Hillary’s Ties to Monsanto, GMOs
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Food Democracy Now! reports that presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has some deep and troubling ties to Monsanto and the biotech industry.
The group has now found more alarming Monsanto connections between Hillary Clinton Monsanto, and how she used her position as head of the State Department to promote GMOs around the world and even abused her authority by having State Department officials threaten leaders of other nations for not wanting to approve GMO crops for sale in their countries.
Right now a team of Monsanto lobbyists is raising money for Hillary’s presidential campaign. What do you think they really want in return? Now is the time for Hillary to take a stand or lose the moral mandate to be President. Bernie Sanders has taken a strong stance in supporting mandatory GMO labeling, why won’t Hillary?
Additionally, in 2014, Hillary Clinton received a $325,000 “speaking fee” for giving the keynote address to the BIO International Convention in San Diego to coach industry lobbyists on how to overcome consumer fears over GMOs.
Clinton’s advice to the Monsanto biotech crowd in San Diego was so cringe-worthy that it earned her the nickname the “Bride of Frankenfood” among Iowa progressives and rural activists.
Rather than lecture the audience on the need for transparency and improved safety assessments, Clinton coached the audience of biotech devotees to develop “a better vocabulary” to change negative public perception about GMO agriculture:
“‘Genetically modified’ sounds Frankenstein-ish. ‘Drought-resistant’ sounds like something you’d want,” said Clinton. “Be more careful so you don’t raise that red flag.” immediately.”
FDA TO TEST SOME FOODS FOR GLYPHOSATE
The FDA says it will begin testing foods including corn, soybeans, milk and eggs for traces of the herbicide glyphosate after academics and private companies said they found residue in products such as infant formula and cereal. Last year, the World Health Organization ruled that glyphosate was a probable human carcinogen.
Writing in the magazine Civil Eats, Elizabeth Grossman reports that last spring, an NGO called Moms Across America paid to have 10 women’s breast milk tested for glyphosate, the United States’ most widely used weed-killer and the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. According to Moms Across America founder and director Zen Honeycutt, the testing was not intended to be a scientific study, but rather a small, pilot effort undertaken in hopes of prompting further research.
Use of Roundup has ballooned in recent years and Moms Across America was concerned about a lack of data about its presence in the human body. From 1987 to 2012, U.S. farms went from using less than 11 million pounds a year to nearly 300 million pounds, thanks largely to the rapid adoption of corn and soybeans genetically engineered to withstand the chemical. So, said Honeycutt, “We citizens had to do something that government and manufacturers were not doing.”
Now, Washington State University assistant professor Michelle McGuire has said Moms Across America, whose testing found glyphosate in three of the 10 women’s breast milk samples, “flat out got it wrong.” This conclusion came late last week when WSU announced that its researchers had conducted a study that found no glyphosate in any of the 41 women’s breast milk samples that McGuire tested. She and her colleagues went on to conclude that “our study provides strong evidence that glyphosate is not in human milk.” The study shows that “glyphosate, the main ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, does not accumulate in mother’s breast milk,” said WSU in its press release.
Asked about the WSU study, Monsanto said via email that the “McGuire study again confirms the findings of the U.S. [Environmental Protection Agency] and other regulatory agencies that glyphosate does not accumulate in the body. This independent study used an appropriate, precise, and validated analytical method and arrived at a scientifically sound conclusion.”
So what’s going on?
The debate around glyphosate has taken on increased significance since last year, when the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified the compound as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Roundup manufacturer Monsanto has asked IARC to retract its report, saying it contradicts regulatory findings that glyphosate is safe when used as directed.
Indeed, U.S. regulatory agencies—including the EPA, Department of Agriculture (USDA) and their counterparts in the European Union—have said that glyphosate, which was introduced in 1974, is safe to use as directed.
But there isn’t much data about how much glyphosate people are actually being exposed to, let alone what the cumulative effects are—either from environmental sources or through food. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and USDA conduct regular testing of food for pesticide residues, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) includes pesticides in its National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey biomonitoring.
Glyphosate, however, is not included in any of these ongoing testing programs. The U.S. Geological Survey has found glyphosate in surface water, in water coming out of wastewater treatment plants, and in rainwater samples all around the country. When the USDA tested soybeans for glyphosate in 2011, it found residue in nearly all the samples, though all registered below the EPA safety limit.
Monsanto said the “CDC and others have not tested for glyphosate in human milk because they are not concerned about any potential human exposure approaching the Allowable Daily Intake (ADI) established by the EPA for glyphosate.” Yet many questions have arisen about glyphosate’s possible health effects. The EPA does list kidney damage and reproductive effects among the potential outcomes of long-term exposure above what’s considered safe in drinking water.
Between studies linking glyphosate to potential adverse health effects and vociferous public debate over the safety of GMOs, glyphosate is now a hot-button issue. And McGuire’s study is not likely to quell the controversy.
McGuire presented her study at last week’s Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology conference. It is not yet published and has not yet been submitted to scientific journals for publication, McGuire said via email. But scientists often present new and unpublished data at conferences. This also means, however, that the full study, including its methodology, is not yet available and that the study has not yet been peer-reviewed.
While McGuire, WSU, and Monsanto say study results and interpretation were done independently, the test used to measure glyphosate in the milk samples was developed and conducted by Monsanto. Asked what prompted development of this test, Monsanto said via email that the study was, in fact, conducted in response to Moms Across America’s test results.
“After the Moms Across America results were posted,” a company spokesperson wrote, “Monsanto consulted with the researchers [McGuire and her co-author and husband, University of Idaho professor of animal and veterinary science, Mark McGuire] about the data. We all determined that the most appropriate way to address the issues was to conduct another analysis using an analytical methodology that was validated to be precise and specific for the detection of glyphosate in human milk.”
The WSU study results were verified by Covance Laboratories, which McGuire said, in a phone interview, was unaffiliated with the researchers’ universities or with Monsanto. But Covance has done testing for Monsanto on numerous occasions, including of glyphosate and crops engineered for glyphosate tolerance. McGuire is also a national spokesperson for the American Society for Nutrition, of which Monsanto is a sustaining member.
There is also a substantial amount of tit-for-tat going on between those associated with both McGuire’s study and Moms Across America. McGuire and Monsanto say the test method used for Moms Across America’s samples was not appropriate. Bruce Hemming, president and CEO of Microbe Inotech Labs, which conducted this testing, disagrees. It’s “very sensitive and was developed initially for water but then for urine and breast milk,” he said. “It’s not only validated by us but by the supplier of antibodies and reagents” for the assay, he told Civil Eats.
Additional details raise more questions. Among them is the WSU press release’s assertion that the EPA is using McGuire’s study “as part of an ongoing review of glyphosate regulations.” Asked for details, McGuire said via email that she could not comment on this. The EPA said (also via email) that McGuire’s data had not “at this time” been submitted to the agency.
So, what’s the take-away? These are two small sets of data acquired using different methods that found very different results–one conducted by a volunteer-run NGO that campaigns against GMOs, the other by university researchers with support from Monsanto.
What this scenario points to most clearly, said Charles Benbrook, adjunct professor in WSU’s Department of Crops and Soil Science, is a “need for more impartial, highly credible science about glyphosate residue and exposure levels.” Asked about the government’s role in providing such science, Benbrook cautioned that the U.S. government has a lot riding on the safety of glyphosate-dependent, genetically engineered crops. “The best opportunity for independent science will have to come
MANY OF OUR POLLINATORS ARE FACING EXTINCTION
A United Nations assessment of the current state of pollinators finds troubling news for bees, butterflies, bats, and other creatures responsible for pollinating our food supply, as many species are facing extinction. Under threat from widespread pesticide use, habitat loss, and even climate change, the loss of bees and other pollinators could cause catastrophic harm to the global food chain.
The following is a statement from Rebecca Riley, Senior Attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council:
“The report confirms a simple truth: pollinators like bees and butterflies are in trouble, and that puts billions of dollars of our global food supply at risk. After all, one in three bites of food in the American diet are pollinated by bees, so we can’t ignore the impact. The good news is that this is a problem that we can solve. The United States should take swift and decisive action to increase wildflower and grassland habitat and decrease pesticide use.”
LATEST ON SENATE AG COMMITTEE AND GMO LABELING
Unable to reach a compromise or get the votes they needed this week, the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry postponed action on a federal bill to preempt Vermont’s GMO labeling law until Tuesday, March 1, the Organic Consumers Association reports.
But it’s only a matter of time. Sen. Pat Roberts’ (R-Kan.) bill to kill GMO labeling will likely be the subject of a heated Ag Committee debate this coming week, when Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and others will push for a compromise aimed at keeping Vermont’s law from taking effect July 1.
The bill, which is full of holes according to this latest legal analysis, is having trouble gaining bipartisan support.
Meanwhile USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Rep. Robert Alderholt (R-Ala.) and Rep. Joe Donnelly (R-Ind.) were making the media rounds, spreading lies and fear, extolling the virtues of GMOs, and insulting the intelligence of consumers by claiming that we “just need more education.”
Vilsack told PoliticoPro this week that if Vermont’s law isn’t stopped it will “create chaotic circumstances” for the food industry—curious, given that none of the other 100-plus state food labeling laws have ever caused chaos. Later the same day, Vilsack insulted consumers when he told Agri-Pulse:
“This very system–which produces the most abundant, the highest quality, and the most affordable food supply in the world–will be threatened with large economic costs without a national uniform solution to the biotech labeling issue.”
Vilsack also raised the bogus cost issue again, even though it’s been debunked time and again, and finally put to rest by Campbell’s Soup Co.’s announcement that it will label GMO foods at no cost to consumers.
Alderholt also chimed in on the “education of consumers.” He was quoted in PoliticoPro telling the FDA and other federal agencies that they “need to do a better job educating consumers on the safety of GMO foods.”
Ag Committee member Donnelly also spoke to PolitcoPro this week, and like Stabenow, pushed for a compromise that would include a combination of delaying Vermont and/or allowing food corporations to opt for QR codes instead of on-package labels.
CBS MORNING NEWS DRINKS MONSANTO’S KOOL-AID
By now, anyone paying attention sees through Monsanto’s fantasy tales of feeding the world, reducing pesticide use, and providing safe and nutritious food through GMOs.
Unfortunately, the producers of CBS Morning News are hopelessly gullible. How else to explain a recent segment full of fantasy, not facts?
A recent CBS Morning Show segment, “Digging for Seeds of Truth in the GMO Debate,” portrayed Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant as a champion of GMO labeling.
The popular Sunday morning show also perpetuated, among others, the myth that genetically engineered Golden Rice is saving millions of children from going blind.
And of course, there were all the usual unfounded claims about safety, nutrition and “not a single instance” of harm to the environment.
Is it too much to ask that “news” shows present the facts—instead of shilling for Monsanto? The Organic Consumers Association asks you to tell CBS News Executive Producer Rand Morrison to cover the facts on GMOs, not the fantasy!
SOIL FUMIGANTS GAIN TOXICITY WHEN MIXED TOGETHER
A new report by researchers at the University of California Los Angeles Sustainable Technology & Policy Program (STPP) studied three toxic fumigants—chlorpicrin,1,3-dichloropropene, and metam salts—and found that when mixed together, the chemicals can interact and become even more toxic. Who ends up suffering the consequences? Farmworkers, schoolchildren and anyone unfortunate enough to live in neighborhoods where fumigants are sprayed.
Millions of pounds of these three pesticides are commonly used in combination to grow strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, grapes, nuts, and other crops. All together about 30 million pounds were used on California farm fields in 2013 alone and together they account for about a fifth of all pesticides used in [California].
EUROPEAN GROCERY STORE COMING TO AMERICA WITH CLEAN FOOD
Aldi, the discount grocery store from Europe, recently announced that they will soon be opening stores in America supplying mostly organic products and will be banning many pesticides and toxic chemicals in the foods they sell.
The chemicals recently banned from their products includes Thiamethoxam, Chlorpyrifos, Clothianidin, Cypermethrin, Deltamethrin, Fipronil, Imidacloprid, Sulfoxaflor and other pesticides. Aldi also announced that they will soon be stocking fresh meat and fish and will be closely analyzing the distributors that they purchase from.
Jason Hart, CEO of Aldi, said in a recent statement that, “At Aldi, we are dedicated to the well-being of our customers by providing high quality groceries at the lowest possible prices and offering foods shoppers can feel good about serving their families. Our decision to remove these ingredients from all of our exclusive brand foods delivers on our ongoing commitment to meet the evolving preferences of our customers. Since more than 90 percent of the products we sell are under our exclusive brands, eliminating these ingredients will have a real impact on the over 30 million people who shop in our stores.”
Phil Lempert, editor of SupermarketGuru.com wrote that this is a sign of a changing industry.
“Today’s shoppers are more involved with food than ever before. They want to know everything about their food and the companies that supply them – especially as it relates to ingredients and the impact on their families. Aldi is leading the supermarket industry in rightly responding to the science that shows the implications of these ingredients, and meeting the needs of the increasingly savvy consumers who don’t want artificial or potentially harmful ingredients in the products they buy,” Lempert said.
Aldi is best known for its low prices. In a recent price survey, it was shown that Aldi’s prices are 30 percent lower than Wal-Mart. Aldi is able to keep such low prices by ordering food through specific sellers, instead of buying a wide variety of brands. They also cut costs by limiting store displays and advertising.
They have announced that their new policy regarding pesticides and GMO foods will be effective as soon as possible.
Aldi currently only has select stores open in the US, but roughly 500 more stores will be built in the US over the next two years as part of a $3 billion expansion, Health Magazine reports.
BIODIVERSITY: KEY TO HEALTH, ENHANCED BY ORGANIC METHODS
Researchers have found clear evidence that communities rich in species are substantially healthier and more productive than those depleted of species.
An international group of scientists led by USGS research ecologist Jim Grace has solved this long-standing ecological riddle using new scientific techniques for analyzing complex data to determine: How do we know that conserving biodiversity is actually important in the real world?
“This study shows that you cannot have sustainable, productive ecosystems without maintaining biodiversity in the landscape,” said Grace. Organic praqctitioners have known this for years, but this study puts detailed science under the practice.
Biodiversity has been hypothesized to be of critical importance for the stability of natural ecosystems and their abilities to provide positive benefits such as oxygen production, soil genesis, and water detoxification to plant and animal communities, as well as to human society. Many of the efforts of conservation agencies around the world are driven by the assumption that this hypothesis is true. While theoretical studies and experiments using artificially created ecosystems have supported this claim, scientists have struggled for the last half-century to clearly isolate such an effect in the real world.
The scientists used data collected for this research by a global consortium, the Nutrient Network, from over a thousand grassland plots spanning five continents. Using recent advances in analytical methods, the group was able to isolate the biodiversity effect from the effects of other processes, including processes that can reduce diversity.
“The intensive collaborative data collection by scientists around the world — work coordinated by a few of us at the University of Minnesota — allowed us to push forward the boundaries of knowledge about ecosystems and global biodiversity,” says Elizabeth Borer, an associate professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior (EEB) at the University of Minnesota where the Nutrient Network is based. Borer launched the ecology research project with EEB colleague Eric Seabloom, which received support from the U of M’s Institute on the Environment and Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve ecology field research station.
According to Debra Willard, Coordinator for the USGS Climate Research & Development Program, “These results suggest that if climate change leads to reduced species or genetic diversity, which is a real possibility, that then could lead to a reduced capacity for ecosystems to respond to additional stresses.”
As an indication of the global awareness of this issue, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (the IPBES) was recently created to help policymakers understand and address problems stemming from the global loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems.
The article, “Integrative modeling reveals mechanisms linking productivity and plant species richness,” is available online at Nature, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/nature16524.
Organic Meat, Milk Have Clear Advantages
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Two important new scientific papers have been released from Newcastle University in the UK that show a clear health advantage to choosing organic milk and meat, The Organic Center reports.
The papers, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, show organic milk and meat contain about 50 percent higher levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally produced products. They also show that organic meat had lower concentrations of two saturated fats, and that organic milk and dairy products contain 40 percent more of the heart-healthy conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than their conventional counterparts. Organic milk also was found to have beneficial increases in nutritional minerals and antioxidants, including higher concentrations of iron, vitamin E, selenium, and carotenoids.
While several other studies have supported the benefits of organic milk and meat, these publications are ground-breaking. They are the first to utilize state-of-the-art meta-analysis techniques, and are the most comprehensive reviews ever conducted on these topics, drawing upon 196 papers on milk and 67 papers on meat from around the world.
Two members of The Organic Center’s Advisory Board — Dr. Carlo Leifert, Professor of Ecological Agriculture at Newcastle University and Dr. Charles Benbrook, agricultural economist – were among the 25 co-authors of these studies. Leifert, who led the project, said this work builds on the team’s previous studies finding that organic crops have up to 60 percent higher antioxidant levels than conventionally-grown crops, and concluded: “Taken together, the three studies on crops, meat and milk suggest that a switch to organic fruit, vegetables, meat, and dairy products would provide significantly higher amounts of dietary antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.”
FEDERAL INVESTIGATION UNDERWAY FOR CHIPOTLE SABOTAGE
On Monday, February 8, 2016, Chipotle’s 2,000 restaurants closed their doors for the day to customers, in order to hold special employee meetings regarding last year’s outbreak of E. coli, a bacteria often associated with food poisoning, Bart Sibrel, an investigative journalist, reports.
Last year Chipotle was the first restaurant chain to announce that it would phase out the use of genetically modified foods (GMOs). Shortly thereafter, and quite mysteriously, an E. coli outbreak was reported, across 14 states, from Washington to Pennsylvania, and only in Chipotle restaurants. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the odds of an E. coli outbreak crossing a single state line is only three percent, as restaurants generally buy their produce and meat regionally for freshness. The likelihood of an E. coli outbreak crossing 14 state lines, coast to coast, is probably a small fraction of one percent. Additionally, as many restaurant chains use produce and meat from the same sources, it is probably a fraction of a fraction of one percent that such a nationwide E. coli outbreak would only effect one restaurant and not any others.
After six months of thorough investigation by the Food and Drug Administration, the CDC, 14 state and local Health Departments, as well as scientists hired by Chipotle themselves, all have independently concluded that there is not a single traceable source of E. coli from any Chipotle restaurant, in any food ingredient, preparatory surface, or piece of equipment. Literally thousands of individual tests were conducted on the all the foods, on all the kitchen surfaces, and on all the appliances at the suspect Chipotles, and no trace whatsoever of E. coli was found in any restaurant or food ingredient. The C.D.C. being unable to trace the source of a restaurant’s food poisoning, after thousands of tests and half a year of effort, has never happened before in the entire history of the organization.
A federal criminal probe is now underway to investigate the sabotage of Chipotle’s reputation and stock deflation through the deliberate planting of laboratory bred E. coli bacteria onto their customer’s food.
WHAT THE BIOTECH INDUSTRY IS REALLY SAYING TO YOU
Senator Pat Roberts, a Republican from Kansas, dropped Monsanto’s dream bill in the Senate hopper two days ago. The bill ostensibly insures that all GMO labeling laws will be consistent from state to state, because it outlaws states from passing their own labeling laws. As you know, Vermont has passed a law requiring food containing GMOs to be so labeled. Monsanto’s dream bill would negate that law.
Instead, Monsanto and the rest of the biotech industry are pushing to have GMO labeling buried in a QR code on the package. You would have to take a picture of the QR code with your smart phone and then plow through whatever boilerplate shows up to try to find out whether your food contains GMOs. In other words, every time you buy anything with a label, you’d have to do this high-tech dance to find out whether the food has GMOs in it.
Oh, the backers of this farce sanctimoniously insist that making this labeling scheme consistent across the country protects consumers from the “confusion” that would erupt if labeling were a hodge-podge of state laws.
Really? All that’s required is for the label to say “Contains Genetically Modified Ingredients.” That’s it. Nothing confusing about it.
The Republican scheme, which labeling advocates call the DARK Act (Deny Americans the Right to Know), is an obvious sop to the biotech industry to prevent people from knowing what’s in their food. This whole mess is just a posture to cover up the corporate scheme, because if people knew that their food contains GMOs, almost all the very profitable junk food and processed crap in the supermarket would be left on the shelves. Almost all of that junk food contains corn and/or soybean products, and about 90 percent of those crops in the U.S. are genetically modified to withstand Monsanto’s Roundup or to produce insecticide in their tissues.
So what is corporate America—Big Ag, Big Biotech, Big Food—really saying to us? Please excuse my French, but the salt in this language accurately reflects their attitude. Here’s what they are really telling you:
“Fuck you America. Like Bogey said in The Maltese Falcon when he was slapping Peter Lorre around, ‘You’ll take it and you’ll like it.’ We sell you cancer-causing, disease-creating crap that we fill with sugar, fat, and chemicals so you’ll think it’s tasty. And you’re so fucking dumb that you give us your money for it. Now you want to know what’s in your food? Well, screw you. Now shut up and go eat another Twinky. And wash it down with Coke.”
YES, WE CAN FEED THE WORLD WITH SUSTAINABLE ORGANIC AGRICULTURE
Washington State University researchers have concluded that feeding a growing global population with sustainability goals in mind is possible. Their review of hundreds of published studies provides evidence that organic farming can produce sufficient yields, be profitable for farmers, protect and improve the environment, and be safer for farm workers.
The review study, “Organic Agriculture in the 21st Century,” is featured as the cover story for February issue of the journal Nature Plants and was authored by John Reganold, WSU regents professor of soil science and agroecology, and by doctoral candidate Jonathan Wachter. It is the first such study to analyze 40 years of science comparing organic and conventional agriculture across the four goals of sustainability identified by the National Academy of Sciences: productivity, economics, environment, and community well-being.
“Hundreds of scientific studies now show that organic ag should play a role in feeding the world” said Reganold. “Thirty years ago, there were just a couple handfuls of studies comparing organic agriculture with conventional. In the last 15 years, these kinds of studies have skyrocketed.”
Organic production currently accounts for only one percent of global agricultural land, despite rapid growth in the last two decades.
Critics have long argued that organic agriculture is inefficient, requiring more land to yield the same amount of food. Monsanto has predictably been saying that only its GMO-chemical agriculture can feed the world. Just recently, the old saying that “if we go to all-organic agriculture, half the world will starve” has been trotted out. But the review paper describes cases where organic yields were even higher than conventional farming yields.
“In severe drought conditions, which are expected to increase with climate change, organic farms have the potential to produce high yields because of the higher water-holding capacity of organically farmed soils,” Reganold said.
However, even when yields may be lower, organic agriculture is more profitable for farmers because consumers are willing to pay more. Higher prices can be justified as a way to compensate farmers for providing ecosystem services and avoiding environmental damage or external costs.
Numerous studies in the review also prove the environmental benefits of organic production. Overall, organic farms tend to store more soil carbon, have better soil quality, and reduce soil erosion. Organic agriculture also creates less soil and water pollution and lower greenhouse gas emissions. And it’s more energy efficient because it doesn’t rely on synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. It is also associated with greater biodiversity of plants, animals, insects, and microbes as well as genetic diversity. Biodiversity increases the services that nature provides like pollination and improves the ability of farming systems to adapt to changing conditions.
Reganold said that feeding the world is not only a matter of yield but also requires examining food waste and the distribution of food.
“If you look at calorie production per capita we’re producing more than enough food for 7 billion people now, but we waste 30 to 40 percent of it,” Reganold said. “It’s not just a matter of producing enough, but making agriculture environmentally friendly and making sure that food gets to those who need it.”
Reganold and Wachter suggest that what’s needed is a balance of systems, “a blend of organic and other innovative farming systems, including agroforestry, integrated farming, conservation agriculture, mixed crop/livestock and still undiscovered systems.”
Reganold and Wachter recommend policy changes to address the barriers that hinder the expansion of organic agriculture. Such hurdles include the costs of transitioning to organic certification, lack of access to labor and markets, and lack of appropriate infrastructure for storing and transporting food. Legal and financial tools are necessary to encourage the adoption of innovative, sustainable farming practices.
Citation: Reganold, John P. and Jonathan M. Wachter. Organic agriculture in the twenty-first century. Nature Plants. Vol. 2 (2016) DOI: 10.1038/NPLANTS.2015.221
FRANKENTREES TO REPLACE WILD FORESTS?
If the biotech industry has its way, 184 million acres of native forests around the world will be bulldozed down and replaced with plantations of genetically engineered (GE) trees, according to a report on Dr. Joseph Mercola’s website.
On these proposed GE tree plantations, there are essentially no other plants, insects, birds, or wildlife — just rows upon rows of cloned Frankentrees growing at accelerated rates on a crust of dead, lifeless soil above dwindling groundwater reserves.
Trees are being genetically engineered with unnatural characteristics, such as the ability to kill insects, tolerate colder temperatures, resist toxic chemicals, and grow faster — but these “advantages” come at an unacceptable price.
“Synthetic Forests” is a documentary exposing the truth about GE trees. In this short but hard-hitting film, leading scientists discuss the devastating and irreversible impacts of allowing GE trees into our global ecosystem.
Industry wants to market designer trees with a variety of traits that will increase their income-generating capacity — at least over the short-term. Trees have varying degrees of commercial value, depending on their characteristics, as well as how quickly they can be harvested.
For example, some trees like the fast-growing Eucalyptus are being engineered to grow even faster.
In collusion with the paper industry, trees are being engineered to have lower lignin, as this natural polymer must be removed from wood pulp before the pulp can be made into paper, which is an expensive part of the process.
The problem is, lignin is what gives trees their structural integrity — it’s what allows trees to stand strong in wind and other harsh weather conditions, and to withstand diseases and damage from insect and animal browsing.
Low-lignin trees are weaker and less able to withstand these environmental stresses and do not optimally nourish important fungi once they are put back into the soil. Dead low-lignin trees also decompose faster, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere more quickly, which contributes to climate change.
The best thing for trees is to stop using them for paper. Paper doesn’t need to be made from wood pulp, because far more Earth-friendly materials exist, such as agricultural wastes, recycled material, hemp, tobacco, and even banana leaves.
BERNIE’S A RADICAL IN THE BEST SENSE OF THE WORD
Most Americans don’t understand as yet just how radical Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the presidency is.
While Hillary Clinton says that guaranteeing free medical care for all would destroy the gains we’ve made with the Affordable Care Act, in fact the Affordable Care Act keeps insurance companies firmly in control of the money flow of the medical system.
Bernie, however, is entirely up front about his campaign, calling it a new American revolution to take back our country from the oligarchs, the corporations, and the top two percent of the wealthiest people who have more money than the poorest 50 percent of the people in this country. He’d institute Medicare for all, like every other country in the first world and many in the second and third worlds.
If Bernie wins, what might that mean for the organic community—those people who want to see the environmentally-sound principles of the organic farming and gardening movement applied as widely as possible: renewable energy, protection of the environment, humane care for farm animals, an end to chemical pollution from agricultural pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and antibiotics—and all the other corporate practices that foul our world’s ecology, our social life, our economic life, and our political life?
This is what Bernie Sanders is driving at. Democratic socialism such as practiced in Denmark? You bet. Denmark just announced a plan to make all farming in that country organic. What’s wrong with that? Or would we rather see the fat cats of Wall Street, Big Ag, Big Pharma, Biotech, and all the other mega-greedy institutions of our modern life continue to sweep up all the wealth so they can eat caviar while we eat McDonald’s?
Remember what caused the French Revolution, when the royalty drove over the poor wretches in the streets of Paris, when the complaint that there was no bread was met with the response, “Let them eat cake.” (I know Marie Antoinette supposedly never said it, but that was the prevailing attitude of royalty.)
In our time, we witness war profiteers, torturers, financial criminals, plotters and schemers, poisoners, killer cops, and more go unindicted and unpunished while the poor fill our jails. We have reached the point in this country when the metaphorical Bastille should be pulled open. Our ire is up. There’s no going back.
We are being led by a rumpled, squint-eyed grandpa who sees it like it is and tells it like it is, and has been doing so for decades. We need to Feel the Bern so the top 2 percent finally feels the burn. Instead of “I got mine. You go get yours,” Bernie’s saying, “We’re all in this together. Let’s act like it.” That’s radical.
NEONICS NOT ONLY KILL BEES, THEY WREAK HAVOC ON ECOSYSTEMS
An influential European scientific body said on Wednesday that a group of pesticides believed to contribute to mass deaths of honeybees is probably more damaging to ecosystems than previously thought and questioned whether the substances have a place in agriculture.
The finding could have repercussions on both sides of the Atlantic for the companies that produce the chemicals, which are known as neonicotinoids because of their chemical similarity to nicotine. Global sales of the chemicals reach into the billions of dollars.
The European Commission in 2013 banned the use of three neonicotinoids — clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam — on flowering plants after a separate body, the European Food Safety Authority, found that exposure to the chemicals created “high acute risks” to bees.
But the chemicals continue to be employed on an industrial scale in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing their use after President Obama last year established a national Pollinator Health Task Force to help address concerns about so-called colony collapse disorder, a not fully understood phenomenon that has devastated commercial apiaries.
Pesticides are thought to be only one part of the widespread deaths of bees, however. Other factors are believed to include varroa destructor mites, viruses, fungi, and poor nutrition.
Two of the main producers of neonicotinoids — Syngenta, a Swiss biochemical company, and the German company Bayer CropScience — have sued the European Commission in an effort to overturn the ban, saying it is not supported by the science. That legal case is still pending.
Research has been directed largely at the effects of neonicotinoids on honeybees, but that focus “has distorted the debate,” according to the report released on Wednesday by the European Academies Science Advisory Council.
The council is an independent body composed of representatives from the national science academies of European Union member states. The European ban is up for review this year, and the council’s report, based on the examination of more than 100 peer-reviewed papers that were published since the food safety agency’s finding, was prepared to provide officials with recommendations on how to proceed.
A growing body of evidence shows that the widespread use of the pesticides “has severe effects on a range of organisms that provide ecosystem services like pollination and natural pest control, as well as on biodiversity,” the report’s authors said.
Predatory insects like parasitic wasps and ladybugs provide billions of dollars’ worth of insect control, they noted, and organisms like earthworms contribute billions more through improved soil productivity. All are harmed by the pesticides.
The report found that many farmers have adopted a preventive approach to insect control, soaking their seeds in the pesticides, a method that releases most of the chemicals directly into the environment. They said a farming approach known as integrated pest management, which takes a more natural approach to insect control, would allow for a sharp decrease in their use.
The authors were critical of studies of neonicotinoids on bee health that tested the insects’ ability to survive a single exposure to a given quantity of pesticide dust; they noted that the effect of the chemicals is cumulative and irreversible, meaning that repeated sublethal doses will eventually be deadly if a certain threshold is passed.
Considering the broad impact of the pesticides, they said, “The question is raised as to what extent widespread use of the neonicotinoids is compatible with the objectives of sustainable agriculture.”
Utz Klages, a spokesman for Bayer CropScience, said on Wednesday that the company stood by its position that its neonicotinoid products “can be used safely if they’re used according to the label.”
A European industry group to which Bayer CropScience and Sygenta belong sought on Wednesday to rebut the study, describing it as a “biased report.”
“This is not new research or even a meaningful review of all the studies available,” Jean-Charles Bocquet, director general of the European Crop Protection Association, said in a statement. “Rather, it is a misleading and very selective reading of some of the literature, especially from organizations well known for their opposition to neonicotinoids.”
The restrictive approach used by European regulators contrasts with the more lenient stance of United States regulators. In March, American opponents of neonicotinoid use delivered more than four million signatures to the White House calling for stronger action to protect pollinators.
The E.P.A. last week warned pesticide makers that it was unlikely to approve new uses for the class of pesticides “until new bee data have been submitted and pollinator risk assessments are complete.”
But critics say the E.P.A.’s interim policy is rife with loopholes, allowing continued use of existing products for approved applications, for example. They also criticized the agency for not halting the approval of some products that are chemically quite similar to neonicotinoids but classified differently for regulatory purposes.
A temporary ban on new uses “is going to have a negligible impact,” said Larissa Walker, director of a bee-protection campaign at the Center for Food Safety, an environmental advocacy group in Washington. “They really need to look at the bigger picture. They should prohibit all future registrations for all systemic pesticides.”
Pollination — the transfer of pollen from one flower to another, typically by wind, bug, or bird — is essential to the global food supply. An estimated 75 percent of all traded crops, including apples, soybeans and corn, depend on pollination.
Neonicotinoids are absorbed by a plant so that the neurotoxic poison spreads throughout its tissues, including the sap, nectar and pollen. Far more deadly to insects than to mammals, they do not discriminate between harmful pests and beneficial pollinators.
But the pesticides are also among the most effective insecticides available to farmers. Proponents argue that they are essential to food security, and note that many of the chemicals they replaced were worse in important respects.
HOUSE PASSES BILL TO END NUTRITIONAL LABELING OF FOOD
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) issued the following statement Friday on House passage of H.R. 2017, sponsored by Rep. Cathy Rodgers (R-WA) the so-called Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, arguing that it’s just too expensive to inform consumers about the nutritional value of its food.
“The government should not be placing more harmful barriers in the way of hardworking small businesses. This important legislation would roll back the FDA’s burdensome menu labeling rule, giving American restaurants, grocery and convenient stores the flexibility they need to be successful. I commend Cathy for her work on this measure.”
Right. Calories? Who cares? Never more, if congressional Republicans get their way, will restaurant, convenience store, grocery store, and pizzeria chains, have to tell you the nutritional value of what you’re eating. If you’re on a diet-–especially when it is a medically necessary diet to keep you alive-–you’ll just have to take your chances. (You might want to read again the concluding paragraph of the item titled, “What the Biotech Industry Is Really Telling You” posted above.)
This is not about small businesses. There is not even a pretense that this is not a giveaway to big corporations who want to rake in profits at your expense.
Paul Ryan argues it’s only “common sense” that Americans don’t need to know the nutritional value of the food they’re eating. Apparently, being able to make your own choices is “burdensome.” But what else to expect from a party that thinks even having access to healthcare is burdensome.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) claimed in defense of this nonsensical piece of legislation that, “We have a classic example of the administration overreaching with a top-down, big government approach.”
Because a top-down, big corporation approach is so much better.
10 Things You Don’t Know about the Flint Water Crisis
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The following was written on January 30, 2016, by filmmaker Michael Moore, a native of Flint, Michigan, and was published in Reader Supported News. I include it in this site about organic food and lifestyle because it perfectly shows what happens when the welfare of people and the environment—the beating heart of the organic movement—is ignored. Here’s Michael’s article. Be prepared to feel sick to your stomach.
News of the poisoned water crisis in Flint has reached a wide audience around the world. The basics are now known: the Republican governor, Rick Snyder, nullified the free elections in Flint, deposed the mayor and city council, then appointed his own man to run the city. To save money, they decided to unhook the people of Flint from their fresh water drinking source, Lake Huron, and instead, make the public drink from the toxic Flint River. When the governor’s office discovered just how toxic the water was, they decided to keep quiet about it and covered up the extent of the damage being done to Flint’s residents, most notably the lead affecting the children, causing irreversible and permanent brain damage. Citizen activists uncovered these actions, and the governor now faces growing cries to resign or be arrested.
Here are 10 things that you probably don’t know about this crisis because the media, having come to the story so late, can only process so much. But if you live in Flint or the State of Michigan as I do, you know all too well that what the greater public has been told only scratches the surface.
1. While the Children in Flint Were Given Poisoned Water to Drink, General Motors Was Given a Special Hookup to the Clean Water.
A few months after Governor Snyder removed Flint from the clean fresh water we had been drinking for decades, the brass from General Motors went to him and complained that the Flint River water was causing their car parts to corrode when being washed on the assembly line. The Governor was appalled to hear that GM property was being damaged, so he jumped through a number of hoops and quietly spent $440,000 to hook GM back up to the Lake Huron water, while keeping the rest of Flint on the Flint River water. Which means that while the children in Flint were drinking lead-filled water, there was one — and only one — address in Flint that got clean water: the GM factory.
2. For Just $100 a Day, This Crisis Could’ve Been Prevented.
Federal law requires that water systems which are sent through lead pipes must contain an additive that seals the lead into the pipe and prevents it from leaching into the water. Someone at the beginning suggested to the Governor that they add this anti-corrosive element to the water coming out of the Flint River. “How much would that cost?” came the question. “$100 a day for three months,” was the answer. I guess that was too much, so, in order to save $9,000, the state government said f*** it — and as a result the State may now end up having to pay upwards of $1.5 billion to fix the mess.
3. There’s More Than the Lead in Flint’s Water.
In addition to exposing every child in the city of Flint to lead poisoning on a daily basis, there appears to be a number of other diseases we may be hearing about in the months ahead. The number of cases in Flint of Legionnaires Disease has increased tenfold since the switch to the river water. Eighty-seven people have come down with it, and at least ten have died. In the five years before the river water, not a single person in Flint had died of Legionnaires Disease. Doctors are now discovering that another half-dozen toxins are being found in the blood of Flint’s citizens, causing concern that there are other health catastrophes which may soon come to light.
4. People’s Homes in Flint Are Now Worth Nothing Because They Can’t Be Sold.
Would you buy a house in Flint right now? Who would? So every homeowner in Flint is stuck with a house that’s now worth nothing. That’s a total home value of $2.4 billion down the economic drain. People in Flint, one of the poorest cities in the U.S., don’t have much to their name, and for many their only asset is their home. So, in addition to being poisoned, they have now a net worth of zero. (And as for employment, who is going to move jobs or start a company in Flint under these conditions? No one.) Has Flint’s future just been flushed down that river?
5. While They Were Being Poisoned, They Were Also Being Bombed.
Here’s a story which has received little or no coverage outside of Flint. During these two years of water contamination, residents in Flint have had to contend with a decision made by the Pentagon to use Flint for target practice. Literally. Actual unannounced military exercises – complete with live ammo and explosives – were conducted last year inside the city of Flint. The army decided to practice urban warfare on Flint, making use of the thousands of abandoned homes which they could drop bombs on. Streets with dilapidated homes had rocket-propelled grenades fired upon them. For weeks, an undisclosed number of army troops pretended Flint was Baghdad or Damascus and basically had at it. It sounded as if the city was under attack from an invading army or from terrorists. People were shocked this could be going on in their neighborhoods. Wait – did I say “people?” I meant, Flint people. As with the Governor, it was OK to abuse a community that held no political power or money to fight back. BOOM!
6. The Wife of the Governor’s Chief of Staff Is a Spokeswoman for Nestle, Michigan’s Largest Owner of Private Water Reserves.
As Deep Throat told Woodward and Bernstein: “Follow the money.” Snyder’s chief of staff throughout the two years of Flint’s poisoning, Dennis Muchmore, was intimately involved in all the decisions regarding Flint. His wife is Deb Muchmore, who just happens to be the spokesperson in Michigan for the Nestle Company – the largest owner of private water sources in the State of Michigan. Nestle has been repeatedly sued in northern Michigan for the 200 gallons of fresh water per minute it sucks from out of the ground and bottles for sale as their Ice Mountain brand of bottled spring water. The Muchmores have a personal interest in seeing to it that Nestles grabs as much of Michigan’s clean water was possible – especially when cities like Flint in the future are going to need that Ice Mountain.
7. In Michigan, from Flint water to Crime and Murder to GM Ignition Switches, It’s a Culture of Death.
It’s not just the water that was recklessly used to put people’s lives in jeopardy. There are many things that happen in Flint that would give one the impression that there is a low value placed on human life. Flint has one of the worst murder and crime rates in the country. Just for context, if New York City had the same murder rate as Flint, Michigan, the number of people murdered last year in New York would have been almost 4,000 people – instead of the actual 340 who were killed in NYC in 2015. But it’s not just street crime that makes one wonder about what is going on in Michigan. Last year, it was revealed that, once again, one of Detroit’s automakers had put profit ahead of people’s lives. General Motors learned that it had installed faulty ignition switches in many of its cars. Instead of simply fixing the problem, mid-management staff covered it up from the public. The auto industry has a history of weighing the costs of whether it’s cheaper to spend the money to fix the defect in millions of cars or to simply pay off a bunch of lawsuits filed by the victims surviving family members. Does a cynical, arrogant culture like this make it easy for a former corporate CEO, now Governor, turn a blind eye to the lead that is discovered in a municipality’s drinking water?
8. Don’t Call It “Detroit Water” — It’s the Largest Source of Fresh Drinking Water in the World.
The media keeps saying Flint was using “Detroit’s water.” It is only filtered and treated at the Detroit Water Plant. The water itself comes from Lake Huron, the third largest body of fresh water in the world. It is a glacial lake formed over 10,000 years ago during the last Ice Age and it is still fed by pure underground springs. Flint is geographically the last place on Earth where one should be drinking poisoned water.
9. ALL the Children Have Been Exposed, As Have All the Adults, Including Me.
That’s just a fact. If you have been in Flint anytime from April 2014 to today, and you’ve drunk the water, eaten food cooked with it, washed your clothes in it, taken a shower, brushed your teeth or eaten vegetables from someone’s garden, you’ve been exposed to and ingested its toxins. When the media says “9,000 children under 6 have been exposed,” that means ALL the children have been exposed because the total number of people under the age of 6 in Flint is… 9,000! The media should just say, “all.” When they say “47 children have tested positive”, that’s just those who drank the water in the last week or so. Lead enters the body and does its damage to the brain immediately. It doesn’t stay in the blood stream for longer than a few days and you can’t detect it after a month. So when you hear “47 children,” that’s just those with an exposure in the last 48 hours. It’s really everyone.
10. This Was Done, Like So Many Things These Days, So the Rich Could Get a Big Tax Break.
When Governor Snyder took office in 2011, one of the first things he did was to get a multi-billion dollar tax break passed by the Republican legislature for the wealthy and for corporations. But with less tax revenues, that meant he had to start cutting costs. So, many things – schools, pensions, welfare, safe drinking water – were slashed. Then he invoked an executive privilege to take over cities (all of them majority black) by firing the mayors and city councils whom the local people had elected, and installing his cronies to act as “dictators” over these cities. Their mission? Cut services to save money so he could give the rich even more breaks. That’s where the idea of switching Flint to river water came from. To save $15 million! It was easy. Suspend democracy. Cut taxes for the rich. Make the poor drink toxic river water. And everybody’s happy.
Except those who were poisoned in the process. All 102,000 of them. In the richest country in the world.
NESTLE’S CHAIRMAN: HUMAN BEINGS DON’T HAVE A RIGHT TO WATER
What good is it to eat clean, wholesome, organic food if you don’t have clean, wholesome water to quench your thirst? Across the globe, the Nestlé corporation is pushing to privatize and control public water resources. We just found out that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s chief of staff is married to a Nestle spokeswoman—not an enviable position given the Flint water crisis. But what about the corporation itself? Let’s check in with Nestle Chairman of the Board Peter Brabeck on this topic to see what he has to say.
Brabeck, has explained his position on the human right to safe water this way: “One opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs, who bang on about declaring water a public right. That means as a human being you should have a right to water. That’s an extreme solution.”
Since that quote has gotten widespread attention, Brabeck has backtracked, but his company has not. Around the world, Nestlé is bullying communities into giving up control of their water. It’s time to tell Nestlé that we have a right to water and to stop locking up our resources.
At the World Water Forum in 2000, Nestlé successfully lobbied to stop water from being declared a universal right–declaring open season on local water resources by the multinational corporations looking to control them. For Nestlé, this means billions of dollars in profits. For the rest of us, it means paying up to 2,000 times more for drinking water because it comes from a plastic bottle rather than from a tap.
In countries around the world, Nestlé is promoting bottled water as a status symbol. As it pumps out fresh water at high volume, water tables sink and local wells become degraded. Safe water becomes a privilege for the wealthy and a necessity for poor people who fall deeper into poverty enriching companies like Nestle.
But clean water is a resource that should be available to all. It should be something we look after for the public good, to keep safe for generations, not something we pump out by billions of gallons to fuel short-term private profits. Nestlé thinks this opinion is “extreme,” but that’s simply a self-serving position to protect the obscene profits it realizes from the control, bottling, and sales of clean water under the Nestle label.
The bottom line is that wherever in the world there’s a significant source of clean, healthy water, there’s the Nestle Corporation, bottling it in plastic bottles and selling it to people who can least afford it. The corporation and its 1%ers grow rich while impoverished people grow poorer by paying 2,000 times more for water in plastic bottles than tap water guaranteed pure by enlightened municipal management and intelligent water infrastructure.
To say nothing of the vast island of floating plastic trash fouling the Pacific Ocean. Maybe Nestle should be forced to use some of its profits to clean up that mess.
CONSUMERS CHOOSE HEALTH OVER CONVENIENCE WHEN BUYING FOOD
Food Business News reports that price, taste, and convenience hold less sway over consumer purchasing decisions than health, wellness, safety, social impact, quality of experience, and transparency, forcing food and beverage manufacturers and marketers to adapt.
“Contrary to conventional wisdom, it’s not just the millennials or most affluent putting these evolving drivers in the mix,” said Jack Ringquist, a principal with Deloitte Consulting L.L.P. and global consumer products leader for the company. “Our research reveals that the preference for these attributes does not differ by generation, income level or region, but is pervasive across these groups. The U.S. consumer has changed in a fundamental and impactful way, and people’s preferences are becoming even more fragmented than the food industry may have anticipated.”
The research included a survey of 5,000 U.S. consumers and interviews with food and beverage industry executives from 40 companies. A report about the research effort titled “Capitalizing on the shifting consumer food value equation” was released Jan. 25.
Adding to the complexity of the new environment food manufacturers and marketers face is how consumers define each of the emerging purchasing influences. Health and wellness, for example, is no longer strictly associated with health and nutrition. It includes organic production, natural ingredients, and fewer ingredients perceived as artificial, according to the report. The situation is similar with the topic of safety, which applies to such product attributes as an absence of allergens and fewer ingredients as well as complete and accurate labeling.
Social impact relates to local sourcing, sustainability, animal welfare, and fair treatment of employees. Experience includes retail store layout and service as well as brand interaction and personalized engagement spanning pre-, during and post-purchase.
The study identified transparency as an “overarching” influence that includes such attributes as clear labeling, certification by trusted third parties and the access and trust of manufacturers.
Those consumers most susceptible to be influenced by the new drivers are those who are actively engaged in social media and digital channel use. The tools have disrupted the traditional reliance of manufacturers and retailers on traditional communication and marketing efforts, according to the company.
As a result of the emerging purchasing influences, the report predicts consumer tastes and preferences will continue to fragment, the retailer’s role in influencing purchases will continue to grow, smaller and newer companies will remain competitive as they leverage new technologies to earn consumer trust, and market success will be determined by those companies that can build purpose-driven competitive advantages.
Of concern to larger food companies is the level of distrust consumers have for such businesses. A social media survey conducted by Deloitte in 2014 found that consumers are 3.4 times more likely to have negative perceptions about food companies than larger companies in other industries.
“The tendency toward distrust appears particularly true of millennials,” the report said. “According to a recent Mintel report, 40 percent of U.S. millennials agree they do not trust large food manufacturers compared to just 18 percent of non-millennials. Concerns with trust were overwhelmingly reflected during our interviews with food and beverage industry executives who say the issue of trust represents a growing challenge.”
PESTICIDE CONTAMINATION FOUND IN WATER, SEDIMENT, AND FISH
A recent study published in Environmental Monitoring and Assessment assessed the health risk to humans of waters contaminated with pesticides. Researchers quantified the levels of contamination in water, sediment, and fish for six different pesticides including endosulfan, carbofuran, cypermethrin, profenofos, triazophos, and deltamethrin. “The concentrations of endosulfan, carbofuran and deltamethrin were higher than the permissible limits for fish set by international agencies, and pose a potential ecological risk to the aquatic ecosystem and a consequent hazard to human health,” the authors reported.
A study published in the journal NeuroToxicology has found that prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos is linked to tremors in childhood and may indicate a negative effect on the nervous system. Results of the study suggest that children who were exposed to higher levels of the pesticide before birth were more likely to exhibit tremors. “This report adds to the body of evidence suggesting that prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos, at current standard usage levels, is associated with a range of persistent and inter-related developmental problems,” the authors conclude.
A study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine has found that chronic exposure to specific pesticides is associated with end-stage renal disease in licensed pesticide applicators. Use of the herbicides alachlor, atrazine, metolachlor, paraquat, and pendimethalin as well as the insecticide permethrin were all associated with end-stage renal disease. “Our findings support an association between end-stage renal disease and chronic exposure to specific pesticides, and suggest pesticide exposures resulting in medical visits may increase the risk of end-stage renal disease,” the authors conclude.
A new study published in Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety sought to address the impact of pesticide exposure on aquatic wildlife by assessing the impact that exposure to atrazine, chlorpyrifos and the two insecticides combined have on common carp. In laboratory experiments, the fish were exposed to insecticides and then allowed to recover in clean water. Results suggest that pesticide exposure has negative health effects and that breakdown and removal of the chemicals in fish is a long-term process.
MONSANTO TRIES TO WIGGLE AROUND EU’S GMO RULES
The biotechnology industry, including Monsanto, is launching an assault on food and consumer safety in Europe by pushing new breeding techniques in order to circumvent the strict EU regulation on food products, according to a new report by the Corporate Europe Observatory.
“New genetic engineering technique that have emerged since Europe’s GMO law was introduced in 2001, are currently being applied by developers to food crops, trees, farm animals, and insects,” the report states. “If the industry lobby campaign is successful, new GM organisms and foods … could enter the environment and the food chain untested, untraceable and unlabeled.”
The European Commission is currently considering a list of new GM techniques, including oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis; zinc finger nuclease technology; cisgenesis and intragenesis; grafting; agroinfiltration; RNA-dependent DNA methylation (RdDM); and reverse breeding. The report argues that, like kids trying to manipulate their parents, companies specializing in genetic modification are resorting to calling their products “chocolate” rather than “candy” in a bid to fly under the EU regulators’ radar.
The CEO warns, “Dozens of patents have already been filed in this field by the big agrochemical corporations like Bayer, BASF, Dow Agrosciences, and Monsanto.”
In fact, the companies’ argument that these are not genetic modification techniques but “New Breeding Techniques,” was masterminded by Dutch lobby and public relations firm Schuttelaar & Partners. The same firm in 1995 was hired by Monsanto to secure a smooth introduction for the first imports of a GM crop—Monsanto’s herbicide-tolerant Roundup Ready soy—to Europe, according to the CEO report.
On the New Breeding Techniques Platform website, it explains that “most” NBT products would not currently be considered genetically modified organisms under EU law.
How likely is this tactic to work? The EC ruling is due in March, but there is additional pressure other than the biotech lobby, CEO reports.
“The ongoing negotiations around the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are an additional source of political pressure on European decision makers. In this context, industry lobby groups … (are) claiming that the innovative nature and competitiveness of the European plant breeding (read: biotech) sector is at stake.”
The directorate-general for Health and Food Safety in Europe has already publicly stated that “some will be pleased, others disappointed,” according to the CEO, indicating that at least one, perhaps more, but not all of the new techniques will escape regulation as a result of the Commission’s decision.
“If true this would—no matter how many techniques are concerned—be a serious attack on food and environmental safety, consumer choice and transparency in the food chain,” the CEO summarizes.