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NY Times Reports Doubts about GMOs

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Danny Hakimoct of The New York Times has investigated GMOs and began his article on the front page of October 29 this way:

“The controversy over genetically modified crops has long focused on largely unsubstantiated fears that they are unsafe to eat. But an extensive examination by The New York Times indicates that the debate has missed a more basic problem — genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides.

“The promise of genetic modification was twofold: By making crops immune to the effects of weedkillers and inherently resistant to many pests, they would grow so robustly that they would become indispensable to feeding the world’s growing population, while also requiring fewer applications of sprayed pesticides.

“Twenty years ago, Europe largely rejected genetic modification at the same time the United States and Canada were embracing it. Comparing results on the two continents, using independent data as well as academic and industry research, shows how the technology has fallen short of the promise. Europe did not embrace the technology, yet it has achieved increases in yield and decreases in pesticide use on a par with, or even better than, the United States, where genetically modified crops are widely grown.

“An analysis by The Times using United Nations data showed that the United States and Canada have gained no discernible advantage in yields — food per acre — when measured against Western Europe, a region with comparably modernized agricultural producers like France and Germany. Also, a recent National Academy of Sciences report found that “there was little evidence” that the introduction of genetically modified crops in the United States had led to yield gains beyond those seen in conventional crops.

“At the same time, herbicide use has increased in the United States, even as major crops like corn, soybeans and cotton have been converted to GMO varieties. And the United States has fallen behind Europe’s biggest producer, France, in reducing the overall use of pesticides, which includes both herbicides and insecticides.

“One measure, contained in data from the United States Geological Survey, shows the stark difference in the use of pesticides. Since genetically modified crops were introduced in the United States two decades ago for crops like corn, cotton and soybeans, the use of toxins that kill insects and fungi has fallen by a third, but the spraying of herbicides, which are used in much higher volumes, has risen by 21 percent.

“By contrast, in France, use of insecticides and fungicides has fallen by a far greater percentage — 65 percent — and herbicide use has decreased as well, by 36 percent.
Profound differences over genetic engineering have split Americans and Europeans for decades. Although American protesters as far back as 1987 pulled up prototype potato plants, European anger at the idea of fooling with nature has been far more sustained.”

Although Hakimoct doesn’t mention it in these paragraphs, Monsanto is the corporation behind the introduction of GMO crops and is also the purveyor of glyphosate herbicide, which, as the report points out, has risen steeply in the United States since GMOs were introduced 20 years ago. Maybe that was the idea all along. If so, it’s a diabolically ingenious way to sell more herbicide.



On October 14-16, over a thousand activists, journalists and witnesses from around the world gathered in The Hague, Netherlands, headquarters of the International Court of Justice, to put Monsanto on trial for crimes against humanity and nature (“ecocide”), according to Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association.

Before a distinguished international panel of judges, 30 witnesses—including farmers, consumers, scientists, indigenous people, and former governmental officials—from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, North and South America, delivered detailed and shocking testimony on how Monsanto and its agribusiness accomplices have poisoned the environment and devastated public health.

Victims and witnesses described how, over the past 50 years, Monsanto has duped, assaulted, injured, and killed farmers, farmworkers, rural villagers, and urban consumers with its reckless use of toxic chemicals and pesticides (PCBs, DDT, Agent Orange, Dioxin, Roundup, 2,4D), and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). The insidious political clout and growing control over the world’s seeds and food by Monsanto and a new global agribusiness cartel constitute a serious, indeed catastrophic, threat to our health as well as to the health of our soils, watersheds, oceans, wetlands, forests and climate.

Monsanto’s chemical- and fossil fuel-intensive GMO crops (corn, soy, cotton, canola, sugar beets, eggplant, potatoes, alfalfa, and others) and the toxic pesticides used to grow them are now polluting 400 million acres in 28 nations, comprising almost 10 percent of the world’s croplands. As a result, GMO ingredients and pesticide residues now contaminate much, if not most, of the world’s (non-organic) processed foods, animal feed, meat, dairy and poultry. Meanwhile GMO soy and chemical-intensive palm oil plantations, commodities utilized for junk food, animal feed, cosmetics, and biofuels, are the primary driving forces of the tropical deforestation that threatens to smother the literal lungs of the planet, as well as most of the planet’s biodiversity.

From Sri Lanka, India, Argentina, Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa, and dozens of other nations, including the industrialized nations of the North, the same tragic, brutal, criminal, narrative emerged: Monsanto, aided and abetted by its shareholders and business allies, has deliberately poisoned people, communities and the environment in order to maximize profits. Meanwhile, indentured scientists, politicians and mass media—Monsanto’s minions—have done little or nothing to stop this mass homicide and ecocide.

For 20 years, Monsanto, with its army of lawyers and PR flacks, has spread lies in the mass media and scientific journals; intimidated or sued farmers and scientific critics, and infiltrated or bribed politicians, regulatory officials and academics.

As the Corporate Europe Observatory put it: “Corporations like Monsanto have limitless resources to buy political power through lobbying. Not only are they represented by numerous lobbying associations at every level from local to global, they also have an army of hired gun lobbyists, fund scientists to act as their mouthpiece, and participate in ‘greenwashing’ projects.’”

In addition, Monsanto has routinely carried out acts of biopiracy—robbing indigenous communities and traditional farmers of their knowledge, plants, and seeds and then patenting these life forms as their corporate “intellectual property.” Overturning or simply ignoring national laws, common law, farmer and consumer rights, and international trade and environmental norms, Monsanto and the other, now merging, chemical-biotech giants (Dow, Dupont, Syngenta, ChinaChem, Bayer, BASF) have essentially organized themselves into a powerful and monopolistic global cartel.

This Monsanto-led cartel, drawing comparisons to the Nazi I.G. Farben cartel of the 1930s and 40s, has managed to gain a certain degree of public, media and scientific acceptance by repeating its “big lies” over and over again in the mass media, including: (1) toxic industrial and agricultural chemicals are safe; (2) seeds and life forms can legitimately be patented and monopolized; (3) GMO crops use less pesticides and chemicals; (4) GMO crops are the only way to feed the world; (5) genetically engineered crops and trees and the chemicals sprayed or laced into them are climate friendly; and (6) Foods derived from GMOs are “substantially equivalent” to non-GMOs.

By destroying the health and livelihoods of literally millions of people, Monsanto has earned the dubious distinction of being the most hated corporation on Earth. No wonder the Biotech Bully of St. Louis is currently trying to change its name and bury the historical record of 115 years of crime and mayhem by merging with the giant chemical, biotech, and pharmaceutical giant, Bayer.

Monsanto refused to appear and testify at the Tribunal, despite being served with a citizens’ subpoena in St. Louis. But on December 10, the Tribunal judges plan to issue legal advisory opinions based upon international law, including the category of human rights violations that fall under the category of “ecocide.”

While the Monsanto Tribunal was busy putting the multinational corporation on trial under international law, a few miles away across the city, 500 global activists participated in the People’s Assembly, where they discussed how to further expose Monsanto and its industrial agriculture collaborators in the court of public opinion.

The Assembly held three days of interactive workshops on how to strengthen national and international public education, and how to use boycotts and marketplace pressure campaigns to undermine and destroy Monsanto’s profitability and eventually drive it (and companies like it) off the market. The People’s Assembly was organized and funded by a broad coalition of organizations including Regeneration International, Navdanya (a grassroots based organization in India founded by Vandana Shiva), IFOAM Organics, Organic Consumers Association, Biovision, Via Campesina, Corporate European Observatory, and others.

Ultimately the People’s Assembly agreed that we need to not only get rid of Monsanto, but the entire degenerative system of food, farming, and land use that is driving global warming, catastrophic droughts and floods, soil erosion, desertification, water shortages, mass biodiversity loss, rural poverty and war, and deteriorating public health.

Leading farmer and campaign activists around the world led the workshops on GMOs, pesticides, seeds, corporate accountability, agroecology, and regenerative agriculture. Sessions included: How to Ban GMOs Worldwide; Strategies and Campaigns to Ban Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals; Steps toward Seed Freedom and Struggles Against Unjust Seed Laws; How to Hold Transnational Corporations Responsible for their Acts; and How We Can Mitigate and Reverse Global Warming and Feed the World.

Here are some of the major strategy ideas that came out of the workshops and plenaries:

(1) Globalize the Struggle. There’s no way to bring the Monsanto and industrial agriculture cartel to heel without organizing and successfully carrying out powerful, global, strategically designed campaigns, both in the marketplace and in the realm of public policy.
Local and even national campaigns no longer suffice. For example, the mass destruction of the Amazon rainforest, the environment and public health currently taking place in South American countries such as Brazil, Paraguay, Colombia and Argentina, brought on by the out-of-control production of GMO soy and corn and the reckless use of pesticides such as Monsanto’s Roundup (glyphosate), Syngenta’s atrazine and paraquat, and Bayer’s glufosinate, can be stopped only by a global North-South campaign that strengthens resistance at home, but also shuts off market demand for these GMO animal feeds in the nations where they are exported.

South Americans cannot possibly stop the deadly production of these pesticide-intensive GMOs in their own countries without the support of activists and consumers in the countries (especially China and Europe) that are importing billions of dollars of these animal feeds for their domestic factory farm production of meat, dairy and poultry. If proper laboratory testing of these GMO animal feeds can be carried out, in combination with testing for the poisons that end up in the EU and China’s meat, dairy and poultry products that are derived from them, then a mass consumer boycott can possibly be organized. Reinforcing this marketplace pressure, groups can simultaneously press for laws requiring the labeling of meat and animal products derived from GMO- and pesticide-tainted feeds. Alongside these market-based campaigns we’ll need to continue our global effort to stop cartel-friendly Free Trade agreements such as the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), and to enact a global ban on GMO companion pesticides, such as Roundup/glyphosate.

(2) Globalize Hope. A recurrent theme at the People’s Assembly was the need to move beyond gloom and doom and to emphasize that regenerative food, farming, and land use (utilizing agro-ecology, organic, agro-forestry and holistic grazing techniques) not only can mitigate global warming, deteriorating public health, rural poverty, environmental destruction, and endless war, but actually reverse these trends. One of the lesser known positive developments in the world today is that 25-50 million farmers and ranchers (5-10 percent of all producers) are already practicing regenerative agriculture practices, sequestering massive amounts of excess carbon from the atmosphere and safely storing it in the soil, grasslands, forests, and wetlands through improved soil management, crop biodiversity, reforestation, and conservation. Strengthening this regenerative agriculture movement are hundreds of millions of conscious consumers who are starting to reject GMO and factory farmed foods and are choosing organic, grass-fed, local and regenerative foods instead.

(3) Connect the Dots. Coming out of the Monsanto Tribunal and People’s Assembly is a growing commitment among activists all over the world to move beyond language and cultural barriers, beyond national and continental borders, beyond single-issue campaigning, and to begin building a new 21st Century movement based on mutual solidarity and concrete cooperation in globally coordinated campaigns. Given the catastrophic consequences of “business as usual,” and continued domination by the global “1 percent,” we can no longer afford to operate as separate movements such as the anti-GMO movement, the organic movement, the Fair Trade movement, the economic justice movement, the climate movement, the forest movement, the ocean movement, and the anti-war movement. Nor can we operate as regional or national movements of farmers, workers, students and consumers.

We must connect the dots between interrelated issues and we must work together, from the local to the international level, with fellow leaders of the global grassroots who see the “big picture.” Harnessing the enormous power of the global grassroots, we can build a new diverse Regenerative Movement strong enough and inspirational enough to overturn the dictatorship of Monsanto and the global elite. Coming out of the Monsanto Tribunal and People’s Assembly at The Hague, there is a new sense of urgency and determination. A critical mass of grass roots people are ready to embark on this Long March of resistance, movement-building, and regeneration.



When Congress passed the landmark Organic Foods Production Act in 1990 it created the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) – the unique expert 15-member citizen’s body – to advise the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) about what is appropriate for organic production. The critical role of the NOSB is to protect the interests of the organic community from attacks by corporate lobbyists sent by Industrial Agriculture to water down organic integrity.

In a decisive vote in 2010, the NOSB voted not to allow Hydroponic Production – industrialized, artificial, soil-less production systems totally reliant on imported inputs – in organics. This was a courageous – and correct position – because it recognized and respected that for the one hundred years organic farming has been around it has always been a revolutionary system of food production based on growing in and improving the soil.

So central is soil to the foundational concept of organic that its very name – ‘Organic Farming’ – originates from the life-giving organic matter content of the soil, which organic farmers know to cherish and work hard to protect and increase. As organic consumers, we all understand that healthy food comes from healthy plants grown in healthy soil. Soil is and must forever be the foundation of organic farming.

Citizens have been outraged by the reckless actions of the USDA-NOP that, ignoring that major NOSB ruling against hydroponics, has allowed corporate hydroponic operations to have their production labeled ‘Certified Organic.’

Much of this fake “organic” hydroponic production is being imported from countries like Canada, Mexico, and Holland, and would not qualify for organic certification in much of the rest of the world, including some of the countries in which it is grown.

Even worse than the current efforts to undermine soil-based organic farming is a brand new effort by the corporate organic self-promoters at the Organic Trade Association (OTA) and UNFI (United Natural Foods Incorporated) announcing they want to consider new “gene editing” techniques to be allowed in organic food production. That’s right, the same people who sold us out on GMO labeling are now trying to sneak the latest genetic engineering techniques into organic standards.

In a September 22 blog earlier this year, OTA board member and UNFI lobbyist Melody Meyer wrote about allowing “gene editing,” a new form of genetic engineering, into organic standards-–a clear sign that the OTA and the corporate paymasters at UNFI want to include these new techniques over the objections of virtually all organic farmers and consumers.



While national attention is focused on the important North Dakota Pipeline protests by native people and earth justice activists, a similar battle for water and land is being led by native Hawaiians on Maui to take back power from Maui Council’s Monsanto-boosting majority.

A “Maui Ohana”(family) slate of nine native Hawaiians and grassroots housing and environmental activists are running in a historic election this November that may replace the Maui County Council’s pro-GMO majority and bring ecological stewardship of land and water to center stage across the islands.

Aina Protectors United leader Alika Atay speaks for the earth, his ancestors, and future generations when he says. “I am speaking for the land, for the water, for the children. Everything we do has a connection to the earth and our resources.

“Given our responsibility under Aloha Aina, we must stand up and protect. We have to look at the damage heavy chemical pesticides are doing to the soil and the aquifer. Not only what affects us now but more so the long-term future concerns. What kind of water will our future generations have to drink?”

That is the same question being asked by the Native Americans and earth activists who have converged near the banks of the Missouri River in North Dakota. The difference in Maui is that instead of protesting against the government, they stand a decent chance of becoming the government.

“We the people have the power,” Atay says. “We the people are going to make this change.”



The number of wild animals living on Earth is set to fall by two-thirds of its 1970 level by 2020, according to a new report, part of a mass extinction that is destroying the natural world upon which humanity depends. The Living Planet Index, compiled by researchers from World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London, shows that vertebrate populations are set to decline by 67 percent from 1970 levels unless urgent action is taken to reduce humanity’s impact.

The collapse of wildlife is, with climate change, the most striking sign of the Anthropocene, a proposed new geological era in which humans dominate the planet. Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF, said: “Lose biodiversity and the natural world and the life support systems as we know them today will collapse.”

I, Jeff Cox, have been learning and writing about health, wholeness, ecology, organics, and humanity’s reliance on the natural world since 1970. I can sum up what I’ve learned over these 46 years in one sentence:

The greater the biodiversity, the healthier the ecosystem.

So this report, if accurate, is sickeningly disturbing. The quality of human life is diminished with the disappearance of any species, great or small, and by the disappearance of the numbers of that species. For, as Shakespeare said, “Nought so vile that on the earth doth live, but to the earth some special good doth give.”