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Just Gimme Some Truth

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The email seems so innocent. It’s from “SafeFruitsandVeggies.com,” and the headline reads, “New Peer-Reviewed Paper Reinforces Including Fruits and Veggies in Holiday Meal Plans,” with the sub-head, “A Resource for Science Based Information about Pesticide Residues.” The peer-reviewed paper itself is entitled, “Estimation of Cancer Risks and Benefits Associated with a Potential Increased Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables,” and appeared in the December, 2012, issue of Food and Chemical Toxicology.

Who can argue with any of this? A peer-reviewed paper—wow. That means that food scientists have gone over the study and validated it as meeting the requirements of good science. And of course fruits and veggies are a big part of any healthy diet. And who doesn’t want his fruits and veggies to be safe? And the website is a resource for “science-based information” about pesticide residues. Well, what else could it be based on? Creationism? Snake handling?

Excuse me, but I’ve been reading the propaganda of the pesticide industry for decades and this smells like a rat to me—a pesticide-drenched, dead rat. So I looked a little further into this study. Here’s the “science based” conclusion: “The study concluded that an estimated 20,000 cancer cases could be prevented if half of all Americans increased their consumption of fruits and veggies by a single serving.” It did add that the single serving would cause at least 10 new cancer cases from pesticide residues on the produce, but concluded that the benefit-to-risk ratio was so heavily weighted toward the benefits that “Consumers should not be concerned about cancer risks from consuming conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.” Except, of course, for the unlucky 10 people who get cancer. And to be a valid scientific study, shouldn’t it also determine how many people get cancer from eating an organic extra serving? But there’s no data on that.

The peer-reviewed paper’s lead author is Richard Reiss of Exponent, a scientific and engineering consulting firm in Alexandria, Virginia. Here’s how the firm describes itself on its website: “When a major disaster strikes, the media is soon not far behind, and an affected client needs answers now. Our multidisciplinary team of scientists, physicians, engineers and business consultants will perform either in-depth scientific research and analysis, or very rapid-response evaluations, to provide our clients with the critical information they need.” Crises it has worked on include, ”The grounding of the Exxon Valdez, the walkway collapse at the Kansas City Hyatt, and the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.” And, dare I add, the encroachment of organic food on very lucrative agribusinesses around the world. In other words, this firm will sell you the lipstick to put on your pig.

So who is “SafeFruitsandVeggies.com?” I could find no citations for any such group, but on its website there is a button for “Ask the Experts.” If you click it, up comes a number of videos that you can launch, including one that asks the question, “Is organic farming better for the environment than conventional farming?” If you launch the video, you are shown a farmer called Rod Brags of Soledad, California, who claims to grow both organic and conventional produce. He tells you that because organic fields are fertilized with tons of fertilizer, and conventional fields are fertilized with just a few hundred pounds of chemicals, that there’s a real environmental cost to organic farming just for having to haul all that compost around, and that therefore conventional farming is better for the environment. Some of the other questions that the “experts” answer include, “Is organically grown produce a healthier choice than conventionally grown produce?” and “Should pregnant women be concerned about low levels of pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables?” And, as one would by now expect, the answer is no in both cases. In fact, the experts include people who are listed as authors of the peer-reviewed paper. One of them is Carl L. Keen of the Department of Nutrition and Internal Medicine at the University of California, Davis. According to this guy, not only should pregnant women not be concerned about pesticide residues, those folks pushing organic food are needlessly scaring pregnant women from eating more fruits and vegetables and therefore are harming their chances of having a positive birth outcome.

So—who is behind “SafeFruitsandVeggies.com”?

I found that the peer-reviewed paper was mostly paid for by the Alliance for Food and Farming. And who are they? Well, SourceWatch is a progressive organization that shines light on front groups to expose who is behind them. Here’s what SourceWatch had to say about the Alliance for Food and Farming: “The Alliance for Food and Farming acts as a front group for the fruit and vegetable industry, claiming the safety of numerous pesticides. According to its website, the group ‘was formed in 1989 and currently has a membership of approximately 50 agricultural groups representing a wide range of organizations including commodity boards, major farm groups and individual grower/shippers.’ It was registered as a non-profit in 1997 and therefore does not disclose its member organizations. In July, 2010, the Alliance for Food and Farming held a webinar and released a paper aiming to ‘debunk’ the Environmental Working Group’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ list of the most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables.”

Okay, so SafeFruitsandVeggies.com is a front for the Alliance for Food and Farming, which is a front for the agricultural pesticide and chemical industry. And who are the industry participants, who must not be named? Well, that “peer-reviewed and science based” paper touted on SafeFruitsandVeggies is not only supported by the Alliance for Food and Farming, but also by the Produce Marketing Association. Okay—so who is the Produce Marketing Association? I typed that name into SourceWatch’s search box, and up came “The Alliance for Better Foods.” Okay—so who is the Alliance for Better Foods? According to SourceWatch, “The Alliance for Better Foods was created to promote public acceptance and to oppose labelling of genetically modified foods. It is run by the Washington office of BSMG Worldwide, a full service PR firm whose clients include Monsanto, the Chemical Manufacturers Association, Procter & Gamble, Phillip Morris, and numerous other large food, chemical, and pharmaceutical corporations. On its website, the group states that it ‘supports biotechnology as a safe way to provide for a more abundant, nutritious, and higher quality food supply.’ The Alliance encourages fact-based discussion about development in plant biotechnology.”

And you know what’s fun? If you put the Alliance for Better Food into SourceWatch’s search box, up comes the “Alliance for Food and Farming.” Are you beginning to see a pattern here? This whole world of “science-based information” and “safe fruits and vegetables” and alliances for better food and farming, and all the rest…it’s all a Potemkin Village—false fronts fronting other false fronts, and all of them fronting Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, Bayer, Syngenta, the Chemical Manufacturers, the genetic engineers, the cigarette makers, the poisoners-for-profit worldwide.

The world of business is built on marketing, and marketing is built on shading and evading the truth, on hyperbole, and on false promise. Have you heard John Lennon singing, “All I want is some truth”? I think he was expressing his dismay at the manipulative imagery from all segments of human endeavor that fills our social space these days.

Oh, and by the way, the Alliance for Better Food is run by BSMG Worldwide, the full-service PR firm, also known as lobbyists for Big Ag who have the big shots in Washington stuffed into their pockets. Don’t believe me? I checked into BSMG Worldwide and associated PR and marketing firms, and even these firms are fronts for (you are not going to believe this) the Core Strategy Group.

And here we’ve arrived at the cold, dark heart of the agricultural-military-industrial-corporate-political complex that really runs not only America, but global corporatism and its political henchmen in countries around the world. Want a glimpse into this world? Put www.corestrategygroup.com into your search engine and hold onto your hats. The Group’s chairman is Scott Miller, who was a founder and president of Sawyer/Miller Group, an advertising and marketing firm whose clients include or have included Corazon Aquino, Vaclav Havel, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Miller Brewing, Boris Yeltsin, Drexel Burnham Lambert, Kim Dae Jung, Goldman-Sachs, Apple Computer, Virgilio Barco, USA for Africa/Hands Across America, Lech Walesa, and The Better World Foundation.

Sawyer/Miller also advised over 40 U.S. candidates for Governor or Senator and several Presidential campaigns. At Core Strategy Group, Miller has worked on developing communications, marketing, and branding strategies for clients like McDonalds, Verizon, CitiGroup, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Google, News Corp., The Tribune Company, Highfields Capital, Rio Tinto, Cox Newspapers, The Newspaper Association of America, Knight-Ridder, The Southern Company, The Home Depot, and The Walt Disney Company. He has also helped develop strategy for the successful political campaigns of Kim Dae Jung and Vicente Fox. In the 2004 U.S. election, Miller worked as a strategist for the Bush-Cheney campaign and the National Republican Senate Campaign Committee.

Notice the confluence of business and politics in the portfolio of this master advertising and PR wizard?

Do you see now why the public is so swamped with phony stories about how organic farming is bad for the environment and how warning pregnant women about the presence of pesticide residues in their food simply scares them away from eating properly, and as one headline in my local paper recently shouted: “Organic Food May Kill You.” This headline was written because of an article written by Dennis Avery of the right-wing Hudson Institute that began, “According to recent data compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, people who eat organic and natural foods are eight times as likely as the rest of the population to be attacked by a deadly new strain of E. coli bacteria.” However, according to Robert Tauxe, M.D., chief of the food borne and diarrheal diseases branch of the CDC, there is no such data on organic food production in existence at their centers and he says Avery’s claims are “absolutely not true.” Following in his father’s footsteps, Dennis Avery’s son Alex distorted a study from the Journal of Food Protection that showed that organic food does not contain more pathogens than conventionally grown, contrary to Avery’s claims. He instead declared that the study showed the opposite. Francisco Diez-Gonzalez, the study’s chief author and faculty member at the University of Minnesota, was not surprised to learn that the Hudson Institute, with its long record of support for and the backing of agribusiness giants like Monsanto and DuPont, was trying to use the independently funded University of Minnesota data to discredit organic farming.

It’s all baloney and it’s everywhere, fueled by as much money as it takes to accomplish the goal (see Prop 37 in California’s November, 2012, election where enough California citizens were lied to about the horrors of labelling GMO foods that the measure failed). A look at the Core Strategy Group’s website sums up its approach: “We play to win.”

Okay—but does the science based, peer-reviewed paper have any validity? It says that consumers shouldn’t be worried about pesticide residues on conventional fruits and vegetables and any possible link to cancer. Is it right about that? Let’s take a look at the science.

Many studies have examined the effects of pesticide exposure on the risk of cancer. Associations have been found with leukemia, lymphoma, brain, kidney, breast, prostate, pancreas, liver, lung, and skin cancers. Increased rates of cancer have been found among farm workers who apply these chemicals. A mother’s exposure to pesticides during pregnancy is associated with an increase in her child’s risk of leukemia, Wilms’ tumor, and brain cancer.

And it’s not only cancer. Pesticides can be mutagens, teratogens, and cause a wide range of neurological and developmental problems, especially affecting young children.

Concerns regarding conflicts of interest regarding the research base have also been raised. A number of researchers involved with pesticides have undisclosed ties to industry, including Richard Doll of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in England and Hans-Olov Adami of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

Hmmm. Undisclosed ties to industry. Kind of like the happy little report that encourages us to eat more fruits and vegetables and assures us that their contamination with pesticides won’t harm us at all, because of studies that are peer-reviewed and science based—not like those airy-fairy people who worry that conventional produce may be poisoning us.

But here’s the question: Does free speech include the right to pursue a hidden, corporate, profit-oriented agenda behind a smokescreen of innocuous or actively false information designed to lull people into believing these lies? Should propaganda that’s part of a hidden and destructive agenda be allowed into the serious marketplace of ideas? Should corporations be allowed to trick the public into believing information that is not in its interest, and in fact, is designed to feather the corporations’ nests even if it harms the public and the environment? Is every form of trickery and chicanery okay, whether it’s ethical and moral or not—and let the public beware or pay the consequences? We have truth in advertising laws, shouldn’t we require truth in propaganda—or does propaganda actually exist to bend the truth toward the entity paying the propagandists?

My personal feeling is that free speech, unless it–as Justices Holmes and Brandeis said–poses a “clear and present danger” to the public weal, is inviolable. But aren’t toxic chemicals on conventional fruits and vegetables, genetically modified organisms, routine antibiotics in meat, Monsanto’s hormones in milk, and all the rest of it dangerous? Consider: ever heard of the drugs oestradiol-17, zeranol, trenbolone acetate and melengestrol acetate? Probably not. That’s because conventional meat producers aren’t required to tell you that these synthetic growth hormones–linked to increased risk of breast and prostate cancers in humans–are routinely injected or implanted into animals raised for meat in the U.S. The European Commission has banned the use of these drugs in animals raised for human consumption in Europe, and forbids the import of meat containing these hormones from the US. But here in this country? The FDA not only allows these and other antibiotics and hormones to be routinely injected, implanted, or laced into farm or feedlot animals raised for meat, dairy, or eggs, but it also doesn’t require meat producers to tell you which drugs they use, or in what quantities. Isn’t that a clear and present danger to our health?

Ah—but there can never be answers to this question because double blind studies—true scientific studies—would require that one group of people be fed pesticide-laden conventional foodstuffs while a second group is fed organic food. And that would be unethical because the conventional food group would be put at risk of developing those cancers and other diseases that corporate propaganda says don’t exist. And so we must rely on studies of mice and rats, and as the corporate propagandists always end up saying, “Rats and mice aren’t people, and you can’t extrapolate results from one species to another.”

I guess the only answer is that we have to rely on the good will and truthfulness of Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, Syngenta, BASF, Archer-Daniels-Midlands, Cargill, General Mills, the Grocery Manufacturers of America, Phillip Morris, Pepsi, the Alliance for Better Food, Coca-Cola, and others of their ilk. Obviously our welfare is more important than their bottom lines.


This from the Pesticide Action Network of North America, whose information-packed website is www.panna.org and well worth a visit:

“Seed and chemical giant DuPont just hired a fleet of ex-police officers to patrol the farmlands of North America.

“The second-largest seed company used to rely on their partner/competitor Monsanto to play the industry ‘bad cop’ when it came to seed policing. But now DuPont executives have made it clear that they are not afraid to make some enemies as they protect the company’s intellectual property interests in genetically engineered seeds. And they’ve hired an “agro-protection” company staffed by former police officers to do it.

“The practice of seed saving has been used by generations of farmers to save on financial inputs. But once the Big 6 started genetically modifying and patenting traits in their seeds, farmers have been legally forbidden from replanting or reselling certain varieties of the most popular seeds.

“One of those restricted varieties, RoundUp Ready soybeans, is produced as a highly profitable collaboration between Monsanto and DuPont. Monsanto long ago started monitoring, investigating and suing farmers if they were suspected of replanting seeds.

“A big shift in the industry is coming with the patent expiration of the primary genetic modification in soybean seeds — their resistance to RoundUp. Monsanto’s approach will be to quickly introduce a new generation of patented RoundUp Ready seeds to the market.

“DuPont, however, has made it clear that other patented traits in the RoundUp Ready soybeans allow the company to continue enforcing its ‘no seed-saving’ policy. DuPont has contracted Saskatoon, a Saskatchewan-based “agro-protection” company to monitor farmer soybean operations. The private inspectors will examine planting and purchasing records at farms and take plant cuttings, looking to expose unlicensed use of RoundUp Ready seeds.

Charles Benbrook of Washington State University’s Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resources puts it this way:

“Farmers are never going to get cheap access to these genetically engineered varieties. The biotech industry has trumped the legitimate economic interests of the farmer again by raising the ante on intellectual property.

“So far, the company has 45 agents on the ground in Canada, and is planning to add 35 in the U.S. next year.”

So what does all this have to do with organic food enthusiasts? All these patented seeds are genetically modified (GMOs) and are not allowed in organic production. But when nearby fields are planted to GMO crops, there is no way to keep the pollen from contaminating the organic crops, meaning that Monsanto and its pals can sue the organic farmers for copyright infringement for growing out the contaminated crops. Fair? No way. Happening? Way.


For more information and historical perspective of the take-over of America’s institutions by corporatists, follow this link: http://www.prwatch.org/news/2011/08/10984/lewis-powell-memo-corporate-blueprint-dominate-democracy