The Inimitable Wines of Mike Benziger
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The Holy Grail of fine winemaking is terroir. Terroir is a French word that means the taste of a place. A wine showing terroir tastes like where it comes from.
Imagine if someone poured you a glass of red wine and you tasted it and immediately said, “This is Heitz cabernet sauvignon from the winery’s ‘Martha’s Vineyard’ site.” And you were correct because you’d tasted wines from that vineyard before and they all had the unique and distinctive “Martha’s” taste. That’s terroir.
The concept doesn’t apply to makers of inexpensive wines produced on a massive scale, because there the idea is to have them taste the same, year after year, so that customers who like the wines can rest assured their taste won’t vary.
But with fine winemaking, which typically means estate wines where the fruit all comes from the label’s property, that unique taste of the place gives the wine distinction that can’t be imitated.
I’ve known Mike Benziger, who runs Benziger winery in Glen Ellen, California, with the help of many family members, for about 25 years at least. I watched with interest as he went organic and my interest picked up further when he went Biodynamic. In Biodynamics, the farm is looked on as a living organism with many parts, kind of like a beehive. The idea is to get the nutrient cycles spinning through recycling. Carbon, nitrogen, calcium, and all the other building blocks of the living creatures on the farm come from and return to the compost pile, which recycles their nutrients by fertilizing the soil, which grows the plants that we eat and the animals that participate in the farm’s ecology.
The ideal is to bring as few inputs into the farm as possible, throwing away very little, recycling everything.
It was maybe 15 years ago that Mike Benziger said something very profound about his wine farm. I’ll paraphrase because I don’t remember his exact words, but he said that by following Biodynamic principles and recycling everything back on itself, the vines, the trees, the plants, the animals, the yeasts and microbes will all become a system unique to that place, and would ultimately result in the wines showing terroir.
In other words, a climax biodiverse ecosystem would gradually come into being and give the wines a flavor and aroma all their own. A climax ecosystem is one that has achieved stability and will continue in perpetuity without changing significantly—such as the virgin forests that Europeans found when they first arrived in North America. If you cut down virgin forest, virgin forest doesn’t grow back. First the cleared land will grow tough weeds. Then a mix of weeds, then shrubs, then pass through many stages over a very long time growing a series of trees until—finally—after thousands of years, a climax forest may again be achieved. Climax ecosystems are characterized by great biodiversity. Many and varied are its inhabitants, both plant and animal. If there is a food source, there will be a creature to take advantage of it. Climax ecosystems define health. The ecosystem becomes like a knitted sweater. Pull out just one string—shoot the wolves, for instance—and the whole thing comes apart.
This is what organic culture and Biodynamic culture lead to.
So, Benziger winery had an Earth Day celebration this year and guests had the Benziger wines to sample. What I found astonished me. There was a distinctive thread that ran through all the estate wines. It was partially a taste, a flavor, but even more importantly, there was a style of classic leanness and grip that told me the wines would be great with food. No giant fruit bombs. Just elegance, refinement, and terroir. Mike Benziger and those involved had done it. Yes, it took a while, but dedication to the organic and Biodynamic principles had turned what once were good wines into present-day great wines.
And, as we know, the Holy Grail was the cup that held the wine at the Last Supper.
ORGANIC FARMERS CAN SUE WHEN THEIR CROPS ARE CONTAMINATED
The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently ruled that a large organic farm can seek damages for lost crops and profits when pesticides and herbicides from surrounding conventional farms drifts onto its property.
Oluf and Debra Johnson’s 1,500-acre organic farm in Stearns County, MN, has repeatedly been contaminated by nearby conventional and GMO farms since the couple started it in the 1990s. A local pesticide cooperative known as Paynesville Farmers Union (PFU), which is near the farm, has been cited at least four times for violating pesticide laws, and inadvertently causing damage to the Johnson’s farm.
The Johnson’s let the first incident slide. But after the second, third, and fourth times, they decided that enough was enough. Following the second pesticide drift in 2002, the Johnson’s filed a complaint with the Minnesota Agriculture Department, which eventually ruled that PFU had illegally sprayed chemicals on windy days, which led to contamination of the Johnson’s organic crops.
PFU settled with the Johnson’s out of court, and the Johnson’s agreed to sell their tainted products as non-organics for a lower price, and pull the fields from production for three years in order to bring them back up to organic standards. But PFU’s inconsiderate spraying habits continued, with numerous additional incidents occurring in 2005, 2007, and 2008, according to the Star Tribune.
Precedent has now been set for organic farmers to sue biotechnology companies whose GMOs contaminate their crops.
NRDC SUES EPA OVER APPROVAL OF NEW HERBICIDE
Back in October, EPA approved a new double-whammy herbicide for use in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The herbicide, called Enlist Duo, combines Roundup with another powerful weed killer called 2,4-D.
Now Sylvia Fallon, writing on the website of the Natural Resources Defense Council, reports that NRDC has filed a lawsuit challenging EPA’s approval of Enlist Duo because it will wreak further destruction on monarch butterfly populations already devastated by agricultural chemicals and because the pesticide poses risks to human health.
Rather than acknowledge the shortcomings of its approval of Enlist Duo, the EPA recently expanded its approval to an additional nine states: Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma and North Dakota. NRDC is challenging that decision as well.
Enlist Duo is designed to be used in conjunction with genetically modified corn and soy crops that have been engineered to withstand the application of the powerful herbicide, much like how its predecessor Roundup was designed to be used on genetically modified Roundup Ready crops. However, the widespread use of Roundup over the years has led to the widespread destruction of milkweed, a native wildflower that monarch caterpillars depend on. The monarch population that famously migrates across the US each year has dropped by 90 percent since the late 1990s when Roundup Ready crops were adopted.
The US Department of Agriculture predicts Enlist Duo could result in as much as a six-fold increase in the use of 2,4-D, a herbicide developed in the 1940s that has been linked to health impacts in humans, including decreased fertility, birth defects and thyroid problems. Additionally, glyphosate, the chief ingredient in Roundup and the other ingredient in Enlist Duo, was recently classified as a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization.
CORNUCOPIA SEZ THROW THE BUMS OUT
The following is from The Cornucopia Institute, the nation’s preeminent organic industry watchdog.
The Cornucopia Institute has sent a letter to the White House and to USDA Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack requesting a change in leadership at the regulator’s National Organic Program (NOP).
A radical shift in the governance in the organic sector, established by Congress in 1990, has created deep fissures within the organic community and, more recently, resulted in 15 organic stakeholders, including Cornucopia, suing the USDA.
Previous administrations faced plenty of criticism from organic advocates. However, during the Clinton and Bush years, USDA officials were universally viewed as respecting the purview of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). This 15-member, multi-stakeholder body was established by Congress to review all synthetic/non-organic ingredients and materials used in organic farming and food production.
Congress also mandated that the USDA Secretary seek the counsel of the NOSB on all aspects of implementing the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). “Although the USDA ignored some of the NOSB recommendations in the past, until recently they never went 180 degrees in the opposite direction in deference to the preferences of powerful corporate interests,” said Kevin Engelbert, a former NOSB member from Nichols, New York. “And they never reversed the 23-year tradition of allowing the NOSB the autonomy to create their own procedure manual, set their own agenda and create their own workplan.”
The problem seems to be that huge agribusiness corporations, looking to cash in on the booming market for organic food, are exerting their enormous power on government agencies like the USDA. The NOSB was supposed to represent actual organic farmers and regulatory officials, but the panels that set organic policy are now riddled with corporate agribusiness employees. That’s against the law that established the organic program within USDA, but where agribusiness is concerned, such laws are often ignored.
The Cornucopia Institute’s recommendation—that President Obama dismiss the perpetrators of this radical shift—should be supported by all who value real organic food. Let the White House know you support it. You can email the President at https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments%20.
What’s Wrong with Smart Pesticides?
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In 2006, a patent was granted to a man named Paul Stamets, one of the world’s leading mycologists. His patent has received very little attention and exposure. Why is that?
What has Paul discovered? The mycologist has figured out how to use fungus as a solution for controlling over 200,000 species of insects, calling this use of fungus a Smart Pesticide.. Stamets does this by taking entomopathogenic fungi (fungi that kill insects) and changes them so they don’t produce spores. Insects then eat the fungus and die.
Some people think this will put the chemical pesticide industry out of business. While that would be nice, Stamets’ idea is terrible. Why?
Because insects are not life forms to be killed wholesale. They are necessary players in the ecology of life on earth, providing pollination of crops, food for birds and small mammals, and giving a million other benefits to the earth. If organic culture has taught us anything, it’s that health springs from biodiversity—and that includes insects. The best farm field is not one devoid of insects, it’s one where many kinds of insects provide checks and balances so that plant eaters are controlled by the insect eating insects, and aren’t capable of doing much damage to the crops. It’s been shown that plants that have a few nibbles taken out of them by plant eating insects grow healthier and stronger than the same kind of plants grown in fields where the insects have been killed.
Stamets’ non-spore-producing, insect-killing fungus wipes out 200,000 species of insects? Not in my yard. Not in any organic garden or farm field. Let biodiversity flourish and the insects will control themselves. This fungus isn’t a “control,” it’s a wholesale slaughter of beneficial life forms that we depend on for our health.
MONSANTO KNEW OF GLYPHOSATE’S CARCINOGENICITY
According to evidence unearthed from the archives of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), it has been established that Monsanto was aware of the potential of glyphosate to cause cancer in mammals from the early 1980s.
Recently the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a statement in which glyphosate (the main component of Roundup herbicide) was classified as “probably carcinogenic” to humans.
This announcement of this change to toxicity class 2A was given vast coverage in the global media, causing Monsanto to move immediately into damage limitation mode. The corporation demanded the retraction of the report, although it had not yet been published!
Back in 1983, an EPA scientist had this to say about EPA’s public stance on the carcinogenicity of glyphosate:
“Our viewpoint is one of protecting the public health when we see suspicious data. Unfortunately, EPA has not taken that conservative viewpoint in its assessment of glyphosate’s cancer causing potential.
“Tests done on glyphosate to meet registration requirements have been associated with fraudulent practices. Countless deaths of rats and mice are not reported. Data tables have been fabricated. There is a routine falsification of data.”
For a full exposition of Monsanto’s malfeasance, let me urge you again to get a copy of “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth,” a book that tells the whole sordid tale of the rise of GMO crops and Roundup herbicide and the corruption of science, government, and industry.
USDA ALLOWS PESTICIDES IN ORGANIC COMPOST
The Center for Food Safety (CFS), Center for Environmental Health, and Beyond Pesticides have together filed a federal lawsuit challenging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program’s (NOP) failure to follow the law in making a substantial rule change to the USDA organic standard.
At issue is a contaminated compost guidance released by USDA, which weakens the long-standing prohibition of synthetic pesticide contaminants.
“In this case USDA decided to unlawfully ignore vital public participation and transparency requirements while undermining the organic standard, creating a new loophole for pesticides,” said George Kimbrell, CFS senior attorney. “Worse, this decision is part of a larger USDA pattern and practice of decision-by-fiat. We will not let it continue.”
Prior to the new contaminated compost guidance, organic regulations expressly prohibited fertilizers and compost from containing any synthetic substances not included on organic’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. According to Ralph Bloemers, staff attorney for the Crag Law Center “the new guidance radically changes organic requirements, allowing organic producers to use compost materials treated with synthetic pesticides.” The USDA made this rule without the required rulemaking process, usurping the public’s right to ensure USDA activities are consistent with the Organic Food Production Act.
“Consumers want healthier choices and have a right to expect that the organic label insures that organic food was produced without harmful pesticides,” said Michael Green, executive director of Center for Environmental Health. “By allowing chemical residues to sneak into organic production through this undemocratic, back-door rule, the USDA is recklessly putting the integrity of the organic seal at risk.”
“The organic market is driven by consumer trust in an organic process that respects the historical commitment to public consultation and the legal requirement for public hearing and comment,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides and a former National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) member. “We are taking action to ensure the integrity of the regulations that guide organic production.”
The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) requires that producers are responsible for identifying sources of feedstocks used in compost to ensure that only allowable plant and animal materials are used. The new NOP guidance violates OFPA by allowing green waste in compost to contain pesticide residues.
“Public participation in governmental decision making is the hallmark of organic food production,” said Dr. Lisa J. Bunin, organic policy director at Center for Food Safety. “It’s also what ensures government accountability in maintaining and enhancing organic integrity throughout the entire supply chain.”
Plaintiffs allege that the USDA’s decision weakens the integrity of organic food production, not only by creating inconsistent organic production standards but also by undermining the essential public participation function of organic policy-making. Since USDA never subjected the contaminated-compost decision to formal notice and public comment rulemaking, USDA failed in its duty to ensure that its regulation is consistent with the OFPA and the standards set forth for approving the use of synthetic substances.
The Truth about GMOs Is Exposed
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An important new book entitled, “Altered Genes, Twist Truth,” by Steven M. Druker, a public interest attorney who sued the Food and Drug Administration so he could read its files on genetic engineering, reveals a systematic subversion of science, corruption of government, and decades-long deception of the public. What he discovered forms the basis for this well researched and meticulously documented book.
Druker writes, “Numerous scientists (including those on the US Food and Drug Administration’s Biotechnology Task Force) have concluded that the process of creating genetically engineered (GE) foods radically differs from conventional breeding and entails greater risk.
“Consequently, not only has there never been a consensus within the scientific community that GE foods are safe, many eminent experts have issued cautions, as have respected scientific organizations like the Royal Society of Canada and the Public Health Association of Australia.
“In contrast to the experts who counsel caution, many of the scientists and scientific institutions that promote GE foods have systematically suppressed evidence and distorted the truth in order to advance them.
“In fact, the GE food venture has been chronically and crucially reliant on such deceptions and could not have survived without them.”
He shows how GE foods first achieved commercialization only because the US Food and Drug Administration covered up the extensive warnings of its own scientists about their abnormal risks, lied about the facts, and deliberately violated federal food safety law by allowing them onto the market without having been proven safe through standard testing.
The FDA and other GE proponents have created so much confusion that although US food safety law in regard to GE foods is much stricter than EU law, most people are under the illusion it’s weaker – and don’t realize that these inadequately tested foods have entered the American market, not due to the law’s failings, but to the FDA’s failure to obey it.
Here’s what primatologist Jane Goodall says in the foreword she wrote for “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth”: “One of the most important books of the last 50 years.”
Next time someone tells you that you are anti-science for believing that genetic modifications aren’t benign, refer them to this website:
BREAKTHROUGH ON SOLAR ENERGY
A team at IBM has developed what they call a High Concentration Photo Voltaic Thermal (HCPVT) system that is capable of concentrating the power of sunlight by 2,000 times. They are even claiming to be able to concentrate energy safely up to 5,000X. That’s huge.
“Each HCPVT chip can convert 200-250 watts, on average, over a typical eight-hour day in a sunny region. In the HCPVT system, instead of heating a building, the 90 degree Celsius water will pass through a porous membrane distillation system where it is then vaporized and desalinated. Such a system could provide 30-40 liters of drinkable water per square meter of receiver area per day, while still generating electricity with a more than 25 percent yield or two kilowatts hours per day. A large installation would provide enough water for a small town,” the team reports.
The heat is absorbed into hundreds of tiny solar cells called photovoltaic chips. These gather the energy and are then cooled by microchanneled water, which is why they are safely able to concentrate such large amounts of solar energy.
According to Greenpeace, this technology can establish itself as the third largest player in the sustainable power generation industry. A study published in 2009 predicted that solar power could supply all the world’s energy needs in minimal space. Greenpeace estimates that it would take only two percent of the Sahara Desert’s land area to supply the entire planet’s electricity needs.
MORE AMERICANS TRUST FOX ‘NEWS’ THAN TRUST OBAMA
More U.S. adults believe Fox News is a more reliable source of information about climate change than President Barack Obama, according to a new poll from St. Leo University.
The March poll of 1,016 Americans found that 17 percent trust Fox News on climate change, while only 11 percent trust the president. Twenty-two percent of respondents said they trust print, online, and broadcast media outlets such as CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, Associated Press, and The New York Times.
And if there’s any doubt in anyone’s mind about climate change, they should visit this website:
GLYPHOSATE CAUSING BIRTH DEFECTS IN PIGLETS
Glyphosate has been found in malformed piglets, according to research conducted by a team of scientists from Germany and Egypt in collaboration with the Danish pig farmer Ib Pedersen, whose pigs were analyzed for glyphosate content.
The rate of malformations increased to one out of 260 piglets if sow feeds contained 0.87-1.13 ppm glyphosate in the first 40 days of pregnancy. In the case of 0.25 ppm glyphosate in sow feeds, one out of 1432 piglets was malformed. In this case, therefore, the higher dose of glyphosate led to more malformations.
The piglets showed different abnormalities, including ear atrophy, spinal and cranial deformations, hole in the skull, and leg atrophy. In one piglet, one eye was not developed. There were piglets without a trunk, with an “elephant tongue,” and a female piglet with testes. One malformed piglet had a swollen belly and the foregut and hindgut were not connected.
The highest concentrations of glyphosate were found in the lungs and heart, with the lowest concentrations in muscle.
The researchers note, “Further investigations are urgently needed to prove or exclude the role of glyphosate in malformations in piglets and other animals.” This would mean feeding laboratory animals a diet containing the same concentrations of glyphosate (in the form of Roundup) as were in Ib Pedersen’s pigs’ feed, in a multigenerational study. This would provide the definitive causative proof needed to condemn glyphosate herbicides as the culprit.
Here’s the link to the study:
Krüger M, Schrödl W, Pedersen Ib, Shehata AA (2014) Detection of glyphosate in malformed piglets. J Environ Anal Toxicol 4: 230. doi:10.4172/2161-0525.1000230, or visit: http://omicsonline.org/open-access/detection-of-glyphosate-in-malformed-piglets-2161-0525.1000230.pdf
W.H.O. SAYS GLYPHOSATE ‘PROBABLY CARCINOGENIC’
An ingredient in Roundup weed-killer – glyphosate – is “probably carcinogenic,” according to a new decision by the World Health Organization. The analysis is based on the existing research on the chemical exposure in people and lab animals.
The report determines that there is “limited evidence” that the chemical can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and lung cancer in humans. It says there is, however, “convincing evidence” that it can cause cancer in laboratory animals. Among people who work with the herbicide, who generally have traces of the compound in their blood and urine, there appears to be a slightly increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, according to the report: “Case-control studies of occupational exposure in the USA, Canada, and Sweden reported increased risks for non-Hodgkin lymphoma that persisted after adjustment for other pesticides.”
MONSANTO RESPONDS IN A LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES
To the Editor:
Safety is fundamental to our work with farmers. The glyphosate they use is probably the most thoroughly studied pesticide in history, and researchers know more about it and its safety than just about anything else used for weed control.
German regulators just completed a four-year review of glyphosate safety for the European Union. Unlike W.H.O.’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, German regulators had to review all available data. They examined every study the agency looked at, plus many more.
German regulators concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk and posted a skeptical response to the cancer agency’s recent statement.
As a physician, I encourage people not to take our word for it, but rather to research all the facts. Overwhelming evidence regarding glyphosate supports a conclusion of no cancer risk.
Associate Medical Director
In a more recent press release, Monsanto has called the W.H.O. report “junk science.”
AG SCIENTISTS RATTLED BY DEMANDS FOR GMO DOCUMENTS
The fierce public relations war over genetically modified (GM) food has a new front, according to Keith Kloor, writing in ScienceInsider, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
A nonprofit group opposed to GMO products filed a flurry of freedom of information requests late last month with at least four U.S. universities, asking administrators to turn over any correspondence between a dozen academic researchers and a handful of agricultural companies, trade groups, and PR firms.
The scientists—many of whom have publicly supported agricultural biotechnologies—are debating how best to respond, and at least one university has already rejected the request. “It seems like a fishing expedition to me,” says geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam of the University of California Davis, one of six UC researchers targeted by the requests. “I am very worried [the correspondence] is going to be used to sully the reputations of scientists.”
The group, U.S. Right to Know of Oakland, California, says it has no vendetta. USRTK is interested in documenting links between universities and business, its executive director Gary Ruskin says, and is “especially looking to learn how these faculty members have been appropriated into the PR machine for the chemical-agro industry.”
Ruskin is no stranger to the GM food debate. Late last year, he helped found USRTK, which works “to expose what the food industry doesn’t want us to know. We stand up for the right to know what is in our food and how it affects our health.”
The group’s three board members include Juliet Schor, a prominent economist at Boston College. USRTK’s website says its sole major donor (more than $5000) is the Organic Consumers Association, a nonprofit group based in Finland, Minnesota, which has donated $47,500.
In the requests, Ruskin seeks any letters and e-mails exchanged after 2012 between the scientists and 14 companies and groups. The list includes Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, Dow, major biotech and grocery trade groups, and communications firms including FleishmanHillard and Ogilvy & Mather. “The records disclosed … will be used in preparation of articles for dissemination to the public,” states one request obtained by ScienceInsider.
Many researchers are awaiting advice from university lawyers on how to respond.
Too Big to Fail, Too Powerful to Jail
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It was Benito Mussolini who said that fascism wasn’t quite the right term for what he established in Italy when it was part of the Axis during WWII. He said a better word might be corporatism, because the merging of corporations and state apparatus was the heart of his regime. And yes, when Italy was a war-ravaged wreck at the end of the war, he was killed and his body hung upside down for people to take a whack at.
I honestly believe that America—our lovely, freedom-loving, hope-of-humanity America—is well down the road to corporatism.
I see banks and financial institutions arrogantly laughing at us as they amass ever more money and power, getting away with crimes while avoiding all accountability. How many of the banksters who nearly destroyed our economy in 2008 with their toxic subprime mortgages and credit default swaps have been prosecuted? The answer is none. Not only were their banks too big to fail, they are too powerful to jail. How’s that for power, peons?
I see our regulatory agencies like the EPA, FDA, and NOP being corrupted and coopted. Everyone has known for many years that pesticides and Roundup are toxic poisons, yet the agencies not only allow their use, they raise the limits on the amounts that can be used. The evidence of the damage that GMOs cause is now coming to light, but our regulatory agencies, hand in glove with Big Ag and Biotech (Monsanto et. al.), get a free pass.
The Supreme Court decides in Citizens United that billionaires can spend whatever they want to control our political system—and by gum, they sure do. The corporate oligarchy, represented most blatantly by the Koch brothers, calls the shots and is gunning for people like Elizabeth Warren, who are calling them out.
The Republican Party has been controlled for quite a while now not by patriots, as
they claim, but by far right ideologues, extremists, corporatists, banksters, and outright crooks. And if anyone claims otherwise, they put their hand on their chest and say, “Who me?” Hypocrites. I remember stories of a good man who, a long time ago, called such people “whited sepulchers,” good looking on the outside but inside, full of corruption and dead men’s bones.
The Presidency of the United States, once such a beacon of hope for humanity, is reduced to invidious punks who swagger, invading other countries without cause, torturing people, causing wholesale slaughter, locking people up without trial, passing legislation with the Orwellian name of “Patriot Act” that actually opens the door to mass surveillance of the citizenry.
I see our homeland’s police, supposed to serve and protect, look more like an occupying military force with all the hardware of such a force, gunning down unarmed citizens in the streets.
I could go on. There’s lots more to say. It’s very sad. Our country, that we love, is slipping away, day by day. And when it comes time to right these wrongs by voting decent people into office, the corporatists rig the voting laws in their favor and we end up with both houses of Congress controlled by the very people who want to cut benefits for the poor and give that money to the wealthy.
The result is income inequality that hasn’t been seen since the era of the robber barons in the late 19th Century. And yet Americans go to the polls and vote these corporatists back into office. Why? Ignorance. Propaganda such as put out by “Fox News.” The corporatists have grabbed the microphone and have convinced the mass of people that salvation lies in their hands—and this against all evidence.
Meanwhile our country slips away. The rock solid American values slowly turn transparent and drift off in a haze of lies. Never in a million years did I ever think I would see this process happen in this once-great country.
The final straws: the Bundy ranch, where a man who owes the government money in grazing fees gathers his armed militias, who point their guns at federal agents come to collect the money. The agents retreat—wisely. Nothing further is done. No arrests are made. No one is accountable.
And finally, the TPP is drawn up in secret, and only through whistle-blowers do we find out that among its provisions is one that says that if our government passes any laws or rules that damage a corporation’s expectation of profits, that corporation can sue our government in an international court set up and staffed by corporate lawyers. Don’t forget: corporations are people, my friends.
Unless something is done—and soon–I say the game is over.
WHY AN APPLE THAT DOESN’T BROWN?
Is there really a constituency out there clamoring for apples that don’t brown if cut and exposed to air for a couple of hours? How have we gotten along this far with apples that turn brown? What were we thinking?
And the answer is that the public by and large doesn’t give a hoot whether apples brown or not. If you really want them not to brown for some reason, everybody knows you just dip them in lemon juice. So why has Big Biotech genetically engineered an apple that doesn’t brown?
And the answer to that question is, so it can be patented. Nobody else can grow your GMO apple without getting the pants sued off them.
Is this why the Department of Agriculture keeps okaying all kinds of cockamamie GMOs? And why the FDA keeps approving them as safe, despite so much evidence to the contrary that scientists around the world have signed a document saying that GMO foods are not proven to be safe? Is this why the Grocery Manufacturers Association—the front group for Monsanto and the big food processors like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nestle, etc.—spends $100 million to defeat a labeling law in a state like Oregon?
Yes, folks, the real reason all this is happening, that 70 percent of our conventional food supply is GMO, is that Big Ag, Biotech, and Big Chemical are slapping their genetically modified hands on every food they can in order to patent them and put them off limits to anyone but themselves. Picture these fat cats sitting around a table filled with various foodstuffs. Now picture them being told that if they slap their hands on a food, they can make it their sole property. Picture a future in which everything available to eat is owned and patented by the corporations. Once they’ve completely cornered the market on all our major ingredients, what do you think will happen to food prices?
Remember the battles in the states to label GMOs? Remember how the fat cats claimed that labeling GMOs will cause food prices to rise? A label telling us whether a food contains GMOs won’t cause food prices to rise. They are lying (so what else is new?). Genetically altering food so it can be patented and the market in that food can be cornered—that’s what will cause food prices to rise.
The game is rigged. The fix is in. Corporate America, in collusion with our government agencies, is creating a future we don’t want to see. So far, we don’t see it, because corporate America keeps it all hidden.
THE MEXICANS ARE SMARTER THAN WE ARE: THEY BAN GMO CORN
Devon Peña, writing in Sustainable Pulse, reports that the legal battles over the existing ban in Mexico on the planting of GM maize continue to unfold with a string of four important court victories in favor of the ban.
On February 28, 2015, the collective of organizations known as Acción Colectiva del Maíz announced that they had secured four more favorable court decisions involving corporate challenges seeking to end the GMO corn ban in Mexico. These are pivotal victories, but the group explains that more administrative and judicial reviews remain to be adjudicated, including five by Monsanto and Syngenta against the use of precautionary measures to manage the bio-safety risks posed by GM corn.
The most recent set of court decrees upheld the continued suspension of authorizations to plant transgenic maize in Mexico. According to a press release, the judges recognized “the supremacy of the right of the collectivity of corn over the transnational seed companies.”
On Friday morning, February 27 two courts upheld two injunctions ordering the suspension of the planting of GM maize and verified the continuing status of the class action lawsuit, which was filed in July 2013 by agroecologists, indigenous and traditional farmers and plant breeders, human rights and environmental activists, and artists. The group that filed the lawsuit seeks to defend corn in all its biological diversity and socio-cultural significance.
The upholding of the ban adds to a growing list of victories that includes the multinational corporation Monsanto, which last week saw its latest appeal rejected unanimously. On Wednesday February 25, the DuPont Corporation also lost an appeal.
Corn producer Emiliano Juárez explains the significance of the upholding of the ban: “It is clear that if the planting of transgenic corn is contaminating our countryside and foods, the effect is the same as tobacco, both on our health and in the fields, and there is no way to avoid dispersion in the environment while the damage to our bodies is seldom immediate.”
GENETIC ENGINEERING HAS CORRUPTED SCIENCE AND GOVERNMENT
“Altered Genes, Twisted Truth” is the name of an extremely important new book by public interest attorney Steven Druker, who initiated a lawsuit that forced the FDA to divulge its internal files on GMO foods – thereby exposing how the agency had covered up the extensive warnings from its own scientists about their risks, lied about the facts, and then ushered them onto the market in blatant violation of U.S. food safety law.
But Druker’s book does far more than expose the FDA’s fraud. It reveals how the entire GMO food venture has been chronically and crucially dependent on fraud – and how the key misrepresentations have been dispensed by eminent scientists and scientific institutions such as the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the U.K. Royal Society.
Further, the book’s factual and logical soundness – and its importance – have been recognized by several scientists who have unstintingly praised it. For instance, the world-famous (and well-beloved) primatologist Jane Goodall has written the foreword, in which she not only hails it as one of the most important books of the last 50 years but states: “I shall urge everyone I know who cares about life on earth, and the future of their children, and children’s children, to read it. It will go a long way toward dispelling the confusion and delusion that has been created regarding the genetic engineering process and the foods it produces. . . . Steven Druker is a hero. He deserves at least a Nobel Prize.”
Monsanto and its allies are desperately hoping that the book will be ignored so that the fraudulent foundation of the GMO food venture will stay hidden. But if it’s on the New York Times bestseller list, and remains there for many weeks, it can’t be ignored – and Druker will be increasingly interviewed by key media outlets, which will bring the startling revelations in his book to the attention of a large portion of the population and to influential individuals, disclosing how they’ve been systematically deceived by those whom they had a right to trust.
By reading this book, you can intelligently push back against the false claims you routinely encounter from people who have been taken in by the propaganda.
Here’s a sampling of responses from people who’ve read the book:
“A fascinating book: highly informative, eminently readable, and most enjoyable. It’s a real page-turner and an eye-opener.” — Richard C. Jennings, PhD, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, UK.
“This incisive and insightful book is truly outstanding. Not only is it well-reasoned and scientifically solid, it’s a pleasure to read – and a must-read. Through its masterful marshalling of facts, it dispels the cloud of disinformation that has misled people into believing that GMO foods have been adequately tested and don’t entail abnormal risk.”
— David Schubert, PhD, molecular biologist and Head of Cellular Neurobiology, Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
“A great book. The evidence is comprehensive and irrefutable; the reasoning is clear and compelling. No one has documented other cases of irresponsible behavior by government regulators and the scientific establishment nearly as well as Druker documents this one. His book should be widely read and thoroughly heeded.” — John Ikerd, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics, University of Missouri.
“Steven Druker’s meticulously documented, well-crafted, and spellbinding narrative should serve as a clarion call to all of us. In particular, his chapter detailing the deadly epidemic of 1989-90 that was linked with a genetically engineered food supplement is especially significant. . . . Overall his discussion of this tragic event, as well as its ominous implications, is the most comprehensive, evenly-balanced and accurate account that I have read.” — Stephen Naylor, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry, Mayo Clinic (1991-2001).
“A landmark. It should be required reading in every university biology course.” — Joseph Cummins, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Genetics, Western University, Ontario.
“Steven Druker has done a beautiful job of weaving a compelling scientific argument into an engaging narrative that often reads like a detective story, and he makes his points dramatically and clearly. The examination of genetic engineering from the standpoint of software engineering is especially insightful, exposing how the former is more like a ‘hackathon’ than a careful, systematic methodology for revising complex information systems. I will recommend this book to my friends.” — Thomas J. McCabe, developer of the cyclomatic complexity software metric, a key analytic tool in computer programming employed throughout the world
“A remarkable work. If the numerous revelations it contains become widely known, the arguments being used to defend genetically engineered foods will be untenable.” — Frederick Kirschenmann, PhD, Distinguished Fellow, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University
HERE’S HOW THOROUGHLY EPA HAS BEEN CORRUPTED BY MONSANTO
You may have seen the news recently that the cancer evaluation arm of the World Health Organization has said for the first time that one of the most widely used pesticides in the United States—glyphosate herbicide, a main component of Monsanto’s Roundup—“probably causes cancer” in people.
The finding is critically important and points to the need for the federal government’s agency with oversight to protect us from dangerous chemicals—the Environmental Protection Agency—to weigh in immediately. So far, EPA’s only response on glyphosate was to raise the allowable levels in our food supply.
Here is a comment from Jennifer Sass, senior scientist in the health program at the Natural Resources Defense Council: “The WHO decision underscores the need for the Environmental Protection Agency to examine and act on all we’ve learned about glyphosate’s dangers in the two decades since it was last approved for use.
“NRDC has already filed two lawsuits and a petition with EPA to restrict the use of glyphosate-containing herbicides because of their devastating impact on monarch butterflies. The soaring use on genetically modified crops of glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the world, has wiped out much of the milkweed, a native wildflower that monarchs need to survive.
“The finding by WHO’s research arm that glyphosate probably can cause cancer in humans only adds urgency to the need for EPA to launch an immediate review of the chemical’s toxicity. It was last assessed in 1993, well before the massive surge in glyphosate use and the disturbing new evidence of its health impact. This review should consider whether glyphosate should be pulled from the market immediately to protect human health and the environment.”
Now let me ask you a question: do you think EPA is going to do a damn thing about glyphosate? Here’s another question: Don’t you think it’s about time We the People wake up and clean house in Washington? I remember when George Bush left office, I read that his right-wing corporatist bureaucrats were so liberally salted among Federal agencies, that they would thwart any attempts to rein in Big Ag and its Biotech buddies for many years to come. Seems like that’s about what’s happening.
BANKSTERS WANT ‘A FRIENDLIER ATTITUDE’ FROM DEMOCRATIC PARTY
Big Wall Street banks are so upset with U.S. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren’s call for them to be broken up that some have discussed withholding campaign donations to Senate Democrats in symbolic protest, sources familiar with the discussions said.
Citigroup has decided to withhold donations for now to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee over concerns that Senate Democrats could give Warren and lawmakers who share her views more power, sources inside the bank told Reuters.
JPMorgan representatives have met Democratic Party officials to emphasize the connection between its annual contribution and the need for a “friendlier attitude toward the banks,” a source familiar with JPMorgan’s donations said.
MONSANTO GETS MINISCULE FINE FOR IDAHO POLLUTION
Monsanto has agreed to pay US$600,000 in fines to federal regulators for not reporting the release of severe toxic chemicals from its Idaho plant between the years 2006 and 2009. The agrochemical company reached a deal with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice earlier this week for the toxins released from the Soda Springs facilities, a Monsanto subsidiary.
The $600,000 is not expected to burn a hole in the multimillion dollar company’s pocket. In the fiscal year of 2013, the company reported over $1.5 billion in profit.
INDIANA: HOTBED OF SOCIAL INJUSTICE
In all the talk about the Indiana “Religious Freedom Act,” I haven’t heard anybody ask the question: what do we mean by religion? If the law allows me to discriminate against LGTB folks on religious grounds, what religion is that? Christianity? Islam? Judaism? Shinto? Buddhism?
What if I say that I have a personal religion, one that is unique to me and my God, and that in my religion, God says that red-haired people are an abomination unto the Lord. Does the Indiana law allow me to act on that belief and refuse service to, or harass red-haired people—or worse? Is “religion” anything I say it is, or must it be a recognized organized religion with a tax exemption? If “religion” means a recognized church, and gives its practitioners the right to transgress our anti-discrimination laws, what about the vast numbers of people who aren’t part of organized religion? Doesn’t that treat them unequally? Where’s the due process in separating people into a religious group that can ignore the law and non-religious people who must follow the law? Doesn’t doing that contravene the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments’ requirement of due process? Doesn’t doing that contravene the First Amendment’s prohibition against government establishment of religion?
So it seems that some people have a religion with a God who tells its adherents they must hold same sex marriages as an abomination unto the Lord. Doesn’t radical Islam have a God who tells its adherents that they must wage jihad on all infidels and destroy them? How is that different?
Let’s get real, folks. The Indiana law is a thinly veiled license for discrimination against people for their race, religion, or sexual preference, which is against the law. We pride ourselves for being a law-abiding society. Let’s abide by the law. If an evangelical Christian wants to discriminate because his religion tells him to, he’s free to do that. But he should be willing to pay the consequences. I mean, I can jaywalk if I choose, but I’m going to have to pay the ticket.
OK, the Indiana governor and his right-wing cronies have been forced to retreat by the firestorm of criticism the new law provoked, claiming all the while that they never meant the law to be discriminatory. I say horse pucky. They knew it—that’s what it was for.
I’ll tell you a story about Indiana. Once I was asked to speak in Muncie, Indiana, at a venue of the Ball canning jar corporation. The Ball Company has a museum there showcasing its historical mason jars. Among the exhibits was a case full of jars made for the Ku Klux Klan, with the KKK stamped on the base of the jars. The case was proudly displayed. Indiana has a long record of white supremacy and racial discrimination. This new Religious Freedom Act is just another in a long history of despicable assaults on a fair and just social fabric. Sorry Mr. and Mrs. Churchgoer, but your religious freedom stops at the law.