Environment

No Place Like Home

Organic consumers - Fri, 2016-12-09 14:15
Belong to campaign: Appetite for a ChangeSave the BeesCategory: Environment & Climate, Health IssuesArea: USA

Want to rid the world of toxic chemicals? There’s no better place to start than in your own community. But how does an “ordinary” citizen with no political experience get the ball rolling?

With our friends at Beyond Pesticides, we’ve created an online tool that lets you see which communities in the U.S. have already banned or restricted the use of toxic pesticides and herbicides. You’ll even find the full text for each law—so instead of starting from scratch, you can just replicate or adapt existing laws for your own community.

More than 115 communities in 21 states have passed ordinances to protect their citizens from exposure to toxic chemicals—and in almost all those cases, it was a citizen-led group, not a city lawmaker, who led the charge.

Check out the newly launched Map of Local Pesticide Reform Policies, then sign up to learn how you can get started in your community. The map will be updated regularly. If your city, county or state has passed legislation but you’re not on the map, contact info@beyondpesticides.org.

TAKE ACTION: Put your city on the map! Learn how you can make your community pesticide-freeRead more

Standing Rock: Can We Bring the Buffalo Home?

Organic consumers - Fri, 2016-12-09 12:44
Environment & ClimateKatherine PaulOrganic Consumers AssociationDecember 9, 2016 buffalo bison herd cold park wyoming cc 420x280.jpg

We, living now, in the time before, have choices. We can remember what it is to be animals on this planet and remember and understand what it is to live and die such that our lives and deaths help make the world stronger. We can live and die such that we make possible a time after where life flourishes, where buffalo can come home, and the same for salmon and prairie dogs and prairies and forests and carbon and rivers and mountains. – Derrick Jensen, 2016, environmental activist and writer, April 6, 2016

It was late December 4, when news came down that the Dakota Access pipeline had been denied, at least temporarily. December 4 also happened to be the eve of World Soil Day. The symbolism, though coincidental, wasn’t lost on those of us who believe that protecting and regenerating the Earth’s soils, combined with reducing fossil fuel emissions, represent our only hope for restoring climate stability. 

If we don’t reverse global warming, it won’t matter how many pipelines the energy companies bury. Likewise, as history has proven, the civilization that fails to prevent the degradation of its soil will ultimately fail, itself. Either way, unless we turn things around through renewable energy and regenerative food, farming and land use, we’re doomed.

Reporters and activists are, rightfully so, holding up the Standing Rock victory as a shining example of how, by breaking out of our single-issue and limited-constituency silos, and by standing our common ground against corporations and politicians, we create a powerful synergy capable of protecting our common home. We should follow this example more often, as Naomi Klein recently suggested: 

The line between resistance and results is bright and undeniable. That kind of victory is rare precisely because it’s contagious, because it shows people everywhere that organizing and resistance is not futile. And as Donald Trump moves closer and closer to the White House, that message is important indeed.

Couldn’t agree more. Let’s replicate this model of solidarity and resistance over and over as we face what could well turn out to be the greatest threats in modern history to our health, our environment and our basic rights.

But let’s not stop there.

What if instead of declaring victory and moving on to the next battle, we could leave the Standing Rock community with the inspiration and tools and resources to restore their land to the fertile, biodiverse, productive resource that it once was? What if, instead of limiting ourselves to staving off the next attack, we applied ourselves, with equal passion, to the task of collaborating with the water protectors to build the foundation for a cleaner, healthier environment, a healthier and stronger community, and improved economic and climate stability?

What if we altered the course of the future for our brothers and sisters at Standing Rock, and made possible “a time after where life flourishes, where buffalo can come home, and the same for salmon and prairie dogs and prairies and forests and carbon and rivers and mountains?”

From badlands to productive grasslands

According to the Nature Conservancy (TNC), “vast expanses of grass and sky once covered about 110 million acres in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota,” providing habitat for “some of our most iconic animals from the majestic bison to the black-footed ferret and the greater prairie chicken.” 

Today? Not so much says TNC:

Today grasslands are the most imperiled habitat on Earth, with a rate of destruction exceeding that of tropical rainforests. Temperate grasslands alone, like those in the Midwest and Great Plains, are being lost at a rate eight times faster than they are being protected. 

A big part of TNC’s job is to protect U.S. grasslands. But the environmental group isn’t just “protecting” or “conserving” grasslands, at least not in the sense that it’s roping them off like a room full of rare art objects, to be admired but not trespassed upon. Instead, TNC is testing the Savory Institute holistic grazing model. Savory and TNC, under the banner of regenerative agriculture, are working with ranchers to not only restore and protect grasslands, but to also restore the land’s productivity as well as the soil’s capacity to draw down and sequester carbon—all while generating a healthy profit for ranchers.

You can find more on TNC’s work on restoring grasslands through proper grazing techniques here. But in a nutshell, the essence of regenerative grazing is this. When we think of restoring once-thriving ecosystems, it’s important to remember that in addition to pulling pollutants from the atmosphere and water, helping to prevent flooding and soil erosion, and capturing and storing carbon dioxide in the soil, perennial deep-rooted grasslands once supported tens of millions of grazing herbivores like bison, elk and cattle—which in turn fed the humans who lived in harmony with their surroundings.

The Wall Street Journal reports that sales of grass-fed beef rose nearly 40 percent in 2015, compared with 2014 sales. Sales of grass-fed bison are also on the rise. 

Could the Savory Institute and TNC’s work restoring grasslands through proper grazing techniques serve as a model for regenerating land, local economies—and hope—for communities like Standing Rock? And by extension, for the planet as a whole?

Moving beyond single issues

One of our favorite themes at OCA is the need for all of us to move away from single-issue organizing to galvanizing our many movements—peace, social justice, food and farming, campaign finance reform, faith, environment and climate —around a shared determination to stand up to corruption and to defend our basic rights and our common home. 

If we can break out of our single-issue silos, we will create a movement, indeed a revolution, so powerful that we will succeed in redirecting our financial and human resources toward the regeneration of our soils, our food, our economies, our health. And in so doing, restore climate stability. 

That’s why the Standing Rock protest was so inspirational. Because it united us.

Five hundred clergy members from 20 different religious groups gathered at the Standing Rock camp. 

Musicians Bonnie Rait, Jackson Browne and Jason Mraz held a benefit concert.

Bill McKibben, 350.org and other climate groups got involved.

The Code Pink peace and human rights activists participated, as did actress and 60s anti-war activist Jane Fonda. 

And then there were the thousands of veterans who descended on the Standing Rock camp, vowing to defend the water protectors from any attempt by “law enforcement” to remove them. 

At OCA, what started out as a fundraising drive to provide an organic Thanksgiving dinner for the water protectors, turned into something bigger. We knew that our message—that we are all connected, that we are all fighting the same battle, that we are all one movement—resonated when in just two days our members donated $40,000, ten times more than the $4,000 we asked for, to provide food and other supplies for the camp.

The overwhelming response to our donation plea inspired us to look for ways to make a difference beyond Thanksgiving dinner. We’re now working with Dream of Wild Health, an indigenous food program that operates a 10-acre farm north of St. Paul, Minn. The farm teaches children how to cook and sell organically grown native foods, some of which OCA will purchase with the donations we collected, and send to the water protectors who have vowed to remain at the camp until they are assured that the pipeline decision won’t be overturned. 

We’re also buying grass-fed buffalo meat from South Dakota-based Brownotter Buffalo Ranch to send to the Standing Rock camp. 

We’re grateful for the response from our networks to support the water protectors, and for the radical and inspirational example of united resistance inspired by the standoff at Standing Rock. The next challenge to our networks, to consumers, to the many movements working independently on so many important issues is this: Let’s grow this #consumerrevolution and #politicalrevolution so we can turn every campaign into an opportunity to not only head off disaster, but to build a better world.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association. 

Six Reasons We’ll Need to Ramp Up the #ConsumerRevolution under Trumpism

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-12-01 13:19
December 1, 2016Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulGenetic Engineering, Politics & Globalization revolution rally protest rebellion silhouette cc 420x280.png

If ever conditions were ripe for revolution, that time is now—especially for anyone who cares about their health, and the health of planet earth. 

President-Elect Donald Trump’s short lists for his environment and agriculture cabinet appointments are dominated by entrenched D.C. insiders, career politicians and industry lobbyists. Not one of these proposed “leaders” supports policies that would lead to healthier food, a cleaner environment or a cooler planet.  

So much for “draining the swamp.” And so much for an easy road to forward progress on food, ag and climate policy under our future fast-food leader. 

On November 15, POLITICO said it had obtained a list of talking points that “offer a roadmap on how President-Elect Donald Trump's agriculture secretary could shape agricultural policies, including the sweeping promise to ‘defend American agriculture against its critics,’”. . (emphasis ours).

This “promise” directly contradicts what a Trump campaign manager told me in a phone conversation, just days before the election. In an attempt to capitalize on a negative story about Hillary Clinton’s Monsanto ties, the Trump operative tried talk us into circulating a press release claiming that Trump was anti-GMO and anti-Monsanto. Predictably, those claims proved untrue, as we explain below. 

But there’s something even more troubling about the “sweeping promise” talking point. It’s this: the use of the term “American agriculture.” The authors of this memo are referring to the industrial, chemical- and pesticide-intensive GMO monoculture-crop agriculture that dominates the U.S. landscape. By intentionally branding this system “American” agriculture, the authors (politicians) can make the case for painting those of us who oppose pesticides and degenerative agriculture as anti-American.

Not cool.

Before we get to the list of reasons we’ll need a bigger and better #ConsumerRevolution in the coming months and years, a word to our regular readers and others who consider themselves to be aligned with OCA’s mission, but who also voted for Trump. The bullet points below, based on announcements by the Trump team, signal clearly that this administration will oppose (with a few exceptions, such as the TPP deal) almost every issue OCA advocates for on behalf of consumers. It’s our job to highlight Trump’s positions on these issues, even at the risk of offending some of our supporters.

You should also know, if you haven’t already realized it, that OCA has never held back when it comes to criticizing candidates and politicians who are on the wrong side of the issues we fight for, regardless of their party affiliation. If you search our website, you’ll find plenty of instances where we have called out Hillary Clinton for being on the wrong side of public and environmental health, including her cozy relationship with Monsanto. We’ve done the same with President Obama— for pushing the corporate-friendly TPP trade agreement, and for failing to make good on his promise to label GMOs. (Instead of using his veto power, Obama signed into law the DARK Act, forever depriving consumers of the right to know what’s in their food).

It’s our job to speak truth to power—regardless of who holds that power. And speaking of power . . . with the coming influx of pro-Monsanto, pro-pesticide, pro-factory farm, anti-environment, anti-health, climate deniers in Congress, we predict our complaints to federal policymakers will largely fall on deaf ears. More than ever, we will need to use our buying power to hit the corporations that pollute and poison where it hurts—their bottom line.

Here are six reasons we need to ramp up the #ConsumerRevolution.

Reason #1: GMOs/Health. No use looking to the Trump administration to support policies that promote healthful, nutrient-dense, GMO-free food. As the New York Times reported in August, Trump—a “junk food aficionado”—is  happiest feasting on Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s burgers and fries. 

It’s no surprise then that Trump’s Agriculture Advisory Committee includes none other than Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) who, along with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in July 2016, rammed through the DARK Act, the bill that nullified Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law, and permanently stripped U.S. consumers of the right to know if our foods contain pesticide-drenched genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Kiss goodbye any hope of repealing the DARK Act in 2017—it’s here to stay, under Trump. (Trump reportedly offered the position of CIA chief to Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), author of the House version of the DARK Act. Pompeo may have little influence over food and ag policy from his new digs at the CIA, but it’s said he was offered the job because of his “loyalty” to Trump).

Reason #2: Pesticides. Any hope that the incoming U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will start protecting public health instead of Monsanto and the rest of the pesticide peddlers faded the minute Trump tapped Myron Ebell to lead his EPA transition team. Mother Jones reports that Ebell, a self-proclaimed climate denier,  directs the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a front group that runs SafeChemicalPolicy.org, a website devoted to downplaying the health and ecological impacts of chemicals. 

According to Mother Jones, the Center for Energy and Environment “dismisses the well-established existence of endocrine-disrupting chemicals as a myth conjured by ‘anti-chemical activists.’" That’s bad news, given the latest research on endocrine disruptors. And it likely means we can expect little or no action from the EPA, which is currently weighing the pros and cons of renewing licenses for dangerous chemicals such as atrazine and glyphosate. 

Reason #3: Factory farms. Factory farming is a trillion-dollar industry that has a devastating impact on food quality, human health, animal welfare, farmworkers, rural communities, water quality, air pollution, biodiversity, and greenhouse gas emissions. According to Meatonomics, Americans pay $414 billion in hidden costs, including for healthcare, subsidies and environmental damage and clean-up related to factory farm production of meat, dairy and other animal products.

If we want factory farms to be replaced by ranchers who use regenerative grazing practices, or dairy farmers who produce organic milk from pasture-raised cows, we’ll have to boycott the factory farmers—because we surely won’t get any help from the Trump administration when it comes to regulating factory farms or holding them accountable.

How do we know? Just look at who Trump has surrounded himself with. Charles Herbster, owner of both a Nebraska cattle-breeding company and a company that sells chemicals and fertilizers, is heading up Trump’s Agricultural Advisory Committee. According to the latest report from POLITICO, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue is a leading contender for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. In 2009, Perdue signed a bill into law that blocked local communities in Georgia from regulating factory farms to address animal cruelty, pollution or any other hazards. After meeting with Trump on November 30, Perdue told POLITICO: “ [Trump] knew what it takes to make America great again by doing the things we do well, which is agriculture, for one, and to free up farmers from the regulations that we see. He was spot on those issues." The Biotechnology Innovation Organization, a front group for the GMO industry, named Perdue their 2009 Governor of the Year.

Reason #4: Global warming. Trump, who famously tweeted that climate change “was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive” wasted no time in announcing his intent to de-fund the U.S. NASA climate research program. International climate scientists denounced the plan, stating that loss of the program will “devastate” global climate research.

Trump has also vowed to withdraw the U.S. from the global Paris Climate Treaty, in a move guaranteed to leave the U.S. in the dust when it comes to advances in renewable energy and soil carbon sequestration programs aimed at reducing emissions and drawing down excess carbon from the atmosphere. It’s difficult to imagine that the “leader of the free world” would betray future generations by ignoring what is generally recognized as the greatest threat to civilization today, including to U.S. national security and to the global economy. But there you have it.

Reason #5: Water pollution. It’s been 42 years since Congress passed the Clean Water Act. But loopholes in the Act, along with attempts by big polluters (including agribusiness) to weaken the law, have left millions of acres of wetlands, and approximately 60 percent of America’s rivers and streams unprotected. The EPA has been trying to restore protection to those wetlands and waters—the source of drinking water for 117 million Americans. But factory farm lobbyists have fiercely opposed tighter regulations. So, it seems, will the Trump administration.

Under the proposed Waters of the U.S. rule, the EPA set out to un-muddy the waters around which types of waters are, and are not, covered under the original Clean Water Act. According to his campaign’s official transition website, the Trump administration wants to roll back the Obama Administration’s effort to clarify the rules around water pollution. That means we can forget about forcing companies like Tyson Foods, which dumps more toxic pollution into the nation’s waters than any other agribusiness, to clean up after themselves.

Another bad sign for the Waters of the U.S. rule? Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general, is on Trump’s short list for EPA administrator. Pruitt is an outspoken opponent of the EPA's efforts to address factory farms that pollute drinking water. He was one of the first state attorneys general to file suit against the EPA over the rule. His position against protecting drinking water from factory farm waste has no doubt been shaped by his campaign contributors, who include the Oklahoma Farm Bureau (OFB) and Monsanto.

Reason #6: Animal welfare. It goes without saying that anyone who supports factory farming doesn’t lose any sleep over the physical, much less emotional suffering of animals. Trump is no exception, as the Humane Society Legislative Fund pointed out in an article titled, “Trump's ag A-team a royal flush of animal protection haters.” 

The article calls Trump’s Agricultural Advisory Committee “a veritable rogues gallery of anti-animal crusaders.” From the article:

The group boasts a wealthy funder of an anti-animal super PAC, politicians who sponsored state “ag-gag” measures and opposed the most modest animal welfare bills, and leaders of the factory farming industry. It’s an unmistakable signal from the Trump campaign that he will be an opponent of animal welfare—a show of overt hostility toward the cause of animal protection that raises serious concerns for the humane movement about a potential Trump administration.

The Humane Society of the U.S. named Pruitt (Oklahoma attorney general and potential EPA administrator under Trump) the nation's least animal friendly attorney general for teaming up with the Oklahoma Farm Bureau to oppose “efforts to crack down on puppy mills, horse slaughter, the exotic pet trade, factory farming, and just about every other animal welfare issue you can think of.”

We could go on, but a person can take only so much bad news at once. For now, suffice it to say that at the federal policy level, consumers will have little or no say over matters that have a dramatic—sometimes devastating—impact on our health and the environment. That means we’ll need to take our battle to the marketplace.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association. 

Tell the Senate: Don't Let Monsanto Run the USDA and EPA!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-12-01 13:13
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoUSDA WatchCategory: Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

Are you a fan of pesticide-free food and clean water? Think your tax dollars should subsidize organic regenerative agriculture, not Monsanto’s toxic degenerative agriculture? Then you won't like the direction things are headed under the Trump administration.

Here’s what we know so far about President-Elect Donald Trump’s picks for leadership posts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Based on their track records, Trump’s appointees will likely let companies like Monsanto dictate food, agriculture and environmental policy.

The only thing standing between Monsanto and near-total control of the USDA and EPA? The U.S. Senate, whose job it is to approve about 1,100 presidential nominees before Trump’s cast of characters can step into their new posts. Discouraged or not, it's our job to pressure the Senate to reject any appointee who won't commit to doing his or her job—which is to protect public health, not Monsanto.

TAKE ACTION: Tell your Senators, Don’t Let Monsanto Run the USDA and EPA!

 Read more

Consumers Score Two Wins—Right in Monsanto’s Backyard

Organic consumers - Tue, 2016-11-29 20:21
November 29, 2016Organic Consumers AssociationPatrick KerriganAll About Organics usda organic seal on tomato cc 420x280.jpg

New GMO technologies such as cloning, nanotechnology, synthetic biology—technologies sometimes referred to as GMO 2.0—won’t be allowed in organics, thanks to a recent decision by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). 

The NOSB, which held its fall (November 16 – 18) meeting in St. Louis, Mo., home to Monsanto headquarters, also voted to get the controversial food additive carrageenan out of organics.

Keeping GMOs out of organic and dropping carrageenan from the list of allowed substances in organic were two of the hot-button issues at the latest NOSB meeting. Both votes were big wins for consumers. The third and arguably hottest topic—whether hydroponic “container” production methods violate USDA organic standards—was kicked back to a subcommittee for further evaluation.

Just say ‘no’ to GMOs in organic

As we reported a few weeks ago, Melody Meyer, a member of the Organic Trade Association (OTA), wrote in a recent blog post that she wanted gene editing, a dangerous new form of genetic engineering, to be allowed in organic. In response, OCA and other groups pressured the NOSB to pass its Excluded Methods Terminology Proposal to update and further define the criteria for evaluating all methods of genetic engineering—including CRISPR,  cell fusion, RNA interference and recombinant DNA technologies, along with gene editing technologies.

Up until passing the proposal, the NOSB had been working from outdated excluded methods definitions that could have resulted in GMO 2.0 technologies being allowed under organic standards. Excluded methods were defined only as: "A variety of methods used to genetically modify organisms or influence their growth and development by means that are not possible under natural conditions or processes and are not considered compatible with organic production."

Following the recent vote, the NOSB will now submit a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and the incoming secretary of agriculture under the new administration to provide them more information on the NOSB’s work to eliminate threats from GMO incursion into organic agriculture. The letter calls for compensation to organic farmers from the biotech industry for GMO incursions and contamination on organic farms, and for clear leadership from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on this issue.

No more carrageenan? We’ll see . . . 

Ever since carrageenan was added to the National Organics Program’s (NOP) list of approved synthetic substances in 1995, OCA and other groups committed to upholding organic standards have argued  that it should be delisted. Yet every five years, when carrageenan came up for review under the NOSB’s sunset provision, the NOSB re-approved it.

Until now. After lengthy deliberation, and after agreeing that alternative additives are available, NOSB board members voted 10-3 to recommend that carrageenan be removed from the NOP’s National List of substances approved for organic. Unfortunately, the battle isn’t won yet. Industry representatives immediately declared that they will take their case to the USDA to allow the continued use of carrageenan.

OCA will continue to oppose carrageenan, which is added to foods like infant formula, dairy products, deli meats, salad dressings, toothpaste, pet food, and vegan products as an emulsifier or thickener, because it does not meet all three of the following OFPA criteria: 1) essential to organic products; 2) safe to humans and the environment; and, 3) compatible with organic practices. 

More here on what carrageenan is, and the health issues it has been linked to.

Hydroponic controversy—can soil-less produce be ‘organic’?

NOSB board members were supposed to vote at the fall meeting on whether or not hydroponically grown produce can be certified organic, but they delayed the decision pending further research.

Hydroponic produce, says the Cornucopia Institute, is generally grown under artificial lighting, indoors, and on an industrial scale. The enormous growth in hydroponic agriculture has resulted in this type of production taking much of the winter market share for crops such as peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes. 

Hydroponically grown produce is sold without labels that tell consumers the products were grown using hydroponic methods, instead of in soil. Its proponents prefer to call it “container” production, in order to get around the USDA’s official postion on hydroponics:

Observing the framework of organic farming based on its foundation of sound management of soil biology and ecology, it becomes clear that systems of crop production that eliminate soil from the system, such as hydroponics or aeroponics, can not be considered as examples of acceptable organic farming practices. Hydroponics, the production of plants in nutrient rich solutions or moist inert material, or aeroponics, a variation in which plant roots are suspended in air and continually misted with nutrient solution, have their place in production agriculture, but certainly cannot be classified as certified organic growing methods due to their exclusion of the soil-plant ecology intrinsic to organic farming systems and USDA/NOP regulations governing them.

Our allies at Cornucopia Institute (who oppose organic certification for hydroponics), summed up the controversy and current situation like this:

The decision to delay the vote was a big win for the hydroponics lobby that wants to maintain the status quo. Currently some certifiers are allowing hydroponic operations to be labeled organic, while others do not because of a lack of guidance from the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP).

Language in the Organic Foods Production Act and the current federal regulations clearly indicate that good soil stewardship is a prerequisite to qualify for organic certification. In 2010 the NOSB reinforced the soil prerequisite by passing recommendations that reiterated the prohibition of hydroponic certification. The National Organic Program never acted on these recommendations.

Since then, an industry-friendly USDA has allowed some of the largest certifiers, including California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) and Quality Assurance International (QAI), to certify hydroponically produced tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, and berries at an alarming rate.

A proposal to allow hydroponics at last week’s NOSB meeting would have overturned the board’s 2010 recommendation and would have required two-thirds of the 14 NOSB members present at the meeting to vote in its favor.

Consumers will have to wait until the next NOSB meeting, in spring 2017, for a decision on hydroponics in organic.

Patrick Kerrigan is retail coordinator and NOSB liaison for the Organic Consumers Association. 

 

Message from Marrakesh: Don’t Mourn, Regenerate!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2016-11-22 17:13
Environment & Climate, Politics & GlobalizationRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationNovember 22, 2016 ronnie speaking in marakech 420x280

The bad news is that we are fast approaching (likely within 25 years) “the point of no return” for retaining enough climate stability, soil fertility, water and biodiversity to support human life on this planet. The toxic synergy of our out-of-control political, energy, food, farming and land-use systems threaten our very survival. The good news is that tried-and-tested, shovel-ready, regenerative food, farming, grazing and land use practices, scaled up on billions of acres of farmland, pasture and forests, combined with zero emissions and a renewable energy economy, can draw down and sequester enough excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into our soils, forests and wetlands to reverse global warming. Besides re-stabilizing the climate, this great carbon ‘drawdown’ and regeneration will qualitatively enhance soil fertility and yields, increase rainwater infiltration and storage in soils, supercharge food quality and nutrition, rejuvenate forests and oceans, and preserve and stimulate biodiversity—thereby addressing the underlying causes of rural poverty, hunger, deteriorating public health, political malaise and global conflict. - Social media post by the Organic Consumers Association and Regeneration International from the “Green Zone” of the COP22 Global Climate Summit in Marrakesh, Morocco November 18, 2016 

The Donald Effect

Thousands of us attending the COP22 Global Climate Summit in Marrakesh, Morocco—delegates and rank-and-file activists from every nation in the world—woke up on November 9, 2016, to the alarming news that rabid climate deniers and zealots for hyper-industrial agriculture and fossil fuels had seized control of the White House and the U.S. Congress. 

Just days after a panel of eminent international scientists warned that we are approaching the point of no return in terms of runaway global warming, Donald (“the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing uncompetitive…”) Trump made it clear where he and his cabal of wealthy, misogynist, racist, cronies stand.

The day after the election, Trump announced that he intended to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Treaty, supercharge the coal, fracking and fossil fuel industries, and eliminate federal regulations designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As part of his “Making America Great Again” agenda, Trump named Myron Ebell to oversee the transition at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Ebell, head of both the climate-denying think tank the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Cooler Heads Coalition, was reviled last year at the Paris Climate Summit for being one of the world’s top “climate criminals.”

Intercept newsletter outlined Ebell’s credentials as a point man for the new Climate Denier-in-Chief: “A non-scientist whose funders have included ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute, and coal giant Murray Energy Corporation, Ebell has been a consistent taunter of both scientists and environmentalists. As a talking head on TV news, he has for years offered false balance on climate change in the form of views so far outside of the mainstream as to be downright bizarre. For Ebell, Al Gore is “an extremist” who “lives in a fantasy world.” And the Pope’s encyclical on climate change is a ‘diatribe against modern industrial civilization.’ Current climate patterns, say Ebell, indicate an imminent ice age rather than a warming planet. 

Trump’s Fossil Fuel über alles could not come at a worst moment. Just when the world needs all hands on deck to fight the war against runaway global warming, Trump and his men (and women) are going AWOL. Compounding the threat of Trump and his minions on climate policy, the frightening bottom line for the global grassroots is that politicians, corporations, climate negotiators, scientists, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have seriously underestimated the current and near-future (25 years) impacts of saturating the atmosphere with more greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution than the Earth has endured for hundreds of thousands of years.  

The climate chaos unleashed by current GHG levels in the atmosphere (400 ppm of CO2 and rising 2 ppm every year and a one-degree C rise in average global temperatures so far) and oceans is already alarming. But what makes our predicament truly frightening is that the noxious chemical GHG blanket already enveloping the Earth is increasingly magnified by powerful feedback mechanisms including: the melting of the polar icecaps; a sharp increase in water vapor (a powerful global warming gas) in the atmosphere; deforestation; soil erosion; desertification; disruption of cloud formations; and the “methane bomb” (the runaway thawing and release into the atmosphere of billions of tons of methane gas now frozen and sequestered in the vast tundra and the shallow sea beds of the Arctic). These planetary global warming feedback mechanisms, unless reversed, will detonate over the next few decades triggering rapidly rising temperatures; rising sea levels and catastrophic coastal flooding; extremely violent storms, droughts, and wildfires; deadly outbreaks of disease and pestilence; and massive crop failures and starvation, culminating in wholesale ecosystem destruction and species extinction. 

The call-to-action from Marrakesh is that U.S. and global “business-as-usual” is rapidly moving the planet toward runaway global warming—not just two degrees C of global warming, which will be extremely dangerous, but 5-7 degrees C, which will be catastrophic. 

Industrial agriculture, factory farming and deforestation are driving global warming

The energy- and chemical-intensive US and global food and factory farming system, now controlled by a multinational cartel of agribusiness, junk food, chemical and genetic engineering corporations, is literally cooking the planet. By spewing out 15-20 billion tons of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere every year (according to United Nations report, 44-57% of all emissions), by degenerating, with GMOs, pesticides, chemical fertilizers and deforestation, the miraculous ability of soils, forests and wetlands to naturally absorb (through photosynthesis) these greenhouse gases and safely store them in the soils and biota, this system is pushing us toward the final cliff, the “point of no return.” (More on the climate impact of our degenerative food, farming, and land use here. And here). 

With demonstrably degenerate Climate Deniers in control of the White House and the U.S. Congress for the next four years, we have no choice but to step up our organizing and our actions, from Main Street to Morocco. Every concerned citizen in the world needs to become an active communicator, starting with family and friends, reaching out to all those willing to listen and make change. Circles of concerned friends and acquaintances must evolve into Circles of Resistance and Regeneration.

Every food, justice, health, peace and democracy activist needs to “connect the dots” between the burning issues and become a climate activist. At the same time, every climate activist needs to move beyond tunnel-vision single-issue organizing to a holistic “Movement of Movements” approach. The first step in global resistance, the first step in regenerating our toxic political, energy, food, farming and land-use system is to broaden our awareness and our consciousness, to break down the walls and the single-issue silos that have held us back from building a truly local-to-global Movement of Movements. Our new Internationale, our new Regeneration Movement, must be powerful and inspirational enough to enable us not only to survive, but to thrive.

Regenerative circles of renewal and resistance

Taking the time to grieve and commiserate over our current political and climate emergency, taking the time to regenerate ourselves and our circles of friends and acquaintances, we must begin to strategically weave together our common concerns, our constituencies, our resistance, our positive actions and solutions.  Once we establish synergy and cooperation among the different currents in the Movement, we will generate ever more powerful waves, circles of renewal and resistance, with the capacity to spread outward from our local communities into entire regions, nations and continents, until a regenerative wave spans the globe. This is la lucha grande, the great struggle, that will last for the rest of our lives. Don’t just mourn, organize. Our lives and the lives of our children hang in the balance.

The good news

The good news is that planetary awareness, along with renewable energy and conservation, is growing by leaps and bounds. Leaving remaining fossil fuels in the ground and converting to solar, expanding wind and other renewable forms of energy, retrofitting our transportation and housing systems, and re-carbonizing and restoring soil fertility, forests and wetlands—these initiatives are not just good for the climate, they’re also good for the growth of ethical businesses, for public health and for the body politic. 

We must come to grips with the fact that we will be forced to endure four more dangerous years here in the U.S. in terms of reducing fossil fuel emissions, and phasing out coal and fracking. But as the global grassroots, scientists, farmers and climate negotiators here in Marrakesh have acknowledged, we are all in this together. Spokespersons for China, the world’s largest emitter of fossil fuels, as well as 197 other nations here in Marrakesh, reacting to Trump’s proclamation that the U.S. will abandon the Paris Climate Treaty, have made it clear that they will move forward toward zero emissions by 2050, no matter what the Trump administration does.

We can’t all do everything, but we certainly all can do something. We all eat, and many of us on the Earth (three billion in fact) are still making our living off the land—farming, grazing, fishing, gardening, hunting and gathering. In the consumer economies of the global North hundreds of millions of organic and health-minded consumers are starting to understand that “we are what we eat,” and that what we purchase and consume has a tremendous impact, not only on our health and the health of our families, but on the environment and the climate as well. To regenerate and save the living Earth and human civilization we will need to build an active transnational alliance and solidarity between several billion conscious consumers and farmers. This is the only force with the power to put an end to business as usual.

Our most popular slogans or campaigns here in Marrakesh—emblazoned on our banners, leaflets and t-shirts, broadcast in our newsletters and social media, repeated over and over again in our media interviews and workshops, and translated into multiple languages including English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Portuguese are: Cook Organic Not the Planet, Boycott Factory-Farmed Food, and Regeneration International: Cool the Planet, Feed the World.

Moving forward from Marrakesh, we are committed to re-localizing and regenerating local foods, local economies and communities. But while building out and scaling up local solutions, we must also join with our consumer and farmer allies across the globe to literally force multinational GMO, chemical-intensive and factory-farmed food brands and corporations to go organic and grass-fed. And we must pressure organic brands and producers to move beyond organic to fully regenerative practices. Our collective campaigns must ultimately transform the eating and purchasing habits of millions of consumers, raise the living standards of several billion farmers and rural villagers, and free billions of farm animals from cruel and climate-destructive Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)—putting these animals back on the land where their grazing and natural behaviors will help sequester billions of tons of carbon in pastures and agro-forestry landscapes. 

You can learn more about our Cook Organic Not The Planet campaign here. Please sign up for OCA’s newsletter, Organic Bytes:  Please join our Facebook page here:  To find out more about our Regeneration International: Cool the Planet, Feed the World campaign, visit www.regenerationinternational.org. Follow RI on Facebook 
You can sign up for our RI newsletter and enroll yourself and your organization as a supporter or partner. 

To acquaint yourself with the basic science that underlies regenerative food and farming, please read this document and share it widely. It’s available in ten different languages on the RI website.

More good news: France’s 4 per 1000 Soils for Food Security and Climate

On November 17, in Marrakesh, following up on the Paris Climate Treaty last year, over two dozen countries and several hundred civil society organizations reaffirmed their commitment to the “4 for 1000 Initiative” originally put forth by the French government. Countries that sign the “4 per 1000 Initiative” pledge, as part of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to mitigate and reverse global warming, to draw down or sequester as much excess atmospheric carbon in their soils as they are currently emitting, utilizing organic, agro-ecological, and regenerative farming, grazing and land use practices, and to continue this process for the next 25 years, until atmospheric levels of GHG return to the safe levels that existed prior to the industrial revolution. 

Our Regeneration International project, as well as OCA, are among the civil society organizations that have signed the pledge. We are also now officially part of the 4 per 1000 global consortium, and as such will continue to play an active role in supporting and promoting the initiative.

Regeneration Thursdays

On January 12, 2017, organic, climate, natural health, environmental, peace, justice and regeneration activists across the U.S. and beyond will launch Regeneration Thursdays. The plan is to organize, on the second Thursday of each month, community self-organized meet-ups at designated locations, such as brew pubs and community restaurants. These social gatherings, part celebratory, part serious discussion, are intended to break down walls, make new friends and allies, generate camaraderie, explore potential cooperation, and eventually build up greater grassroots marketplace and political power. 

Our hope is that regeneration meet-ups will catalyze and inspire a new dynamic, with activists or would-be activists from all of our Movements—food, climate, peace, justice, natural health, democracy—coming together on a regular basis to celebrate, commiserate and cooperate, to share organic and local food and drink, and to discuss how we can build a stronger synergy between our various efforts and campaigns. Regeneration Thursdays is envisioned as an ongoing campaign, starting small but over time taking root and spreading virally into hundreds, and eventually thousands of communities.

The Organic Consumers Association and Regeneration International, along with some of our closest allies, have pledged to provide resources (including organic food) in strategic communities to get the Regeneration Thursdays meet-ups going. Part of the preparation for Regeneration Thursdays will be to work with local regenerators to strategically identify and invite key people, especially youth, who share a broad vision for moving beyond single-issue organizing and campaigning to a more holistic and powerful Movement. If you and your circle of friends or organization are willing to help organize a Regeneration Thursday in your local community, please send an email to: campaigns@organicconsumers.org

The crisis is dire. The hour is late. But we still have time to turn things around. Don’t just mourn. Please join us as we organize, educate, mobilize and regenerate.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and a member of the Regeneration International steering committee.

To support OCA’s work, click here. 

To support OCA’s Regeneration International project, click here.

The Biotech Bullies Will Rule the New FDA and EPA

Organic consumers - Wed, 2016-11-16 19:31
November 16, 2016Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsGenetic Engineering farm fog industrial agriculture cc 420x280.jpg

In the tumultuous week following the 2016 elections, Monsanto and its minions are moving fast to tighten their control over our food and farming system. Emboldened by the prospect of another pro-industrial-agriculture administration, they’re plowing ahead—with total disregard for public health, and blanket dismissal of the warnings pouring in from independent scientists.

Politico, which obtained a list of Trump’s talking points on agriculture, said it includes a “sweeping promise” to "defend American agriculture against its critics, particularly those who have never grown or produced anything beyond a backyard tomato plant." From Politico:

The document . . . offers a host of policy pledges—from suggesting a shift back to conventional agriculture, to promises for the Trump White House to be an "active participant" in writing the next Farm Bill, to fighting the so-called good food movement and undoing Obama-era agricultural and environmental policies.

Pair that news with Trump’s EPA transition team pick, climate-denier Myron Ebell who says “pesticides aren’t bad for you,” and the future for organic regenerative agriculture—and your health—looks bleak.

One day after the election, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the highly controversial, dangerously toxic herbicide dicamba, allowing it to be sprayed directly on cotton and soybean crops. The Obama Administration had delayed commercialization of both 2, 4-D-resistant and dicamba-resistant crops for several years due to public concern over their extreme toxicity. Beyond Pesticides reports that Dicamba, which is linked to kidney and liver damage, neurotoxicity, and developmental impacts, has a “strong propensity to volatilize small particles of the herbicide into the air and drift far off-site. Sensitive crop species can be damaged by dicamba at levels in the parts per million.”  

According to Sustainable Pulse, the EPA’s November 9 decision opens the door “for dicamba use to jump from less than 1 million pounds to more than 25 million annually on these two crops,” and follows “on the heels of the agency’s recent decision to expand approval for a new pesticide called Enlist Duo, made for use on GM corn, cotton and soybeans.”

A few days after the EPA issued the disastrous dicamba decision, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) declared it will stop testing foods for glyphosate residue. Never mind that a panel of 17 World Health Organization scientists unanimously agreed that glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen.” Or that this “probable carcinogen” has already contaminated an alarmingly wide range of best-selling foods in the U.S.

The EPA’s decision to stop testing foods for glyphosate came less than three weeks after OCA and Beyond Pesticides sued the Sioux Bee corporation for fraudulently labeling its glyphosate-tainted Sue Bee and Aunt Sue’s honey brands as “100% Natural.” How did we know the honey contained glyphosate? Because the EPA tested it, and US Right to Know used the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain the results.

We don’t need to guess or wonder. The incoming Trump administration will not be a friend to those of us committed to a healthy, pollution-free, climate-friendly future. 

Where does that leave us? Working at the state and local level to elect candidates and to pass public health and climate policies in line with the obvious truth, which is that we can’t go on poisoning ourselves and our ecosystem—and still go on.

It also will require that we expand food testing, and expose the long list of the dangerous chemicals in our food so we can put our consumer power to good use. Once a critical mass of consumers knows exactly what kinds of—and how much—poison we’re being fed, we will force Big Food to clean up its act, or go broke. At which point, it won’t much matter what Monsanto’s minions are up to in Congress. Because the market for their products will shrivel up faster than a glyphosate-drenched weed.

Support OCA’s work to get pesticides out of our food (tax-deductible, helps support our work on behalf of organic standards, fair trade and public education) 

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and a member of the steering committee of Regeneration International. 

Regeneration International and Open Team Announce Micro-Grant Competition in Conjunction with Launch of Online Platform  to Connect Regeneration Movement Stakeholders

Organic consumers - Tue, 2016-11-15 16:19
Environment & Climate, Organic TransitionsOrganic Consumers AssociationNovember 15, 2016 regeneration, 420x280

Regeneration International Will Award Five Micro-Grants to Innovative Regeneration Projects

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 15, 2016

Contact:
U.S.: Katherine Paul, katherine@organicconsumers.org, 207-653-3090
Mexico, Latin America: Ercilia Sahores, ercilia@regenerationinternational.org, (55) 6257 7901 

MARRAKESH--Regeneration International (RI) and Open Team, in partnership with 17 organizations, today launched The Regeneration Hub (RHub) at the COP22 Climate Summit. RHub is an interactive online platform that connects project holders, individuals, funders and communities focused on regenerative agriculture and land-use projects and other related concepts that address multiple global challenges, including climate change and food security.

In conjunction with the RHub launch, RI and Open Team announced a competition for five micro-grants of US$1000 each to be awarded to five innovative regeneration projects. RI, a project of the US-based Organic Consumers Association, will fund the micro-grants.  The RI Steering Committee will evaluate the projects and announce the winners in January 2017. 

“There are regenerative solutions all around us,” said Ronnie Cummins, OCA’s international director and member of the RI steering committee. “But people are working in silos. We need to map out and connect the global regeneration movement in order to accelerate the exchange of best practices and the sharing of knowledge and resources on a global scale.”

The RHub aims to accelerate adoption and development of scalable and replicable regenerative projects across the globe by inspiring and facilitating collaboration between project holders, individuals, funders and communities from the regenerative movement.

“This platform will scale the adoption of local regenerative solutions worldwide by facilitating the work of farmers and environmental entrepreneurs, in collaboration with experts, scientists, businesses, activists, educators, journalists, impact investors, policymakers and consumers, while inspiring an increasing number of individuals to join the global regenerative movement!” said Joanne Schante, co-founder of Open Team. 

The RHub was conceived at the Paris Climate Summit in December 2015, where RI brought together 60 foodies, farmers, entrepreneurs, scientists and NGOs from around the world working on regeneration. 

Watch this video to learn more:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyIIDYoA0jo 
Sign up today: www.regenerationhub.co 

Regeneration International, a project of the Organic Consumers Association, is building a global network of farmers, scientists, businesses, activists, educators, journalists, governments and consumers who will promote and put into practice regenerative agriculture and land-use practices that: provide abundant, nutritious food; revive local economies; rebuild soil fertility and biodiversity; and restore climate stability by returning carbon to the soil, through the natural process of photosynthesis. 

OpenTeam manages O, a global platform that catalyzes concrete collaboration on a world scale, engaging change makers with all levels of expertise and projects to mutualize their efforts and experiences in order to develop local projects (global initiatives implemented by local stakeholders). This ScaleCamp is the first pilot of a series of forthcoming other such events which aim to continuously fuel global collaboration using O’s open source platform and ultimately shift the climate change paradigm through borderless collaboration.

 

Don't Use My Tax Dollars to Promote GMOs!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-11-10 19:23
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

Big Biotech and Big Food think the only reason consumers don’t like their GMO foods is because we are just too ignorant to “understand” their benefits.

So to help “educate” us, groups like the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, and the Corn Growers Association, among others, want Congress to give them some of our taxpayer money to help promote their toxic, unhealthy, environmentally unfriendly products.

TAKE ACTION: Tell the Ag Appropriations Committee: Don’t Use My Tax Dollars to Promote GMOs!Read more

Now That It’s Over, It’s Time to Exercise Our ‘True Power’

Organic consumers - Wed, 2016-11-09 18:17
November 9, 2016Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsGenetic Engineering, Politics & Globalization Hands 420x280 cc

The best thing about the 2016 election, a contest between two of the most unpopular candidates in history, is that it’s over.

Now, we get back to work. Back to our radical roots (it’s never been lost on me that the word radical originates from the Latin word for root).

With this divisive and toxic election behind us, we can now get back to the grassroots work of regenerating our food and farming system, our health—even our democracy. Assuming, that is, we can set aside our differences long enough to focus on the root of our problems—corporate control over every aspect of our lives, including our political system.

As Dr. Joe Mercola wrote in an article that appeared just before the election, it’s time to recognize where our “true power” lies. It lies in the choices we make every time we make a purchase, especially a food purchase.

Every consumer choice we make either supports the corporations that are writing the laws we oppose. Or doesn’t. It’s that simple.

It’s interesting, and encouraging, that when we analyze OCA’s supporter base, we find that it’s almost evenly split three ways—among Democrats, Republicans and Independents. These numbers tell us that the issues we focus on—food, farming, health, climate change, social and economic justice, how our democracy functions—resonate across party lines.

That’s a good thing. Because it will take all of us, working together, to address these issues—regardless of who hangs his, or her, hat in the White House.

We’ve fought hard over the years to advance policies that reflect your values and protect you, not corporations. We’ll continue to do that. We believe our best hope to achieve policy change lies in active participation at the local level.
 
But as long as corporations rule the hallowed halls of Congress, we will face an uphill challenge in the policy arena, especially at the national and global levels. If we want change, we will have to exercise our “true power.” And that’s something we can do no matter who wears the presidential mantle, as Dr. Mercola writes:

Remember, the industries that are currently buying our politicians and writing their own laws cannot maintain power without your ongoing financial SUPPORT. While we may not have a significant choice in how our tax contributions are distributed to these industries through subsidies and contracts, we do have a very powerful influence by making responsible purchases each and every day.

Let’s face it. Given our choices this election year, no matter which way the election went, we knew that the food, farming and regeneration movement wouldn’t have a friend in the White House.

Days before the election, an article in Sustainable Pulse revealed even more details about Hillary Clinton’s already widely acknowledged deep ties to Monsanto.

Donald Trump, our new Climate-Denier-in-Chief, took a typically political approach to handling the Monsanto and GMO issue. After firing off a tweet aimed at insulting then-Republican primary opponent Ben Carson, implying that “too much #Monsanto in the #corn creates issues in the brain,” Trump promptly deleted the tweet when it caused him to dip in the polls.

As Dr. Mercola wrote:

Politicians say what is necessary to get elected, based on the polling of talking points. A politician’s public talking points constantly “evolve” and are rarely consistent with their actions that benefit their corporate sponsors.

We know this to be true. Because the same day Sustainable Pulse published the article about Hillary-is-pro-Monsanto piece, we got a call from the Trump campaign. If they put out a press release stating that Trump was anti-GMO, would we push it out to our networks they asked?

Recognizing the suggestion as a publicity tactic, not necessarily a genuine reflection of Trump’s actual position on genetic engineering, we declined. The angry Trump PR operative angrily hung up on us—after announcing that it was obvious why we’d lost the GMO labeling fight. “You don’t have any brains,” he said.

In the end, Trump didn’t need us to push out his phony press release. He won without it.

And in the end, we don’t need Trump—or any other politician—to advance our agenda. What we need is people power.

We agree with Dr. Mercola. It’s time to withdraw our support from the corporations that are polluting our environment, poisoning our food, corrupting our democracy. When—not if—we do that, we will redistribute financial power to the businesses aligned with our core principles.

We can do this. We must do this. Our survival depends on it.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association.

 

Regenerative—not ‘Climate-Smart’—Agriculture Needed to Feed the World and Cool the Planet

Organic consumers - Wed, 2016-11-09 16:21
Environment & Climate, Politics & GlobalizationOrganic Consumers AssociationNovember 9, 2016 cop22,marakech,420x280

Regeneration International’s Ronnie Cummins Addresses ‘Climate-Smart’ Panel at COP22 Climate Summit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 9, 2016

MARRAKECH—“World governments spend $486 billion a year to subsidize an industrial food and farming model that the United Nations estimates, contributes 43-57 percent of total man-made greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). “It’s time to stop subsidizing agricultural practices that contribute to global warming, and start subsidizing food, farming and land-use practices that restore the soil’s capacity to draw down and re-sequester excess carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil.”

Speaking to a panel hosted by the Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum in conjunction with the COP22 Climate Summit, Cummins told participants that “Climate-Smart Agriculture” (CSA), is a clever term used to describe a limited approach to adapting to climate change and to addressing global food insecurity through agricultural practices that fail to meet the standard of regeneration.

“Scientists tell us that even if we achieve zero emissions tomorrow, the planet would continue to heat up for another thousand years,” Cummins said. “Our best hope to avert a climate disaster, restore public health and revitalize rural economies must include a plan that not only achieves zero emissions, but also draws down the billions of tons of excess carbon already in the atmosphere. That plan exists. It’s called regenerative agriculture, or agroecology.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Bank coined the term “Climate Smart Agriculture” at the 2010 Hague Conference on Food Security, Agriculture and Climate Change. The FAO floated the concept as a “triple win” for a type of agriculture that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, help crops adapt to changing climate conditions, and increase yields.

Last year, more than 350 national and international civil society groups, including OCA and Regeneration International, a project of OCA, signed a letter urging decision-makers to reject what the groups called the “growing influence and agenda of so-called ‘Climate-Smart Agriculture’ (CSA) and the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture (GACSA).” The groups criticized the lack of criteria for deciding what can or cannot be called “Climate Smart,” and pointed to the potential for agribusiness corporations that promote synthetic fertilizers, industrial meat production and large-scale industrial agriculture—big contributors to global warming—to co-opt the term. 

In the U.S., fossil-fuel-intensive agribusiness corporations like Monsanto, who are members of the North American chapter of GASCA, claim to be practitioners of CSA.

Regeneration International has organized and/or is participating in numerous events at the COP22 Climate Summit in Marrakech, with a focus on regenerative agriculture and land-use as a critical strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and draw down excess carbon from the atmosphere.

Regeneration International, a project of the Organic Consumers Association, is building a global network of farmers, scientists, businesses, activists, educators, journalists, governments and consumers who will promote and put into practice regenerative agriculture and land-use practices that: provide abundant, nutritious food; revive local economies; rebuild soil fertility and biodiversity; and restore climate stability by returning carbon to the soil, through the natural process of photosynthesis. 

 

Deadline Dec. 1: Tell the FTC to Stop Organic Fraud!

Organic consumers - Sat, 2016-11-05 03:00
Belong to campaign: Coming CleanSafeguard Organic StandardsClothes for a ChangeCategory: All About OrganicsArea: USA

Having trouble figuring out which personal care and cleaning products are actually organic? Not sure how to distinguish fake “organic” mattresses from the real things?

Wondering if those “organic dry cleaning” claims are real?

You’re not alone. Unlike food, which has to be certified to USDA organic standards in order to be labeled “organic,” non-food products often come with labels and/or advertising claims that falsely claim, or imply, organic.

Ironically, the USDA National Organic Program doesn’t enforce against most of these false “organic” claims on personal care or textile products. 

We want the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has launched an investigation into organic fraud, to clean up this confusing mess. After all, the FTC’s job is to “prevent business practices that are anticompetitive or deceptive or unfair to consumers.” 

TAKE ACTION: Deadline Dec. 1: Tell the FTC to Stop Organic Fraud!Read more

Why Are Taxpayers Being Asked to Pay to Promote a Failed Ag Technology?

Organic consumers - Fri, 2016-11-04 13:15
November 2, 2016Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulEnvironment & Climate, Genetic Engineering Briefcase of money 420x280 cc

On October 29 (2016),  the New York Times ran a piece on how the biotech industry has failed to deliver on its promises for GMO crops. The article followed less than a month after the biotech industry asked congressional leaders for $3 million in taxpayer-provided funding to “educate” the public about biotechnology and agricultural production.

Congress should turn down this request for two reasons. First, the biotech and food industries should spend their own money to market their products. And second, Congress shouldn’t use taxpayer money to promote what scientists and international organizations have said for years, and the latest investigation by the Times reveals, is a technology that not only doesn’t live up it its hype, but is counterproductive to resolving the critical issues of global food sovereignty and global warming.

As reported by Farm Futures, 56 groups, including biotech and food industry lobbying organizations, wrote a letter asking four members of the Ag Appropriations Committee to include $3 million in the  2017 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act in order to “ensure key federal agencies responsible for the safety of our nation’s food supply – the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) – are able to more easily convey to the public science- and fact-based information about food.”

The groups justify their request for consumers to foot the bill for industry’s marketing campaign by stating that: “These benefits are passed on to consumers who reap the advantage of affordable food prices, greater access to nutritious food, an improved environment, a strengthened rural economy, and enhanced domestic and international food security.”

In their letter, the groups claim “there is a tremendous amount of misinformation about agricultural biotechnology in the public domain.” We would argue, and the Times investigation confirms, that much of that “misinformation” comes from industry itself, in the form of false promises.

Specifically, as the Times reports, GMO crops have not led to higher yields, while they have led to greater, not reduced, use of pesticides.

That’s not news to those who track issues of world hunger and the harm, to the environment and to human health, of higher and higher volumes of increasingly toxic pesticides.

The United Nations Human Rights Council is just one international organization that has reported on the failure of GMO crops to feed the world, and the fact that the only path toward global food security is agroecology, or regenerative agriculture. In its “Agriculture at the Crossroads” report, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) drew the same conclusions.

Next week, governments, scientists and activists will gather in Marrakech for the COP22 Climate Summit. Thanks to French agriculture officials, who launched the 4 per 1000 Soils for Food Security and Climate Initiative last year at the Paris Climate Summit, the COP22 agenda will include discussions about the potential for regenerative agriculture to draw down and re-sequester carbon in the soil.

This soil carbon sequestration strategy, recently hailed by climate scientist James Hansen, requires healthy soils in order to work, the kind of soils that can only be generated by regenerative agriculture practices—not GMO monocultures.

The  United Nations Conference on Trade and Development‘s 2013 Trade and Environment Review estimates that the industrial food system generates 43-57 percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

We must reduce fossil fuel emissions. But we also must draw down the legacy carbon already in the atmosphere. Regenerative agriculture practices provide our best hope for achieving that, while at the same time providing food and economic security to populations at risk.

Admittedly, $3 million is peanuts in the overall scheme of congressional spending bills—especially for an industry that, according to 2015 report,  “has spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the past few years on stealth PR tactics and deployed over a dozen front groups to push coordinated messages to attack organic food, defend pesticides and the routine use of antibiotics, and promote GMOs — messages that are making their way, day after day, to the pages of the largest media outlets.”

GMOs have been on the market for more than 20 years. Yet the number of hungry people in the U.S. is on the rise. Congress should allocate money to support the type of agriculture we know will lead to food security, at home and abroad, not to what has already proven a failure.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). OCA’s Regeneration International project team is attending the COP22 Climate Summit in Marrakech, Nov. 9-19.
 

 

Take Action to Keep GMOs Out of Organic!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-11-03 15:47
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoSafeguard Organic StandardsCategory: All About Organics, Genetic EngineeringArea: USA

When the DARK Act became law this summer, GMO labeling wasn’t the only victim. Language included in the  DARK Act could also kill efforts to keep genetically modified organisms (GMOs) out of organic.

TAKE ACTION BEFORE NOV. 15: Sign this petition telling the National Organic Standards Board to keep genetically modified organisms out of certified 'USDA organic' food.Read more

‘Pure’ Fiction?

Organic consumers - Wed, 2016-11-02 17:27
November 1, 2016Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulFarm Issues Honey Dipper 420x280

OCA and our allies at Beyond Pesticides sued the maker of Sue Bee and Aunt Sue’s honey brands for labeling their products “Pure” and “100% Pure” when in fact those products test positive for glyphosate, the active (and ubiquitous) ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.

We know what you’re thinking. Honey comes from bees, and beekeepers don’t spray their hives with Roundup—so how did glyphosate end up in honey?

As organic farmers have been alleging for years, glyphosate doesn’t just land where it’s sprayed, end of story. It drifts—into places where it’s not wanted. Including maybe, nearby properties owned by beekeepers?

Bill Huser, vice president of Sioux Honey (owner of the Sue Bee and Aunt Sue’s brands) shared his theory with USRTK’s Carey Gillam, who first reported on the glyphosate-in-honey story in a September 9 article in the Huffington Post. According to Gillam, Huser said glyphosate is commonly used on farm fields frequented by bees, and the pesticide travels back with the bees to the hives where the honey is produced.

That’s bad news for beekeepers. And bad news for consumers.

How do we know Sue Bee and Aunt Sue’s honey is contaminated with glyphosate? The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), under increasing pressure to start testing food for glyphosate residue on food, found it. And Gillam found out, through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). From the Huffington Post again: 

In examining honey samples from various locations in the United States, the FDA has found fresh evidence that residues of the weed killer called glyphosate can be pervasive - found even in a food that is not produced with the use of glyphosate. All of the samples the FDA tested in a recent examination contained glyphosate residues, and some of the honey showed residue levels double the limit allowed in the European Union, according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. There is no legal tolerance level for glyphosate in honey in the United States.

We sympathize with the beekeepers. We also encourage them to join with consumers in pressuring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to get busy and ban this carcinogenic endocrine-disrupting chemical. Now.

Read the press release 

Read the formal complaint 

More here

TAKE ACTION: Tell EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy: Quit Stalling. Ban Glyphosate Now! 

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Nonprofits File Lawsuit Against Sioux Honey Over ‘100% Pure’ and ‘Natural’ Labels on Products Contaminated with Glyphosate

Organic consumers - Tue, 2016-11-01 21:04
Food SafetyOrganic Consumers AssociationNovember 1, 2016 honey sweet sugar dipper jars cc 420x280.jpg

Beyond Pesticides, Organic Consumers Association allege deceptive and misleading labeling, after FDA testing confirms contamination

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 1, 2016
Contact:

Beyond Pesticides: Jay Feldman, 202-255-4296, jfeldman@beyondpesticides.org
Organic Consumers Association: Katherine Paul, (207) 653-3090, katherine@organicconsumers.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  Beyond Pesticides and the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), represented by Richman Law Group, today filed a lawsuit in Superior Court in the District of Columbia against Sioux Honey Association, for the deceptive and misleading labeling of its Sue Bee and Aunt Sue’s honey brands. The suit follows news that Sue Bee honey products labeled “100% Pure” and “Natural” tested positive for glyphosate residue. Glyphosate, a known endocrine disrupter and, according to the World Health Organization, a probable human carcinogen, is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup® herbicide.

“A consumer seeing the words ‘Pure,’ ‘100% Pure’ or ‘Natural’ on a honey product would reasonably expect that product to contain nothing other than honey,” said OCA International Director, Ronnie Cummins. “Regardless of how these products came to be contaminated, Sioux Honey has an obligation to either prevent the contamination, disclose the contamination, or at the very least, remove these deceptive labels.”

Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides, said: “We join and support those beekeepers who are working to stop hazardous pesticides uses that cause widespread contamination of crops, including honey. Until U.S. regulatory agencies prohibit Monsanto and other manufacturers of glyphosate from selling pesticides that end up in the food supply, we need to protect consumers by demanding truth and transparency in labeling.”

The lawsuit specifically cites Sue Bee Clover Honey, labeled “Pure”; Aunt Sue’s Farmers Market Clover Honey, labeled “100% Pure”; and Aunt Sue’s Raw Honey, labeled “100% Pure” and “Natural. Plaintiffs cite testing, conducted by the FDA, of honey that found 41 ppb (parts per billion) of glyphosate.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not set a tolerance (or acceptable level) of glyphosate in honey, raising questions about the legality of any level. 

The EPA was supposed to rule in 2015 on whether or not to re-register glyphosate, but has failed to complete the review process on schedule.

Read the formal complaint here. 

About Beyond Pesticides 
Beyond Pesticides is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., which works with allies in protecting public health and the environment to lead the transition to a world free of toxic pesticides through a program of science, policy and action. For more information, please visit www.beyondpesticides.org.

About the Organic Consumers Association
The Organic Consumers Association is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public-interest organization advocating on behalf of more than two million consumers for health, justice, and sustainability. For more information, please visit www.organicconsumers.org.

About Richman Law Group
A boutique law firm specializing in consumer protection and civil rights litigation, Richman Law Group was founded on the idea that the client is the essential component in maintaining a successful practice. Composed of a tight-knit cadre of tenacious and diverse professionals, Richman Law Group is dedicated to fighting for the rights of its clients, and through them, the needs of the community at large. For more information, please visit www.richmanlawgroup.com.

Tell EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy: Quit Stalling. Ban Glyphosate Now!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-10-27 14:52
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Environment & Climate, Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesArea: USA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is required to review every pesticide once every 15 years, promised a decision on glyphosate by the end of July 2015, only to later push the deadline to end of 2015.

Now, here we are near the end of 2016, and the EPA, apparently more concerned about protecting Monsanto’s profits than it is about protecting human health and the environment, refuses to act. 

What, or rather, who, is holding up the agency's decision?

Monsanto and its minions, in this case the pesticide industry’s lobbying group, CropLife. On October 12, CropLife wrote a letter to the EPA that asked to exclude anyone who’s ever expressed a negative opinion of glyphosate from sitting on the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP)—the panel charged with advising the EPA on the reregistration of glyphosate.

The EPA immediately bowed to CropLife’s request, setting in motion yet another delay.

Meanwhile, consumers are left to deal with the health risks, and environmental contamination, of the world’s most heavily sprayed herbicide. We don't think that's right. So we're going to the EPA's top dog, Gina McCarthy, with our demand that the EPA do its job.

TAKE ACTION: Tell EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy: Quit Stalling. Ban Glyphosate NOW! Read more

Don’t Trust the Feds on GMOs, Pesticides and Chemicals

Organic consumers - Wed, 2016-10-26 23:43
Genetic EngineeringRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationOctober 25, 2016 dont trust the feds, 750x500

“. . . new chemicals come from our laboratories in an endless stream; almost 500 annually find their way into actual use     in the United States alone…500 new chemicals to which the bodies of men and animals are required somehow to adapt each year, chemicals totally outside the limits of biologic experience.” - Rachel Carson, “Silent Spring” (1962)

Two years after Rachel Carson sounded the above warning, she died of breast cancer. Now 50 years later, the pesticide and chemical assault on our health that Carson exposed in her book, “Silent Spring,” has intensified. Newer toxic chemicals like Monsanto’s Roundup and Syngenta’s atrazine have taken over where DDT and arsenic left off. Despite massive scientific evidence that these chemicals are poisoning us, U.S. regulatory agencies have avoided or delayed taking action on thousands of deadly chemicals, including Monsanto’s Roundup (active ingredient glyphosate) and Syngenta’s atrazine, the two most heavily sprayed poisons on GMO corn and soybeans, America’s top crops.

The European Union, utilizing the “precautionary principle,” has banned several dozen agricultural pesticides and practices that still pollute U.S. food, food packaging, water, bodycare, cosmetic, and cleaning  products. Still, and despite the fact that the President’s Cancer Panel, in 2010, warned that up to 80 percent of U.S. cancer cases—currently striking 48 percent of men, 38 percent of women, and increasing numbers of children—are directly caused by poisons in our environment and food, by Big Food, pharmaceutical, chemical and genetic engineering corporations, aided and abetted by federal government bureaucrats, are still telling us “don’t worry.” 

Don’t worry about the more than 85,000 untested and unlabeled industrial chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, plasticizers, flame retardants, artificial hormones, growth promotors, antibiotics, animal drugs, artificial colors, preservatives, flavors, and genetically modified organisms, in our food and environment. 

The “experts” tell us that the thousands of toxic chemicals and animal drugs used in GMO and chemical-intensive agriculture and consumer products are “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS), based on biased industry “safety” studies, scientific fraud, and outdated protocols. Legitimizing industry propaganda, U.S. bureaucrats love to brag that the U.S. not only has the “cheapest,” food you can buy, but also the “safest.” 

Don’t worry about the skyrocketing epidemic of obesity, cancer, heart disease, asthma, autism, birth defects, mental illness, immune disorders, antibiotic resistant pathogens, food poisoning, vaccine injuries, reproductive disorders, and behavioral and learning disabilities in the body politic and our children. Shut up and eat your Frankenfoods. Chemical and factory-farmed food is cheaper than organic food. Take your meds. “Trust us, we’re experts.” 

“Daily allowable” limits of chemical poisons in our air, water, food, medical drugs, and other consumer products, under the “profit versus risk” assessments of our revolving door bureaucrats (industry to government, government to industry) in Washington D.C. sound a bit worrisome. But when you get sick, Obamacare’s Big Pharma tycoons have a powerful drug or chemo regime just for you, never mind the side effects. 

Atrazine: Banned in the EU, but ‘safe’ in the U.S.?

Case in point, Syngenta’s commonly used, gender-bender corn weed killer atrazine, now under, multi-year—likely never ending—review by the EPA. Atrazine has been linked to breast cancer, severe hormone disruption, and birth defects in doses as low as parts per trillion (one of the class of poisons where there is literally no safe dose). Atrazine was banned in the EU in 2004. But under our “profits trump risks” regulatory system atrazine is still routinely sprayed on corn, sugar cane, and other crops as well as golf courses and lawns (along with Monsanto’s poison herbicide Roundup). And it ends up with other poisons such as chemical fertilizer nitrites in the tap water of much of the U.S.  

Besides tap water, residues of atrazine (along with Roundup or glyphosate) end up in non-organic sweet corn, and high fructose corn syrup in processed foods and soda, as well as nearly all of our factory farmed meat, dairy and poultry. 

But women needn’t worry, according to the Feds. If you get breast cancer from Syngenta’s estrogen supercharger atrazine, you can always go to your cancer specialist and get a prescription for a breast cancer drug, first developed by Novartis (former parent company of Syngenta) that inhibits the estrogen production caused by atrazine. And of course the increased risks of your child being born with a birth defect need to be balanced off against the “risks” of reducing the profits of Big Ag, Syngenta and Monsanto. Don’t you agree?

The USA’s safety and regulatory system for GMOs, pesticides, factory farms and industrial chemicals—a regime that dominates food safety, chemical use, and environmental policy in much of the world—is broken and corrupted. Given the deteriorating state of public health and the environment, the only precautionary strategy for consumers is to avoid or boycott GMO, pesticide- and chemical-tainted products and to purchase and consume organic and truly natural products instead. 

Of the 80,000+ industrial chemicals approved for use in food and consumer products, no more than several hundred have been independently safety-tested by the government. And almost none have been tested in the actual formulations or combinations of chemicals in which humans consume them in our food and water. One case in point, Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, whose active ingredient glyphosate has been “tested” in over a thousand industry-funded studies, but never tested using the herbicide’s full formulation, a chemical cocktail far more toxic than glyphosate alone. 

Frankenfoods and factory farmaggedon 

Since 1962, only a handful of pesticides and industrial chemicals in use have been pulled from the U.S. market.

Over this same period, besides routinely feeding farm animals pesticide- and GMO-tainted feed (residues of which end up in the food we eat), enormous quantities of antibiotics and growth hormones have been injected, implanted or fed to factory-farm animals, giving rise to a growing epidemic of antibiotic resistance, food poisoning, cancer, heart disease, obesity, hormone, behavioral, and reproductive disorders. 

In 1992, the U.S. government, at the behest of Monsanto and corporate agribusiness, using the excuse of “sound science” and streamlining government restrictions on industry, declared that Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and their accompanying pesticides, such as Roundup, would be allowed into the U.S. food supply, with no labeling nor special pre-market safety-testing required. The so-called scientific justification for this proclamation was the doctrine of “substantial equivalence,” the industry-promoted but scientifically indefensible theory that patented genetically engineered foods and crops are the same as non-genetically engineered crops, and therefore are inherently safe. 

In 1994, the FDA approved the first GMO in our food supply, Monsanto’s recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), despite consumer opposition, warnings by the Government Accountability Office, and independent scientific studies. Research indicated clearly that injecting rBGH into dairy cows (to force them to give more milk) severely damaged animal health and produced pus- and hormone-laden milk and dairy products that increased human risks for breast, prostate, and colon cancer, specifically by elevating the levels of a potent cancer tumor promoter called IGF-! (Insulin-like Growth Factor number 1) in the blood. Because of these hazards, rBGH has been banned in most of the industrialized countries of the world, including Canada and the EU. Unfortunately, due to the influence of Monsanto, and now the animal drug giant Elanco (a division of Eli Lilly), Bovine Growth Hormone is still being injected into approximately 10 percent of U.S. dairy cows. 

No wonder millions of American have turned away from pesticide- and chemically-tainted foods and beverages, to organic foods—which ban the use of toxic pesticides, rBGH, animal drugs, and GMOs—making the combined organic ($43.3 billion) and natural foods industry a $70-billion powerhouse, the fastest growing component (along with grass-fed beef) in the U.S. food system.

No basis for trust

Since the government (and the mass media) keep telling us that GMOs and pesticides and animal drugs are perfectly safe (“proven safe by thousands of studies”), and since regulatory agencies are about to renew the registrations for a number of deadly herbicides, including Monsanto’s Roundup (active ingredient glyphosate), and Syngenta’s atrazine, even as they continue approving new poisons like 2,4D and dicamba-resistant crops, and a full array of new Frankenfoods and animals, perhaps we need to review a few of the fundamental reasons why you shouldn’t believe a word of what they say.]

(1)    Government corruption and the “revolving door” between industry and government. In any regulatory system worthy of its name, scientific and toxicological testing of agricultural and industrial chemicals and foods needs to be publicly funded (as opposed to industry funded), independent, transparent and objective. In the U.S. today, none of these criteria are being met. The overwhelming majority of “risk assessments” or so-called “safety studies” of chemicals and pesticides are paid for by industry, carried out behind closed doors by industry-designated scientists and labs. The data and results are invariably biased, and in many cases kept secret using the excuse of business “proprietary information.” This is why deadly chemicals such as PCBs, Agent Orange, DDT, benzene, asbestos, tobacco, formaldehyde, Roundup, atrazine, and dioxin (as well as dangerous pharmaceutical drugs and antibiotics in animal feed) have stayed on the market for decades after literally killing thousands of people. The majority of government officials who “review” these paid-for-by-industry studies either previously worked for the companies or the industry they are supposed to be regulating, or else are looking forward to lucrative jobs once they leave government and go to insidious work in industry. A perfect example of this revolving door is the long-standing relationship between Monsanto and the U.S. government.

(2)    Industry- and profit-driven science. In the U.S, as opposed to the EU, “risk assessment” (basing regulations on the relative cost to industry to decide whether to restrict or ban toxic chemicals) trumps the “precautionary principle” (the principle that a chemical or a product ingredient or formulation must first be proven safe before being allowed to be put into a product or released into the environment). Risk assessment underlies the notion that a “little bit” of poison in our food or water or environment won’t hurt us, even though modern science tells us that there are endocrine or hormone disruptors in food and the environment that can give us cancer, make us obese, or cause birth defects at tiny levels (parts per billion or trillion). In fact, common hormone disruptors like Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, or Syngenta’s Atrazine are apparently more toxic and deadly at lower doses than at higher doses.

(3)    Over-simplified and outdated scientific procedures. The supposed gold standard for testing pesticides is to isolate the “active” ingredient, (glyphosate, in the case of Monsanto’s top-selling herbicide Roundup), even though numerous independent studies show that the secret, so-called “inert ingredients” or additives in these pesticides often make the pesticides much more poisonous. In addition, most non-organic foods (as well as tap water) contain residues from several different pesticides, GMO, and or chemicals (nitrites from chemical fertilizers in combination with pesticides for example), which again often create a “toxic synergy” that is much more hazardous than the single pesticide or chemical by itself. Testing the toxicity of tap water in the corn belt for example, which invariably contains both Atrazine and nitrites, by testing only one of these poisons in isolation, gives results that are several hundred times lower than testing what humans are actually consuming.  If we properly tested tap water we’d have to ban both Atrazine and nitrogen fertilizers.

(4)    Fake Science. Typical industry-funded safety studies of pesticides and other chemicals are short-term “acute toxicity” studies that involve injecting rats with increasingly larger doses of an “active ingredient” until they keel over and die, and then using a mathematical formula to deduce an allowable dose on food for humans (whereby much more sensitive infants and children are regarded as no more susceptible than fully-grown adults.) These scientifically fraudulent experiments, in order to save money and obtain the desired results for industry, are typically carried out on a small number of rats, designed to prove that small amounts of the active ingredient in the pesticide (the “allowed daily intake”) are safe for humans to consume. These industry-sponsored studies invariably conclude that these pesticides are “safe.” But in order to meet the criteria of the precautionary principle, or sound science, these studies (using, not an acute dose, but rather the average dosage that humans actually consume each day) would have to be carried out on a sufficient number of rats, over a sufficient period of time to find the impact of the full formulation as well as of the active ingredient on rat fetuses in the womb, baby rats, adolescents, adults, and the elderly. Rats live approximately 3 years, roughly corresponding to 75 years for a human. A 30-, 60- or 90-day study of an isolated “active ingredient” will tell you very little about the cumulative impact of ingesting a pesticide like Monsanto’s Roundup over a human lifetime. For example, most malignant cancers in humans proliferate at age 65 or older. Dissecting the vital organs of a rat under the age of three years is not going to tell you whether this pesticide is like to give you cancer or not.

(5)    Ignoring the precautionary principle. Independent scientists (unfortunately a dwindling breed) are quite capable of determining whether or not a pesticide or a synthetic chemical is dangerous, given sufficient resources and the freedom to pursue sound scientific studies. However, industry does not want to spend the money required to prove whether their products and formulations are truly safe or not—in part because they know, either consciously or unconsciously, that many or most of their most profitable products (unless they are organic or truly natural) and formulations are hazardous.  So we and our children, and the living environment, end up being the real lab rats. No wonder public health and the environment are deteriorating and degenerating. No wonder health care costs are spiraling out of control. No wonder we have a cancer epidemic, an obesity epidemic, an epidemic of heart disease, asthma, as well as reproductive, hormonal, immune system and behavioral disorders. 

It’s time to take back control of our food system, our health, our government and regulatory agencies. If the government won’t allow proper labeling and safety-testing of foods, then we, the global grassroots, need to investigate, expose and boycott toxic products and chemicals. If industry and the government won’t fund “sound science,” then we will need to crowdsource and fund independent, sound science ourselves. 

In the meantime, we need to defend ourselves and our families, especially the children and most vulnerable, by buying organic and truly natural foods and products, today and every day. Grow your own. Build up local food hubs and community capacity. Support economic justice campaigns so that poor and minority communities can afford and gain access to organic foods. Reach out to others and get organized. Don’t just mourn or complain, Resist and Regenerate.

TAKE ACTION: Tell EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy: No More Foot Dragging. Ban Glyphosate NOW!

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and a member of the Regeneration International steering committee.

Letter from The Hague: The Long March

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-10-20 11:56
Genetic EngineeringRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationOctober 18, 2016 monsanto tribunal judges and crowd 420x280.jpg

We are today in the midst of a battleground for two very different approaches to agriculture. One is the agro-ecological approach based on the use of open source traditional seeds based on biodiversity and living in harmony with nature. The other is the mechanistic world of an industrial system based on monocultures, one-way extraction and the use of pesticides, poisons and GMOs, where chemical cartels compete to take over our agriculture and food systems, destroying our ecosystems along the way.” - Brochure for The People’s Assembly, The Hague, Oct. 14, 2016, “Seeds of Freedom—Navdanya”

The Monsanto Tribunal

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”). 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 soya 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.” 

For more coverage of the Monsanto Tribunal, click here. 

The Monsanto People’s Assembly

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. 

Hare 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 soya 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, sucking down and sequestering massive amounts of excess carbon from the atmosphere and safely storing it in the soil, grasslands, forest 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. Tear Down the Walls and Issue Silos that Divide the Global Grassroots. Coming out of the Monsanto People’s Assembly and Tribunal 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 Internationale 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—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 Monsanto Tribunal and People’s Assembly at The Hague there is a new sense of urgency and determination. A critical mass of us are ready to embark on this Long March of resistance, movement-building and regeneration. 

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and a member of the Regeneration International steering committee.

Millions Against Monsanto: International Solidarity Anthem, presented by OCA Mexico theater group

Video of “México de Pie” Canción de Protesta ante OGM's por Millones Contra Monsanto

Historic International Monsanto Tribunal Begins in The Hague

Organic consumers - Fri, 2016-10-14 14:54
Environment & Climate, Fair Trade & Social Justice, Genetic EngineeringOctober 13, 2016 People's Assembly press conference 750x500

Opening Press Conference, People’s Assembly Mark First of Three-Day Event to Expose Monsanto’s Crimes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 14, 2016

Contact:
U.S.: Katherine Paul, katherine@organicconsumers.org, 207-653-3090, Netherlands: Tjerk Dalhuisen, tjerk@monsanto-tribunal.org, +31614699126, Mexico, Latin America: Ercilia Sahores, ercilia@regenerationinternational.org, (55) 6257 7901 

THE HAGUE, Netherlands—The organizers of the International Monsanto Tribunal and People’s Assembly addressed international journalists today at an opening press conference preceding today’s People’s Assembly and the October 15-16 Tribunal.

“If global governments and courts won’t rein in Monsanto and hold it accountable for its crimes, the people will,” said Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association and member of the Tribunal organizing committee. “Monsanto’s toxic products, toxic commodities and toxic monocultures are destroying human health and our soils, without which life on Earth is unsustainable.”

“A patent of life and on seeds is a crime against farmers who are trapped in debt for costly patented seed,” said Vandana Shiva, founder of Navdanya and member of the Tribunal organizing committee. “It is also a crime against nature. The claim that by adding a gene Monsanto is ‘making’ life violates the self-organizing, self-renewing capacity of seed. The crime is further aggravated by destroying biodiversity, and spreading genetic pollution through the introduction of GMOs.”

The People’s Assembly will conclude on October 16, World Food Day, with a global citizens pledge to transition to a healthy and regenerative, and socially and economically just and democratic global food and farming system.

The Monsanto Tribunal, supported by more than 1000 organizations worldwide, is an international civil society initiative to examine Monsanto’s accountability for human rights violations, for crimes against humanity, and for ecocide. Eminent judges will hear testimonies from victims, and deliver an advisory opinion following procedures of the International Court of Justice. The People’s Assembly provides opportunity for social movements to rally and plan for an alternative future.

Organizing groups behind the Monsanto Tribunal include the Organic Consumers Association, Navdanya, IFOAM Organics International, the Biovision Foundation and Regeneration International.

Regeneration International, a project of the Organic Consumers Association, is building a global network of farmers, scientists, businesses, activists, educators, journalists, governments and consumers who will promote and put into practice regenerative agriculture and land-use practices that: provide abundant, nutritious food; revive local economies; rebuild soil fertility and biodiversity; and restore climate stability by returning carbon to the soil, through the natural process of photosynthesis.