action Network, IATP, EWG, Organic Consumers Association, IFOAM, the Center for Food Safety, and others, who are aligned with the grassroots, and who are doing a good and necessary job of explaining the problems and costs of industrial agriculture. But these arguments have so far proven inadequate. Agribusiness knows why that is.
But by combining these arguments with a refutation of the food crisis, they can help destroy the industrial model of agriculture forever. And when that happens, many of our worst global problems, from climate change and rainforest destruction down, will become either manageable or even negligible.
It is all in the mind.
(1) Billen et al (2011) Localising the Nitrogen Imprint of the Paris Food Supply: the Potential of Organic Farming and Changes in Human Diet. Biogeosciences Discuss 8: 10979-11002.
(2) Cullather, N. (2010) The Hungry World: America’s Cold War Battle against Poverty in Asia (Harvard)
(3) Foley et al (2005) Global Consequences of Land use. Science 309: 570.
(4) Foley et al (2011) Solutions for a cultivated planet. Nature 478: 337–342.
(5) Peekhaus W. (2010) Monsanto Discovers New Social Media. International Journal of Communication 4: 955–976.
(6) Pretty J. et al., (2000) An Assessment of the Total External Costs of UK Agriculture Agricultural Systems 65: 113-136.
(7) Stone GD and Glover D. (2011) Genetically modified crops and the ‘food crisis’: discourse and material impacts. Development in Practice 21: DOI: 10.1080/09614524.2011.562876
As if to back up what Dr. Latham has to say, the U.S. Congress steps to the front with two actions that seem mystifying until you think back on Dr. Latham’s viewpoint:
CONGRESS TELLS INVESTIGATORS: DON’T LOOK AT THE IMPACT
OF PEROPLE’S FOOD CHOICES ON THE ENVIRONMENT
A government-appointed group of top nutrition experts, assigned to lay the scientific groundwork for a new version of the nation’s dietary guidelines, decided earlier this year to collect data on the environmental implication of different food choices.
Congress now has slapped them down.
Lawmakers attached a list of directives to a massive spending bill that was passed by both the House and the Senate in recent days. One of those directives expresses “concern” that the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee “is showing an interest in incorporating agriculture production practices and environmental factors” into their recommendations, and directs the Obama administration to ignore such factors in the next revision of the guidelines, which is due out next year.
The federal dietary guidelines have never explicitly considered the effects of food choices on the environment, but the idea of doing so is not new. In 1986, nutritionist Kate Clancy, then teaching at Syracuse University, co-authored an article called “Dietary Guidelines for Sustainability.” It was addressed to her colleagues, Clancy says. She wanted them “to take a broader view of what they were advising people to do, with regard to their diet. It wasn’t just nutrients.” She urged them to consider not just what foods contribute to personal health, but also what types of food “contribute to the protection of our natural resources.”
Earlier this year, after the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee decided to look at some environmental aspects of diet, Clancy finally got an invitation to make her case to the committee. “Let me say that after 30 years of waiting, that fact that this committee is addressing sustainability issues brings me a lot of pleasure,” Clancy told the committee.
Members of the advisory committee aren’t allowed to talk to the media about their work. But Timothy Searchinger, a researcher with Princeton University and the World Resources Institute, an environmental group, believes that recommendations about diet have to consider environmental impacts. Producing food, he says, already claims half of all land where vegetation can grow. Farming is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases. “That doesn’t mean that farmers are bad. It means that eating has a big impact on the environment,” he says.
The impact will grow in the future, along with the world’s population. So if people are thinking about their own personal environmental footprint, he says, “probably what you eat is more important than anything else.”
In a meeting of the panel a few months ago, Miriam Nelson, a Tufts University professor, told the rest of the committee that “in general, a dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods is more health-promoting and is associated with less environmental impact.”
This new focus has already run into criticism. The American Meat Institute, which represents meat producers, says nutritionists don’t have the expertise to take on environmental questions.
The new directive from Congress may shut down the fledgling effort completely.
CONGRESS PREPARING TO KEEP YOU IN THE D.A.R.K.
Amanda Byrnes of Food & Water Watch points out that conservative legislators have already begun tackling their priority issues, and it’s only a matter of time before what’s known as the Deny Americans the Right to Know (or DARK) Act is re-introduced. If passed and signed into law, this act would overturn state laws that require the labeling of genetically engineered (GMO) foods.
Over 90 percent of Americans support the labeling of GMOs, a rare consensus that crosses all party lines. We have a right to know what’s in the food we eat — and a right to make informed choices about what we feed ourselves and our families.
State after state has introduced measures that would require GMO labeling, with some passing outright and others, notably in Oregon, coming within a stone’s throw of success. It’s just a matter of time before more states pass labeling laws, which is why the Grocery Manufacturers Association, representing corporations like Monsanto, Nestlé and Dow, hopes its allies in Congress will pass some version of the DARK Act and take away states’ rights to determine whether genetically engineered ingredients need to be disclosed on labels.
“Let the market decide” has long been a rallying point for politicians favoring limited regulation of corporations, so maybe it’s time to tell those members of Congress that the market has spoken, and it wants labels.
TO SUM UP:
Looking at these two Congressional actions, or actions-to-be from Dr. Latham’s perspective, you can see the hand of agribusiness at work in two ways. First, there is a revolving door between Congress and industry. Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto PR executive, now heads up our country’s food safety mechanism. Agribusiness executives, paid large sums of money, shuttle into the government and out of the government on a regular basis.
The other way agribusiness gets Congress to do its bidding is through lobbyists with their hands full of cash making sure that Senators and Representatives vote the right way. It takes a lot of money to run for Congress and the lobbyists have the money, supplied by the agribusiness firms that count on the votes. It’s likely that most Congress people don’t even know how much they are being manipulated, but some surely do.
Thus the Golden Idea—otherwise known as the Big Lie—persists, aided and abetted by our national (and state) legislators whose salaries are p[aid for by we taxpayers. The Big Lie and its disseminators are devoted to keeping you from discovering the truth: organic farming techniques are not only able to feed the world, they are also the only farming method that will save the world.
The Real Value of Nature
Organic Lifestyle Comments Off on The Real Value of Nature
The value of nature worldwide—that is, the services provided by ecosystems—equals $147.7 trillion per year—greater than all the GNPs of all the world’s countries put together.
But the real value is not in money, but in HEALTH. What nature’s functioning ecosystems produce is health. And would you rather have a million dollars and be in chemo, or have a pocket full of change and glowing good health?
ALL WHO WANT MORE GMOS THAT CAN WITHSTAND HEAVY APPLICATIONS OF HERBICIDES RAISE YOUR HAND. WHY IS THE USDA’S HAND UP?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is issuing a final and a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on several genetically engineered (GE) products as part of its review to determine whether to deregulate them. APHIS is issuing a final EIS as part of its review to determine whether to deregulate GE corn and soybean plants that are resistant to several herbicides, including one known as 2,4-D. APHIS also announced it will issue a draft EIS for public comment in the coming days as part of its review to determine whether to deregulate GE cotton and soybean plants that are resistant to multiple herbicides, including dicamba.
GUT BACTERIA EXCEL AT DISMANTLING YEAST CELL WALLS
Bacteria that have evolved to help us digest the yeast that give beer and bread their bubbles could support the development of new treatments to help people fight off yeast infections and autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease, researchers report.
The study shows how microbes in our digestive tract have learned to unravel the difficult to break down complex carbohydrates that make up the yeast cell wall. It’s published by scientists from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom and the University of Michigan Medical School.
Evolving over the 7,000 years that we have been eating fermented food and drink, the ability of a common gut bacterium called Bacteroides thetaiotomicron to degrade yeasts is almost exclusively found in the human gut.
Publishing their findings in the Jan. 8 issue of Nature, the international research team says the discovery of this process could accelerate the development of prebiotic medicines to help people suffering from bowel problems and autoimmune diseases.
The new findings provide a better understanding of how our unique intestinal soup of bacteria has the capacity to obtain nutrients from our highly varied diet.
Their findings suggest yeast has health benefits possibly by increasing the Bacteroides growth in the microbiome.
Involving an international team of scientists from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, United States and Belgium, the research has unraveled the mechanism by which B. thetaiotaomicron has learned to feast upon difficult to break down complex carbohydrates called yeast mannans.
Mannans, derived from the yeast cell wall, are a component in our diet from fermented foods including bread, beer, wine and soy sauce, as well as yeasts that call the human gut home and are in some cases thought to be harmful.
GMOS ARE CRIMES AGAINST NATURE
The following report is from the Organic Consumers Association and was written by International Director Ronnie Cummins.
“Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food,” said Phil Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications. “Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.” — New York Times, Oct. 25, 1998
The technology of agricultural genetic engineering (GE) is the controversial practice of gene-splicing and disrupting the genetic blueprints of plants and trees in a lab, to produce patented seeds. The seeds are generally one of two types. One type, which includes Monsanto’s Roundup-resistant crops, produces plants that survive the spraying of poisons, while all the other plants around them die. The other type produces a plant that manufactures its own pest-killing poison, designed to target a specific pest.
Contrary to what some in the biotech industry and the media claim, genetic engineering of plants is not the same thing as selective breeding, or hybridization. Genetic modification involves inserting foreign genetic material (DNA) into an organism. Selective breeding does not.
For two decades, Monsanto and its cohorts (Syngenta, Dow, DuPont, Bayer, and BASF) have been randomly inserting the genes of one species into a non-related species, or genetically “interfering” with the instructions of an organism’s RNA—utilizing viruses, antibiotic-resistant genes and bacteria as vectors, markers and promoters—to create gene-spliced seeds and crops. Through clever marketing, they’ve captured the loyalty of North America’s (and many other nations’) chemical-intensive farmers, grain traders and Junk Food corporations. Fortunately, in the 28 member states of the European Union, where GMOs must be labeled and independently safety-tested, there are little or no GMO crops planted, and few GMO foods or food ingredients on supermarket shelves or restaurant menus.
Although Monsanto, industry scientists and corporate agribusiness claim that GMO crops and foods, and the chemicals that accompany them, are perfectly safe and therefore need no labeling or independent safety-testing, hundreds of independent scientists, that is, those not on the payroll of Monsanto or its minions, cite literally hundreds of studies showing that GMOs and their companion chemicals, such as Roundup, are extremely toxic.
Self-appointed GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) labeling “leaders” such as Scott Faber of the Just Label It campaign (a former lobbyist for the pro-GMO Grocery Manufacturers Association) need to stop repeating Monsanto and Big Food’s lies that there is no “evidence” that GMOs are dangerous for human health or the environment. As Faber stated at a Congressional Hearing on December 10, 2014:
“We do not oppose… genetically modified food ingredients. We think there are many promising applications of genetically modified food ingredients… I am optimistic that the promises that were made by the providers of this technology will ultimately be realized…that we will have traits that produce more nutritious food that will see significant yield…”
Given the current barrage of pro-GMO propaganda in the mass media, “GMO-Free” proponents need to put far greater emphasis on the fact that it isn’t just the imprecise and unpredictable nature of gene-splicing itself—a process that produces toxins and allergens, and shuts down essential gene functions—that threatens human health and the environment. The billions of pounds of systemic toxic pesticides (herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides), especially Roundup, that are used on GMO and so-called conventional crops, are equally, if not more, hazardous to human health and the environment.
These systemic agro-toxins, for the most part, cannot be washed off before eating. These biocides end up on our dinner plates and in our drinking water. They lodge in our bodies and in the bodies of our children, slowly but surely degrading our health and killing us. The world needs a food and farming system that is organic, climate-friendly and regenerative, one that is free of pesticides, animal drugs and chemical fertilizers—not one that is merely GMO-free.
A 12-point agenda for driving GMOs off the market
The anti-GMO and organic Movement has come a long way in the past two decades. But given the dangers posed by GMOs and Roundup, it’s time to move aggressively forward. Here are a dozen crucial steps we need to take in 2015 to drive GMOs and Roundup off the market.
1. Stop Congress from passing the Pompeo bill (HR #4432) in 2015, which would take away states rights to pass mandatory GMO food labeling bills, and make it legal for unscrupulous food and beverage companies to continue mislabeling GMO-tainted foods as “natural” or “all natural.”
2. Stop Congress from “fast-tracking” and passing secretly negotiated “Free Trade” agreements (the TPP-Trans-Pacific Partnership, and TTIP-Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) that would weaken consumer and states rights to label and safety test GMO and factory-farmed foods.
3. Pass more state laws requiring mandatory labels on GMOs.
4. Pass more bans on GMOs, neonicotinoids and pesticides at the township, city, and county levels.
5. Support Vermont, Maui (Hawaii), Jackson and Josephine counties (Oregon) in their federal and state legal battles to uphold their laws requiring labels and/or bans on GMOs.
6. Educate the public on the dangers and cruelty of GMO-fed, factory-farmed meat, dairy and egg products, and organize a “Great Boycott” of all factory-farmed foods.
7. Support mandatory state legislation to label dairy products and chain restaurant food coming from factory farms or CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations).
8. Pressure retail natural food stores and coops to follow the lead of Whole Foods Market and the Natural Grocer to label and/or ban all GMO-derived foods, including meat and animal products and deli foods, from their stores.
9. Pressure restaurants to follow the lead of organic/grass fed restaurants and ban, or at least label, all GMO ingredients.
10. Support consumer efforts to test for Roundup/glyphosate contamination in drinking water, human urine, breast milk, and in non-GMO food products such as wheat, potatoes, oats, peas, lentils and dry beans that are currently sprayed with Roundup before harvest.
11. Educate the public on the positive health, environmental, ethical and climate-friendly (greenhouse gas sequestering) attributes of organic, grass-fed, and pasture-raised food and farming.
12. Boycott the “Traitor Brand” products of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, International Dairy Foods Association, and the Snack Food Association.
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