Online Petitions–a Rich Source of Data
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I keep getting these emails encouraging me to do useless things, and I’m sure you get them, too. “Tell Monsanto to Stop Poisoning America’s Farmland with Roundup,” one says. “Sign our petition to tell the GOP to stop threatening Medicare,” says another.
No, Monsanto isn’t going to stop doing what it does for a living, just because you sign a petition. And the GOP is never going to give up trying to destroy Medicare and the social safety net. It’s what they do for a living.
What I think is that these useless petitions are put in your inbox in order for you to reveal your contact information when you sign them, whereupon the people creating the useless petitions will bundle them by demographics and sell them to list brokers and other marketers.
HERE’S WHO SPENT HOW MUCH ON LOBBYING IN 2ND QUARTER 2015
You’’ notice that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce outspent every other lobbying group. That’s because the organization has nothing to do with your hometown’s Chamber of Commerce. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a powerful business lobbying group that “has become a fully functional part of the partisan Republican machine” since CEO and president Thomas J. Donohue took office in 1997. Prior to Donohue’s tenure, the Chamber “used to be a trade association that advocated in a bipartisan manner for narrowly tailored policies to benefit its members.” The Chamber’s 2010 budget is approximately $200 million, but as a trade organization, its donors can remain anonymous. The New York Times reported in October, 2010, that half of the Chamber’s $140 million in contributions in 2008 came from just 45 big-money donors, many of whom enlisted the Chamber’s help to fight political and public opinion battles on their behalf (such as opposing financial or healthcare reforms, or other regulations). The Chamber is “dominated by oil companies, pharmaceutical giants, automakers and other polluting industries,” according to James Carter, executive director of the Green Chamber of Commerce.
Organization Quarter 2 Lobbying
U.S. Chamber of Commerce $22,970,000
American Medical Association $12,400,000
General Electric $8,460,000
National Association of Realtors $8,180,000
Business Roundtable $6,430,000
National Association of Manufacturers $4,840,000
Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America $4,820,000
American Hospital Association $4,770,000
These data are from Maplight. MapLight is a 501(c)3 research organization that tracks money’s influence on politics.
YOU THINK MONSANTO CARES ABOUT INDIAN FARMERS’ SUICIDES?
For generations, farmers have saved seeds from year to year — but Monsanto has now made that illegal by genetically modifying and then patenting seeds, and charging farmers outrageous annual royalties to keep using its seeds. Farmers are hopelessly saddled with crippling debt. Since Monsanto’s crops were introduced, over 200,000 farmers in India have committed suicide.
Now, the new Indian government has opened GMO testing on eggplant, corn, rice and chickpeas, which could mean even more royalties across the agricultural industry. The result is a crippling cycle of poverty, from which farmers see no way out.
‘RESPONSIBLY GROWN’? WHAT’S THAT EVEN MEAN?
The Cornucopia Institute reports that this spring, 17 certified organic farmers signed a letter to Whole Foods Market CEO John Mackey asking him to withdraw the company’s “Responsibly Grown” produce labeling program, at least temporarily. The farmers, all of whom sell produce to the 400+-store high-end grocery chain, objected to having to pay for the grocer’s marketing program and to the fact that non-organic produce could qualify to be labeled “GOOD,” “BETTER,” or even “BEST” under the program.
The Cornucopia Institute supported these growers, as did many other certified organic farmers and consumers around the country. It was a righteous fight – what we called “Robin Hood in reverse.” Here was a corporation, with a market capitalization exceeding $14.5 billion, asking mostly family-scale farmers, some of the best farmers in this industry, to pony up between $5,000 and $20,000 to comply with the program’s reporting requirements and, for some, purchase new equipment. That’s not an inconsequential amount for small- and medium-sized family farms. And the added record-keeping labor could crush some mom-and-pop outfits.
But most of all, the farmers took exception to one corporation hiring its own private scientist, and coming up with a list of good and bad agrichemicals. Most organic consumers don’t want to pick or choose. They buy organic and they shop at stores like Whole Foods because they don’t want to treat their children like laboratory rats.
Not surprisingly, researchers at The Cornucopia Institute, with PhDs in plant pathology and other related disciplines, found that a number of highly disturbing agrichemicals were not on the relatively short list of toxins that Whole Foods prohibits their top-rated conventional produce suppliers from using. So the certified organic farmers who signed the letter to Mr. Mackey had good reason to object when photos taken in several Whole Foods stores showed conventional produce being rated higher than organic.
There is nothing wrong with farmers implementing good employment practices or putting solar panels on the roof of their barn – practices that win them points in Whole Foods’ rating scheme. But the prerequisite – the “ante,” if you will – to get into the Whole Foods’ Responsibly Grown game should be a supplier’s certified organic status.
Quite frankly, how could anyone who knows as much about organics as WFM founder Mr. Mackey, and the other top management at Whole Foods, could ever call conventional food the “BEST”?
TWO NEW SWEET CORN VARIETIES ARE OPEN POLLINATED
Two new varieties of open-pollinated, super-sweet corn will be available in limited quantities for the 2016 planting season, thanks to ongoing research by Oregon farmer and Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) research partner Jonathan Spero. Open pollination means that the varieties’ seeds produce corn that is true to the parent variety. And that means farmers can save seed from year to year.
According to Spero’s report, breeding and improvement of open-pollinated corn was largely abandoned 60 to 70 years ago, with the introduction of hybrid seed varieties. Most hybrid seeds are the product of traditional breeding techniques, and therefore not considered GMOs. But hybrid offspring do not uniformly resemble the parent plant, and farmers relying on hybrids must purchase new seed every year.
In addition to fostering dependence on seed companies, hybrids do not allow farmers to participate in ongoing crop improvement, which over millennia has resulted in a rich heritage of regionally-adapted crop varieties around the globe.
The commercial release of Top Hat and Tuxana sweet corn seed is a welcome milestone in the movement to revive traditional crop breeding, and increase the selection of organic-friendly varieties whose seed can be saved by farmers. Spero’s sweet corn breeding project was supported by a four-year research grant from OFRF.
Spero expects his new varieties of white and yellow sweet corn to see additional improvements in coming years, as they are planted in new regions and the seed is saved and replanted by numerous farmers and gardeners.
“I have shown how these crop improvements can be made, and new varieties created, without advanced technology or large amounts of money,” Spero said in his report. “Others may see that they too can step up from gardening or farming to plant breeding and crop improvement. It may help return crop improvement and varietal ownership to the farmer.”
In addition to breeding for enhanced sweetness, Spero worked to make Top Hat and Tuxana more competitive against weeds, better able to resist insect pests, and tolerant of lower-fertility soils.
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR NOCCIOLATA
We all love Nutella, right? But Nutella isn’t organic. Now here comes Nocciolata, an Italian version of Nutella that’s a delicious mix of ground hazelnuts, cocoa, and milk—and it’s entirely organic. It’s a little more oriented toward the hazelnuts and less toward the chocolate, but it’s great over ice cream. Ask your grocer to stock it.
ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A REPTILE?
The following was written by William B. Miller, Jr., M.D. I think its subject is one that every person interested in organic food and farming will appreciate. Here’s Dr. Miller:
“Are you smarter than a reptile? In many respects, you certainly are. After all, no reptile is going to read this article. However, our clearly superior intellectual abilities for certain skills has seduced us towards a dismissive attitude towards the surprisingly deep and broad range of analytical gifts of our companion creatures. A growing body of research now indicates that other animals of all sizes and varieties are highly intelligent problem solvers within their own realms. After all, their cognitive skills have enabled them to successfully survive for eons and that may not necessarily prove to be true of we humans.
“Consider termites. They are strikingly social animals and have constructed elaborate societies for 200 million years. They engage in a primitive sort of agriculture, farming varieties of fungus for food. As individuals, they demonstrate remarkable intelligence and an even more surprising group intelligence that enables complicated feats of soil engineering in a diverse range of environments. Within their complex societal structure, termites divide labor between varied types of specialized workers, for example, infant care, manual labor, reproduction or soldiers for the defense of the colony. All of this proceeds via highly evolved and complex patterns of communication and signaling.
“Individual bees are intelligent and can even solve problems that are mathematically based. For example, they effectively decide the Traveling Salesman dilemma of optimizing the most efficient route to visit large numbers of locations in a single day. Bees communicate in a rich symbolic non-verbal language that enables them to transmit abstract concepts to others such as the location of particular flowers over large distances based on angles of the sun. They even seem to understand some rudimentary concepts of medical care utilizing medications within their hives. For example, honeybees colonies have been demonstrated to self medicate with plant resin to combat fungal infections.
“What about ants? They’re no slouches. They can navigate long distances to find food and can communicate its location to others with facility. As individuals, they can seek family members, memorize multiple alternate locations and can integrate a large number sources of information. They are even altruistic and will help other ants in distress.
“Modern research is teaching that intelligence is not directly linked to brain volume. All sizes can be demonstrate high intelligence. Birds have small brains but are terrific problem solvers. They are highly cooperative and exhibit a wide range of highly intelligent behaviors. For example, they use vocal learning. Their songs are a complex language. Did you realize that they give lifelong names to their young? They are even known to mourn the loss of others. Birds also have a gyroscopic sense of geography and can store seeds in thousands of places that they can remember. Can we do that?
“Perhaps you suppose that only humans are capable of understanding analogies. However, crows can use analogies to solve higher order tasks. They understand sharing, can use rudimentary arithmetic and can invent meanings for words. Cockatoos can solve puzzles with at least 5 steps. They can even keep time to music.
“Might fish be intellectually impaired? In fact, fish lead complex social lives and are highly intelligent. In a comparison of the intellectual capacity of primates and fish, who do you think should win? In a food test comparing fish with monkeys, chimpanzees and orangutans, it was the fish that proved more adept at learning the advantages of certain patterns of food choices and were faster at it. And individual fish have personalities. Timid ones stay timid and aggressive ones remain bold. They also demonstrate individually distinguishable levels of curiosity and social ability. Fish can play, have excellent memories and perform complex courtship rituals. And Tusk fish even use tools to open shells for food, an act of intellect, which used to be considered as exclusive to humans but is now known to be widely distributed among species.
“Certainly then, we must be much smarter than microbes. However, if intelligence is construed as using information to solve problems to successfully reproduce and survive in hostile environments, then they might be considered among the most intelligent. Some bacterial strains and even some viruses have survived essentially unchanged in any significant manner for hundreds of millions of years, in part this by using elaborate signaling patterns for communication among themselves and others.
“So what might we make of this widely distributed worldwide intelligence?
“Our intelligence might be of a unique kind, but it is not the only intelligence of consequence on this planet. Ours is just different and suited to the types of problems that we need to solve.
“We have vastly underestimated the intelligence, feelings and complexity of the inner lives of our companion creatures on this planet. The implications are profound for our relationship towards them and our stewardship of the planet we share.
“The ubiquity of refined intelligence requires a thorough re-examination of our evolutionary narrative. Intelligence exists at every scale and underscores every aspect of evolutionary development.
“This emerging understanding teaches us that all cognitive ability starts at the cellular level. All complex creatures must in turn be viewed as integrated collections of intelligent cells, vast collaboratives of cellular intelligence – we in our human package, and they in theirs.
“While our form of collective intelligence may be privileged compared to others, it is not different in its essence. As a species, we would do well to grasp this vital truth.”
Dr. Bill Miller has been a physician in academic and private practice for over 30 years. He is the author of The Microcosm Within: Evolution and Extinction in the Hologenome. He currently serves as a scientific advisor to OmniBiome Therapeutics, a pioneering company in discovering and developing solutions to problems in human fertility and health through management of the human microbiome. For more information: www.themicrocosmwithin.com.
DARK Days in the United States
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Thursday, July 23, was a dark day indeed. On that day, 275 members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of H.R. 1599, the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act. By voting for the DARK Act, these politicians voted against truth and transparency, against science, against the more than century-old right of states to legislate on matters relating to food safety and labeling.
The actual name of the Bill is “The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015.” It is nothing of the sort. It says that only the Federal Government can pass GMO labeling laws. And that the laws will be voluntary, not mandatory. And that any food manufacturer using GMOs can opt out of using the labels. So the title of the bill is a giant FU to the 90-percent of Americans who are in favor of mandatory labeling of GMOs.
It seems ironic that in the “land of the free” we cannot democratically oust GMOs, and that our own leaders are now putting up walls to deny us the right to know what is in our food. It really is an abomination and perversion of everything our government “by the people, of the people, and for the people” is supposed to stand for. The passage of the DARK Act in our House of Representatives proves that.
Besides voting for Monsanto and friends, they voted against the producers of non-GMO foods. They voted against “We the people.” The vote included all but a handful of Republicans and 45 Democrats. I suggest you vote them out of office in the next election. No, I think it’s mandatory you vote them out of office in the next election. To do that, you need to know how your representative voted.
You can find out how your representative voted at this link:
BEE-HARMING PESTICIDE ‘UBIQUITOUS’ IN ENVIRONMENT
More than 70 percent of pollen and honey samples collected from foraging bees in Massachusetts contained neonicotinoids, a type of insecticide that has been linked to colony collapse disorder, researchers are reporting. The disorder causes adult bees to abandon their hives in winter.
In the new study, published in The Journal of Environmental Chemistry, researchers analyzed 219 pollen samples and 53 honey samples from 62 hives in 10 counties in Massachusetts. Honeybee colonies have experienced significant losses over the last decade, and the effects can be far-reaching: Bees are the prime pollinators of one-third of all crops worldwide.
The researchers wanted to find out whether neonicotinoids are commonly present in pollen and honey, which are the main food sources for bees. The results show that neonicotinoids are ubiquitous in the environment where bees foraged, and therefore could pose risks to honeybee health.
By the way, when environmentalists approached Bayer AG, the German company that makes the neonicotinoid pesticides, and urged them to stop production because of honeybee deaths and the danger to our food supply from that, Bayer AG refused. I hope the executives at Bayer find their money tasty when all the bees are dead and the pollinated crops disappear.
ANOTHER HERBICIDE IS ‘POSSIBLY CARCINOGENIC’
A group of scientists convened by the World Health Organization has decided that 2,4-D herbicide is “possibly carcinogenic.”
The IARC, the World Health Organization’s cancer agency, says that 2,4-D, the GMO industry’s new herbicide of choice to kill glyphosate-resistant weeds in GMO crop fields, is a “possible” human carcinogen. You can read the IARC’s preliminary report here (you’ll need to register for free access):
According to Mother Jones magazine, “this announcement can hardly be welcome news in the Midwest, where farm fields are blanketed in corn and soybeans. Since the advent of crops genetically engineered to withstand glyphosate in the 1990s, farmers there have come to rely heavily on the herbicide that many weed varieties have evolved to resist, causing many headaches and a surge in herbicide use.
“This past spring, Dow Chemical introduced new genetically modified corn and soybean products designed to solve that problem. They’re engineered to resist not just glyphosate, but also, you guessed it, 2,4-D. And Dow is selling farmers a proprietary herbicide known as Enlist Duo, a combo of glyphosate and 2,4-D, that farmers can apply directly to the crops grown from the new genetically modified corn and soybean seeds. There’s evidence that toxic chemicals do worse things to us when combined than they do solo. That such ‘synergistic’ effects are little studied is hardly comforting.”
ROUNDUP 1000X MORE TOXIC THAN GLYPHOSATE ALONE
The Organic Consumers Association reports that Dr. Robin Mesnage of the Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics at Kings College in London, revealed new data analysis showing Roundup is 1,000 times more toxic than glyphosate, its active weed-killing ingredient, alone.
“Glyphosate is everywhere throughout our food chain-–in our food and water. The lack of data on toxicity of glyphosate is not proof of safety, and these herbicides cannot be considered safe without proper testing. We know Roundup…contains many other chemicals which, when mixed together, are 1,000 times more toxic than glyphosate on its own,” Dr. Mesnage said.
In response to the IARC conclusions, Claire Robinson, an editor at GMWatch.org said: “Outside the United Kingdom, the reaction to the WHO IARC report has been dramatic. Some retailers in Switzerland and Germany have removed glyphosate products, France has committed to do so by 2018, and German states are calling for an EU-wide ban. The Danish Working Environment Authority has declared it a carcinogen, El Salvador and Sri Lanka have banned it, and the Colombia government has banned aerial spraying on coca crops.”
HUNGARY DESTROYS GMO CORN CROP
Hungary has taken a bold stand against biotech giant Monsanto and genetic modification by destroying 1000 acres of maize found to have been grown with genetically modified seeds, according to Hungarian deputy state secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development, Lajos Bognar.
The GMO maize has been plowed under, said Bognar. Unlike several EU members, GMO seeds are banned in Hungary. During the ministry’s investigation, controllers found Pioneer Monsanto products among the seeds planted.
The free movement of goods within the EU means that authorities will not investigate how the seeds arrived in Hungary, but they will check where the goods can be found, Bognar said. Most farmers complained once they just discovered they were using GMO seeds.
WHEN IT COMES TO GMOS, WE SHOULD BE MORE LIKE RUSSIANS
The Vaishnaya Internet News Service (a Russian news service) asks, “Why Is Russia Banning GMOs While the US Keeps Approving Them?”
Unable to resist taking a well-deserved pot-shot at America, the News Service notes that in the U.S., “there have been marches, vocal demonstrations, petitions, and laws banning GMOs, but the US is still lagging in the ‘democratic’ freedoms it has promised its people. Russia, on the other hand, has completely banned GMOs, placing a moratorium on their imports for 10 years. The nation rejects GMOs due to numerous dangers, while the US continues to allow Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, Syngenta, and their bullying kind to contrive a cold war on the American people.”
The VP of Russia’s National Association for Genetic Safety, Irina Ermakova, has said:
“It is necessary to ban GMOs, to impose moratorium (on) it for 10 years. While GMOs will be prohibited, we can plan experiments, tests, or maybe even new methods of research could be developed. It has been proven that not only in Russia, but also in many other countries in the world, GMOs are dangerous. Methods of obtaining the GMOs are not perfect, therefore, at this stage, all GMOs are dangerous. Consumption and use of GMOs obtained in such way can lead to tumors, cancers, and obesity among animals. Bio-technologies certainly should be developed, but GMOs should be stopped. We should stop it from spreading,” Ermakova said.
Here’s another report on the subject, this one from Russian TV: “After US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks showed that the State Department was lobbying worldwide for Monsanto and other similar corporations, a new report based on the cables shows Washington’s shilling for the biotech industry in distinct detail. The August, 2011, WikiLeaks revelations showed that American diplomats had requested funding to send lobbyists for the biotech industry to hold talks with politicians and agricultural officials in ‘target countries’ in areas like Africa and Latin America, where genetically-modified crops were not yet a mainstay, as well as some European countries that have resisted the controversial agricultural practice.”
It should be noted that what passes for journalism in Russia is really opinion, as in this quote, but in this case, the point is well-taken. Our government is indeed shilling for Big Biotech. Even our universities are in the back pocket of these biotech corporations. The annual $500 million budget of Stanford University’s Department of Biological Engineering alone supports dozens of research projects for myriad commercial (biotech) applications.
‘INERT INGREDIENTS’ MAY BE AS TOXIC AS THE ACTIVE ONES
The Environmental Protection Agency endangers public health by refusing to require disclosure of falsely characterized “inert” ingredients in pesticides, environmentalists claim in court, the Organic Consumers Association reports.
Three groups, The Center for Environmental Health, Beyond Pesticides, and Physicians for Social Responsibility have sued the EPA and its Administrator Gina McCarthy in Federal Court on Wednesday, under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
“What we’re challenging is EPA’s inaction despite a body of evidence” that inert pesticide ingredients can be just as harmful as active ones, plaintiffs’ attorney Yana Garcia told Courthouse News.
“Chemicals listed as inert are not inert,” she said. “Consumers think the inert ingredients are water or other benign substances used to mix the chemicals, but many are carcinogenic and others have acute impacts and still others have impacts that are currently unknown.”
Though FIFRA includes provisions to protect pesticide manufacturers’ trade secrets, it gives the EPA the authority to disclose ingredients it considers hazardous, Garcia said.
“It remains clear that FIFRA doesn’t let trade secrets trump health. But the EPA is kind of hiding behind this provision in the statute to shirk its responsibility to protect people and the environment” from pesticides, Garcia said.
Pesticide manufacturers and the EPA have identified more than 370 commonly used hazardous inert ingredients, including several known and suspected carcinogens, chemicals that cause reproductive and neurological disorders, and 96 potentially toxic chemicals classified as “high priority for testing,” according to the complaint.
Worse still, the groups say, many of these hazardous ingredients enhance the absorption and inhalation rates of active ingredients, render protective gear such as gloves less effective, and make it difficult to remove pesticides from clothing.
House Ag Committee Okays the Monsanto Protection Act
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Well, it’s happened. The DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act, better known as the ultimate Monsanto Protection Act, aka H.R. 1599, has been voted out of committee with the approval of the House Agriculture Committee.
This is nothing short of a disgusting capitulation to Big Ag by a bunch of bootlicking House members totally hog-tied and bought off by Monsanto and its pals in the agricultural chemical, biotech, big farm, and related industries. It really is awful to read how these toadies gloat and spin this terrible act as though it is the salvation of farming in America and a huge boon to consumers. It is nothing of the kind. It destroys our ability to know what’s in our food. But read it yourself, as reported in the Food Business News. And then write your Representative and your two Senators and give them your feelings about this.
“WASHINGTON — The House Committee on Agriculture on July 14 approved H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015. The bill, which was introduced in March by Representatives Mike Pompeo of Kansas and G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, has evolved through bipartisan discussions between the Agriculture Committee and the Committee on Energy and Commerce Committee.
“The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act is designed to prevent individual states from passing legislation requiring the labeling of food and beverage products containing bioengineered ingredients.
“‘I appreciate the collaborative efforts of the Energy and Commerce Committee in getting this bipartisan legislation completed and approved today,’ said Representative K. Michael Conaway of Texas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. ‘H.R. 1599 is the solution to an urgent and growing problem. The current patchwork system of varied labels interferes with the free flow of goods across the country, posing a real threat to interstate commerce and typically results in inconsistent and confusing information for consumers. Creating a uniform national policy regarding biotechnology labeling is the free market solution that will allow consumers access to meaningful information, create market opportunities for those on the production and processing side, and will facilitate future innovation.’
“Representative Rodney Davis, chairman of the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research, thanked Mr. Conaway and Mr. Pompeo for their work on the bill.
“’As a parent, I believe it is important to have national and reliable food labels, and this bill does that by allowing for an effective, uniform labeling system that consumers can trust,’ Mr. Davis said. ‘Without a national standard, we risk the spread of misinformation and increased food costs. Just as consumers can go to the grocery store and identify organic products, this bill will allow them to do the same with G.M.O.-free products.’ (Hint: This is a lie. Re-read paragraph two of this article from Food Business News. The legislation says only the Federal government can create a labeling law, and you know what that’s going to be worth. It will not require the label to state what’s in the food, only what’s not in the food. Picture yourself shopping. If the label is required to say, “Contains GMOs” then you have a way of identifying every food with GMOs in the store. They’ll all have labels. Now picture a voluntary label, which is what H.R. 1599 calls for, saying, “Contains No GMOs.” That voluntary label will tell you something about that particular product, but what about all the other products in the store? The label is voluntary. Products with GMOs likely will have no labeling at all. This is what this terrible piece of legislation calls for. The damn thing was written by Monsanto, for goshsakes.)
“The Grocery Manufacturers Association (G.M.A.) praised the passage of the bill: ‘Today’s House Agriculture Committee vote is further evidence of the growing support and momentum in Congress for this bill, and we urge the full House to pass it before the August recess,’ said Pamela G. Bailey, president and chief executive officer of the G.M.A. ‘This critically important bipartisan legislation will ensure that Americans have accurate, consistent information about their food rather than a 50-state patchwork of labeling laws that will only prove costly and confusing for consumers, farmers and food manufacturers.’
“Pamela G. Bailey, president and chief executive officer of the G.M.A.: ‘It is imperative that the House and Senate move quickly to pass the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,’ Ms. Bailey added. ‘It will put a science-based framework in place that provides consumers across the country with uniform food labeling standards.’ (Hint: The phrase “science based framework” is language written by Monsanto and used as a talking point by its minions.)
“The American Soybean Association (A.S.A.) also applauded the House Agriculture Committee for marking up and approving the bill: ‘Consumers continue to demand more transparency and accountability from food producers,’ said Wade Cowan, president of the A.S.A. and a soybean farmer from Brownfield, Texas. ‘This bill ensures that a multi-state patchwork of state regulations is avoided.’ Mr. Cowan said the A.S.A. is now engaged in efforts to garner chamber-wide support for the bill. We’ve seen that the effort to bring clarity to the G.M.O. labeling debate has significant support on both sides of the aisle’” he said. ‘It’s clear that consumers want practical solutions that give them the confidence they want in their food, and this legislation does exactly that. In the coming weeks, we’ll meet with every lawmaker in soybean country to urge them to support this legislation. It’s a bill that moves us closer to a science-based dialogue on food and farm issues, and we will encourage every member of the House to get behind it.’”
HOW THE RIGHT SPINS LIES ABOUT CRUCIAL ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
Okay, so I’ve been reporting and repeating information about how neonicotinoid pesticides have been implicated in the Colony Collapse Disorder that’s been ravaging bee colonies in the U.S. for the last number of years. I haven’t been out there in the field documenting bee deaths, but I have been looking at the science. And it’s pretty clear that neonics, as they’re called, are at least a part of the problem of bee colony collapse. There’s actually quite a bit of scientific work on this, because we’ve known for centuries that if bees fail to pollinate our crops, we won’t have crops.
So today I received this post on my Facebook page: “Bee Experts Dismantle Touted ‘Harvard’ Neonics-Colony Collapse Disorder Study As ‘Activist Science.’”
Oh—bee experts are saying neonics aren’t the cause of colony collapse disorder (CCD) at all? And that a study attributed to Harvard scientists is nonsense? “Activist Science” seems to mean that those opposed to neonics have some sort of political agenda.
Well, where is this information coming from? This article, published by the Genetic Literacy Project at the University of California, Davis (a respected ag school), was written by someone named Jon Entine.
Wow. This is news. Evidently, I’ve been wrong all along. Maybe neonics aren’t the cause of CCD. So here’s an excerpt from Entine’s article:
“Chensheng Lu was in his element last month at a speech before a green group at Harvard Law School. The School of Public Health professor was lecturing on his favorite topic–his only subject these days, as it has become his obsession: why he believes bees around the world are in crisis.” This sounds like a patronizing put-down: “his only subject,” “his obsession,” and “why he believes bees around the world are in crisis.” Is it just Chensheng Lu who believes bees are in crisis. No! There’s a ton of data so starkly troublesome about disappearing bees that it has scientists around the country worried.
“Lu is convinced, unequivocally,” Entine writes, “that a popular pesticide hailed by many scientists as a less toxic replacement for farm chemicals proven to be far more dangerous to humans and the environment, is actually a killer in its own right.
“’We demonstrated that neonicotinoids are highly likely to be responsible for triggering Colony Collapse Disorder in bee hives,’ claimed Lu. The future of our food system and public health, he said, hangs in the balance.
“Lu is the Dr. Doom of bees,” Entine writes. “Not clear to most other experts in the field, is that colony collapse disorder (CCD), which first emerged in 2006, can be directly linked to ‘neonics,’ and also to genetically modified crops. Phased in during the 1990s, neonics are most often used by farmers to control unwanted crop pests. They are coated on seeds, which then produce plants that systemically fight pests.”
This doesn’t sound like journalism. With its argument ad hominem (“the Dr. Doom of bees”), it sounds more like an apology for a very toxic pesticide. What in the world is the University of California, Davis, doing getting mixed up in what seems to be a propaganda piece for the pesticide industry?
So my investigative journalism gene—the one I acquired when I studied journalism at my university—kicked in, and I saw that the article’s author was Jon Entine. So, who is Jon Entine?
Well, he’s executive director of the Genetic Literacy Project, a sister organization of the Statistical Assessment Service (STATS). He’s also a Senior Fellow at the World Food Center Institute for Food and Agricultural Literacy at the University of California, Davis, and is a fellow at the Center for Health and Risk Communication, George Mason University. That’s quite a fistful of bona fides, right? Let’s take a closer look at his affiliations.
The Statistical Assessment Service (STATS) touts itself as a “non-profit, non-partisan organization,” but its funders are not transparent. It is itself an arm, or “sister organization,” of the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA), and it is affiliated with the Center for Health and Risk Communication at George Mason University. STATS in turn has two “sister organizations”: the Genetic Literacy Project, which promotes GMOs (uh-oh); and EconoSTATS, which promotes privatization and opposes government regulation. Hmmm. Promotes privatization and opposes government regulation. That sure sounds like the conservative agenda.
Oh. Wait—didn’t we find out that Jon Entine is the executive director of the Genetic Literacy Project and its STATS affiliate? Here’s a little more about Mr. Entine, as reported on Natural News:
“Forbes.com contributing writer Jon Entine, long known as a biotech shill and pesticide apologist, committed physical violence against his wife and psychologically traumatized his own daughter, according to court documents now revealed in a comprehensive, five-part investigative article by Natural News. The documents reveal how his wife pleaded for court protection against domestic violence and child abuse and sought a restraining order against Entine to halt him from ‘physically, verbally and or psychologically abusing, annoying, harassing or injuring’ herself or their young female daughter.
“Jon Entine has professional ties to Monsanto, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Proctor & Gamble, and other similar corporations. He is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a research fellow at George Mason University, and was a paid lecturer at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Entine is a key ‘attack operative’ for the biotech industry, well known for authoring wildly defamatory character assassination articles to target GMO skeptics and scientists who disagree with the biotech industry’s contrived safety claims.
“With the help of Forbes.com and the American Enterprise Institute — both key players in attacking and smearing GMO skeptics and scientists — Entine has been instrumental in viciously smearing the reputations of numerous scientists, activists, independent journalists, and environmentalists, usually through the use of wildly fraudulent smear tactics and the wholesale fabrication of false ‘facts.’
“It turns out that Jon Entine has been leading a double life. In one life, he presents himself as an upstanding, award-winning journalist and research fellow with a well-credentialed resume. But in his secret life, Jon Entine is described by his own wife as a belligerent, violent, mentally unstable individual who committed acts of violence against his wife, psychologically traumatized his own daughter, installed surveillance equipment to spy on his wife’s activities, attempted to compel his wife’s therapist to testify against her in court, interfered with his wife’s professional activities, and engaged in a bizarre series of other reprehensible activities.”
Well—enough. You begin to get a picture of Mr. Entine. But why would he want to spread disinformation about neonics, their effect on bees, and GMO crops? Well, there was that reference about the link to Monsanto, and his being an attack operative for the biotech industry.
Let’s go back and look more closely at STATS, the sister organization of the Genetic Literacy Project and the Center for Media and Public Affairs. STATS promotes itself as a disinterested, non-partisan guardian of scientific and statistical integrity to media outlets. It has been surprisingly successful in this guise, with many media outlets citing STATS information as the gospel truth. If STATS gives it the okay, it must be okay, right?
From its inception, however, STATS has repeatedly attacked environmentalists, civil libertarians, feminists, and other “liberals.” The first director of STATS, David Murray, was not a statistician at all. His academic training was in anthropology, but he was often described in the media as a “statistician” when he commented on various topics.
As for funding, is it any surprise that we find, among others, the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation (which is funding an array of Republican and right-wing ideological interests, including the Tea Party via front groups like Freedomworks)?
The Genetic Literacy Project is affiliated with The Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA), too. It’s a U.S.-based, tax-exempt, nonprofit 501(c)(3) media watch organization. On its website, CMPA claims to be politically neutral: “The Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) is a nonpartisan research and educational organization which conducts scientific studies of news and entertainment media. CMPA’s goal is to provide an empirical basis for ongoing debates over media coverage and impact through well-documented, timely, and readable studies.” Guess who dug up the seed money for the CMPA? Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson.
CMPA also runs the Statistical Assessment Service (STATS), described on the front page of its website as a sister organization, and which is considered a front organization.
CMPA: out of the total of $3,323,416 in its foundation grants, nearly all of it ($2,693,916) came from the John M. Olin, Scaife, and Smith Richardson foundations. In other words, CMPA received 81 percent of its foundation funding from those donors. Here is a sample of other right-wing causes funded by these same donors:
John M. Olin Foundation funds the American Enterprise Institute and the Project for the New American Century. The Scaife Foundation funds the American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, and the Hudson Institute. All of them are ideologically far right organizations devoted to advancing radical conservative causes.
According to Salon journalist Joe Conason, “The IRS form 990 returns filed by the CMPA redacts (eliminates) the names of all the individuals and organizations that contribute to it, thereby concealing them from public scrutiny. But the watchdogs at Media Transparency have collated the 990 returns filed by conservative foundations, which disclose their contributions.” And it turns out that, yes indeed, the Genetic Literacy Project, the CMPA, and STATS are all supported by the same few conservative foundations.
So how does this all work out in the public media that supposedly informs America?
Here’s one headline widely reported in news media across America a few years ago: “Fox News Gives Most Balanced Coverage.”
The Huffington Post reported in December, 2007, that “a study released this month by the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) at George Mason University found that Fox News Channel’s evening coverage was more ‘balanced’ than that of the broadcast networks.” Yet, one only had to look at the money behind the CMPA study to see that the results were tainted from the start. Journalists! Start doing your due diligence.
The CMPA staff includes President Robert Lichter, who is a paid contributor to the Fox News Channel. During the mid-1980’s he held the DeWitt Wallace Chair in Mass Communication at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. In addition, according to the CMPA website, he has taught at Princeton University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, and George Mason University, and he was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Politics and Psychology at Yale University, a Senior Research Fellow at Columbia University, and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow at Smith College.
All these positions at some of America’s finest institutions of higher learning would be laudable, if it weren’t for the fact that this arch-conservative is part of a campaign that has, as one of its aims, to discredit scientists who show that neonicotinoid pesticides are destroying our bee populations. You might almost think that people at institutions like Princeton and Yale are behind the conservative assault on scientific inquiry into environmental problems. Perish the thought!
So the question comes down to this. Once we peer behind the curtain and see the Wizard of Oz for who he really is, of what value to the conservative corporatists is the discrediting of a pesticide that’s killing our bees?
Let me venture a guess.
If the public gets the idea that a pesticide is bad for us, the public might demand that pesticides be regulated or removed from the environment. And who makes pesticides? Well, Bayer Crop Science makes neonicotinoids. Monsanto makes Roundup. Syngenta, Dow, and many others make toxic agricultural chemicals. And they are VERY profitable.
And so, I get this seemingly innocuous Facebook post telling me that bee die-off isn’t really due to neonics. And when I wend my way back through the maze of front groups and phony organizations and propagandizing smokescreens, I always come back to the same people. And they are the arch-conservatives who have stolen the American dream from working folks and the middle class and hidden it in their safety deposit boxes in the Cayman Islands.
Wake up, America. You’re being had!
MONSANTO TAKES UMBRAGE AT WHO ROUNDUP CANCER REPORT
Reuters is reporting that Monsanto is demanding a sit-down with members of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). This international scientific body is being called on the carpet for reporting that Monsanto’s Roundup, the world’s most widely sold herbicide, which is inextricably linked to the majority of their genetically engineered products, is probably carcinogenic to humans. In a DO-YOU-KNOW-WHO-WE-ARE? moment, Monsanto’s vice president of global regulatory affairs Philip Miller said the following in an interview:
“We question the quality of the assessment. The WHO has something to explain.”
Evidence for the carcinogenicity of glyphosate comes from a peer-reviewed study published in March of 2015 in the respected journal The Lancet Oncology.
Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum herbicide, currently with the highest production volumes of all herbicides. It is used in more than 750 different products for agriculture, forestry, urban, and home applications. Its use has increased sharply with the development of genetically modified glyphosate-resistant crop varieties. Glyphosate has been detected in air during spraying, in water, and in food.
Glyphosate has been detected in the blood and urine of agricultural workers, indicating absorption. Soil microbes degrade glyphosate to aminomethylphosphoric acid (AMPA). Blood AMPA detection after poisonings suggests intestinal microbial metabolism in humans. Glyphosate and glyphosate formulations induced DNA and chromosomal damage in mammals, and in human and animal cells in vitro. One study reported increases in blood markers of chromosomal damage (micronuclei) in residents of several communities after spraying of glyphosate formulations.
Recently, Monsanto’s Dr. William “Bill” Moar presented the latest project in their product pipeline dealing with RNA. Most notably, he spoke about Monsanto’s efforts to educate citizens about the scientific certainty of the safety of their genetically engineered products. The audience was mostly agricultural students, many of whom were perhaps hoping for the only well-paid internships and jobs in their field.
One student asked what Monsanto was doing to counter the “bad science” around their work. Dr. Moar, perhaps forgetting that this was a public event, then revealed that Monsanto indeed had “an entire department” (waving his arm for emphasis) dedicated to “debunking” science which disagreed with theirs. This is the first time that a Monsanto functionary has publically admitted that they have such an entity which brings their immense political and financial weight to bear on scientists who dare to publish against them. The Discredit Bureau will not be found on their official website.
The job of Monsanto’s Discredit Bureau is to attack the unimpeachably respected Lancet and the international scientific bodies of WHO and IARC. However, they have no choice but to attack, since the stakes are so very high for them. Glyphosate is their hallmark product upon which the majority of their profits are based. Make no mistake, this is extremely bad news for Monsanto.
But their enablers are coming to the rescue.
In a growing number of cases, USDA managers are interfering, intimidating, harassing, and in some cases punishing civil service scientists for doing work that has inconvenient implications for industry and could have direct policy/regulatory ramifications. For example, in recent months USDA scientists have been subjected to:
• Directives not to publish data on certain topics of particular sensitivity to industry;
• Orders to rewrite scientific articles already accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal to remove sections which could provoke industry objections;
• Summons to meet with Secretary Vilsack in an effort to induce retraction of a paper that drew the ire of industry representatives;
• Orders to retract a paper after it had been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The paper could only be published if the USDA scientist removed his authorship thus leaving only the names of authors unassociated with USDA;
• Demotion from supervisory status and a reprimand after the scientist provided testimony before Congress that did not reflect agency preferences;
• Disruptive and lengthy internal investigations to search out any irregularity that could be used for management leverage against the targeted scientist;
• Suspensions without pay and other disciplinary actions for petty matters, such as minor irregularities in travel paperwork;
• Inordinate, sometimes indefinite, delays in approving submission for publication of scientific papers that may be controversial;
• Restrictions on topics that USDA scientists may address in conference presentations; and
• Threats by USDA managers to damage the careers of scientists whose work triggers industry complaints.
At least 10 USDA scientists have been investigated or faced other consequences arising from research that called into question the safety of certain agricultural chemicals.
There have been mounting complaints over the last year from USDA scientists claiming they have been ordered to retract studies, water down findings, remove their names from authorship and experienced delays in approvals for publication of research papers. These ten USDA scientists are laying their careers on the line. Although they are not identified by name in the petition for fear of retaliation, they will be instantly recognizable to Secretary Vilsack from the list of specific complaints. Their bravery characterizes the highest calling of scientific integrity.
Science is not a shining citadel on a hill founded on unassailable objective facts and data. Science is a human endeavor subject to human frailties and failings. Science, increasingly divorced from integrity and accountability, becomes subverted when it is manipulated and orchestrated by multinational corporations whose sole aim is global market share to increase profits.
Recently, companies “such as Monsanto” were implicated in a watchdog group’s petition to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on behalf of anonymous scientists within the agency who say their research is suppressed when it upsets powerful agrichemical interests.
The allegations enraged the industry’s critics, who have been busy touting recent reports linking popular herbicides often used in tandem with genetically engineered crops, or GMOs, to cancer and antibiotic resistance.
Monsanto holds up the sheer abundance of their own well-funded studies citing the safety of glyphosate, done over the past 20 years, which is a short period of time in scientific inquiry, particularly when dissenting research is actively suppressed. They also hold up the findings of regulatory bodies, particularly in the United States where the revolving door between agrochemical corporations and government spins at high speed.
Critics of the agrochemical industry have often cited the history of these corporations who rush their products to market with protestations of safety only to discover down the road that they have become persistent ecological and health nightmares. We are seeing the end of that road for Glyphosate.
About a year ago, the PR people for a new company that produces a drink called ICE asked me if I wanted to have a sample. They said the drink was made from mountain stream water, was low in calories, slightly sparkling, and refreshing. So I said okay, meaning to tout it in this blog if I liked it.
It was a very fine product, I thought. Not sweet. Clean tasting. So I wrote about it. Although it was made with city water in Preston, Washington, the city water itself comes from a lake fed by mountain streams.
I was in my local market the other day and I was thirsty. I spied ICE in a cold case, but now it was all colored and fruit flavored. I bought a bottle anyway, and when I opened it, was astonished to find that it was cloyingly sweet. What happened? I immediately thought that the company must have had focus groups trying the drink, and they urged the company to sweeten it. Yuck. Its lack of sweetness was what I liked about it. And it wasn’t only way too sweet, it had generic fruit flavorings. I wondered how much sugar it contained and looked at the label. It had no sugar, no calories. It did have sucralose, an artificial sweetener better known as Splenda.
Sucralose is a non-nutritive sweetener. The majority of ingested sucralose is not broken down by the body, so it has no calories. In the European Union, it is also known as E955. Sucralose is about 320 to 1,000 times as sweet as table sugar, twice as sweet as saccharin, and three times as sweet as aspartame. It is stable under heat and over a broad range of pH conditions. Therefore, it can be used in baking or in products that require a longer shelf life.
ICE now also contains maltodextrin. Several studies have linked maltodextrin consumption to the suppression of “good bacteria” in the digestive system. These bacteria are the foundation of strong immune systems, so suppressing them is asking for trouble. This potentially puts people who consume a lot of the additive at risk for bacterial infections such as salmonella or E.coli. Despite being only slightly sweet, if at all, maltodextrin is a carbohydrate. It will affect your blood sugar. This is an important thing for people with diabetes to remember. Maltodextrin has the same amount of carbohydrates as table sugar, and its glycemic index is higher than table sugar: 106-136.
In this age of over-information, it should come as no surprise that there’s misleading and conflicting information when it comes to maltodextrin. Product labels aren’t required to mention how much of the additive is included. Instead, it’s added to the total carbohydrate count.
Though some vouch for it as a good option for people with diabetes, it can affect blood sugar even more dramatically than table sugar, and should be counted towards your daily carbohydrate load.
Too bad about ICE. If you bought some on my recommendation, I’m sorry. But the product changed drastically from when I sampled it last year until now. It’s an example of a good product gone bad.
CHIPOTLE MEXICAN GRILL PICKS BEST GAME NAME EVER
Although Chipotle Grill isn’t strictly organic, the chain does make an effort to use good ingredients. I always wondered when someone was going to start an organic fast food chain and make a jillion dollars. Well, Chipotle is heading in that direction. But what struck me about the chain’s latest effort to help customers understand its good ingredients is the name it chose for a new interactive game. Here’s the press release from its PR company:
DENVER – On July 21, Chipotle Mexican Grill will launch “Friend or Faux” – an integrated marketing campaign and interactive digital experience that invites consumers to learn about the differences between Chipotle’s ingredients and those commonly used to make fast food. The “Friend or Faux” game is optimized for mobile and desktop use, and will be accessible by visiting www.chipotle.com/friendorfaux. The campaign will be supported by extensive online advertising.
“Friend or Faux” reinforces Chipotle’s commitment to serving real, high quality ingredients raised with respect for farmers, the environment, animals, and consumers, while taking a progressive approach to continue conversations about where food comes from and how it is prepared.
In a marketing-driven industry where new menu items are often used to drive customer traffic and proliferation of menu items is the norm, cheap, heavily processed foods that include thousands of additives and artificial ingredients have become common. Chipotle has chosen a different path, focusing instead on making food with great quality ingredients prepared using classic cooking techniques. Through this campaign, Chipotle will showcase the limited number of ingredients it uses to make its food (just 68 ingredients in total), and contrast that with the long and complex ingredient lists on which many fast food brands have become so reliant.
Would Bernie Make an Organic-Minded President?
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Bernie is a member of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works and the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, both important committees for the environment, green jobs, and wise use of natural resources. His home state of Vermont was the first state in the country to pass a GMO labeling law, and support of labeling is definitely a litmus test for any politician who wants the organic vote.
And yes, there is an organic vote. Millions upon millions of people in this country want a food supply that’s safe and wholesome, and the kind of clean environment from which it comes. Part of the shift America needs to make to reverse climate change is to farm in a way that recycles nutrients, and sequesters carbon in the soil. That’s organic farming. Senator Sanders has been a leading voice on climate change in the government.
Sanders is not only a leading progressive voice on climate change, but also income inequality and campaign finance reform. He rose to national prominence on the heels of his 2010 filibuster of the proposed extension of the Bush-era tax rates for the wealthy. Sanders is also outspoken on civil liberties issues, and has been particularly critical of mass surveillance policies such as the Patriot Act.
Sanders considers global warming a serious problem. Along with Senator Barbara Boxer, Sanders introduced the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act of 2007 on January 15, 2007. In a July 26, 2012, speech on the Senate floor, Sanders addressed claims made by Senator Jim Inhofe: “The bottom line is when Senator Inhofe says global warming is a hoax, he is just dead wrong, according to the vast majority of climate scientists.” He was Climate Hawks Vote’s top-rated senator on climate leadership in the 113th Congress.
Believing that “[we need to] transform our energy system away from fossil fuel,” Sanders voted against the Keystone Pipeline bill, saying, “Unless we get our act together, the planet that we’re going to be leaving to our kids and grandchildren will be significantly less habitable than the planet we have right now…I think it’s a good idea for the president, Congress, and the American people to listen to the overwhelming amount of scientists who tell us loudly and clearly that climate change is one of the great planetary crises that we face.” This all sounds liberal and organic to me. But it’s no cynical ploy to win hearts, minds, and pocketbooks of the rich. Sanders has been speaking truth to power for decades. He is truly incorruptible.
Bernie Sanders’ integrity and honesty were earned over many years of standing up for the working and middle classes in this country. He has earned the trust of the American people. You can’t buy this. Bernie has millions of supporters, and supporters vote, dollars don’t. You want to get big money out of electoral politics? Vote for Bernie next year. If any candidate of either party is going to support organic farming and wholesome food production, it’s Bernie.
MONSANTO KNEW ALL ALONG HOW TOXIC ROUNDUP IS
Internal Monsanto documents reveal the company knew over 30 years ago that glyphosate, the active ingredient in its Roundup herbicide, caused adenomas and carcinomas in rats its scientists studied, according to Anthony Samsel, PhD. Research shows, he said, that Roundup, in addition to chelating vitamins and minerals, making them nutritionally unavailable, disrupts intestinal bacteria that manufacture amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.
THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET GOES (MOSTLY) VEGETARIAN
The Mediterranean Diet gets the (mostly) vegetarian treatment in “Living the Mediterranean Diet,” by Rick Nigro and Ray Ewald (Ulysses Press, $21.95).
Combining the healthful diets of the Mediterranean countries with many plant-based recipes is a double dose of goodness, especially when the ingredients are organic. There are some seafood and chicken dishes, too, for us omnivores. And these recipes look wonderful. The Watermelon Gazpacho recipe alone is worth the price of the book. It combines watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, mint, ginger, jalapeno chili, lime juice, red onion, parsley, rosemary, salt, and pepper.
Some other recipes: butternut squash and pomegranate hummus, farfalle pasta with sunflower seed pesto, wild salmon with dill-yogurt sauce, eggplant and Kalamata olive rolls, whole roasted apple-rosemary chicken, and…you get the idea. It’s available on Amazon.
LATEST REPORTS FROM THE ORGANIC CENTER
A new study has found that exposure to pyrethroid pesticides may make some people more susceptible to Parkinson’s disease if they have a common gene. Researchers found that Parkinson’s disease risk significantly increased for individuals with the common gene who were exposed to pyrethroid pesticides. Individuals with the common gene but who were not exposed to pyrethroids did not have an increased risk for developing Parkinson’s. This study is one of the first to find a link between pesticide exposure and genetic risk for Parkinson’s.
A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences shows that organic farming is more profitable to farmers than conventional farming. While this study did not include environmental costs or benefits of conventional or organic farming in the economic analysis, the authors note, “If we also put a price on the negative externalities caused by conventional farming, such as soil erosion or nitrate leaching into groundwater, then organic agriculture would become even more profitable because its environmental footprint has been shown to be less than that of conventional agriculture.” They added, “We found that, in spite of lower yields, organic agriculture was significantly more profitable than conventional agriculture, and has room to expand globally. Moreover, with its environmental benefits, organic agriculture can contribute a larger share in sustainably feeding the world.”
The Agricultural Health Study investigated the relationship between the use of the organophosphate pesticide diazinon and cancer risk in pesticide applicators. A recent study published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine suggests that exposure to diazinon significantly increases the risk of lung cancer in applicants who used the pesticide the most. Organic regulations protect farm workers health because synthetic toxic pesticides are prohibited.
A recent study published in Agronomy for Sustainable Development has confirmed that organic farming is beneficial for soil organisms. The study compared soil organisms among fields that had been managed using different farming practices for 14 years as part of a long-term study. The scientists found that abundances of larger soil animals increased from 100 to 2,500 percent and microorganisms increased from 30 to 70 percent over the conventional field, with conservation agriculture demonstrating the healthiest and most diverse soils.
A new study in the Journal of Applied Ecology has found that tachinid parasitoids, a group of flies that prey on crop pests, are positively affected by organic farming. Organic farms had both higher abundance and species richness of parasitoids than conventional farms. “To restore parasitoid diversity, the promotion of organic agriculture should aim to increase both the total extent of organic farming and the connectivity of individual farms. As the benefits of organic farming to biodiversity clearly spread beyond individual farm boundaries, any assessment of organic farming should consider these positive externalities,” the authors concluded.
SOIL BASICS IN E-BOOK FORM NOW AVAILABLE
There’s a new book from Organic Connections magazine titled, “Soil and Your Health,” that you can download for free. Here’s a link to the download site:
HOW BIG FOOD, AG, AND BIOTECH FRONT GROUPS MANIPULATE US
A new report sheds light on the covert tactics used to shape public opinion about what we eat, according to Anna Lappe in “Spinning Food,” a new report detailing the way public opinion about food and farming is manipulated in favor of big corporations.
“At the turn of the last century,” she writes, “the father of public relations, Edward Bernays, launched the Celiac Project, whose medical professionals recommended bananas to benefit celiac disease sufferers. Those pitched on the sweet fruit’s miraculous properties didn’t know the project was actually created for the United Fruit Co., the largest trader of bananas in the world.
“The creation of front groups — independent-sounding but industry-backed organizations — as a public relations strategy dates at least as far back as Bernays’ day. But a new report by Kari Hamerschlag, a senior program manager at the environmental nonprofit Friends of the Earth; Stacy Malkan, a co-founder of the food industry watchdog U.S. Right to Know; and me (Anna Lappe is a food activist) shows that such tactics are continuing with ever more scope and scale today.
“The report exposes the growth of food-industry-sponsored front groups and other covert communication tactics in the past few years. While food industry spin is not new, we’re seeing an unprecedented level of spending and deployment of an ever wider array of PR tactics. We argue this rise of industrial food spin is a direct response to mounting public concerns about industrial agriculture as well as a growing interest in sustainable food and groundswell for organic products.
“Increasingly, the American public is raising questions about toxic chemicals used in farming, routine antibiotics used in livestock production and genetic engineering in agriculture. The booming organic food business is one sign: Sales of organic food and products in the United States are projected to jump from $35 billion in 2013 to $170 billion in 2025 — a direct threat to the profits of the processed food, animal agriculture, and chemical industries engaging in such spin. According to a recent Fortune article, since 2009 the 25 biggest food and beverage companies — selling nonorganic processed and junk food — lost an equivalent of $18 billion in market share. ‘I would think of them like melting icebergs,’ the article quotes Credit Suisse analyst Robert Moskow as saying. ‘Every year they become a little less relevant.’
“In the face of this threat, we argue that the industrial food sector — from the biotech behemoths to the animal agriculture industry — is working overtime to defuse these concerns with well-funded communication efforts and a rash of new front groups. From 2009 to 2013, just 14 of these front groups spent $126 million to shape the story of food while presenting the veneer of independence. There’s the Alliance to Feed the Future, which produces Common Core–vetted curricula on healthy food for public schools. Its members include the Frozen Pizza Institute and the Calorie Control Council, which promotes the benefits of Olestra and saccharin, among other artificial sweeteners and fats. You don’t need to be an expert in food security to be skeptical about advice for how to feed the world from the trade council for fake sugar and fat.
“We detail groups such as the U.S. Farmers and Rancher’s Alliance (USFRA) — whose goal, it says, is ‘to enhance U.S. consumer trust in modern food production to ensure the abundance of affordable, safe food’ and whose lead partners include animal pharmaceutical company Elanco, biotech giant Monsanto and chemical companies DuPont, Dow and Syngenta. Among the USFRA’s communication priorities since its launch in 2011 has been to combat growing public concern about the routine use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. Its Antibiotics Working Group has developed educational materials, hosted public conversations and trained media representatives to downplay the risks of antibiotics. But the group’s messages contradict well-documented evidence of the widespread misuse of routine antibiotics. Today 70 percent of medically important antibiotics sold in the United States are used not in humans, according to the Food and Drug Administration, but in livestock animal production to promote growth or prevent disease, leading to the threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
“But it’s not just front groups. We describe a plethora of other communication tactics, many of them so under-the-radar that often people don’t realize the stories are being crafted behind the scenes. We describe how the industrial food sector targets female audiences and co-opts female bloggers, how industry groups pay for advertisements to look like editorial content and how the industry infiltrates social media. In one example, the Biotechnology Industry Organization hired PR firm Ketchum to develop GMOAnswers.com, populated with industry-approved answers about genetically modified organisms. The firm even won a prestigious advertising award for this campaign, particularly for its success in tracking negative tweets about GMOs and engaging users directly, urging them to visit the website.
“The trade groups for the industrial food sector also reach into their deep pockets to shape how the media report on our food system. In our analysis, we found that just four major trade associations for the chemical, biotech and animal agriculture sectors had expenses totaling half a billion dollars from 2009 to 2013, including communications and marketing campaigns.
“These are just some of the tactics we describe. While it is far from a comprehensive documentation of every front group or tactic, we hope the report inspires everyday Americans, public officials, and journalists to be critical consumers of the stories we hear about food and farming. Particularly at a time when mainstream media outlets are hemorrhaging, cutting back on the resources available for the investigative pieces essential to accurate reporting on and exposing industry malfeasance, it’s increasingly important that we know where our food information comes from and who is behind it. There’s new indication of the importance of this every day. Consider how the food industry is already busy pushing back in the media against the sound recommendations from the scientific advisory committee for the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, set to be finalized later this year.
“We must ensure these PR strategies don’t leave us in the dark about the real story of our food. Because as we debate one of the biggest questions of our time — how to feed ourselves safely and sustainably — it’s essential we base critical policy decisions and consumer choices on substance, not spin.”
You can learn more about Spinning Food by following this link: http://www.foe.org/news/archives/2015-06-new-report-exposes-how-front-groups-shape-story-of-food
CAN A TEST KITCHEN BE TOO CREATIVE?
Hey, this burger shack is offering cricket and beef jerky milkshakes. Better get yours before they run out. Here’s info from its PR person, Amanda Quinn:
“Wayback Burgers has announced the launch of two new, unique, high-protein milkshakes made with crickets and beef jerky: the Oreo Mud Pie Cricket Milkshake and the Jerky Milkshake!
“The new Jerky Milkshake masterfully captures the essence of the fabulously dehydrated meat, in milkshake form. Oreo Mud Pie Cricket Protein Milkshake is made with hand-dipped vanilla bean ice cream, Oreo Cookie Crumbles, Peruvian Chocolate Cricket Protein powder (chirp!), chocolate and coffee flavors masterfully blended to deliver 24 grams of protein. The milkshakes will be available at all locations nationwide July 1 – September 30.”
When are they going to offer a Soylent Green Milkshake?
GMO Corn Found to Be Toxic (Duh)
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A team of Egyptian scientists has found that Monsanto’s GMO (Bt toxic) corn is not substantially equivalent to its non GMO parent as Monsanto claims.
While Monsanto also insists there is no evidence of toxicity in its voluntary safety assessments, these independent scientists tell us otherwise. By the 91st day of their studies, they found evidence of kidney, liver, and intestinal toxicity, as well as male infertility in laboratory animals fed the GMO corn.
The results were published in the Journal of American Science 2012; 8(9).
MONSANTO USES DECEIT TO FURTHER THE DARK ACT
The following is part of a letter sent to organic activists by Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the Organic Consumers Association.
“When the first email came in describing Monsanto’s latest campaign of trickery and deception, I thought it sounded far-fetched,” Cummins writes. “But then other activists chimed in, and I realized it was true.
“According to reports from our activists on the ground in California, Washington State, and Oregon, Monsanto is organizing its own powerful ‘astroturf’ movement.” (An astroturf movement is a fake grass roots movement used to achieve political goals.)
“It’s no amateur campaign.
“In a detailed email, with pdf images of documents sent to one of our activists from a Monsanto astroturf leader, we’ve learned that Monsanto is calling moms who are pro-labeling, pretending to be on their side, then rushing overnight documents to them that include letters containing their personal stories, addressed to their members of Congress, asking them to support H.R. 1599.
“It’s a direct attempt to deceive and confuse busy moms, and deluge Congress members with letters of support for a federal bill that would not only ban labeling forever, but also preempt bans on GMO crops, preclude pre-market safety testing of GMO foods,, and take away food companies’ right to voluntarily obtain independent GMO-free certification.
“Monsanto is spending millions to create its fake grassroots movement. We need to fight back. Because if Congress passes H.R. 1599, the Mother of all Monsanto Protection Acts, the GMO labeling movement will effectively be shut down.
“For decades, I’ve been working to defend our soil and our food from the onslaught of Monsanto’s toxic chemicals. By now, you’d think that nothing would surprise me.
And yet . . . this fight has now moved to defending not only our health and the right to know what’s in our food, but our very democracy.
“H.R. 1599 takes ‘attack on democracy’ to new heights. The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is part of the Bill of Rights, was ratified on December 15, 1791. It outlines the principle of federalism, the basis for the original Constitution, by stating that the federal government possesses only those powers delegated to it by the Constitution. All remaining powers are reserved for the states or the people.
States’ rights, and your rights, will be obliterated if Congress passes H.R. 1599. Monsanto will stop at nothing to pass this bill.”
H.R. 1599 is known among organic activists as the DARK Act, or Deny Americans the Right to Know.
SOCIAL ACTIVIST AND CATHOLIC CARDINAL TEAM UP ON CLIMATE CHANGE
From The Guardian:
She is one of the world’s most high-profile social activists and a ferocious critic of 21st-century capitalism. He is one of the pope’s most senior aides and a professor of climate change economics. But this week the secular radical will join forces with the Catholic cardinal in the latest move by Pope Francis to shift the debate on global warming.
Naomi Klein and Cardinal Peter Turkson are to lead a high-level conference on the environment, bringing together churchmen, scientists and activists to debate climate change action. Klein, who campaigns for an overhaul of the global financial system to tackle climate change, told the Observer she was surprised but delighted to receive the invitation from Turkson’s office.
“The fact that they invited me indicates they’re not backing down from the fight. A lot of people have patted the pope on the head, but said he’s wrong on the economics. I think he’s right on the economics,” she said, referring to Pope Francis’s recent publication of an encyclical on the environment.
Release of the document earlier this month thrust the pontiff to the centre of the global debate on climate change, as he berated politicians for creating a system that serves wealthy countries at the expense of the poorest.
A NOTE ON CHARLESTON FROM A VISITING IRISHMAN
The following appeared in the comments column accompanying a news story on the Charleston massacre in The New York Times. I think it bears repeating here:
“I am Irish. For many years in my native land the Rev. Ian Paisley spouted bigoted hatred about Catholics in Northern Ireland, but then claimed innocence when some militant sectarian group massacred Catholics. Speech was not murder, he said. He would never condone killing, he said. Then he went right back to feeding the attitudes that spawned the killing. Few were fooled.
“We should not be fooled in America today.
“In this country the ‘mainstream’ right-wing has made an industry of demonizing African-Americans as ‘thugs’ and criminals – just look at the divergence in tone between the recent coverage of Ferguson or Baltimore and the (mostly white) biker massacre in Waco, TX. For decades, white America has been told that black Americans are lazy leeches, dependent on hand-outs funded by your hard-earned taxes to bankroll their immoral lifestyles.
“The first black president was greeted by the right not only with diehard obstructionism but a chorus of color-coded abuse (‘lazy,’ ‘food-stamp president,’ etc.) and questions about his very American-ness: he was ‘not one of us,’ a foreigner adhering to a foreign religion who has no right to be president.
“The siren song of racial hate relentlessly put out by the ‘mainstream’ right finds echo in the gunshots that rang out in Charleston.
“Rightists will, of course, deny the connection, the way Paisley did. But we are not fooled.”
HOUSE VOTES TO REPEAL COUNTRY-OF-ORIGIN FOOD LABELS
Big Ag’s allies in the House of Representatives recently voted to repeal the rules for mandatory country-of-origin food labels (COOL) for chicken, pork and beef, according to Amanda Byrnes at Food & Water Watch.
Consumer and family farm advocates fought for years to make this labeling mandatory to ensure our right to know where our food comes from. Now it’s up to the Senate to block Big Ag’s attempts to take away our right to know. Send your senators a message: Protect mandatory country-of-origin labeling.
The House vote followed last month’s World Trade Organization (WTO) decision that said labeling which country Americans’ food comes from is a “trade barrier.”
Rather than wait to see how the WTO’s decision plays out, the House acted to repeal our popular, common-sense labels.
And now the Senate has a bad bill of its own that would make country-of-origin labeling for most beef and pork voluntary. A voluntary labeling program effectively means no labeling, since most meat companies and retailers don’t want to provide this information. We fought for years to make labeling mandatory for exactly that reason. Make sure your senators know that you want country of origin labels to stay — and that you want them to be mandatory.
Big food companies are concerned that people prefer locally produced food to food produced halfway around the world, and they’ve been challenging our labeling laws for years. When the World Trade Organization issued its most recent ruling on country-of-origin labels, it decided that our labels negatively impact livestock imports from Canada and Mexico, even though these imports are at higher levels now than before COOL went into effect.
Despite the questionable merits of the WTO decision, Big Ag’s allies in Congress are using it as an excuse to push even harder to get rid of country of origin food labeling. That’s why it’s so important for your senators to hear from you. Demand that your senators say NO to repealing or weakening COOL.
Country-of-origin labels are popular with consumers and farmers alike. And our senators need to stand up for us instead of caving in to corporate interests. If you don’t think that foreign corporate interests should have veto power over our domestic laws, make it clear to your senators that you want our common-sense food labels protected.
A SIMPLE AND INGENIOUS WINE KEEPER
Oxygen is the enemy of wine. Open a bottle, especially a well-aged bottle, and the wine you don’t drink tonight will start to lose quality within a day or two. By day four or five, cook with it.
Then along comes an invention called Savino (save vino, get it?) that keeps air away from your leftover wine. It’s a food-grade plastic cylinder with a float that exactly fits the interior when it contains wine, functioning like an airlock. So no matter how much or how little wine you want to preserve, the float protects it. Place the device in the fridge and it will keep the wine fresh twice as long.
It’s available on Amazon for $16.