‘Supplements and Safety’ Toes the Pharmaceutical Industry’s Bogus Line
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On January 19, I watched a PBS Frontline Series program called “Supplements and Safety,” and if you watched it and didn’t know much about vitamins and food supplements, you’d never swallow another food supplement pill in your life. It was one hour of blatant propaganda about the dangers of unregulated and bogus food supplements. It made me wonder how much the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association had to pay to have that hatchet job produced by PBS in cahoots with The New York Times.
They had one guy on there saying that there is no scientific evidence that supplements have any beneficial health effects at all. Not one bit, he said. Well, I’m a former associate editor of Prevention magazine, a publication devoted to sharing the benefits of proper nutrition through vitamins and food supplements with the general public. When I started in that job, the editor told me that if what we had to say wasn’t backed up by solid scientific evidence, we shouldn’t say it. Far from there being no science done on nutritional supplements, I was awash in studies. We had a whole library and staff devoted to finding the scientific studies to back up what we were printing.
Another guy said that he found mislabeled herbal supplements on the shelves of GNC, Walmart, Target, and Walgreen’s. Well, yeah. Those stores aren’t reputable outlets for quality supplements. Let’s say I’m a buyer for Target and I’m stocking shelves with herbal supplements like echinacea. A reputable producer may sell echinacea for $10 a bottle wholesale. Now here comes a guy who sells it “from China” for $5 a bottle. Hey—I can make $5 a bottle more selling the Chinese product. Who do I chose to give my business to? I’m after profit, not health for the consumer.
That program was the worst piece of propaganda I’ve seen in years. They even managed at one point to show “dangerous” supplements with the “USDA Organic” seal prominently displayed in the background.
Anyone who thinks there’s no war going on between the forces of wholesomeness and the forces of “maximum profit and the consumer be damned” doesn’t have his eyes open. PBS and The New York Times should be ashamed of themselves.
GETTING REAL ABOUT TODAY’S GOP
The media and many citizens seem to think that the Republicans are a legitimate faction of our political body, as interested in the public welfare as the Democrats, but with a very different approach.
That’s just wrong. Just how wrong was thrown into stark relief in recent days as the problem with Flint, Michigan’s, water emerged. It was poisoned with lead from Flint’s corroded water pipes. Governor Rick Snyder, a Tea Party Republican, knew about it for a year. Despite the foul-smelling, gunky water, Flint’s people—mostly African-American—drank it, cooked with it, and bathed in it, men, women, children, and infants. They were told it was safe. Far from being safe, it was infused with lead, a heavy metal that damages the development of children bodies.
On TV tonight, Governore Snyder stood at a podium and said, “I’m sorry—but I’m going to fix it.” He knew about it for a year. His apology means nothing, now that Flint’s 100,000 people are full of lead. The time to fix it is long past. Some people are calling for him to resign. He says he’s needed to stay on and fix it.
If I knowingly, irrevocably poisoned 100,000 people, what do you think would happen to me? Rick Snyder needs to be prosecuted for serious malfeasance in office and for reckless endangerment of the health of the citizens under his governorship.
Snyder is just one example of the damage the Republican Party’s operatives are doing to our country, our culture, and our democracy.
WEBMD AND MONSANTO
If you’re one of the nearly 12 million people who visit WebMD.com every month, you’re getting a healthy dose of Monsanto propaganda along with your “health research,” according to the Organic Consumers Association.
Monsanto is one of the many corporate “sponsors” of WebMD. That means Monsanto pays WebMD in order to pepper WebMD’s website with advertisements and advertorials, disguised as legitimate journalism.
WebMD Health Corp. (NASDAQ: WBMD) is a publicly held corporation that answers first and foremost to its shareholders. The company, with its long history of deceiving consumers and partnering up with drug, junk food and biotech companies, is not, and never was, in the business of caring about consumers—a fact meticulously documented in an article published recently by Mercola.com.
WebMD propaganda is cleverly disguised as legitimate health advice. So cleverly, that millions of visitors to the site probably have no idea that they’re being duped.
Text “WebMD” to 97779 to join OCA’s mobile network and take action!
GMO LABELING DECISIONS HAPPEN IN SECRET MEETINGS
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack met with five representatives of the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Monsanto (the folks who oppose mandatory GMO labeling laws), and five representatives from the GMO labeling movement.
The meeting was “invitation only,” and participants were sworn to secrecy about what went down. All that was said publicly was, “We’re still working out a compromise.”
We’ve heard our share of rumors, including a number of “compromises” that we find unacceptable. Like a mandatory QR code labeling scheme, that would not only preempt Vermont’s law, but also make it illegal for companies to print GMO labels on their packages.
Now PoliticoPro reports that all meeting-goers are still “mum” on the negotiations:
However, it does appear some information has been provided to members of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Chairman Pat Roberts said he knew the sides were meeting again this week, while Sen. John Hoeven, who is working on a GMO labeling bill, said he has heard from the agency about the first session, “but nothing I can be talking about publicly.”
So not only can’t you know what’s in your food, or where your meat comes from, but you’re not even allowed to know what the people who are going to decide whether you get to know are deciding. Democracy—or oligarchy clamping down on the dissemination of information that may damage its bottom line?
IMPORTED TEA MAY CONTAIN TOXIC PESTICIDE RESIDUES
The latest report from Beyond Pesticides details how tea imported to the U.S. is often full of pesticide residues, the Organic Consumers Association reveals.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration consistently finds high levels of illegal residues on imported tea that eventually finds its way to the American consumer. This includes permethrin (a synthetic pyrethroid, linked to cancer and endocrine system disruption), DDE (a metabolite of DDT, banned in the U.S. in 1972), heptachlor epoxide (a derivative of the pesticide heptachlor, which was banned in the U.S. for use in agriculture and as a termiticide due to its carcinogenicity and persistence in the environment), and acetamiprid (a bee-toxic neonicotinoid).
Why don’t we reject these tea imports, if they violate regulations? How best to avoid contaminated teas? Choose certified organic.
ARGENTINIANS STRIKE BACK AGAINST MONSANTO
The biotechnology giant Monsanto continues attempts to build its GMO seeds plant in Argentina, despite three years of unflinching popular opposition, according to Darío Aranda and Nancy Piñeiro, writing in Upside Down World.
The world’s largest GMO corporation never imagined that it would suffer one of its major setbacks in a small, rural town in central Argentina. Popular opposition, irregularities in the company’s environmental impact assessment, a protest blockade at the entry gate, and a court ruling stalled the construction of its seeds plant three years ago.
The most recent blow to the corporation occurred when it made a new attempt to enter the site in the municipality of Malvinas Argentinas, in the province of Cordoba. Protesters received an eviction notice, but local socio-environmental assemblies mobilized to strengthen the blockade, and a prosecutor suspended the order.
On January 8, simultaneous marches were held in different cities across Argentina. The demand was: “Monsanto, get out of Latin America!”
APOLLO OLIVE OIL WINS AWARDS
Back in November, Apollo Olive Oil had the honor of being chosen as a Finalist for a 2016 Good Food Award. On January 16, the winners were announced and Apollo was among them. There were a total of 1,927 entrants from across the U.S., with just 242 winners in 13 categories. Of the 11 winners in the ‘Oil’ category, only five were for olive oil, of which two others were also extra virgin olive oil. The Good Food Award recognizes that the Sierra and Mistral are of excellent quality and produced with sustainable methods benefiting local food economies.
Onn January 2 and 3, the TV show 60 Minutes ran three segments: the “FBI of Food,” don’t fall victim to olive oil scam, and AgroMafia, exposing Mafia involvement and the fight against it, in the entire Italian food chain, including olive oil fraud. As much as 80 percent of oil labeled as Italian extra virgin olive oil and sold here in the U.S. simply isn’t.
If you like real olive oil—pungent, bitter, and fruity—check out www.apollooliveoil.com. This California oil is the real deal.
GATES FOUNDATION REPEATING MISTAKES OF THE GREEN REVOLUTION
The following is a long story, but an exceedingly important one. It involves the take-over of world agriculture by multinational corporate biotech, chemical, and seed companies, all facilitated by the benign-sounding Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation–widely assumed to be doing good–is imposing a neoliberal model of development and corporate domination that’s opening up Africa’s agriculture to land and seed-grabbing global agribusiness, writes Colin Todhunter, a journalist who can frequently be found in The Ecologist, Truthout, and the London Progressive Journal. In the process, he says, the Foundation is foreclosing on the real solutions–enhancing food security, food sovereignty, and the move to agroecological farming.
BMGF is promoting a model of industrial agriculture, the increasing use of chemical fertilizers and expensive, patented seeds, the privatization of extension services, and a very large focus on genetically modified crops.
With assets of $43.5 billion, the BMGF is the largest charitable foundation in the world. It actually distributes more aid for global health than any government. As a result, it has a major influence on issues of global health and agriculture.
The charges are laid in a new report by Global Justice Now: ‘Gated Development–is the Gates Foundation always a force for good?’ The report argues that what BMGF is doing could end up exacerbating global inequality and entrenching corporate power globally.
Global Justice Now’s analysis of the BMGF’s programs shows that the Foundation’s senior staff are overwhelmingly drawn from corporate America. As a result, the question is: whose interests are being promoted–those of corporate America or those of ordinary people who seek social and economic justice rather than charity?
According to the report, the Foundation’s strategy is intended to deepen the role of multinational companies in global health and agriculture especially, even though these corporations are responsible for much of the poverty and injustice that already plagues the global south.
It concludes that the Foundation’s programs have a specific ideological strategy that promotes neo-liberal economic policies, corporate globalization, the technology this brings (such as GMOs), and an outdated view of the centrality of aid in ‘helping’ the poor.
The report raises a series criticisms including:
1) The relationship between the foundation and Microsoft’s tax practices. A 2012 report from the US Senate found that Microsoft’s use of offshore subsidiaries enabled it to avoid taxes of $4.5 billion, a sum greater than the BMGF’s annual grant making ($3.6 billion in 2014).
2) The close relationship that BMGF has with many corporations whose role and policies contribute to ongoing poverty. Not only is BMGF profiting from numerous investments in a series of controversial companies which contribute to economic and social injustice, it is also actively supporting a series of those companies, including pesticide manufacturers Monsanto, DuPont, and Bayer through a variety of pro-corporate initiatives around the world.
3) The Foundation’s promotion of industrial agriculture across Africa, pushing for the adoption of patented GMO seed systems and chemical fertilizers, all of which undermine existing sustainable, small-scale farming that is providing the vast majority of food security across the continent.
4) The Foundation’s promotion of projects around the world pushing private healthcare and education. Numerous agencies have raised concerns that such projects exacerbate inequality and undermine the universal provision of such basic human necessities.
“The Gates Foundation has rapidly become the most influential actor in the world of global health and agricultural policies, but there’s no oversight or accountability in how that influence is managed,” says Polly Jones the head of campaigns and policy at Global Justice Now.
“This concentration of power and influence is even more problematic when you consider that the philanthropic vision of the Gates Foundation seems to be largely based on the values of corporate America. The Foundation is relentlessly promoting big business-based initiatives such as industrial agriculture, private health care and education. But these are all potentially exacerbating the problems of poverty and lack of access to basic resources that the foundation is supposed to be alleviating.”
The report states that that Bill Gates has regular access to world leaders and is in effect personally bankrolling hundreds of universities, international organizations, NGOs, and media outlets.
As the single most influential voice in international development, the Foundation’s strategy is a major challenge to progressive development actors and activists around the world who want to see the influence of multinational corporations in global markets reduced or eliminated.
The Foundation not only funds projects in which agricultural and pharmaceutical corporations are among the leading beneficiaries, but it often invests in the same companies as it is funding, meaning the Foundation has an interest in the ongoing profitability of these corporations. According to the report, this is “a corporate merry-go-round where the BMGF consistently acts in the interests of corporations.”
The report notes that the BMGF’s close relationship with seed and chemical giant Monsanto is well known. It previously owned shares in the company and continues to promote several projects in which Monsanto is a beneficiary.
Not least among these is the wholly inappropriate and fraudulent GMO project which promotes a technical quick-fix ahead of tackling the structural issues that create hunger, poverty, and food insecurity. And, the report notes, the BMGF partners with many other multinational agribusiness corporations. For instance, the foundation is working with Cargill in an $8 million project to “develop the soya value chain” in southern Africa.
Cargill is the biggest global player in the production of and trade in soybeans with heavy investments in South America where GMO soy monocrops have displaced rural populations and caused great environmental damage. According to Global Justice Now, the BMGF-funded project will likely enable Cargill to capture a hitherto untapped African soy market and eventually introduce GMO soy onto the continent.
The end markets for this soy are companies with relationships with the fast food outlet, KFC, whose expansion in Africa is being aided by the project.
Specific examples are given which highlight how BMGF is also supporting projects involving other biotech, chemical, and seed corporations, including DuPont, Pioneer, Syngenta and Bayer.
According to the report, the BMGF is promoting a model of industrial agriculture, the increasing use of chemical fertilizers and expensive, patented seeds, the privatization of extension services and a very large focus on genetically modified crops. The foundation bankrolls the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in pushing industrial agriculture.
A key area for AGRA is seed policy. The report notes that currently over 80 percent of Africa’s seed supply comes from millions of small-scale farmers recycling and exchanging seed from year to year. But AGRA is promoting the commercial production of seed and is thus supporting the introduction of commercial seed systems, which risk enabling a few large companies to control seed research and development, production, and distribution.
In order for commercial seed companies to invest in research and development, they first want to protect their intellectual property. According to the report, this requires a fundamental restructuring of seed laws to allow for certification systems that not only protect certified varieties and royalties derived from them, but which actually criminalize all non-certified seed.
The report notes that over the past two decades, a long and slow process of national seed law reviews, sponsored by USAID and the G8 along with the BMGF and others, has opened the door to multinational corporations’ involvement in seed production, including the acquisition of every sizeable seed enterprise on the African continent.
At the same time, AGRA is working to promote costly inputs, notably fertilizer, despite evidence to suggest chemical fertilizers have significant health risks for farm workers, increase soil erosion, and can trap small-scale farmers in unsustainable debt. The BMGF, through AGRA, is one of the world’s largest promoters of the use of chemical fertilizer.
Some grants given by the BMGF to AGRA have been specifically intended to “help AGRA build the fertilizer supply chain” in Africa. The report describes how one of the largest of AGRA’s grants, worth $25 million, was used to help establish the African Fertilizer Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) in 2012, whose very goal is to “at least double total fertilizer use” in Africa.
The AFAP project is being pursued in partnership with the International Fertilizer Development Centre, a body which represents the fertilizer industry.
Another of AGRA’s key programs since its inception has been support to agro-dealer networks – small, private stockers of transnational companies’ chemicals and seeds who sell these to farmers in several African countries. This is increasing the reliance of farmers on chemical inputs and marginalizing sustainable agriculture alternatives, thereby undermining any notion that farmers are exercising their ‘free choice’ (as the neo-liberal evangelists are keen to tell everyone) when it comes to adopting certain agricultural practices.
The report concludes that AGRA’s agenda is the biggest direct threat to the growing movement in support of food sovereignty and agroecological farming methods in Africa. This movement opposes reliance on chemicals, expensive seeds, and GMOs, and instead promotes an approach which allows communities control over the way food is produced, traded, and consumed.
The food sovereignity movement is seeking to create a food system that is designed to help people and the environment rather than make profits for multinational corporations. Priority is given to promoting healthy farming and healthy food by protecting soil, water and climate, and promoting biodiversity.
Recent evidence from Greenpeace and the Oakland Institute shows that in Africa agroecological farming can increase yields significantly (often greater than industrial agriculture), and that it is more profitable for small farmers. In 2011, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food (Olivier de Schutter) called on countries to reorient their agriculture policies to promote sustainable systems–not least agroecology–that realize the right to food.
Moreover, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development (IAASTD) was the work of over 400 scientists and took four years to complete. It was twice peer reviewed. It states that we must look to smallholder, traditional farming to deliver food security in third world countries through agroecological systems that are sustainable.
In a January, 2015, piece in the Guardian, the Director of Global Justice Now said that ‘development’ was once regarded as a process of breaking with colonial exploitation and transferring power over resources from the ‘first’ to the ‘third world’, involving a revolutionary struggle over the world’s resources.
However, the current paradigm is based on the assumption that developing countries need to adopt neoliberal policies and that public money in the guise of aid should facilitate this.
If this new report shows anything, it is that the notion of ‘development’ has become hijacked by rich corporations and a super-rich ‘philanthrocapitalist’ (whose own corporate practices have been questionable to say the least, as highlighted by the report).
In effect, the model of ‘development’ being facilitated is married to the ideology and structurally embedded power relations of an exploitative global capitalism.
The BMGF is spearheading the ambitions of corporate America and the scramble for Africa by global agribusiness.
LEAD IN THE WATER ISN”T THE ONLY PROBLEM IN MICHIGAN
Michigan residents lost their “right to farm” this week thanks to a new ruling by the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Gail Philburn of the Michigan Sierra Club told Michigan Live, the new changes “effectively remove Right to Farm Act protection for many urban and suburban backyard farmers raising small numbers of animals.” Backyard and urban farming were previously protected by Michigan’s Right to Farm Act. The Commission ruled that the Right to Farm Act protections no longer apply to many homeowners who keep small numbers of livestock.
Kim White, who raises chickens and rabbits, said, “They don’t want us little guys feeding ourselves. They want us to go all to the big farms. They want to do away with small farms and I believe that is what’s motivating it.” The ruling will allow local governments to arbitrarily ban goats, chickens and beehives on any property where there are 13 homes within one eighth mile or a residence within 250 feet of the property, according to Michigan Public Radio. The Right to Farm Act was created in 1981 to protect farmers from the complaints of people from the city who moved to the country and then attempted to make it more urban with anti-farming ordinances. The new changes affect residents of rural Michigan too. It is not simply an urban or suburban concern.
Shady Grove Farm in Gwinn, Michigan, is the six and a half acre home to 150 egg-laying hens that provide eggs to a local co-op and a local restaurant. The small Michigan farm also raises sheep for wool and a few turkeys and meat chickens to provide fresh healthy, local poultry. “We produce food with integrity,” Randy Buchler told The Blaze about Shady Grove Farm. “Everything we do here is 100 percent natural — we like to say it’s beyond organic. We take a lot of pride and care in what we’re doing here.”
Shady Grove Farm was doing its part to bring healthy, local, organic food to the tables of Gwinn residents, and it mirrors the attitudes of hundreds of other small farming operations in Michigan and thousands of others popping up around the nation. The ruling comes within days of a report by The World Health Organization that stated the world is currently in grave danger of entering a post-antibiotic era. The WHO’s director-general, Dr. Margaret Chan, argued that the antibiotic use in our industrialized food supply is the worst offender adding to the global crisis. “The Michigan Agriculture Commission passed up an opportunity to support one of the hottest trends in food in Michigan–public demand for access to more local, healthy, sustainable food,” Gail Philbin told MLive.
Meanwhile, neighboring Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed Senate Bill 179 a few weeks before which freed up poultry and egg sales from local and state regulation. Yesterday, the USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced massive funding to support research about small and medium-sized family farms, such as small farms’ ability to build-up local and regional economic systems. “There’s a lot of unnecessary legal action being taken against small farms who are doing good things in their communities,” said Randy Buchler, who is also on the board of directors for the Michigan Small Farm Council. The Michigan Small Farm Council actively fought to support Michigan farming freedom, but ultimately the Commission voted to approve the new restrictions.
“Farm Bureau has become another special interest beholden to big business and out of touch with small farmers, and constitutional and property rights of the little guy,” Pine Hallow Farms wrote to the Michigan Small Farm Council. The Michigan Farm Bureau endorsed the new regulatory changes. Matthew Kapp, government relations specialist with Michigan Farm Bureau, told MLive that the members weighed in and felt that people raising livestock need to conform to local zoning ordinances. The Farm Bureau did not feel Michigan’s Right To Farm Act was meant to protect the smaller farms, and ultimately the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development agreed.
DOES ORGANIC WINE TASTE BETTER? AN ANALYSIS OF EXPERTS’ RATINGS
Researchers did the studies and here’s an abstract of the paper they wrote:
Eco-labels are part of a new wave of environmental policy that emphasizes information disclosure as a tool to induce environmentally friendly behavior by both firms and consumers. Little consensus exists as to whether eco-certified products are actually better than their conventional counterparts. This paper seeks to understand the link between eco-certification and product quality. We use data from three leading wine rating publications (Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast, and Wine Spectator) to assess quality for 74,148 wines produced in California between 1998 and 2009. Our results indicate that eco-certification is associated with a statistically significant increase in wine quality rating.
CORNELL HOSTS GMO PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN
The following is excerpted from The Ecologist and was written by Stacy Malkan. It was reprinted by the Organic Consumers Association.
Cornell, one of the world’s leading academic institutions, has abandoned scientific objectivity, writes Stacy Malkan, and instead made itself a global hub for the promotion of GMO crops and food. Working with selected journalists and industry-supported academics, Cornell’s so-called ‘Alliance for Science’ is an aggressive propaganda tool for corporate biotech and agribusiness.
The founders of Cornell University, Andrew D. White and Ezra Cornell, dreamed of creating a great university that took a radical approach to learning.
Their revolutionary spirit, and the promise to pursue knowledge for the greater good, is said to be at the heart of the Ivy League school their dream became.
It is difficult to understand how these ideals are served by a unit of Cornell operating as a public relations arm for the agrichemical industry.
Yet that is what seems to be going on at the Cornell Alliance for Science (CAS), a program launched in 2014 with a $5.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (them again!) and a goal to “depolarize the charged debate” about GMOs.
A review of the group’s materials and programs suggests that beneath its promise to “restore the importance of scientific evidence in decision making,” CAS is promoting GMOs using dishonest messaging and PR tactics developed by agrichemical corporations with a long history of misleading the public about science.
CAS Director Sarah Evanega, PhD, describes her group as a “communications-based nonprofit organization represented by scientists, farmers, NGOs, journalists and concerned citizens” who will use “interactive online platforms, multimedia resources and communication training programs to build a global movement to advocate for access to biotechnology.”
In this way, they say they will help alleviate malnourishment and hunger in developing countries, according to the video.
In reality, CAS is a propaganda campaign devoted to promoting genetically engineered foods around the world. As we’ve seen in this blog many times before, the real purpose of GMO seed patenting is control of the world’s seed supply. And that’s not only important for Monsanto and friends so they can corner the seed market, but it also means increasing sales of its pesticides and herbicides that are used on the GMO seeds. The fact that it’s wrecking the environment, harming life on earth, and destroying the lives of small, organic and natural farmers everywhere is just collateral damage. And the most cynical part is that Big Ag is presenting this agribiz-biotech takeover as the salvation of the world from the oncoming (be very afraid) famines that they say loom in the years ahead. Hand in hand with Big Philanthropy (BMGF) they’re out to save the world, one lifeless farm field at a time.
USDA Revokes ‘Grass Fed’ Standard
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First Big Ag and its henchpeople at the USDA and the FDA didn’t want you to know whether your food contains GMOs. No reason for labels, they said. There’s no difference between regular food and GMOs, they said. Quit being such worrywarts, they told the public.
Then they took away the labels stating where the meat in the meat counter comes from. No reason to tell you, they told the public. No reason for you to know, they said. Maybe it comes from the sweet grasslands of western Canada or maybe from the polluted fields near smoke-choked Beijing. Meat is meat, they said Quit being such worrywarts.
Now we discover that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has rescinded the labeling standard for grass fed meat that was developed over the course of four years and finalized with the support of national farm and consumer organizations in 2006, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition reports.
“Meat labeling just became even more confusing for farmers and consumers,” said Ferd Hoefner, Policy Director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “USDA is revoking a label standard that had widespread farm and consumer support. Actions such as this take us into a Wild West situation, where anything goes and both farmers and consumers lose.”
In revoking the standard, the AMS states that having a strong, clear, consumer-friendly labeling standard “does not facilitate the marketing of agricultural products in a manner that is useful to stakeholders or consumers” because a different USDA agency, the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), must approve meat labels and “there is no guarantee that a USDA-verified production/marketing claim will be approved by FSIS.”
“The rationale that a strong USDA label standard for grass fed beef is not useful because it might not be recognized by a partner agency is outrageous,” said Hoefner. “It is both sad and true that these two USDA agencies often do not coordinate, and worse yet that in some cases FSIS has looked the other way, allowing particularly unscrupulous meat companies to abuse the USDA standard,” Hoefner said. “But the common sense solution is not to revoke the standard, but instead to tackle the lack of interagency communication head-on.”
The revocation notice gives producers using the grass fed label 30 days to either convert the newly revoked USDA grass fed label to their own private grass-fed standard, or, if they don’t have a private standard, to develop a new grass fed standard.
“Rather than bringing consistency and common sense to our food marketing system, USDA seems to be throwing in the towel,” said Hoefner. “This is terrible public policy that will create a multitude of non-uniform labels, which will open the door to more confusion and subterfuge in the marketplace. It is an affront to consumers, who have the right to know how their food is raised, and to the farmers whose innovation and hard work created the trusted grass fed label standard.”
The grass fed label standard now being revoked stated among other things that grass, forbs, and forage needed to be 99 percent or more of the energy source for the lifetime of a ruminant species after weaning in order to qualify as grass fed. Prior to the setting of that standard, grain fed animals were often sold as grass fed, with USDA’s approval.
So, let’s sum up: You can’t know whether your food has been genetically altered. You can’t know where it comes from. And now the government won’t vouch for grass fed beef being grass fed. You have to trust the ranchers to do that. But 15 years ago, when we last trusted the ranchers to do that, “grain fed animals were often sold as grass fed, with USDA’s approval.”
Okay—so logically, what are the next steps in the complete submersion into darkness of our conventional food supply? Do we really have to know what kind of meat is in the package? Maybe the label should just say MEAT. Even that may be too revealing for the corporate food industry. Why should you know whether it’s meat in that package? Maybe it should just be labeled FOOD. Or maybe, there should be no labels at all, just an aisle in the market with packages wrapped in plain brown butcher paper under a sign that says: EAT THIS AND STFU.
CDC FINDS ‘RARE STRAIN’ OF E. COLI IN CHIPOTLE OUTBREAK
Last week in this space, I smelled a rat in regards to Chipotle’s outbreaks of food-borne illnesses. Too many powerful, prosperous, and unscrupulous corporations have good reason to see Chipotle fail, thus curbing the chain’s attacks on GMO and conventional foods.
Seems I’m not the only one whose nose was offended. Here’s Mike Adams, writing in NaturalNews: “After observing recent events involving Chipotle and E. coli, here’s my analysis of the situation: Chipotle’s E. coli outbreaks are not random chance. They are the result of the biotech industry unleashing bioterrorism attacks against the only fast food company that has publicly denounced GMOs.
“How do we know? The CDC has already admitted that some of these E. coli outbreaks involve a ‘rare genetic strain’ of E. coli not normally seen in foods. Furthermore, we also know the track record of the biotech industry engaging in the most criminal, dirty, sleazebag tactics imaginable against any person or company that speaks out against GMOs.
“Doctor Oz, for example, was maliciously targeted in a defamation campaign funded by the biotech industry earlier this year. The onslaught against Oz was initiated because he publicly expressed his support for honest GMO labeling on foods.
“As the attacks escalated, Doctor Oz had his own team investigate the source of the attacks and found they were all biotech industry shills, some with felony criminal records and long histories of dubious propaganda activities targeting anti-GMO activists.”
SCIENTIST LINKS BEE DIE-OFFS TO PESTICIDE, IS GAGGED BY USDA
One of the world’s top bee scientists has been suspended for publishing research on bee-killing pesticides, according to the folks at SumOfUs.
Jonathan Lundgren was an award-winning scientist for 11 years with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But once he started publishing data linking pesticides to bee and butterfly die-offs, he was ordered to stop talking. When he refused, he was suspended.
Now Lundgren is fighting back. He’s filed a whistleblower complaint to make sure that corporations—whose influence extends to the USDA–can’t get away with gagging science.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen corporate-influenced governments trying to silence bee scientists. In the U.K., the government silenced scientists who disagreed with a decision to lift a ban on bee-killing pesticides. Big Ag lobbyists wanted the ban lifted, but when the scientists wouldn’t go along with it, the government simply told them not to publish their views.
But this time the corporations picked on the wrong scientist. Lundgren is refusing to back down. Now a judge has ruled that Lundgren’s whistleblower complaint may go forward — meaning he has a real chance of getting justice and showing how corporations are exerting undue influence over government research.
SumOfUs is a worldwide movement of people working together to hold corporations accountable for their actions and forge a new, sustainable path for our global economy.
NEW BILLS WOULD GUT STATES’ CONTROL OVER TOXIC CHEMICALS
A new set of bills that aims to update the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) may nullify the efforts of states such as Maine and California to regulate dangerous chemicals, according to an article in The Intercept.
The Senate’s bill, passed just before the 2015 holidays, is particularly restrictive. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act—named, ironically, for the New Jersey senator who supported strong environmental protections—would make it much harder for states to regulate chemicals after the EPA has evaluated them, and would even prohibit states from acting while the federal agency is in the process of investigating them.
The Senate’s version has some significant differences from the House bill—the TSCA Modernization Act that passed in June — and the reconciliation process is now underway. If the worst provisions from both bills wind up in the final law, which could reach the president’s desk as soon as February, the new legislation will gut laws that have put Oregon, California, Maine, Vermont, Minnesota, and Washington state at the forefront of chemical regulation.
There is little question that the original Toxic Substance Control Act is broken, as even industry has recently begun to admit. TSCA, passed in 1976, was born from outrage about the health risks of asbestos and PCBs, and it gave the EPA the authority to regulate tens of thousands of toxic substances. But the process was heavily influenced by the chemical industry, which initially opposed regulation before helping to write the law. The final legislation grandfathered in the vast majority of some 82,000 chemicals now registered for commercial use. In the almost four decades since TSCA went into effect, the federal agency has required testing for only about 200 chemicals. Of those, just five were partially regulated at the federal level.
Since 2014, while Congress was hashing out the new TSCA “reform,” the top 10 chemical companies and organizations spent more than $125 million on lobbying, The Intercept reports. Industry lobbyists again wrote the new bill. Dow Chemical Company and Koch Industries each spent more than $21 million, while DuPont spent more than $14 million, according to MapLight, a nonprofit group that monitors money in politics. The American Chemistry Council contributed more than $18 million, including $150,000 to the Super PAC supporting the gubernatorial bid of David Vitter, the Republican senator from Louisiana who co-sponsored the bill. Chemical industry contributions were significantly higher for the bill’s sponsors and co-sponsors than for other members of Congress.
In response to inquiries from The Intercept, the American Chemistry Council provided a written statement, saying it has “been working tirelessly to help pass legislation that will bring TSCA up to speed with modern science and create strong, nationwide regulatory certainty that will build consumer confidence in the U.S. chemical regulatory system for citizens in all 50 states, protect human health and the environment from significant risks, and meet the commercial and competitive interests of the U.S. chemical industry and the national economy.” Chemtura provided the following comment: “Though it is premature to speculate on the impact of an updated TSCA program on specific state legislation or products, Chemtura supports an updated TSCA and looks forward to working with regulators when the time comes for implementation.”
The Senate bill, which would also override state restrictions on air and water quality and waste disposal if they’re inconsistent with federal law, has a wide range of supporters, including the American Petroleum Institute, the Chambers of Commerce; the Auto Alliance; the National Association of Manufacturers. Perhaps the most damning endorsement came from ExxonMobil’s CEO, Rex Tillerson, who recently described the bill in an op-ed in Roll Call as “just the comprehensive overhaul we need.”
Meanwhile, the House version of the bill, which preempts states from regulating new chemicals, is supported by more than 100 industry groups, including the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, CropLife America (which represents pesticide manufacturers and distributors), the Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance, and the Chlorine Institute.
Anti-Feminist Group Attacks Chipotle
Organic Lifestyle Comments Off on Anti-Feminist Group Attacks Chipotle
So I’m reading my emails and I see this one:
Chipotle Mexican Grill has been served with a federal grand jury subpoena following a series of dangerous outbreaks including E. coli and norovirus linked to its restaurants. .
The subpeona is part of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations investigation. Independent Women’s Forum’s Julie Gunlock, IWF’s Culture of Alarmism director, offered the following statement:
“I applaud the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California and the Food and Drug Administration for pursuing this investigation into the E. coli outbreaks at Chipotle restaurants, which sickened hundreds of people during the holiday season. This outbreak continues to be a serious safety issue for consumers and they deserve to know the full breadth of this problem.
“To regain the public trust, Chipotle needs to rethink its business practices, which include working alongside food alarmists, anti-GMO activists, the organic food industry, and other modern food system critics to frighten, distract and misinform the American public. The company has profited handsomely off their dubious claim that they provide a superior food product, all the while slamming their competitors as well as the American agriculture system–casting farmers as evil polluters and animal abusers and other large food chains as contributing to health issues in the United States.
“For too long Chipotle has been distracted from what any restaurant’s true mission should be: to provide safe food for their customers. Hopefully this investigation will shed light on Chipotle’s questionable marketing tactics and food safety practices and initiate changes for the better.”
Wait. Chipotle’s been working with “food alarmists, anti-GMO activists, and the organic food industry” against corporate farming and the chemical food industry? Isn’t that a good thing? Hasn’t Chipotle been trying to deliver an environmentally sustainable product? How come all of a sudden E. coli and norovirus are showing up at Chipotles? From what I know about Monsanto, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and all the other participants in the conventional food industry, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if those problems didn’t just happen by accident. Do I have any proof of this? Not a shred. It’s just that for the past 50 years, I’ve watched the chemical agriculture industry lie and cheat their way into profitability by claiming that organic food will kill you. But now that customers are flocking to Chipotle to get some decent food, suddenly these food supply problems show up, followed by press releases like the above from the Independent Women’s Forum.
So who is the IWF? I checked SourceWatch, a non-profit group that digs to find out who is behind the front organizations used to propagandize the American people. Here’s what SourceWatch had to say:
“The Independent Women’s Forum (IWF; not to be confused with the International Women’s Forum) is an anti-feminist organization predominantly funded by right-wing foundations, including the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the Koch brothers’ Claude R. Lambe Foundation. On its website, it describes its mission as being ‘to rebuild civil society by advancing economic liberty, personal responsibility, and political freedom. IWF builds support for a greater respect for limited government, equality under the law, property rights, free markets, strong families, and a powerful and effective national defense and foreign policy.’
“The IWF originally grew out of a group called ‘Women for Clarence Thomas,’ formed to support Clarence Thomas, then a nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, against allegations of sexual harassment. It has vocally opposed the Violence against Women Act.
“In an editorial, the New York Times called the IWF ‘a right-wing public policy group that provides pseudofeminist support for extreme positions that are in fact dangerous to women.’ From 2003-2008, IWF was affiliated with the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity.”
Get the picture?
ADDENDUM: Chipotle Mexican Grill has just been sued for allegedly misleading investors about its food safety controls. According to a civil lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Chipotle failed to disclose that its “quality controls were inadequate to safeguard consumer and employee health.” Sales at the restaurant chain have tanked since an E. coli outbreak sickened dozens of people late last year.
The lawsuit seeks damages on behalf of investors who acquired Chipotle shares from February 2015 to January 2016. It adds another headache for the restaurant chain, whose sales have slumped since an E. coli outbreak sickened more than 50 people in nine states in October and November.
Shares this week fell to their lowest level in more than two years. They are down 35 percent since the end of October.
You would think the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control would be on top of this, investigating who is responsible for the contaminations. But as far as I can tell, neither governmental body has made any moves to find out. I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but it’s almost as though the bacterial infections and viruses are ganging up on a food outlet that was particularly clean and enthusiastic about promoting sustainable, organic food.
CAMPBELL SOUPS TO LIST GMOS IN ITS PRODUCTS
Green America congratulates the Campbell Soup Company on its support of federal legislation to establish a single mandatory labeling standard for foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and its move to voluntarily disclose the presence of GMOs in all its foods in the absence of such a standard.
Green America also lauded Campbell’s for withdrawing its support from the efforts of groups working to oppose federal GMO labeling, such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
“This announcement is a major victory for consumers and sets Campbell’s apart from many of its industry peers; 92 percent of Americans support GMO labeling, so Campbell’s commitment to transparency in its ingredients will be warmly welcomed by U.S. consumers,” said Elizabeth O’Connell, director of consumer advocacy for Green America. “Campbell’s is going far beyond any of its competitors to support the people’s Right to Know what’s in their food.”
GMO labeling is now required in Vermont, where Campbell’s has introduced packaging that discloses if a product contains GMO ingredients. Campbell’s announced that if a federal labeling standard could not be agreed to, the company was prepared to label all of its U.S. products for the presence of GMO ingredients.
“Campbell’s decision to withdraw its support from anti-labeling efforts and voluntarily disclose its GMO ingredients on its packaging sets the company apart from other consumer packaged goods companies,” said Todd Larsen, co-executive director of Green America. “Other companies should take note of consumer preference and follow Campbell’s lead in disclosing GMOs.”
While there are no rules on how to label GMOs at the moment, to further consumer awareness, Green America believes that labeling should disclose which ingredients were genetically engineered, such as corn or sugar, not just the presence of GMOs. Green America encourages all companies to engage in ingredient-by-ingredient disclosure.
CONTAMINATED FRACKING WATER SOLD TO ORGANIC FARMERS
From the League of Conservation Voters:
News has surfaced that in recent months, more and more fossil fuel wastewater — water that’s been used in the extraction of dirty oil — is being sold to organic farms to use for irrigation, especially in drought-ridden California.
That means the fresh bowls of fruit or crisp plates of veggies you feed to your family or enjoy yourself may have been irrigated with water that’s laden with dangerous heavy metals and chemicals.
But this is the worst part: Right now, the USDA has ZERO protections in place that directly address the use oil wastewater to irrigate organic farms.
Using oil wastewater to irrigate crops is a short-term solution if there ever was one. In California, where the vast majority of our nation’s crops are grown, farmers are facing the impossible challenge of needing an abundance of water and having nearly none. That’s where Big Oil is happy to step in.
Oil companies like Chevron have been selling their wastewater to water-starved farms. For them, leftover water is a nuisance, and now, in the light of an epic drought, they can profit off of its disposal. But here’s the really upsetting part: Oil companies are the ones responsible for cleaning up the water before giving it to farmers, and when scientists have tested the water, they found multiple toxic chemicals still present — chemicals that could be seriously harmful to you and your family.
The USDA prohibits oil-based fertilizers from being used on organic crops, recognizing that organic standards and waste from fossil fuel extraction do not mix. But in what can only be called a major loophole, when it comes to irrigation, the USDA has confirmed itself that there is no accountability to be sure this water is safe, and no regulations to protect us. When it comes to food quality and safety, we should all be able to demand the highest standards. It’s time that the USDA updates its organic standards for the health and safety of our families!
TOP 10 ORGANIC BREAKTHROUGHS IN 2015
Last year, numerous studies revealed scientific breakthroughs on the environmental and human health benefits of organic food and farming — from improving soil health and supporting water quality, to reducing our exposure to pesticides and mitigating climate change.
“The amount and scope of cutting edge research last year showing that the benefits of organic are supported by science was very impressive,” said Dr. Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs for The Organic Center. “A large body of the research shows that pesticides that are banned from use in organic can have serious negative impacts on the environment and humans. The good news is that by choosing organic you can contribute to a healthier world.”
The Organic Center lists the year’s 10 most important organic findings:
1. Pesticides negatively impact bees. Perhaps the most important topic was the impact of pesticides on pollinator health. Several studies showed the class of pesticides called neonicotinoids (“neonics”) has various negative impacts on bees. One study found even exposure to very low levels of neonics can adversely affect bees. Another study correlated increased use of neonics with honey bee losses. Another found that even when neonics aren’t sprayed directly on fields, they can impact bee health.
2. Organic culture improves soil. Key research studied organic’s benefits to soil health, particularly soil organisms. A long-term study showed organic farming is beneficial for soil organisms, with larger soil animals increasing to over 250 times the number found in conventional soils, and microorganisms up to 70 percent more plentiful. In addition, another study showed organic management improves nutrient availability and soil structure. Still another found microbial communities of “good” soil organisms can suppress “bad” pathogens. Thus, diversity can promote resistance to diseases.
3. Organic farming supports water quality. Researchers examining nitrogen runoff found organic cropping systems have less nitrogen pollution than conventional systems. Another study looked at water quality, and found organic methods can be used to reduce water pollution in U.S waterways. It showed nitrate contamination in water in conventional cropping systems was twice as high as that from organic systems.
4. Dietary exposure to pesticides can hurt reproductive health. While research has long demonstrated clear dangers of pesticide exposure from living and working in agricultural areas, few studies have explored the health consequences of exposure to low-level pesticide residues in a conventional diet. Researchers at Harvard University published findings showing dietary exposure to pesticides can lower sperm quantity and quality in men. After taking into account confounding factors such as weight and smoking, researchers found that men exposed to the highest levels of pesticide residue through fruit and vegetable consumption had almost 50 percent fewer sperm and more abnormally shaped sperm when compared to men who consumed the least amount.
5. Roundup may be carcinogenic. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the pesticide Roundup (prohibited for use in organic farming), has been touted as a pesticide posing few risks to humans. New groundbreaking research suggests it might not be as benign as previously thought. One study suggested that low-level exposure to Roundup over a long period could cause kidney and liver damage in rats. The doses used in the study were low enough to prompt researchers to note that the results of the study potentially have significant health implications for animal and human populations. Similar research results were cited in a recent study published by the World Health Organization, calling glyphosate’s risk level as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
6. Organic farming has higher yields than previously thought. Several recent studies tackled the myth that organic farms have lower yields than conventional. One study showed that farms under organic soil management systems can produce yields equivalent to conventional systems. It also found organic farming reduced weeds by up to 47 percent and increased total soil nitrogen by up to 7 percent. Another study synthesizing information from over 100 studies and over 1,000 observations, found similar results, showing the yields of organic crops are higher than previously thought.
7. Eating organic food reduces your exposure to pesticides. One large-scale study involving 4,000 participants from across the U.S. confirmed that choosing organic does, in fact, reduce exposure to pesticides. Another study on children’s exposure to pesticides showed eating an organic diet reduces the exposure to some pesticides in young children, and that an organic diet was associated with lower levels of commonly detected pesticide metabolites for all children.
8. Commonly used pesticides negatively impact children’s health. The health effects of pesticide exposure in children was studied. One study showed an association between early exposure to organophosphate pesticides and respiratory symptoms consistent with childhood asthma. Another study linked pesticide exposure and decreased mental ability in children, including neurocognitive abilities. One study linked exposure to pesticides during child development to ADHD symptoms.
9. New research shows organic farming promotes a wide diversity of organisms on the farm. One study showed organically farmed lands had more beneficial predatory insects and spiders than conventional farms. Not only did researchers find that these beneficial insects controlled on-farm pests, they showed the impact reached beyond the organic farms, improving adjacent forest patches as well. Another study confirmed that the presence of organic farms increases the amount of biodiversity on surrounding conventional farms.
10. Organic farming helps mitigate climate change. Agriculture accounts for 35 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but an important study supports the idea that conversion to organic agriculture may be a climate-change solution. The study showed organic farming methods could mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon in the soil and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. Practices such as replacing chemical fertilizers with organic manure and using crop residues as forage for cattle were found to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase storage of carbon in the soils.
ORGANIC SOILS CAN HELP MITIGATE CLIMATE CHANGE
Drought and excessive heat in recent years have cut the world’s grain production by about 10 percent, a team of researchers has found. The team also found that the effects of droughts were more severe for crops produced in developed countries than in underdeveloped countries.
Dry spells caused losses of nearly 20 percent in North America, Europe and the Australasia region, but only 12 percent in Asia and 9 percent in Africa. They found no significant effects from droughts in Latin America.
One reason for the discrepancy, the researchers theorized, is that developed nations tend to grow more uniform crops, which may be more vulnerable to drought, while underdeveloped countries grow diverse patches of plants that may have greater resilience.
That may be so, but those of us familiar with organic farming may see another reason. Farmers in the developed world use conventional agriculture that depletes the soil of organic matter. In less developed countries, farmers often return manures and other organic matter to their soils. Organic matter is spongy and holds water. Many studies have shown that organically managed soils are more drought resistant than those managed with agricultural chemicals.