Our Corrupt American Government
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The recent hearing on H.R. 1599–the Deny Americans the Right to Know Act, passed in July by the U.S. House of Representatives–before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry was similar to a Soviet Union show trial: a piece of political theater with a predetermined outcome, written, directed, and performed by the Monsanto Corporation and its minions. It was a sickening display of political cowardice, corporate unaccountability, reckless public endangerment, greed, and corruption.
I’ll bet that Monsanto’s pocket—you know, the one in which the corporate puppets on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry reside—is lined with money. For your information, the members of this committee include dyed-in-the-wool right wing conservatives like Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Joni Ernst (R-IA). Why aren’t liberals in the minority like Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) pulling the fire alarm on this charade?
Only eight witnesses were allowed to testify about the bill, which would make GMO labeling voluntary, essentially gutting its ability to tell consumers anything about the food they eat. Seven out of eight of the witnesses were nothing more than industry mouthpieces spouting corporate propaganda, according to the Organic Consumers Association, which attended the hearing.
Witnesses included a Vermont dairy farmer who falsely claimed that the genetically engineered crops she uses to feed her dairy herd have reduced the amount of pesticides poisoning Vermont’s soil and waterways. We know the reverse is true.
Joanna Lidback, representing the Farm at Wheeler Mountain in Barton, Vermont, also used a discredited old Cornell University study, funded by (and the intellectual property of) the biotech industry, to claim that labels on GMO foods will cost consumers $500 a year. Another claim we know to be false, based on numerous, independent studies. Not only that, but in Europe where GMO foods must be labeled, it hasn’t cost consumers a dime. After all, what’s it cost to print “Contains GMOs” on a food label?
And then there was the panel’s “consensus” that GMO foods are safe. Of course, no such consensus exists in the real world. Really, Kirsten? You really believe Roundup-drenched GMOs are safe?
So far, thanks to all of you who have called your Senators, met with your Senators, and written to your Senators, a Senate version of H.R. 1599 has yet to be introduced.
But that doesn’t mean a Senate version isn’t coming. Ranking committee member Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) told PoliticoPro that she is “working with Republicans” on a Senate bill, because we “need a federal solution by the end of the year.” Sen. Stabenow said she doesn’t support H.R. 1599, but she isn’t signed on to S.511 (The Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) either. So we’re not sure what she has in mind.
Will Stabenow’s “federal solution” require GMO foods be labeled? Or will it just be another lukewarm, loophole-riddled, voluntary labeling scheme? We’ll soon find out. It would be helpful if you let your Senators know that you support Sen. Boxer’s S. 511, which would require foods containing GMOs (and consequently, toxic glyphosate in the form of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide) to be so labeled.
AS IF FURTHER EVIDENCE OF CORRUPTION IN GOVERNMENT IS NEEDED
Here’s a report from the folks at Free Thought:
“Earlier this month, it was reported that less than two weeks before the economic collapse of 2008, several members of Congress took their money out of the stock market. Many high ranking government employees were given a heads-up about the impending market crash in secret meetings with the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department. Then they used that information to engage in insider trading.
“It was revealed that Senator Shelley Capito and her husband sold $350,000 worth of Citigroup stock at $83 per share, just one day before the stock dropped to $64 per share. Another shady trader was Congressman Jim Moran, who had his biggest trading day of the year days after the secret meeting, selling stock in nearly 100 different companies.
“These actions would be illegal for any American in any other circumstance, but members of Congress and high-ranking government officials are actually exempt from insider trading laws.
“Years later, a 60 Minutes investigation aired on television which highlighted the government’s deep history of insider trading. The investigation sparked outrage, prompting Congress to pass ‘the STOCK Act’ which was said to hold members of the government to the same standards as any American when it came to insider trading.
“However, Congress watered down the bill and changed key elements that would hold them accountable, allowing them to return to business as usual, and escape any consequences for their prior crimes.”
Read more at http://thefreethoughtproject.com/members-congress-pulled-money-stock-market-days-2008-market-crash/#31SbEjLvkjdxYKsy.99
So—why all this political stuff in a blog about organic food and farming? Very simple. Because if we’re going to change corporate agriculture into a life-enhancing system of food production that delivers us clean, safe, wholesome, organic food, then we’re going to have to clean up our corrupt government because the government, through its regulatory powers and bureaucracies, controls the food supply. As long as the government is for sale to the highest bidders, and the highest bidders are the country’s corporatists and predatory capitalists, nothing will change. The lock is fixed. The fix is in.
The only way we can change this is at the ballot box. And by our food choices. Vote—and eat organic!
FEMININE SANITARY PRODUCTS CONTAMINATED WITH MONSANTO’S POISONS
The vast majority ‒ 85 percent ‒ of tampons, cotton, and sanitary products tested in a new Argentinian study contained glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, ruled a likely carcinogen by the World Health Organization.
The original purpose of his research was not to test products for glyphosate, but to see how far the chemical can spread when aircraft sprayed an area, such as cropland.
“There is a basic premise in research that when we complete testing on our target we have to contrast it with something ‘clean,’ so we selected sterile gauze for medical use, found in pharmacies,” the lead researcher said.
“So we went and bought sterile gauze, opened the packages, analyzed and there was the huge surprise: We found glyphosate! Our first thought was that we had done something wrong, so we threw it all away and bought new gauze, analyzed it and again found glyphosate.”
In 2014, 96 percent of cotton produced in the United States was genetically modified, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Transnational agrochemical giant Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, of which glyphosate is the main ingredient, is sprayed over genetically modified crops ‒ which Monsanto also produces ‒ that are engineered to be resistant to the powerful chemical. Used the world over, glyphosate, which Monsanto first developed in 1974, is a broad-spectrum herbicide used to kill weeds, especially annual broadleaf weeds and grasses known to compete with commercial crops. GMO seeds have caused use of glyphosate to increase immensely since the 1990s, according to US Geological Survey data.
In March, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization, classified glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen,” as opposed to its previous designation, a “possible carcinogen.”
In the US, the herbicide has been considered safe since 2013, when Monsanto received approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for increased tolerance levels for glyphosate. In its original assessment, the federal regulator said glyphosate could be “used without unreasonable risks to people or the environment.”
Despite the EPA’s endorsement of glyphosate’s safety, scientific studies have linked the chemicals in Monsanto’s biocides to Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, and cancer. Furthermore, as the most powerful multinational biotech corporation today, Monsanto has drawn the ire of farmers and consumers for its firm grip on the global food chain. The company’s control and advancement of GMO seeds is of prime concern, as they symbolize the company’s consolidation of agricultural processes.
The effects of biochemicals on wildlife, including pollinators such as honeybees and monarch butterflies, are also a point of concern. For instance, since 1990, about 970 million of the butterflies-–90 percent of the total population-–have vanished across the United States, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. At least part of the blame rests on the boom in Roundup use. The herbicide is marketed to farmers and homeowners as an effective method for eliminating plants like milkweed, the Monarch butterflies’ only source of food.
Two-thirds of European Union nations have requested allowance to ban GMO crops, pursuant to European Commission rules.
Meanwhile, 62 percent of the feminine hygiene products’ samples tested positive for AMPA, glyphosate’s metabolite, according to the study, which was conducted by researchers at the Socio-Environmental Interaction Space (EMISA) of the University of La Plata in Argentina.
All of the raw and sterile cotton gauze analyzed in the study showed evidence of glyphosate, said Dr. Damian Marino, the study’s head researcher.
“Eighty-five percent of all samples tested positive for glyphosate and 62 percent for AMPA, which is the environmental metabolite, but in the case of cotton and sterile cotton gauze the figure was 100 percent,” Marino told Télam news agency. The products tested were acquired at local stores in Argentina.
“In terms of concentrations, what we saw is that in raw cotton, AMPA dominates (39 parts per billion, or PPB, and 13 PPB of glyphosate), while the gauze is absent of AMPA, but contained glyphosate at 17 PPB.”
“The result of this research is very serious, when you use cotton or gauze to heal wounds or for personal hygiene uses, thinking they are sterilized products, and the results show that they are contaminated with a probably carcinogenic substance,” said Dr. Medardo Avila Vazquez, a study participant.
“Most of the cotton production in the country is genetically modified cotton that is resistant to glyphosate. It is sprayed when the bud is open and the glyphosate is condensed and goes straight into the product,” Dr. Avila said.
FIRST DEATH CAUSED BY INGESTION OF GMO FOOD
Doctors of the Carlos III hospital in Madrid, Spain, have confirmed in a recent press conference the first case of human death caused by the ingestion of genetically modified food. Juan Pedro Ramos died from anaphylactic shock after eating some recently developed tomatoes containing fish genes, which provoked a violent and lethal allergic reaction.
This surprising announcement comes after the autopsy of the 31-year old Spanish man who died at the Madrid hospital in the beginning of January. The young man’s health rapidly deteriorated after he suffered an unexplained allergic reaction, and all the drugs used to reverse the anaphylaxis were entirely ineffective. The team of experts determined that the genetically modified tomatoes that the victim ingested at lunch were the cause of the allergic reaction that caused his death.
Mr. Ramos was working as a clerk in a Madrid warehouse on January 7, when he started feeling ill just after lunch. A number of symptoms started to manifest themselves, including a violent itchy rash, some serious swelling of the throat and a drastic drop in blood pressure. The man, who was known to have allergies, quickly injected himself with epinephrine, but his condition continued to deteriorate.
The young man was rapidly carried to the hospital by co-workers, but the medical staff was unable to identify the cause of his allergic reaction in time and none of the usual treatments or drugs seemed to work. Mr. Ramos was confirmed dead just over an hour after arriving at the hospital.
The medical examiners and forensic experts at the Carlos III hospital had to execute a lot of tests and analysis before they could precisely determine what caused Mr. Ramos to die of an allergic reaction to seafood, since all he had eaten before his death was a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich with a diet cola. They were astonished when they discovered that the tomato he had ingested not only contained some fish-related allergens, but also some antibiotic resistant genes which had prevented Mr. Ramos’ white blood cells from saving his life.
“At first we thought that there had been some form of contamination of his food, from contact with fish or seafood during the preparation,” explained Dr. Rafael Pérez-Santamarina. “It was only when we tested the tomato itself that we noticed that it contained some allergens usually found in seafood. We did many different analyses and they all confirmed that the tomato was indeed the source of the allergens that killed Mr. Ramos.”
Many experiments on GMOs have produced tumors and deaths in rats and other lab animals, but Mr. Ramos is the first known human death to have occurred. The case of Mr. Ramos is the first human death officially confirmed to be linked to the ingestion of genetically modified food. It contradicts most studies on GMOs which had concluded that genetically engineered crops currently on the market were completely safe to eat.
A team led by University of Nebraska scientists had anticipated this kind of problem in 1996, when they found that a Brazil nut protein introduced to improve the nutritional quality of genetically modified soybeans was able to provoke an allergic reaction in people with Brazil nut allergies. However, this kind of problem was dismissed by most scientists as very improbable, since it could easily be avoided with proper safety testing. The soybean injected with the Brazil nut gene was indeed abandoned during development, but it seems that the genetically modified tomato that caused Mr. Ramos’ death had not been submitted for sufficient testing and the lethal risk had not been identified before it was marketed.
The Spanish ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality ordered all the tomatoes that affected the young man to be recalled and removed from stores and markets for safety reasons. More than 7000 tons of tomatoes were therefore destroyed across Spain by ministry inspectors and public safety officials.
The ministry also issued a public statement about the death of Mr. Ramos in which it sends its condolences to his family and adds that it will “immediately demand further research on the subject to determine if other genetically modified food products on the European market could represent a risk to the Spanish population.”
But wait. Didn’t the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry just conclude that GMOs are safe as milk? Maybe only Spaniards die from GMO poisoning. Thank goodness we’re Americans who aren’t allowed to know if GMOs are in our food. That’ll protect us. After all, ignorance is bliss.
TOXICS IN FRENCH VINEYARDS CAUSING ILLNESS
From the Wine Industry Network:
Wenny Tari knows a thing or two about wine. She and her husband Gabriel have been making it since 1982, when they inherited a vineyard in France’s picturesque Languedoc region in the south of the country.
Their 100-acre Chateau de Brau vineyard is home to more than 170,000 individual vines, including some of the world’s best known grape varieties such as merlot, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. They produce around 150,000 bottles of wine a year, 20,000 of which are exported to the UK.
Blessed with plentiful sunshine and quality soils, the Tari family’s medium-sized operation has been certified organic since 1989. This certification strictly regulates the manner in which the wine can be produced, in particular limiting the chemical inputs that can be used.
“We tried from the beginning [to] grow vines in a clean and proper way,” says Wenny. “We do not use synthetic chemicals, only natural ones.”
While the Tari vineyard is something of a success story, not all French farmers who choose to avoid pesticides are so fortunate. Last year, organic winegrower Emmanuel Giboulot faced a potential jail sentence for going against official instructions to spray his crops, arguing the insecticide harmed beneficial pollinating insects.
Only 8.4 percent of vineyards in France are organic, making Chateau de Brau different from the large majority of French wine growing estates. France deploys around 60,000 ton of pesticides each year and is Europe’s most prolific user by volume. Grapes in the French climate are notoriously prone to disease and pests, with large quantities of pesticides used in conventional cultivation systems, mainly through crop spraying.
But the French wine industry’s love affair with pesticides is coming under scrutiny over concerns about its health and social impacts. Earlier this year, a landmark legal action was launched by lawyers acting for the daughter of a vine grower, James-Bernard Murat, who died from cancer linked to his use of pesticides over a 40 year period.
Valérie Murat wanted to pursue the legal action to establish responsibility for her father’s death, spurring on France’s first ever criminal investigation of its kind into the “homicide involontaire” (manslaughter) of a vineyard worker.
Numerous studies have suggested links between pesticide use and a range of health impacts, including cancers, Parkinson’s disease and other chronic conditions. Murat’s illness was officially recognized as being linked to his profession in 2011 – one of around 40 cases where agricultural workers have had medical problems directly attributed to their work.
REMOVE THE CURRENT USDA ORGANIC MANAGEMENT
The following is from The Cornucopia Institute, an organization in Wisconsin that is trying to insure that the organic laws are followed and the meaning of organic stays strong.
To facilitate this, you can sign a proxy letter and return it to Cornucopia. I encourage everyone who cares about keeping organics strong to follow this link to see the proxy letter, which you can then print out, sign, and mail to Cornucopia. If you are concerned to keep the organic food system out of the hands of Big Ag, then this is a very worthwhile thing to do.
Make no mistake about it: This is an indictment, alleging corruption at the USDA that is ruining the credibility of the organic label. The Cornucopia Institute’s proxy letters will help bring new management into place at the USDA’s National Organic Program that will be truly dedicated to carrying out the intent and spirit of the landmark Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA). We need you to turn up the heat on USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Here’s the situation. It concerns Miles McEvoy, the deputy administrator of the National Organic Program, which defines organics by law. Early in his tenure, McEvoy, announced that the NOP was entering the “age of enforcement.” Yet major fraud investigations have languished, and some large perpetrators have even received favorable treatment and anonymity during McEvoy’s tenure.
In September 2013, Mr. McEvoy unilaterally announced sweeping changes in the operation of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). This 15-member, multi-stakeholder body was established by Congress as a buffer between agribusiness lobbyists and organic stakeholders to ensure that Big Ag did not corrupt the organic label.
McEvoy has stripped much of the power from the NOSB. Along with the illegal stacking of the board with agribusiness executives instead of working farmers, this body has become a rubber stamp for corporate/industrial organics.
Why a proxy instead of an online petition that would be easier to click on and sign? There are so many petitions flying around out there that politicians tell us that they are virtually meaningless. At the same time, USDA officials have told us that when we bring in cardboard boxes filled with these proxy letters (as we have done twice before), they take notice! Their eyes roll back because of the work involved in processing them: they have to scan each letter into their system and type out each name to reply. Thousands of these proxies, literally, carry a lot of weight.
We call on Secretary Vilsack to stop the following corrupt practices at the USDA
(included in the proxy):
Cease ignoring the advice and counsel of the National Organic Standards Board: The NOSB has been bypassed, and policy resolutions it has adopted have been ignored or countermanded. These include recommendations to prohibit engineered nanomaterials in organics, carrageenan in organic infant formula, and soilless/hydroponic production from being certified as organic.
Stop undermining the authority of the NOSB: In a break with congressional intent and a 20+ year precedent of respecting the NOSB’s authority, NOP leadership stripped the board’s ability to set their own procedures, work plan, and agenda. This demonstrates gross disrespect to the organic community.
Restore the Sunset provision Congress established to limit synthetics/non-organic ingredients and inputs in organics: The two primary authors of OFPA, Senator Leahy and Congressman DeFazio, both have stated to you that the action to gut the Sunset provisions was a violation of the intent of Congress. This decision should be reversed and its architect should be removed from his position of authority.
Establish judicious enforcement: The NOP has allowed “factory farms” to operate that are clearly in violation of the law, refusing to investigate scofflaws. In cases where willful violation of organic standards has been found, the NOP has failed to publicly identify these operations, preventing their examples from acting as a deterrent to other industry players. Furthermore, the NOP has let violators off the hook with “sweetheart” negotiated deals (again, in secrecy) and has mishandled serious cases of alleged fraud.
Safeguard the integrity of seats on the NOSB: Congress specifically created designated positions on the board to assure diverse representation by all organic stakeholders: farmers, certifiers, consumer advocates, retailers, manufacturers, environmentalists, and scientists. This mandate has been illegally violated by the appointment of corporate executives representing agribusiness interests and by individuals who have never even attended an NOSB meeting. The appointment process should be open to public scrutiny, and only the best and brightest in the organic community should be appointed to the NOSB.
Cease the investments in public relations and disingenuous proclamations about “transparency”: Start posting all public documents on the NOP website and fully complying with requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Monsanto’s Chickens Coming Home to Roost
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Looks like cancer lawsuits against Monsanto are gaining country-wide momentum. Reuters reports that personal injury law firms around the U.S. are gathering numerous plaintiffs to build “mass tort actions” alleging that exposure to the company’s popular weedkiller, Roundup, causes cancer, according to Lorraine Chow, writing in Ecowatch.
EcoWatch was informed by Monsanto’s spokeswoman Charla Lord that one suit, by horticultural worker Judi Fitzgerald, who attributes her leukemia to exposure to Roundup, was “voluntarily dismissed without prejudice” in New York. But then Ecowatch learned that the Fitzgerald case was added to a recently filed Delaware suit.
When EcoWatch contacted Weitz & Luxenberg, the law firm representing Fitzgerald, Robin Greenwald, the head of the firm’s environmental law unit, told us: “For clarification, we added Ms. Fitzgerald to a complaint we filed in Delaware. So we dismissed the suit in New York and refiled in Delaware state court, closer to her home and where Monsanto is incorporated.”
“Decades of experience within agriculture and regulatory reviews using the most extensive worldwide human health databases ever compiled on an agricultural product contradict the claims in the suit which will be vigorously defended,” Monsanto’s Lord said last month.
It appears, however, more and more plaintiffs are lining up to make cases against the embattled agribusiness giant, which is facing slumping earnings and recently announced it will eliminate 12 percent of its workforce.
“We can prove that Monsanto knew about the dangers of glyphosate,” Michael McDivitt, whose Colorado law firm is arranging cases for 50 individuals, told Reuters. “There are a lot of studies showing glyphosate causes these cancers.” His firm is advertising free case evaluations and hosted town hall gatherings in August in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska to seek clients.
Baltimore-based firm Saiontz & Kirk, Washington, DC-based firm Schmidt & Clark, as well as firms in Texas, Colorado and California are also advertising similar Roundup lawsuit evaluations to find plaintiffs, Reuters observed. According to Reuters, the attorneys are citing strong evidence that links glyphosate to non-Hodgkin lymphoma and said they will likely collaborate as mass tort actions against Monsanto.
HERE’S WHY ORGANIC GRASS-FED BEEF IS BETTER FOR YOU
Grass-fed beef tends to be higher in some nutrients, and studies suggest it may contain fewer bacteria that can cause food poisoning — which could be good for your health, according to the Ask Well feature of The New York Times.
Grass-fed can mean a lot of things. But the American Grassfed Association, which has a certification program, refers to grass-fed animals “as those that have eaten nothing but grass and forage from weaning to harvest, have not been raised in confinement, and have never been fed antibiotics or growth hormones.”
In a report earlier this month, Consumer Reports tested 300 samples of beef purchased at stores across the United States and determined that beef from conventionally raised cattle was three times as likely as grass-fed beef to contain bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics, posing a food poisoning threat. The report recommended that consumers choose grass-fed organic beef “whenever possible.”
Consumers who wish to buy grass-fed beef can find that information on package labels, as required by the United States Department of Agriculture.
[Ed. Note: If we can label grass-fed beef, why can’t we label GMOs?]
DID EXXONMOBIL HIDE FOSSIL FUEL – GLOBAL WARMING LINK?
Two House Democrats are urging Attorney General Loretta Lynch to launch an investigation into allegations that oil giant ExxonMobil hid research, which verified that fossil fuels play a role in global warming.
In a letter to Lynch, Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.) argue a probe is needed, to determine whether ExxonMobil broke the law. Lieu and DeSaulnier’s request is based on two independent investigations published by Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times, which document research conducted by a number of Exxon’s senior scientists. Their findings warned of increases in the global temperature as a result of burning fossil fuels.
“In this case, Exxon scientists knew about fossil fuels causing global warming and Exxon took internal actions based on its knowledge of climate change,” Lieu and DeSaulnier wrote. “Yet Exxon funded and publicly engaged in a campaign to deceive the American people about the known risks of fossil fuels in causing climate change.”
“If these allegations against Exxon are true then Exxon’s actions were immoral,” they added. “We request the DOJ to investigate whether ExxonMobil’s actions were also illegal.”
MILLIONS ARE EAGER FOR THE FACTS ABOUT ORGANIC FOOD
The Organic Trade Association’s “Myth-Busting Month” in September reached 15 million consumers. Here’s some of what they learned:
Fact: You can eat organic on a budget. Fact: Organic agriculture can help feed the planet. Fact: There are proven health benefits of organic. These are three of the more than 30 research-backed facts that the Organic Trade Association (OTA) and partners digitally disseminated each day in September as part of its highly successful “Myth-Busting Month” social media festival.
Equipped with fresh science and recent trend data posted as daily infographics, OTA and more than 100 member companies’ online celebration reached 15 million consumers throughout the campaign, garnering well over 200 million social media impressions on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn.
“Organic is a choice that an increasing number of individuals, farmers and product brands are making each year, but despite the growing demand for organic, our community must continue to get the message out about the health, social, and economic benefits of organic food and farming,” said Laura Batcha, OTA’s Executive Director and CEO. “The campaign’s tremendous reach and engagement reveal that not only is the public hungry for organic food and products that reach beyond food, they also are hungry for organic facts.”
Each week throughout the festival, leveraging the #OrganicFestival hashtag, organizers focused on select categories of frequently shared myths, including: Organic Labeling, Organic Health, Organic Value, Organic Production and Organic Beyond Food. Then, each day within that week, OTA and partners posted a myth on their social channels, and ‘busted’ it with a fact graphic, encouraging followers to re-post to create a unified voice across multiple social channels.
Among the campaign’s daily topics, consumers clearly had an appetite for clarifying the difference between organic and natural. #OrganicFestival facts about the meaning of the USDA Organic Seal received the campaign’s most engagement. Posts busting the myth that there is little difference between organic and natural reached up to an estimated 100,000 people.
To deepen engagement throughout the month, OTA hosted six Twitter Parties, featuring Q&As with Twitter followers on myth-busting topics alongside co-hosts such as Ashley Koff, RD; eco-fashion pioneer Marci Zaroff; The Organic Center; and, the Rodale Institute. One party – focusing on Organic Value – featured 4,500 posts from up to 400 users, reaching more than 650,000 individuals.
In addition, 31 OTA members awarded randomly selected social media followers who engaged with the content – offering 61 prizes valued from $25 – $350. All told, more than 23,000 individuals used the #OrganicFestival hashtag, creating more than 36,500 posts. The campaign more than doubled the results of last year’s first industry social media festival – “Organic-Palooza” – a 10-day event celebrating the health, economic and agricultural benefits of organic.
“It is clear that there are still many misconceptions surrounding organic,” said Miranda May, Community Manager with OTA member Mamma Chia, which shared #OrganicFestival content heavily throughout the campaign and realized high daily engagement. “Mamma Chia is dedicated to helping consumers understand the truths associated with organics and taking part in the OTA’s #OrganicFestival was an important step in doing so. When the Mamma Chia community gets involved, reposts our content, and publicly thanks us for the invaluable insight, it is positive reinforcement that we are on the right path.”
Individuals can access archived “Myth-Busting Month” content at http://ota.com/organic-101/organic-myth-busting-month to continue sharing on their own channels in the months – and years – ahead.
COOKING WITH EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL INCREASES BENEFICIAL PHENOLS
A new study from the University of Granada shows that cooking with extra virgin olive oil increases the phenol content over that of the raw oil, according to a report from the Apollo Olive Oil Company in California.
Some in the past have thought that the cooking process destroys the beneficial polyphenols in EVO, but this study shows the polyphenols are absorbed by the vegetables. The cooking method that displayed the highest level of increase was deep frying, at the same time it showed the highest increase in fat content. Sauteing in EVOO showed a moderate increase in phenol content, while boiling in water showed a decrease in phenol content. Water from boiling vegetables is generally considered to be full of nutrients and can be used in other ways, such as for soup.
The study also found that cooking in EVOO actually breaks some molecular bonds in the fats that free up more polyphenols. This disputes the theory that the polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil are destroyed during the cooking process.
HERE’S WHY YOU KNOW THE FIX IS IN RE GMO LABELING
Carey Gillam, writing for Reuters News Service penned the following piece of reportage. Journalists are supposed to be aware of the difference between factual reporting and opinion, but in this case, Gillam seems derelict in his (or her) duty. He writes:
“The food manufacturing industry is worried new (labeling) laws will create consumer confusion and boost costs.”
That’s pure opinion, as well as being wrong. First of all, how does the reporter know what worries the food manufacturing industry? He names no sources. If he learned this from a public relations firm putting out spin from the manufacturers, he should say so.
Here’s what really worries the food manufacturing industry: if GMO foods are labeled, the 90 percent of American who say they favor labeling laws will stop buying their glyphosate-drenched, genetically altered, nutritionless manufactured products. My source for this is the Monsanto exec who famously said, “If you label food containing GMOs, you might as well put a skull and crossbones on the label.”
The Grocery Manufacturers Association doesn’t give a fig whether consumers are confused. In fact, the whole point of the House-passed DARK Act (Deny Americans the Right to Know), which the Senate is now considering, is to confuse consumers. Instead of state laws that require a label to positively state if a food contains GMOs (“Contains Genetically Modified Ingredients”), the DARK Act would only require a label to say the negative (“Does Not Contain GMOs”). So if you are one of the 90 percent who don’t want to eat genetically altered food, the positive label will tell you which foods in the entire store contain GMOs, because if a food does contain GMOs, it will say so on the label. But with the negative label, all you learn is that that one particular food doesn’t contain GMOs.
And since the DARK Act makes labeling voluntary, food manufacturers won’t even have to put the negative label on their foods, and so you may be eating GMOs, whether you like it or not. Now who’s confusing whom?
Gillam continued: “Last week, the Consumers Union and five other consumer organizations sent a letter to the Senate committee considering the DARK Act complaining that the lineup of speakers was not balanced and did not include a consumer representative. The groups said that ‘numerous polls have found that 90 percent of consumers favor mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food.’
“The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which represents more than 300 food companies opposed to mandatory GMO labeling, welcomed the hearing.” If anything shows the fix is in, it’s this last sentence of Gillam’s story.
Pro-GMO ‘Science’ Is Just Monsanto PR
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The Monsanto public relations machine has done a stellar job in recent years of reducing the GMO debate to one that pits “pro-science advocates” against “anti-science climate-denier types”—with Monsanto portrayed as being squarely planted in the pro-science camp, writes Katherine Paul for the Organic Consumers Association.
But that well-oiled machine may be starting to sputter.
Turns out that Monsanto executive solicited pro-GMO articles from university researchers, and passed the “research” off as independent science which the biotech giant then used to prop up its image and further its agenda.
We know this, thanks to thousands of pages of emails obtained by US Right to Know, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). And because a host of news outlets—including the New York Times, the Boston Globe, Bloomberg, the StarPhoenix and others—are now running with the story.
For anyone who has paid attention, this latest scandal should come as no surprise. As Steven Druker writes, in “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth,” “for more than 30 years, hundreds (if not thousands) of biotech advocates within scientific institutions, government bureaus, and corporate offices throughout the world have systematically compromised science and contorted the facts to foster the growth of genetic engineering, and get the foods it produces, onto our dinner plates.”
Druker’s book (published this year), and this new wave of bad press finally exposes Monsanto’s “science” for what it is—nothing more than an expensive, sustained and highly orchestrated public relations campaign.
BIG US FIRMS HOLD $2.1 TRILLION OVERSEAS TO AVOID TAXES
The 500 largest American companies hold more than $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore to avoid U.S. taxes and would collectively owe an estimated $620 billion in U.S. taxes if they repatriated the funds, according to a study released on Tuesday, David Alexander and Eric Beech of Reuters News Service report.
The study found that nearly three-quarters of the firms on the Fortune 500 list of biggest American companies by gross revenue operate tax haven subsidiaries in countries like Bermuda, Ireland, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.
The Citizens for Tax Justice and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund used the companies’ own financial filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission to reach their conclusions.
Technology firm Apple was holding $181.1 billion offshore, more than any other U.S. company, and would owe an estimated $59.2 billion in U.S. taxes if it tried to bring the money back to the United States from its three overseas tax havens, the study said.
The conglomerate General Electric (GE.N) has booked $119 billion offshore in 18 tax havens, software firm Microsoft (MSFT.O) is holding $108.3 billion in five tax haven subsidiaries, and drug company Pfizer (PFE.N) is holding $74 billion in 151 subsidiaries, the study said.
“At least 358 companies, nearly 72 percent of the Fortune 500, operate subsidiaries in tax haven jurisdictions as of the end of 2014,” the study said. “All told these 358 companies maintain at least 7,622 tax haven subsidiaries.”
Fortune 500 companies hold more than $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore to avoid taxes, with just 30 of the firms accounting for $1.4 trillion of that amount, or 65 percent, the study found.
“Congress can and should take strong action to prevent corporations from using offshore tax havens, which in turn would restore basic fairness to the tax system, reduce the deficit and improve the functioning of markets,” the study concluded.
A FEW WORDs FROM RALPH NADER RIGHTLY PRAISING THE FOIA
“Next year,” Nader writes in Ecowatch, “the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) will celebrate its 50th anniversary as one of the finest laws our Congress has ever passed. It is a vital investigative tool for exposing government and corporate wrongdoing.
“The FOIA was championed by Congressman John E. Moss (D-CA), who strove to guarantee the right of every citizen to know the facts of his government. Moss, with whom I worked closely as an outside citizen advocate, said that ‘without the fullest possible access to government information, it is impossible to gain the knowledge necessary to discharge the responsibilities of citizenship.’
“All 50 states have adopted FOIA statutes.
“As the FOIA approaches its 50th year, it faces a disturbing backlash from scientists tied to the agrichemical company Monsanto and its allies. Here are some examples.
“On March 9, three former presidents of the American Association for the Advancement of Science—all with ties to Monsanto or the biotech industry—wrote in the pages of the Guardian to criticize the use of the state FOIA laws to investigate taxpayer-funded scientists who vocally defend Monsanto, the agri-chemical industry, their pesticides, and genetically engineered food. They called the FOIAs an ‘organized attack on science.’
“In February, Justin Gillis and John Schwartz of the New York Times used documents obtained by Greenpeace and Climate Investigations Center through the FOIA to expose the corporate ties of the climate-change-denying scientist Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, who received more than $1.2 million in contributions from the fossil fuel industry over the last 10 years.
On August 20, in the New England Journal of Medicine, Philip J. Landrigan and Charles Benbrook wrote that ‘the argument that there is nothing new about genetic rearrangement misses the point that GM crops are now the agricultural products most heavily treated with herbicides and that two of these herbicides may pose risks of cancer.’ Another study published on Aug. 25 in the journal Environmental Health suggests that very low levels of exposure to Roundup ‘can result in liver and kidney damage’ in rats, ‘with potential significant health implications for animal and human populations.’
Jeff Cox here. Let me interject into Ralph Nader’s report a comment about “the argument that there is nothing new about genetic rearrangement…” Nader doesn’t address this, but the statement is entirely bogus. There is so something new about genetic engineering, which is the insertion of genes from one type of creature into another unrelated type of creature’s DNA. Hybridization has been going on since the dawn of time, but only between species that nature allows to hybridize. Nature has developed elaborate systems to prevent, say, fish from mating with honeybees, or any two unrelated creatures from mating and producing viable offspring. You can’t cross a bird with a tree. But in just the past couple of decades, genetic engineers have learned to open up the genetic systems of life (the DNA), select genes that express certain characteristics, and insert these individual genes into the DNA of totally unrelated creatures in hopes that the genes will express their characteristics in the implanted creature. And so they have created glow-in-the-dark cats by putting a gene for phosphorescence into cat DNA, and in agriculture, putting a gene from a bacterium that produces an insect disease into GMO corn. To say that there’s nothing new about genetic rearrangement is akin to saying that there’s nothing new about driving a vehicle, if by “driving a vehicle” you mean maneuvering a robotic car around the surface of Mars. OK—back to Nader.
“U.S. Right to Know, a nonprofit consumer group staffed by consumer advocates, is conducting an investigation of the food and agrichemical industries, including companies like Monsanto and how they use front groups and taxpayer-funded professors at public universities to advance their claims that processed foods, artificial additives and GMOs are safe, wholesome and beyond reproach.
“Based on documents that U.S. Right to Know obtained through the FOIA, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Eric Lipton wrote a front page New York Times article about how Monsanto and the agrichemical industry use publically-funded scientists to lobby and to promote its messages and products. For example, Lipton reported on a $25,000 grant from Monsanto to University of Florida Professor Kevin Folta, who had repeatedly denied having ties to Monsanto: ‘This is a great third-party approach to developing the advocacy that we’re looking to develop,’ Michael Lohuis, the director of crop biometrics at Monsanto, wrote last year in an email as the company considered giving Dr. Folta an unrestricted grant.
“One thing is clear; food safety, public health, the commercialization of public universities, corporate control of science and the research produced by taxpayer-funded scientists to promote commercial products are all appropriate subjects for FOIA requests.
“The use of the FOIA by citizens, journalists and others to expose scandals is essential to ensure honest scientific inquiry and is critical to developing protective public health and environmental standards. Scientific research should not be contaminated by the inevitable biases and secrecy that come with corporate contracts at public universities.
“The FOIA is a valuable tool to help citizens uncover corruption and wrongdoing and to vindicate our right to know what our own governments are doing.”
LEAKED TPP PROVISION THREATENS THE INTERNET
Wikileaks has published a leaked draft — dated October 5, and thus possibly the final text — of the Intellectual Property Chapter of the Trans Pacific Partnership, and it’s grim reading.
First in the parade of the Just Plain Wrong: the Internet has been included in a secret trade agreement.
Second: that the Internet is in any trade agreement at all, secret or not.
Third: The chapter dealing with the Internet is the intellectual property chapter, which tells you that as far as the negotiators were concerned, the most important fact about the Internet is whether people watch movies without paying for them — not whether the nervous system of the 21st century through which we conduct our work, family, romantic, artistic, and political lives is appropriately safeguarded.
Then we get into the specifics.
Under the terms of the text, countries in the TPP can force each other to suspend legal proceedings if the trial would cause embarrassing information — information “detrimental to a party’s economic interests, international relations, or national defense or national security” — would come to light. That would be the Wikileaks/Snowden clause.
Also, if one country is prosecuting someone for “intellectual property theft,” they can require other countries to turn over huge amounts of private data: “information regarding any person involved in any aspect of the infringement or alleged infringement, and regarding the means of production or the channels of distribution of the infringing or allegedly infringing goods or services, including the identification of third persons alleged to be involved in the production and distribution of such goods or services and of their channels of distribution.”
In other words, if you’re accused of downloading anime in America, the Japanese government can force your American ISP to hand over all of your parents’ online records.
“The text of the TPP’s intellectual property chapter confirms advocates warnings that this deal poses a grave threat to global freedom of expression and basic access to things like medicine and information,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of internet activist group Fight for the Future. “But the sad part is that no one should be surprised by this. It should have been obvious to anyone observing the process, where appointed government bureaucrats and monopolistic companies were given more access to the text than elected officials and journalists, that this would be the result.”
HOW MUCH ROUNDUP HAS BEEN SPRAYED ON OUR FARMS?
Mary Ellen Kustin of the Environmental Working Group says 2.6 billion pounds of Monsanto’s Roundup has been sprayed on US farmland over the past two decades. That’s over a million tons. And now we know it can cause cancer and cause a raft of other health problems.
MARIA RODALE REPORTS ON A HOSPITAL’S ORGANIC FARM
Maria is the granddaughter of J.I. Rodale and the daughter of Bob Rodale, and now runs her family’s publishing business in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. In this article, she describes an idea that should spread to every hospital in the world. She writes:
“Full disclosure: I’m not referring to just any organic farm. This is a Rodale Institute organic farm. It’s not just any hospital, either. It’s a hospital based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (my hometown), which had the courage to do something that only one other hospital in America has done: find a way to grow organic food to help nourish and heal its patients, staff, and community.
“Congratulations to St. Luke’s for having the vision to understand that the way food is grown is critical to the health of the people the hospital serves—and the environment they live in. They are pioneers in a world where you can find fast food for sale in a number of American hospital cafeterias. Good for the leadership team at St. Luke’s for understanding that the real value of healthful, organic food is in the money saved by preventing disease in the first place!”
More full disclosure: I worked at Rodale for 30 years. I’m delighted to hear that St. Luke’s is feeding patients organic food. Maria’s right—proper nutrition can prevent disease. In fact, that’s why her grandfather started Prevention magazine 65 years ago.
Poland Says No to GMOs
Organic Lifestyle Comments Off on Poland Says No to GMOs
Continuing a trend of GMO bans sweeping across Europe, the nation of Poland has officially announced its decision to join 13 other nations so far in excluding Monsanto’s controversial crops from its nation’s farmland.
Poland will now “opt out” of growing GMOs, with a specific focus on Monsanto’s genetically modified maize, which many countries fear will contaminate its natural crops if allowed to grow within their borders.
Opposition to genetically engineered foods has been strong in Europe and has resulted in mass protests including widespread participation in previous incarnations of the March Against Monsanto movement.
The announcement is being celebrated by the GMO free and organic movement, but it doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise based on what’s been happening across Europe.
Poland is now the 14th nation to exercise a ban on GMOs, joining Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Latvia, Italy, Germany, Scotland, Wales, Lithuania, Austria, Ireland, France, and Greece.
The Polish people have long been opposed to GMOs, and that opposition came to a head earlier this year as Polish farmers protested in the streets, even taking to their tractors and shutting down motorways to send a message about foreign influences taking over their industry while also showing their disapproval of GMO crops.
The country is already among numerous European nations that prohibit GMOs, but this announcement makes it official that Monsanto’s genetically engineered crops will not be allowed in Poland in the future.
CALIFORNIA MAY SOON LABEL ROUNDUP CARCINOGENIC
For decades, Monsanto has kept consumers in the dark about the health risks associated with glyphosate, the key ingredient in its top-selling Roundup herbicide.
In California, that could soon change.
The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is poised to become the first U.S. regulatory agency to recognize that glyphosate causes cancer by requiring products containing glyphosate to be labeled as “known to cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm.”
Documents recently uncovered at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency archives show that Monsanto knew about glyphosate’s cancer risks as early as 1981, when the company first submitted glyphosate to the EPA for approval.
A SCIENTIST STATES ‘THE TRUE REASON FOR GMOS’
Writing in Independent Science News, Jonathan R. Latham, PhD, defined “the true purpose of GMOs” accurately. He wrote:
“Science is not the only grounds on which GMOs should be judged. The commercial purpose of GMOs is not to feed the world or improve farming. Rather, they exist to gain intellectual property (i.e. patent rights) over seeds and plant breeding and to drive agriculture in directions that benefit agribusiness. This drive is occurring at the expense of farmers, consumers and the natural world. US Farmers, for example, have seen seed costs nearly quadruple and seed choices greatly narrow since the introduction of GMOs. The fight over GMOs is not of narrow importance. It affects us all.”
USDA TRYING TO ALLOW CONTAMINATED COMPOST ON ORGANIC FARMS
A federal court in California recently denied a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) motion to dismiss the Center for Food Safety’s (CFS) lawsuit challenging its allowance of pesticide-contaminated compost in organic food production without a formal rulemaking and a public comment period.
USDA had argued that it could unilaterally open the new loophole through a guidance document, without giving the public and organic stakeholders the opportunity to participate and object. The plaintiffs, CFS, Center for Environmental Health, and Beyond Pesticides, were jointly represented by legal counsel from CFS and the Crag Law Center.
CFS senior attorney George Kimbrell, counsel in the case, lauded the decision: “We applaud the Court’s decision denying USDA’s motion, and ordering the case to move forward. The agency’s unilateral action to allow compost contaminated with pesticides in organic production was contrary to federal rulemaking requirements as well as contrary to the high standards of organic integrity. We will continue to represent the organic community in holding USDA accountable.”
My question—why is the USDA trying to allow pesticide-contaminated compost in organic food production? What does that say about the USDA?
FARM WORKERS CLAIM ROUNDUP CAUSED THEIR CANCERS
Lorraine Chow, reporting in EcoWatch, writes that two U.S. agricultural workers have slapped lawsuits against Monsanto, alleging that Roundup—the agribusiness giant’s flagship herbicide—caused their cancers, and that the company “falsified data” and “led a prolonged campaign of misinformation” to convince the public, farm workers, and government agencies about the safety of the product.
The first suit, Enrique Rubio v. Monsanto Company, comes from Enrique Rubio, a 58-year-old former field worker who worked in California, Texas and Oregon. According to Reuters, he was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1995, and believes it stemmed from exposure to Monsanto’s widely popular weedkiller and other pesticides that he sprayed on cucumber, onion and other vegetable crops. Rubio’s case was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Sept. 22.
That same day, a similar lawsuit, Fitzgerald v. Monsanto Company, was filed in federal court in New York by 64-year-old Judi Fitzgerald, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012. She claims that her exposure to Roundup at the horticultural products company she worked for in the 1990s led to her diagnosis.
Fitzgerald’s suit states: “Monsanto assured the public that Roundup was harmless. In order to prove this, Monsanto championed falsified data and attacked legitimate studies that revealed its dangers. Monsanto led a prolonged campaign of misinformation to convince government agencies, farmers, and the general population that Roundup was safe.”
POLITICAL NOTES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
America’s struggle to become “a more perfect union” includes changing our agriculture from the unsustainable, chemical and poison-drenched mess run by giant agribusiness and biotech companies to a wholesome, sustainable, healthy, eco-friendly, and benign organic system. But this struggle also cuts across many other lines. Here’s a round-up (excuse the term) of some of the areas where the good fight is being won and lost.
The ColorofChange.org, a civil rights organization, reports that Alabama just took a major step to block black residents from being able to vote.
Effective immediately, Alabama will stop issuing driver’s licenses in every county where 75 percent of registered voters are black. This is a devastating blow to Alabama’s black voters as Alabama is one of 17 states that require a photo ID to vote. Voter ID laws already disenfranchise black and low-income people by making voting extremely difficult and costly. Now Alabama has made it next to impossible for black voters to get the necessary ID to vote.
From Robert Reich’s blog, as reported on Reader Supported News:
“The biggest threats to academic freedom on college campuses these days aren’t coming from government. They’re coming as conditions attached to funding from billionaires and big corporations that’s increasing as public funding drops.
“When the Charles Koch Foundation pledged $1.5 million to Florida State University’s economics department, for example, it stipulated that a Koch-appointed advisory committee would select professors and undertake annual evaluations. The Koch brothers now fund 350 programs at over 250 colleges and universities across America. You can bet that funding doesn’t underwrite research on inequality and environmental justice.”
What the Kochs are doing is training the next generation of their Congressional lap dogs.
Congressional funding for the World Trade Center Health Program has expired because the Republican-controlled Congress failed to renew it. Its expiration leaves tens of thousands of its beneficiaries, who have health problems resulting from exposure to toxic chemicals at Ground Zero, wondering how they will continue their medical treatment.
First responders and others who spent time in the area when the World Trade Center towers fell have contracted many kinds of illnesses. Often, they are respiratory in nature — from asthma and acid reflux disease to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and a condition that is known as World Trade Center cough.
For many of the WTC Health Program’s beneficiaries, their illnesses did not become apparent until years after their first exposure. Without the program, many will lose health coverage. “Stress is not even the word. It’s beyond stress,” Nick Polisano, 37, a first responder who has sarcoidosis, a respiratory condition involving abnormal cell growth in the lungs, told The New York Daily News. He spends four entire days every month receiving treatment at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J., one of seven treatment centers for first responders set up by the program.
The New York Daily News said Polisano’s treatments will end when funding runs out. “My life depends on this,” he said.
Congressional Republicans are obviously too busy trying to defund Planned Parenthood, eliminate the Voting Rights Act, and give huge tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans to care about 9/11’s first responders.
Today’s NRA stands astride some of the ugliest currents of our politics, combining the astroturf activism of the Tea Party, the unlimited and undisclosed ‘dark money’ of groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, and the sham legislating conducted on behalf of the industry through groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council. “This is not your father’s NRA,” says Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center, a top gun-industry watchdog. Others are more succinct, calling the NRA a “cynical, mercenary political cult.”
Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, Congressional scholars, write: “One of the two major parties, the Republican Party, has become an insurgent outlier — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”
Folks, we have got to watch out. The modern Republican Party is headed down that dreaded road to fascism. Please read Mann and Ornstein’s paragraph again and absorb its meaning. The answer is for all patriotic Americans to vote these undemocratic outliers out of office. It’s well within our means to do so.