Environment

Day 6: Monsanto’s Head of Consumer Safety Explains Why He Never Returned Plaintiff's Phone Calls

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-07-19 17:20
July 19, 2018Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.Genetic Engineering, Health Issues bk1.jpg Plaintiff’s epidemiologist, Dr Alfred Neugut and his wife Elie straddled by Plaintiff’s attorneys Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Michael Baum at California Superior Court San Francisco.

Thanks to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. for providing a first-hand account of the sixth day in court in the Dewayne Johnson vs. Monsanto Co. trial. Proceedings began in San Francisco Superior Court on July 9. The plaintiff, Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old former school groundskeeper who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma four years ago, claims Monsanto hid evidence that the active ingredient in its Roundup herbicide, glyphosate, caused his cancer. This is the first case to go to trial among hundreds of lawsuits alleging Roundup caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The trial is expected to last about a month.

Johnson vs. Monsanto continued Tuesday afternoon with videotaped testimony from Monsanto officials. Under questioning by our attorney, Brent Wisner of Baum Hedlund Law, chemical company executives and scientists chronicled Monsanto’s energetic efforts to sidestep the science linking Roundup to cancer and to expedite the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) registration process for Roundup.

The first witness was Daniel Jenkins, Monsanto’s manager for regulatory affairs. Emails to Jenkins from Monsanto’s chief of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, Jess Rowland, exposed Rowland’s underhanded efforts to kill a critical safety review of glyphosate by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Rowland boasted to Jenkins, his Monsanto handler, that he “should get a medal for” using his EPA position to kill the ATSDR study. Defending the embarrassing email exchange on the stand, Jenkins looked like a rabbit in headlights. With sweating brow and darting eyes, he dodged questioning about the embarrassing email with non-responsive dissembling, “Monsanto doesn’t have any issue with a good scientific process taking place and giving the data and sharing it with them so it can be looked at and evaluated in an independent process!”

In response to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) determination that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen, Monsanto advised the EPA officials to delay the agency’s response to IARC’s classification. Jenkins counseled his EPA allies that from Monsanto’s point of view, “it’s a very bad move to be equivocal.” Clearly, he was buying time to orchestrate political pressure against the agency panjandrums.

Jenkins admitted in court that he had fired off a text message to Jennifer Listello, Monsanto’s chemistry global coordinator, ordering her to summons Monsanto’s congressional toadies to drill down at EPA: “What we need to do is get some key democrats on the Hill to start calling Jim [Jones, EPA’s assistant administrator]… Shoots across his bow generally that he is being watched, which is needed on several fronts.”

Plaintiff counsel then played the videotape testimony from Dr. Daniel Goldstein, Monsanto’s head of consumer complaints and consumer safety and the company official responsible for responding to public questions about Roundup’s safety. Goldstein testified that when the Plaintiff noticed pustulating lesions sprouting on the patches of his skin that were exposed while he was spraying Roundup on a school playground, our Plaintiff, the naively trusting Dewayne Johnson, reached out, not to the EPA, but to Monsanto to find out if there was any possible connection between Roundup and his skin rash.

Goldstein ignored the call. He testified that under normal circumstances, his “custom and practice… would be to try and contact the patient myself.” He elected however to stonewall Johnson. A year later when Johnson left another message reporting his cancer diagnosis, Goldstein continued to ignore the calls. Goldstein explained that there was no reason to call Johnson because Monsanto’s science said that Roundup does not cause cancer.

Under cross examination by Wisner, Goldstein admitted he was aware, for 14 years prior to Johnson’s exposure, of numerous studies linking glyphosate to cancer. Even after the IARC report, as Mr. Johnson fought the early stages of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, he continued to expose himself to glyphosate because Goldstein refused to return his call and advise him to stop spraying.

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Indigenous Peoples Control One-Quarter of World's Land Surface, Two-Thirds of That Land Is 'Essentially Natural'

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-07-19 10:44
July 17, 2018MongabayEnvironment & Climate land_1000x523.png

- A new study makes a significant contribution to the growing body of research showing that recognizing the land rights of and partnering with indigenous peoples can greatly benefit conservation efforts.

- An international team of researchers produced a map of the terrestrial lands managed or owned by indigenous peoples across the globe, which in turn allowed them to assess “the extent to which Indigenous Peoples’ stewardship and global conservation values intersect.”

- The researchers determined that indigenous peoples have ownership and use or management rights over more than a quarter of the world’s land surface — close to 38 million square kilometers or 14.6 million square miles — spread across 87 countries and overlapping with about 40 percent of all terrestrial protected areas on Earth.

A new study makes a significant contribution to the growing body of research showing that recognizing the land rights of and partnering with indigenous peoples can greatly benefit conservation efforts.

“The dearth of reliable data on Indigenous Peoples’ lands in many parts of the world has implications not only for securing their rights but also for the conservation and management of a significant proportion of terrestrial global biodiversity,” the authors of the study, led by Professor Stephen Garnett of Charles Darwin University in Australia, write in the journal Nature Sustainability.

Garnett and team sought to address this knowledge gap by producing a map of the terrestrial lands managed or owned by indigenous peoples across the globe, which in turn allowed them to assess “the extent to which Indigenous Peoples’ stewardship and global conservation values intersect” and “provide a first estimation of the overlap between Indigenous Peoples’ terrestrial lands and protected areas.”

While recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples to their traditional lands and waters is increasingly coming to be seen as an ethical obligation, the authors of the study say their results provide evidence that it is also essential to meeting local and global conservation goals and that more collaborative partnerships between indigenous peoples and governments would yield substantial benefits for efforts to conserve high-priority landscapes, ecosystems, and biodiversity.

About 370 million people around the world “define themselves as Indigenous, are descended from populations who inhabited a country before the time of conquest or colonization, and who retain at least some of their own social, economic, cultural and political practices,” according to the study. The researchers determined that indigenous peoples have ownership and use or management rights over more than a quarter of the world’s land surface — close to 38 million square kilometers or 14.6 million square miles — spread across 87 countries and overlapping with about 40 percent of all terrestrial protected areas on Earth.

“Our results show that Indigenous Peoples have rights to and/or manage at least 37.9 million [square kilometers] of land in nearly all mainland countries in the Americas, around the Arctic, throughout most of the forested lands of south and Southeast Asia, across Africa particularly in rangelands and deserts but also forests, and throughout countries in Oceania, including many small island nations,” Garnett and his co-authors write in the study. The map they created shows that Africa has the highest proportion of countries with indigenous peoples and Europe-West Asia the lowest.

“Understanding the extent of lands over which Indigenous Peoples retain traditional connection is critical for several conservation and climate agreements,” Garnett said in a statement. “Not until we pulled together the best available published information on Indigenous lands did we really appreciate the extraordinary scale of Indigenous Peoples’ ongoing influence.”

The researchers used 127 data sources to compile the map, including records of state-recognized indigenous lands, publicly accessible participatory mapping, census data, and scholarly publications. “We are not surprised this has never been done before,” Dr. Ian Leiper of Charles Darwin University, who assembled much of the mapping data, said in a statement. “It has taken three years to track down credible sources of data from around the world.”

Study co-author James Watson of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and University of Queensland in Australia said that one particularly remarkable finding of the research was the extent to which lands controlled by indigenous peoples have remained untouched by development. About half of the global terrestrial environment can be classified as human-dominated, the study states. Based on that measure of human influence, the researchers estimated that indigenous peoples’ lands account for 37 percent of all remaining natural lands on Earth.

“We found that about two thirds of Indigenous lands are essentially natural,” Watson said. “That is more than double the proportion for other lands.”

The data the research team relied on did not shed light on the legal context of the 7.8 million square kilometers of indigenous peoples’ land that overlaps with protected areas, nor what indigenous peoples use those lands for. But the authors note in the study that “It does indicate, however, that the scale of spatial overlap positions Indigenous Peoples as important global actors in protected area management.”

The researchers add that while the contributions of indigenous peoples to national protected area networks have sometimes been provided with free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), in many regions “protected areas have been imposed over Indigenous Peoples’ lands without consent, sometimes leading to conflict, social disadvantage and displacement.”

That helps demonstrate how important it is for governments and conservation NGOs to partner with indigenous peoples, according to Neil Burgess, a study co-author and researcher with the UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre in the UK. “What this new research shows is the huge potential for further collaborative partnerships between indigenous people, conservation practitioners and governments,” he said in a statement. “This should yield major benefits for conservation of ecologically valuable landscapes, ecosystems and genes for future generations.”

But partnership agreements must be made quickly, because many indigenous lands are under severe pressure to be developed. For instance, co-author John E. Fa of the Center for International Forestry Research and Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK said: “Where I work in central Africa, Indigenous Peoples are synonymous with tropical rainforests in the best condition. But change is happening fast. Empowering Indigenous Peoples will be key to conserving these forests.”

Zsolt Molnár of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) said that the maps of indigenous lands would help inform efforts to assess status and trends of biodiversity conservation, ecosystem services, and sustainable development. The IPBES, Molnár added, has specifically been looking for an overview of indigenous peoples’ influence on nature and conservation.

“What these new maps show us is that understanding Indigenous perspectives and Indigenous contributions to conservation are essential when negotiating local or global conservation agreements,” Molnár said.

Posted with permission from Mongabay.

Localization: A Strategic Alternative to Globalized Authoritarianism

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-07-19 10:23
July 19, 2018Common DreamsHelena Norberg-HodgePolitics & Globalization people_1000x523.png

In order to see how corporate deregulation has led to a breakdown of democracy, to increasing fundamentalism and violence, and to the rise of far-right political leaders, it is vitally important that we see the broader connections that mainstream analyses generally ignore.

For those who care about peace, equality and the future of the planet, the global political swing to the right over the past few years is deeply worrying. It has us asking ourselves, how did this happen? How did populism turn into such a divisive and destructive force? How did authoritarianism take over the political scene once again?

From my 40 years of experience working in both industrialized and land-based cultures, I believe the primary reason is globalization. When I say globalization, I mean the global economic system in which most of us now live – a system driven by continual corporate deregulation and shaped by neoliberal, capitalist ideologies. But globalization goes deeper than politics and the economy. It has profoundly personal impacts.

Under globalization, competition has increased dramatically, job security has become a thing of the past, and most people find it increasingly difficult to earn a livable wage. At the same time, identity is under threat as cultural diversity is replaced by a consumer monoculture worldwide. Under these conditions it’s not surprising that people become increasingly insecure. As advertisers know from nearly a century of experience, insecurity leaves people easier to exploit. But people today are targeted by more than just marketing campaigns for deodorants and tooth polish: insecurity leaves them highly vulnerable to propaganda that encourages them to blame the cultural “other” for their plight.

Let me illustrate how this happened in Ladakh, or Little Tibet, where I first visited as a young woman and where I have worked for over four decades. Situated in the Indian Himalayas, Ladakh was relatively isolated – culturally and economically – until the late 1960s. When I arrived in the early 70s, a campaign of Western-style development had just been launched by the Indian government – giving me the opportunity to experience what still remained of the ancient culture, and to observe the changes that came with modernization.

In the old culture, work involved providing for the basic needs of the community—food, clothing, housing. Although there was little money, there was no evidence of the kind of poverty one sees all over the so-called ‘developing’ world — where people are hungry or malnourished, and have neither adequate shelter nor clean drinking water. In fact, throughout Ladakh I was told regularly: “We are tung-bos za-bos”, which means “we are self-sufficient, we have plenty to eat and drink”.

During my early years in Ladakh, a remarkable degree of social harmony was evident; particularly noteworthy was the fact that the Buddhist majority and Muslim minority lived peacefully side-by-side. Of course there were problems, as there are in all human societies, but the harmony and joie de vivre I encountered were vastly different to what I’d known growing up in Europe.

Within a decade, however, there was a terrifying shift away from the traditional harmony, as Buddhists and Muslims began seeing one another as enemies. Ethnic and religious differences began to take on a divisive political dimension, causing bitterness and enmity on a scale previously unknown. Young Ladakhis, for whom religion had been just another part of daily life, took exaggerated steps to demonstrate their religious affiliation and devotion. Muslims began requiring their young daughters to cover their heads with scarves. Buddhists in the capital began broadcasting their prayers over loudspeakers, so as to compete with the Muslim prayer call. Religious ceremonies once celebrated by the whole community – Buddhist and Muslim alike – became instead occasions to flaunt one’s wealth and strength. In 1989, tensions between the two groups exploded into violence that took several lives. I heard mild-mannered Buddhist grandmothers, who, a few years earlier were sipping tea with their Muslim neighbors and even celebrating each others’ religious festivals, declare: ”we have to kill the Muslims before they finish us off”.

Outsiders attributed the conflict to old ethnic tensions flaring, but any such tensions had never led to group violence in 600 years of recorded history. As someone who lived there and spoke Ladakhi fluently, I had a unique perspective as both an outsider and insider, and it was obvious to me that there was a connection between the economic changes wrought by development and the sudden appearance of violent conflict.

The most noticeable changes in the economy centered on food and farming. Imported food, heavily subsidized by the Indian government, now sold at half the price of local products, making local agriculture seem “uneconomic”. Food self-reliance was steadily replaced by dependence on the global food system, and many Ladakhis – the vast majority of whom were farmers – began to wonder if there was a future for them.

Changes in education also had a huge impact. In the past, Ladakhi children learned the skills needed to survive, even to prosper, in this difficult environment: they learned to grow food, to tend for animals, to build houses from local resources. But in the new Westernized schools, children were instead provided skills appropriate for an urban life within a globalized economy – a way of life in which almost every need is imported. The new schools taught almost nothing about the Ladakhi way of life; instead children were implicitly taught to look down on the traditional culture.

The locus of political and economic power changed as well. Traditionally, the household was the center of the economy, with most of the larger decisions taken at a village level. With the arrival of the new economy, economic and political power became centralized in the capital city, Leh, leaving villagers out of decisions that deeply affected their lives. Meanwhile, young men were being pulled out of their villages into Leh in search of paid jobs. Suddenly cut off from their village community and in cutthroat competition with hundreds of others for scarce jobs, their once secure sense of identity was deeply eroded.

These changes were further amplified by an influx of foreign tourists, by the introduction of satellite television, and by a bombardment of advertising campaigns – all of which served to romanticize western, urban culture, making the Ladakhis feel backward and stupid by contrast.

It was clear to me that the arrival of the global economy had created a pervasive sense of insecurity and disempowerment. On a practical level, the Ladakhis were becoming dependent on far-off manufacturers and centralized bureaucracies instead of on each other. Psychologically, they had lost confidence in themselves and their culture. It is not hard to see how people who feel insecure and disempowered can turn to anger and extremism.

The speed and scale at which these changes took place in Ladakh was overwhelming, making the structural connection between globalization, insecurity and conflict very obvious. It was also clear that the same process is underway around the world: the economic system, I realized, has become a driver of fear, fundamentalism and political instability worldwide. And in both the global North and South, the enormous psychological and material insecurity fostered by globalization has greatly magnified the ability of demagogues to use fear and prejudice to manipulate public opinion.

To reverse this trend, neither a politics of identity, nor of conventional ‘left’ versus ‘right’ politics, is sufficient. Instead, we need to fundamentally change the structural economic forces at the root of the problem. Those forces have been unleashed by the deregulation of global banks and corporations, and reversing that process is our best hope for peace and stability.

In order to see how corporate deregulation has led to a breakdown of democracy, to increasing fundamentalism and violence, and to the rise of far-right political leaders, it is vitally important that we see the broader connections that mainstream analyses generally ignore.

Globalization & Insecurity

Many people, especially on the left, associate globalization with international collaboration, travel and the spread of humanitarian values. But at its core, globalization is an economic process – one that has been at the heart of neoliberal ideology and the corporate agenda since the end of Word War II. In the Global South, it’s referred to as ‘development’, in the global North, as progress. But in both North and South the fundamental process is the same: the deregulation, centralization and privatization of business, finance and politics.

These days, this is mainly accomplished through ‘free trade’ treaties that give corporate entities the freedom to move across the world in search of the cheapest labor, the least stringent health and environmental standards, the biggest tax breaks and the most generous subsidies. These treaties enable corporations to move operations – and consequently jobs – wherever they please. They even give them the right to sue governments over laws or regulations that threaten their potential profits – thus making a complete mockery of democracy. Locked into a system requiring constant global “growth”, communities have seen their local economies undermined, pulling them into dependence on a volatile corporate-led economy over which they have no control.

The trajectory of growing corporate power is not inevitable or natural, nor is it a consequence of supposed ‘efficiencies of scale’, as many assume it to be. Rather, it is the result of decades of policy choices by national governments as well as international bodies like the World Bank and the IMF, which deliberately support the big and the global in the belief that corporate growth is the pathway to peace and prosperity. Not only have global corporations and banks been allowed to take advantage of differences in labor, health, safety, and environmental standards across the globe, they have also been granted huge tax breaks and massive direct subsidies. Even more insidiously, the corporate system has been built on a range of indirect subsidies – largely for the infrastructure on which globalization depends. Global marketers like Wal-Mart, Amazon and Apple require a well-developed and constantly expanding transport network of seaports, railways, airports and mega-highways, as well as massive amounts of heavily subsidized fossil fuels for transport. To monitor their supply and delivery chains they also need advanced satellite communications technologies – something also required by global banks and financial institutions for moving capital around the world. In almost every country, educational systems have been shifted towards training students for the skills needed by the corporate world. All these mechanisms structurally favor big and global businesses over those that are localized or place-based, and most have been paid for not by the corporations themselves, but by the taxpayer.[1]

Even the global businesses that appear to have been ‘bootstrapped’ into existence by charismatic entrepreneurs owe much of their success to government largesse. As author Mariana Mazzucato argues, even the iPhone was less a product of Steve Jobs’ imagination than of publicly funded research by the US Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation.[2] And Elon Musk’s futuristic businesses have benefited not only from $5 billion in direct local, state and federal support, but from decades of research on, among other things, rocket technology.[3]

Job insecurity

As corporations have been freed up, the jobs they provide have become increasingly insecure. For example, under the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the USA suffered a net loss of an estimated 700,000 jobs as manufacturers relocated to Mexico, where wages were cheaper and labor standards lower.[5] But globalization is an ongoing ‘race to the bottom’, so not all of those jobs stayed in Mexico: between October 2000 and December 2003 alone, Mexico lost 300,000 jobs because Chinese mass-produced exports to the United States were cheaper.[5] Overall, Mexico’s farmers were the biggest losers: highly subsidized agricultural products from the United States infiltrated their local markets, undermining the livelihoods of approximately 2.3 million small farmers.[6] Many of these farmers ended up in Mexico’s crowded cities, where they were forced to compete with one another for low-paying industrial jobs. With few viable options, many ended up migrating – legally or not – to the United States. These victims of globalization, ironically enough, often became the far right’s scapegoats for American job losses.

While the media has emphasized rising standards of living among industrial workers in the global South, the benefits for workers there are heavily outweighed by the benefits to the corporations that offshore their manufacturing operations. Of the price paid for an Apple iPhone, for example, less than 2% goes to the Chinese workers involved in its production, while 58% is captured by Apple as profit.[7]

It’s not only the disappearance of jobs that leads to stagnant or declining standards of living, but the threat that jobs can be easily taken elsewhere if workers don’t accept lower wages, longer hours or fewer benefits. In this way, the many multilateral and bilateral “free trade” treaties now in force serve to undercut workers’ bargaining power and depress wages even for the corporate jobs that haven’t been offshored.

Jobs are also lost as businesses are centralized and scaled up. When a global corporation – propped up by a range of tax breaks and subsidies – enters a new market, the local economy tends to experience a net loss of jobs, as smaller competitors that tend to be more dependent on human labor go out of business. Some studies have shown that every new supermarket in the UK entails a net loss of 276 jobs.[8] The online marketer Amazon has destroyed 150,000 more jobs than it has created, according to a report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.[9] Like other online retailers, Amazon has not only benefited from communications and transport infrastructures built at public expense, it has avoided collecting state and local sales tax from its US customers – sales tax revenues that states and localities desperately need – giving Amazon a price advantage of as much as 9.75% over main street businesses.[10]

At the same time, many jobs are being lost to advanced technology. The obvious example is in manufacturing, where robots have replaced a wide range of skilled workers, but technology is having a similar impact on agriculture. The global economy’s export-led markets demand huge amounts of standardized commodities; producing those foods on a large scale means monocultural production, which is heavily dependent on industrial machinery and chemical inputs, but requires only a relatively small agricultural labor force. As a result, there have been massive declines in livelihoods in the agricultural sector. In the EU, nearly 4 million farms with holdings under 10 hectares have disappeared in the last decade; today, just 3% of farms control more than 50% of total EU farmland.[11] In the US, the Census Bureau considers farmers such a demographically insignificant population that it no longer tracks their numbers, but it is estimated that there are now fewer farmers in America than there are people in prison.[12] As information technology becomes more sophisticated, jobs in many other sectors are being transferred away from people to computers. For now, poorly-paid manual work and highly-skilled positions are relatively protected from this trend, but technological advance is leaving everyone more insecure about their job.[13]

Political insecurity

Deregulation of corporations, including banks, has enabled a handful of giants to monopolize global markets. Some have grown bigger than nation states, both in terms of wealth and political influence. These multinationals have used their unprecedented power to lobby governments into still more economic deregulation, using mechanisms such as Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses in free trade treaties to sue governments and attack public-interest regulations.[14]

While ‘free trade’ gives big players the freedom to do as they please, it means quite the opposite – more regulation and restrictions – for smaller, nationally-based players. Governments have been lobbied by big business to constrain the activities of smaller businesses by locking them into unreasonable standards and convoluted bureaucracy. In many cases, an unfair burden falls on small-scale enterprises through regulations aimed at problems caused by large-scale production. Battery-style chicken farms, for example, clearly need significant environmental and health regulations: their millions of genetically-identical, closely confined animals are highly prone to disease, their tonnes of concentrated effluent need to be safely disposed of, and the long-distance transport of processed poultry entails the risk of spoilage. Yet a small producer – such as a farmer with a few dozen free-range chickens – is subject to essentially the same regulations, often raising costs to levels that make it impossible to remain in business. Large-scale producers can spread the cost of compliance over a far greater volume, making it appear that they enjoy ‘economies of scale’ over smaller producers.

At the same time, governments themselves have been impoverished by corporate deregulation. Their funds have been stretched by the heavy subsidies handed out to attract big business, and their revenues have been eroded by tax breaks, offshoring, and the ability of multinationals to hide profits in countries with lower tax rates. The deregulation of finance has left governments ever more indebted to global banks and corporations. At the same time, governments are left to cover all the externalities – the social and environmental problems that are the inevitable by-products of global growth.

Increasingly distanced from the institutions which make decisions that affect their lives, and insecure about their economic livelihoods, many people have become frustrated, angry, and disillusioned with the current political system. Although democratic systems worldwide have been hugely compromised by the de facto government of deregulated banks and corporations, most people blame government leaders at home. Because they don’t see the bigger picture, increasing numbers of people have grown susceptible to the false claims and empty promises of unconventional, authoritarian candidates, who are thereby able to gain a foothold in political arenas.

Psychological insecurity

As local, even national, economies are undermined, the fabric of interdependence that holds communities together begins to fray. This not only leads to social fragmentation and isolation, it also unravels the safety net ensuring that the surrounding community can be relied upon for help in times of hardship.

At the same time, the global consumer culture that supports corporate growth is relentlessly expanding. People all over the world are targeted with advertising messages telling them: “you are not good enough as you are, but you can improve yourself by buying our product.”

As face-to-face relationships deteriorate and real-life role models are replaced by distant, artificial images of perfection in mass media and in the hyperbolic world of social media, unhealthy comparison runs rife. These trends are associated with rising rates of disorders such as anorexia, anxiety, aggression and even suicide, while social isolation, domestic stress and increasing economic pressures have given rise to epidemics of depression and addiction.[15]

Left insecure and marginalized by the new economy, people can be highly vulnerable to prejudice. In the global South especially, the breakdown of communities and cultures is severing rich intergenerational relationships and uprooting identities, often replacing them with unhealthy alternatives that reflect a desperate need for belonging. Ideological fundamentalism and extremism seem to offer an explanation for worsening social and personal ills, as well as a radical solution. It can provide personal validation and meaning, solidarity and a sense of community – all essential human needs that have been undermined by globalization.

The uprooting of land-based populations – a dramatic and visible trend in the countries of the global South – has been the driver of much of the ethnic conflict, fundamentalism and radicalism in that part of the world. In the global North, rural areas have been similarly hollowed out by global economic forces. Small family farms tied to the global food economy are caught between the rising prices charged by the agribusinesses that sell them inputs and equipment, and the falling prices paid by those that purchase their production. They simply cannot compete with heavily subsidized export-led agribusinesses, and their steady demise has decimated the local economies and communities they once supported. Young people who have grown up in these rural areas often see no future for themselves there: not only are jobs scarce, but – just as in Ladakh – the media and advertising tell them that urban life is ‘cool’, glamorous and exciting by contrast. These parts of the country – referred to as ‘the heartland’ in the United States – have become fertile ground for far-right authoritarian movements.

Challenging Authoritarianism: the prospect of localization

We urgently need widespread awareness of the big picture of economic deregulation and its impacts on our communities and personal lives. It is only ignorance about this system that enables the pseudo-solutions of Trump, Brexit, Duterte and others to gain strength, even as the global economic system marches onwards, unfettered. Despite the fact that these right-wing political forces are often branded as “anti-globalist”, they are actually serving to strengthen global monopolies.[16]

Any movement to address the woes of the disenfranchised must not only expose and diagnose the systemic illness of economic deregulation, but must also present a coherent alternative. I believe economic localization is the most strategic solution. The localized path would involve a 180-degree turn-around in economic policy, so that business and finance become place-based and accountable to democratic processes. This means re-regulation of global corporations and banks, as well as a shift in taxes and subsidies so that they no longer favor the big and the global but instead support small scale on a large scale. Rebuilding stronger, more diversified, self-reliant economies at the national, regional and local level is essential to restoring democracy and a real economy based on sustainable use of natural resources – an economy that serves essential human needs, lessens inequality and promotes social harmony.

The way to bring this change about is not to simply vote for a new candidate within the same compromised political structure. We instead need to build up diverse and united people’s movements to create a political force that can bring about systemic localization. It means raising awareness of the way that globalization has made a mockery of democracy, and making it clear that business needs to be place-based in order to be accountable and subject to the democratic process. We need to start talking politics with one another – with those concerned about social justice and peace, those focused on unemployment, environmental issues, or spiritual and ethical values. It means raising awareness of the common interest that unites single-issue campaigns and bridges left-right antagonism. Creating face-to-face local groups that then link up nation-wide and even internationally, can form a diverse movement – a critical mass – which can enter politics and remain strong in its pro-democracy/anti-corporate position, despite the systemic vested interests that it will inevitably have to challenge.

Although such a global movement has not yet arisen, in some countries we’ve seen glimpses of the widespread desire for fundamental change. In the last UK election, the Labour party manifesto included several progressive measures, such as re-nationalizing key sectors that have been taken over by private corporations. Although Labour did not win the election, it received a large proportion of the vote. In the US, the 2016 presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders was another example of a politician responding to the growing chorus of voices critical of corporate control of the economy.

However, the issue is complex: the nation state remains the political entity best suited to putting limits on global business, but at the same time more decentralized economic structures are needed, particularly when it comes to meeting basic needs. These localized economies require an umbrella of environmental and social protection strengthened by national and even international regulation, but determined through local political engagement. This comes close to the platform of La Via Campesina, originally Latin American but now global in scope. Although it does not run candidates for political office, it has come to represent over 400 million small farmers worldwide in campaigning for food sovereignty and in opposition to corporate deregulation.

Localization is a solution-multiplier. It can restore democracy by reducing the influence of big business on politics and holding representatives accountable to people, not corporations. It can reverse the concentration of wealth by fostering the creation of more small businesses and keeping money circulating locally. It can minimize pollution and waste by providing for real human needs rather than desires manufactured by the consumer culture, and by shortening distances between producers and consumers.

Localization also enables people to see more clearly the impacts of their actions: in smaller-scale economies, for example, one readily knows whether food production is dependent on toxic chemicals, whether farm workers have been mistreated, and whether the land remains healthy. In this way, business becomes more accountable.[17]

By prioritizing diversified production for local needs over specialized production for export, localization redistributes economic and political power from global monopolies to millions of small producers, farmers and businesses. It thereby decentralizes political power and roots it in community, giving people more agency over the changes they wish to see in their own lives.

The exponential growth in localization initiatives – from food-based efforts like community gardens, farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture schemes and urban agriculture, to local business alliances, decentralized renewable energy schemes, tool lending libraries and community-based education projects – attests to the fact that more and more people are arriving, in a largely common-sense way, at localization as a systemic solution to the problems they face.

Here is a brief sampling of some initiatives already underway:

In Fitzroy, Australia, people meet monthly at a local park to exchange produce, seeds, eggs, jam, chutney, flowers, recipes and gardening tips. There is no money involved and people are encouraged to take what they want. This self-described Urban Harvest not only helps people save money on food, it provides an opportunity for residents to get to know their neighbours and build community links.[18]

In the US state of Vermont, The Pine Island Community farm enables refugees, mostly from Africa and Asia, to continue the agrarian and culinary traditions they left behind when they were driven from their homes. Not only does the farm offer these immigrants the opportunity to grow and raise affordable, culturally relevant foods, it connects them with each other and with their new community.[19]

In Oxfordshire, UK, the Low Carbon Hub is working to create a locally-owned, decentralized renewable energy infrastructure, turning rooftops and brownfields into a micro-grid for local needs. The project is paid for through sales of community share offers.[20]

Even the financial system – the source of so much mischief and woe – is being localized with profound effects. In the slums of Fortaleza, Brazil, for example, a community bank, Las Palmas, was created and is governed by local residents with the aim of meeting local needs. Among other things, it issued its own currency, which circulates only within the community. When the project began, only 20% of purchases were made locally; today, that number is over 90%.[21]

These are just a handful of the literally thousands of creative grassroots initiatives that demonstrate both the viability of localization and its systemic benefits.

Unfortunately, localization is sometimes confused with isolationism and even right-wing nationalism. In fact, the opposite is true: localization requires international collaboration and solidarity in order to halt the corporate juggernaut; it is built upon a profound respect for cultural diversity, and therefore tolerance for differences.

The town of Preston in the UK is a good example of how localization expands collaboration. In 2011, the city and county councils set about localizing procurement in response to cuts in national government funding. By changing the spending focus of six regional institutions, including a police force, housing associations and colleges, they managed to increase the amount spent at local suppliers from 14% to 28% in two years. Concurrently, there was a growth in the number of local cooperative businesses.[22] Far from being isolationist, the Preston council is now collaborating with other cities across the EU, as part of the Europe-wide Procure Network, to explore how they can make similar changes in their local economies.

Other networks are growing at national and international levels. These include the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), which unites hundreds of local business leaders from all over North America to share best practices. Likewise, the New Economy Coalition brings together NGOs, businesses and activists across North America to exchange strategies for localizing. The Transition Town network links together groups that are working to de-link as much as possible from the fossil fuel economy. My organization, Local Futures, has set up an International Alliance for Localization (IAL), which takes this exchange to a global level and currently includes organizations and individual members from more than 50 countries. True localization means small scale on a large scale, and that takes collaboration at all levels.

A major challenge to the acceptance of a localist agenda among progressives has been the impression that local and natural are ‘elitist’ and affordable only to those of comfortable means. Corporate think tanks have been effective in disseminating this message, but the relatively higher cost of healthy alternatives – whether organic food, local natural building materials and fibers, or alternative medicine – is largely a product of externalized costs and government subsidies for export-oriented corporate production. Strip away all that artificial support and the cost of globalized products would be out of reach for most.

A related ‘elitism’ charge is that the Northerners working to localize their economies are turning their backs on the impoverished people of the global South, who need Northern markets to pull themselves out of poverty. The truth is that many years of export-oriented ‘development’ (with its roots in colonialism and slavery) have left most countries of the South deeply in debt – most of it incurred to build up the infrastructure needed for global trade. Today, the lion’s share of the wealth created on the backs of Southern workers goes to finance this debt, not to meet local needs. Promoting localization means encouraging people in both North and South to diversify their economic activity and become more self-reliant. For Northerners, this would mean getting off the backs of people on the other side of the world, whose impoverishment is a direct consequence of having been forced into producing for export rather than for their own needs. Reversing dependency on both sides would not involve some sort of overnight boycott; instead it would be a careful economic process that includes close North-South grassroots collaboration.

In light of our global crises – environmental, social and economic – governments would do well to fundamentally shift direction. Rather than continuing to deregulate and subsidize big, global banks and businesses, they should focus instead on supporting local trade and small producers. Since food is something that everyone, everywhere, needs every day, a key focus should be on rebuilding the local food economy. Doing so strengthens the entire economy, rebuilds community, and helps heal the environment. It also contributes to resiliency in the face of climate change: diverse localized production systems in an interdependent network, rather than dependence for our basic needs on far-off sources, will better equip communities to withstand the upheavals to come.

Needless to say, the PR departments of global corporations are working hard to counter this message – telling us that whatever the costs of the global food system we have no choice but to double-down on chemical- and energy-intensive monocultures, genetic engineering and global trade if we are to feed the world’s growing population.[23] What they simply ignore is that studies conducted all over the world reveal that smaller farms are more productive per unit of land, water, and energy than large-scale monocultures.[24] Industrial agriculture is only efficient when measured in output per unit of labor: monocultures are great if the goal is profit for the few at the expense of millions of farm jobs, but not if the goal is to sustainably produce as much food as possible with the earth’s limited supply of arable land, fresh water and energy.

Those who live in the global North – where the industrialization of agriculture has been underway for many generations – can easily lose sight of the fact that most of the food consumed in the world today is produced by small farmers on holdings of fewer than 5 acres.[25] To replace those smallholdings with industrial monocultures means destroying the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people, and pushing them into real poverty in urban slums. We should not be surprised when a sizeable fraction of those millions become frustrated, angry, and susceptible to extremist views.

The global food system is inefficient in other ways, especially when one considers ‘redundant trade’. In a typical year, Britain exports over 100,000 tons each of milk, bread, and pork, while importing nearly identical amounts. The same is true in the US, which exports and imports nearly 1 million tons of beef, and hundreds of thousands of tons of potatoes, sugar, and coffee.[26] In some cases, it is literally the same product that is both exported and imported: for example, prawns from Scotland are routinely shipped to China to be shelled by hand, then shipped back to Scotland where they are breaded, packaged and sold.[27] This may pad the bottom lines of the agribusinesses involved, but it can hardly be called efficient.

As it is, the trade-based food system is incapable of feeding the current global population sustainably. With food more tightly controlled by corporations than ever before, some 870 million people are undernourished[28] – even though more than enough food is produced to adequately feed everyone on the planet. In the US, for example, long supply chains and the corporate elimination of cosmetically blemished produce means that over 40 percent of the food grown for human consumption is eventually discarded.[29] The amount of food thrown away globally is four times what would be necessary to feed all the malnourished people in the world.[30]

To support the local food movement, subsidies could be redirected towards strengthening local infrastructures, including distribution lines that connect local producers with local consumers, and even giving financial support to small-scale, diversified farms themselves. Such policy changes would see local, job-rich, community-based, ecological economic systems become the mainstream remarkably quickly, thereby enabling even low-income wage earners around the world to benefit from their local economy. Similarly, reducing subsidies for fossil fuels and increasing taxes on more polluting industries would internalize many of the hidden costs of resource-intensive economic systems, bringing market prices more in line with actual resource and pollution costs. These shifts would have the effect of making local products the cheaper, more accessible option for the wider population.

The rise of authoritarianism is just one of many interrelated impacts of economic globalization. Today’s global economy heightens economic insecurity, fractures communities, and undermines individual and cultural identity – thereby creating conditions that are ripe for the rise of authoritarian leaders. If globalization’s environmental costs – climate change, desertification, flooding – are allowed to rise, we can expect ever larger waves of refugees that will further destabilize nation-states while straining their willingness, as well as their ability, to act humanely.

The most strategic way to address all of these crises is to immediately begin scaling down and decentralizing economic activity, giving communities and local economies the ability to meet as many of their own needs as possible, including the human need for connection.

The movement for economic localization will require many facets of strategic change-making: the spread of awareness, dynamic political campaigning, enlightened grassroots action and international collaboration. This may seem inadequate to the scale of the crises we face, but the banner of localization has the potential to engage huge numbers of people from both sides of the traditional political spectrum, and to bring together hundreds of single-issue campaigns. It enables us to move past the “blame game” and the antagonistic divisions caused by confusion and fear-mongering, instead uniting us in a common cause underpinned by big picture understanding of the common roots of our many crises. In this way, systemic, collaborative localization is ultimately the most effective antidote to authoritarianism.

This article was originally published by the Transnational Institute.

Posted with permission from Common Dreams.

How Big Meat and Dairy Are Heating Up the Planet

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-07-18 19:12
July 18, 2018GRAINEnvironment & Climate bigdiary.jpg

A new report shows how the world’s 35 largest meat and dairy companies are pursuing growth strategies that will increase their emissions and derail global efforts to prevent dangerous climate change.

The world’s largest meat and dairy corporations could become the planet’s worst climate polluters within the next few decades, according to a new report by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and GRAIN. At a time when the planet must dramatically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, these meat and dairy giants are driving overconsumption by ramping up production and exports, despite public commitments that some of them have made to tackle climate change.

The new research shows that:

Together, the five largest meat and dairy corporations (JBS, Tyson, Cargill, Dairy Farmers of America and Fonterra) are already responsible for more annual greenhouse gas emissions than ExxonMobil, Shell or BP.

The combined emissions of the top 20 meat and dairy companies surpass the emissions from entire nations such as Germany, Canada, Australia or the United Kingdom.

Most of the top 35 meat and dairy companies either fail to report emissions entirely or exclude their supply chain emissions which account for 80-90% of their emissions. Only four of them provide comprehensive emissions estimates.

Only half of the top 35 meat and dairy companies have announced any type of emissions reduction targets. Out of these, only six include supply chain emissions.

If the growth of the global meat and dairy industry continues as projected, the livestock sector as a whole could consume 80% of the planet’s annual greenhouse gas budget by 2050.

The report also shows that the operations of the top 35 companies are highly concentrated in a small number of countries that have a disproportionate share of global meat and dairy production and consumption. Among these countries, the US, the EU countries, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and China are responsible for over 60% of the emissions from global meat and dairy production-- about twice the rest of the world on a per capita basis. Just six of these countries produce over 67% of the world’s beef; just three (US, EU and China) produce 80% of the world’s pork, only four produce 61% of the world’s chicken, while three (the EU, US and New Zealand) produce nearly half of the world’s dairy.  

“There’s no other choice. Meat and dairy production in the countries where the top 35 companies dominate must be significantly reduced,” said Devlin Kuyek of GRAIN. “These corporations are pushing for trade agreements that will increase exports and emissions, and they are undermining real climate solutions like agroecology that benefit farmers, workers and consumers.”

“There is no such thing as ‘cheap meat,’” said Shefali Sharma of IATP. “For decades, the mass production of meat and dairy has been enabled by farmers getting paid below the cost of production, workers being exploited and taxpayers footing the bill for air, land and water pollution caused by big meat and dairy. It’s time we realized over-consumption is directly linked to the subsidies we provide the industry to continue deforesting, depleting our natural resources and creating a major public health hazard through antibiotic overuse. This report shows what a key role they play in creating climate change as well.”

Oliver De Schutter, Former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food (2008-2014), Co-chair of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) said, “The industrial livestock and dairy sectors are major contributors to climate change, but they have generally escaped scrutiny because they either don't collect information about their impacts, or don’t take credible action on the basis of what they know. This report should encourage governments to take action to stem their further expansion.”

The report calls for food systems in which farmers can supply everyone with moderate amounts of high-quality meat and dairy in a way that respects people, animals and the planet.

Posted with permission from GRAIN.

Monsanto Trial: Toxicologist Explains to Jury How Monsanto Colluded With EPA

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-07-18 14:06
July 18, 2018Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.Genetic Engineering, Health Issues kennedy.jpg Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in front of the Superior Court of San Francisco where the Monsanto trial is taking place.

Thanks to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. for providing a recap of the fourth and fifth day in court in the Dewayne Johnson vs. Monsanto Co. trial. Proceedings began in San Francisco Superior Court on July 9. The plaintiff, Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old former school groundskeeper who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma four years ago, claims Monsanto hid evidence that the active ingredient in its Roundup herbicide, glyphosate, caused his cancer. This is the first case to go to trial among hundreds of lawsuits alleging Roundup caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The trial is expected to last about a month. (Read recap of day six).

Throughout Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, July 16 and July 17, Monsanto’s attorney, Kirby Griffiths, continued his ambuscade of Plaintiff’s epidemiologist/toxicologist, Dr. Christopher Portier, probing for weaknesses in Portier’s assessment that glyphosate and Roundup are human carcinogens. Dr. Portier yielded nothing; the studies evaluating glyphosate’s carcinogenicity were performed correctly, he said, properly examined and interpreted accurately by the International Agency for Cancer Research, which determined that “glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen.” Watching Griffiths try to get a grapple hold on Dr. Portier had the aspect of a man trying to climb a greased pole. Griffiths never got his feet off the ground.

Following Griffiths’ cross, my co-counsel, Brent Wisner of Baum Hedlund Law, conducted redirect of Dr. Portier and the jury heard its first mention of Jess Rowland, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) corrupt Office of Pesticide Programs chief. Rowland orchestrated the exoneration of Roundup based principally on studies ginned up or ghostwritten by Monsanto and its army of biostitutes (After Dr. Portier stepped down, we heard additional videotaped testimony from Monsanto official, Dr. William Heydens, admitting that he had recommended “ghostwriting” EPA’s key study then edited it himself).

Under Wisner’s questioning, Dr. Portier inventoried the substantive flaws in the federal EPA’s glyphosate and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma studies. He showed how the EPA, with Monsanto holding its coat, cherry-picked glyphosate-friendly studies to support its ruling in Monsanto’s favor. Wisner closed his redirect with Portier denouncing the Andreotti Study (2018) as fatally flawed. That study, the backbone of Monsanto’s case, concluded, with Trumponian chutzpah, that glyphosate actually protects humans against non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Portier showed, that, raw data buried in that study, showed a statistically significant elevated risk of T-cell lymphomas, the exact type of cancer diagnosed in our Plaintiff, Dwayne Johnson.

Our principle weakness in this case is the conclusion of the EPA’s Jess Rowland and his Office of Pesticide Programs that glyphosate is not a human carcinogen. The jury will never learn that in the 1980s, the EPA concluded that glyphosate was a carcinogen. Monsanto responded by engaging in a series of contacts with the EPA designed to intimidate the agency to withdraw those damaging findings.

Internal documents show that Monsanto recruited a paid scientist who reexamined the EPA’s mouse data and claimed to find that one key mouse study showing carcinogenicity failed to account for an unreported tumor in an unexposed mouse in the control group. As it turns out, Monsanto’s documents show that the company’s mercenary pathologist agreed to “find” the elusive cancer before he actually saw any slides. Although the EPA’s internal scientists refuted Monsanto’s hired gun, Monsanto stacked the advisory review presentations with Monsanto agents, leading to Roundup’s reclassification.

Despite this sordid history, proving that the EPA’s determination was rooted in corruption is a tricky wicket for the Plaintiff and a continuing source of frustration to our trial team. Various rulings of the court forbid us from talking about the damning historical evidence of wholesale and pervasive corruption in EPA’s pesticide office. Another ruling forbids us from mentioning California’s EPA’s decision that Roundup is a carcinogen.

Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a nonprofit grassroots consumer advocacy organization. Sign up here to keep up with news and alerts from OCA.

GMO Kids? Argentina Moms Confront Monsanto and Philip Morris Over Greed and Pesticides

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-07-17 17:57
July 17, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationFair Trade & Social Justice, Genetic Engineering, Health Issues lucas.jpg

Seventeen-year-old William Nuñez can’t walk or talk, and has to be fed through a tube in his stomach. Five-year-old Lucas Texeira suffers from a severe and incurable skin condition. Lucas Krauss has congenital microcephaly, epilepsy, delayed motor and mental development, multiple muscular atrophy and numerous related pathologies.

What do these children have in common? Their fathers, all farmers working in Latin America, were exposed to agricultural pesticides that likely damaged their DNA, increasing the risk of cancer, birth defects and neurological disorders in the children they later fathered.

They also have this in common: Their mothers are fighting for justice for their kids.

“Genetically Modified Children,” a new one-hour documentary, exposes how Philip Morris and Monsanto have exploited generations of impoverished Argentinian farmers since 1996, when the Argentinian government authorized the use of genetically engineered crops to withstand the use of Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller.

Featured in the film are Dr. Hugo Gomez Demaio, head of neurosurgery at the Pediatric Hospital of Posadas, and Dr. Mario Barrera, neurosurgeon at the Medical School of Nordeste. (Both institutions are in Buenos Aires). The doctors are dedicated to highlighting and treating the link between glyphosate exposure and DNA damage.

Dr. Barrera explains:

“Even if the entire local environment is contaminated, it does not mean that all children will become sick. But when the father is exposed to herbicides, they are absorbed into the body and alter his DNA. He then passes that genetic mutation on to his children.”

Sofia Gatica lost her infant daughter to a kidney malformation, and her son was rendered unable to walk following a local agrochemical fumigation. She is the co-founder of the Mothers of Ituzaingó, a group of mothers working to stop the indiscriminate agrochemical use that has poisoned their children. Ituzaingó, a suburb of Córdoba, Argentina, is surrounded by GMO soy fields.

Gatica is renowned for her work tracking the abnormal rates of cancer, kidney disease and other conditions in areas close to aerial spraying of glyphosate on GMO soy crops. She’s been so instrumental in the fight against Monsanto that she was awarded the 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize.

According to the film, the Mothers of Ituzaingo had blood tests done on their kids and found that three out of four children living in their community had agrochemicals in their blood, including pesticides, chromium, lead and arsenic. When they took the results to the Argentinian government, government officials told them they would improve the water only if the families signed away their right to sue for the previously polluted water.

The mothers have faced many uphill battles, including in 2007 when someone entered Gatica’s house, pointed a revolver at her, and demanded she give up the campaign.

But they’ve also made good progress.

In 2008, Argentina’s president ordered the minister of health to investigate the impact of pesticide use in Ituzaingó. A study was conducted by the Department of Medicine at Buenos Aires University and the results corroborated with the research the mothers had done linking pesticide exposure to the many health issues experienced by people in the community.

Gatica also succeeded in getting a municipal ordinance passed that prohibited aerial spraying in Ituzaingó at distances of less than 2,500 meters from residences. And, in a huge victory, a 2010 Supreme Court ruling banned agrochemical spraying near populated areas and reversed the burden of proof—now the government and soy producers have to prove the chemicals they are using are safe, instead of residents having to prove that the spraying is making them sick.

This David vs. Goliath battle continues to play out in the courts. Class action lawsuits were filed on behalf of these “genetically modified children” by five law firms: Philips & Poalicelli, Waters & Kraus, The Thornton Law Firm, Capilla & Mustapich and Bifferato.

According to Steven Phillips, founding partner at Phillips & Paolicelli, Monsanto and Philip Morris must be held accountable—Monsanto for selling Roundup while knowing it wasn’t safe, and Philip Morris for requiring the use of Roundup on its tobacco crops. Litigation against Monsanto is currently proceeding in Delaware, while litigation against Philip Morris is proceeding in Argentina.

All these steps are positive, yet much still needs to be done. Every year, more than 80 million gallons of glyphosate are used on Argentinian soil. Tobacco farmers in Argentina still lack information about the risks associated with the agrochemical and GMO products they are required to use in order to get their tobacco certified by Philip Morris.

Agrochemicals are worth $40 billion a year to chemical and agricultural companies like Monsanto. It’s estimated that the agrochemical market will be worth $308.92 billion by 2025. How likely is it that these multinational corporations will voluntarily sacrifice any of these profits, even if it means sacrificing the health of farmers and their kids?

You can stream “Genetically Modified Children” on Vimeo and Amazon or get the DVD for $10 by visiting this special promotional page. The film’s directors, Juliette Igier and Stephanie Lebrun, are looking for partner organizations and educators interested in using the film as a tool to raise awareness in their communities. To learn more, email Cinema Libre Studio at outreach@cinemalibrestudio.com.

Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a nonprofit grassroots consumer advocacy organization. Sign up here to keep up with news and alerts from OCA.

Secret Documents Expose Monsanto’s War on Cancer Scientists

Organic consumers - Mon, 2018-07-16 20:48
July 17, 2018U.S. Right to KnowStacy MalkanAll About Organics, Health Issues santo_1000x523.png

DeWayne Johnson, a 46-year-old father dying of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, became the first person to face Monsanto in trial last week over allegations the company hid evidence about the cancer-causing dangers of its Roundup weedkiller. Johnson is the first of some 4,000 people suing Monsanto in state and federal courts claiming their cancers were caused by glyphosate-based Roundup. The litigation, and documents coming to light because of it, are shining light on the heavy-handed tactics Monsanto (now a subsidiary of Bayer) has used to deny cancer risk and protect the chemical that is the lynchpin of its profits.

“Monsanto was its own ghostwriter for some safety reviews,” Bloomberg reported, and an EPA official reportedly helped Monsanto “kill” another agency’s cancer study. An investigation in Le Monde details Monsanto’s effort “to destroy the United Nations’ cancer agency by any means possible” to save glyphosate.

Two recent journal articles, based on reviews of the Roundup trial discovery documents, report corporate interference in a scientific publication and a federal regulatory agency, and other examples of “poisoning the scientific well.”

“Monsanto’s ghostwriting and strong-arming threaten sound science and society,” wrote Tufts University Professor Sheldon Krimsky in a June essay. The discovery documents, he said, “uncover the corporate capture of science, which puts public health and the very foundation of democracy at risk.”

This corporate war on science has major implications for all of us, considering that half of all men in the U.S. and a third of women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in our lifetimes, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The documents the food industry doesn’t want you to see 

For years, the food and chemical industries have set their sights on one particular target in the science world: the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the independent research group that for 50 years has worked to identify cancer hazards to inform policies that can prevent cancer.

“I’ve been fighting IARC forever!!! :)” one former Kraft Foods scientist wrote to a former Syngenta scientist in an email obtained through a state open records request. “Foods and ag are under siege since Glyphosate in March 2015. We all need to gather somehow and expose IARC, as you guys did in the paper. Next priorities are all food ingredients: aspartame, sucralose, dietary iron, B-carotene, BPA, etc. IARC is killing us!”

The IARC expert panel decision to classify glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” created a rallying point for the panel’s foes to gather forces. A key Monsanto document released via litigation reveals the plan of attack: discredit the cancer scientists with the help of allies across the food industry.

Monsanto’s public relations plan assigned 20 corporate staffers to prepare for the IARC carcinogenicity report on glyphosate, with objectives including “neutralize impact,” “establish public perspective on IARC,” “regulator outreach,” “ensure MON POV” and “engage industry associations” in “outrage.”

The document identified four tiers of “industry partners” to help advance the three objectives named in the PR plan: protect the reputation of Roundup, prevent “unfounded” cancer claims from becoming popular opinion, and “provide cover for regulatory agencies” to keep allowing the use of glyphosate.

Uncovering Monsanto’s network of “industry partners” 

The industry partner groups Monsanto tapped to discredit the IARC scientists included the largest pesticide and food industry lobby organizations, CropLife International, BIO and the Grocery Manufacturers Association; industry-funded spin groups such as GMO Answers and the International Food Information Council; and “science-y” sounding front groups like Sense about Science, the Genetic Literacy Project and Academics Review – all using similar messaging and often referring back to each other as sources.

Documents obtained by the U.S. Right to Know investigation illuminate on how these partner groups work together to promote the “MON POV” about the safety and necessity of pesticides and GMOs.

One set of documents revealed how Monsanto’s PR operatives organized “Academics Review” as a neutral-sounding platform from which they could launch attacks against a target list of foes, including the Sierra Club, author Michael Pollan, the movie Food, Inc. and the organic industry.

The architects of Academics Review – co-founders Bruce Chassy and David Tribe, Monsanto executive Eric Sachs, former Monsanto communications director Jay Byrne, and former VP of the biotech industry trade group Val Giddings – talked openly in the emails about setting up Academics Review as a front group to promote industry interests and attract industry cash, while keeping corporate fingerprints hidden.

Even now with their playbook exposed – and their primary funding identified as coming from a trade group funded by Monsanto, Bayer, BASF, Syngenta and DowDuPont – Academics Review still claims on its website to accept donations only from “non-corporate sources.” Academics Review also claims that the “IARC glyphosate cancer review fails on multiple fronts,” in a post sourced by the industry-funded PR website GMO Answers, the industry-funded front group American Council on Science and Health, and a Forbes article by Henry Miller that was ghostwritten by Monsanto.

Miller and the Academics Review organizers Chassy, Tribe, Byrne, Sachs and Giddings are all also members of AgBioChatter, a private listserver that appeared in Monsanto’s PR plan as a tier 2 industry partner. Emails from the AgBioChatter list suggest it was used as a forum to coordinate industry allies on messaging and lobbying activities to promote GMOs and pesticides. Members included senior agrichemical industry staff, PR consultants and pro-industry academics, many of whom write for industry media platforms such as GMO Answers and Genetic Literacy Project, or play leadership roles in other Monsanto partner groups.

Genetic Literacy Project, led by longtime chemical industry PR operative Jon Entine, also partnered with Academics Review to run a series of conferences funded by the agrichemical industry to train journalists and scientists how to better promote GMOs and pesticides and argue for their deregulation. The organizers were, again, dishonest about the sources of their funding.

These groups cast themselves as honest arbiters of science even as they spread false information and level near hysterical attacks against scientists who raised concerns about the cancer risk of glyphosate.

A search for “IARC” on the Genetic Literacy Project website brings up more than 220 articles with industry messaging, maligning the cancer scientists as “anti-chemical enviros” who “lied” and “conspired to misrepresent” the health risks of glyphosate, and arguing that the global cancer agency should be defunded and abolished.

Many of the anti-IARC articles posted on that site, or pushed by other industry surrogates, ignore the many news reports based on the Monsanto Papers documenting corporate interference in the scientific research, and focus instead on the misleading reporting of Kate Kelland, a Reuters’ reporter who has close ties to the Science Media Centre, the sister organization of Sense About Science, a group Monsanto suggested in its PR plan to “lead industry response” in the media.

The battle against IARC, based on these attacks, has now reached Capitol Hill, with Congressional Republicans led by Rep. Lamar Smith investigating and trying to withhold U.S. funding from the world’s leading cancer research agency.

Who is on the side of science?

Monsanto’s lobbying and messaging to discredit the IARC cancer panel is based on the argument that other agencies using risk-based assessments have exonerated glyphosate of cancer risk. But as many news outlets have reported, along with the two recent journal articles based on the Monsanto Papers, evidence is piling up that the regulatory risk assessments on glyphosate, which rely heavily on industry-provided research, have been compromised by undisclosed conflicts of interest, reliance on dubious science, ghostwritten materials and other methods of corporate strong-arming that puts public health at risk, as the Tufts Professor Sheldon Krimsky wrote.

“To protect the scientific enterprise, one of the core pillars of a modern democratic society, against the forces that would turn it into the handmaiden of industry or politics, our society must support firewalls between academic science and the corporate sectors and educate young scientists and journal editors on the moral principles behind their respective professional roles,” Krimsky wrote.

Policy makers must not allow corporate-spun science to guide decisions about cancer prevention. Media must do a better job reporting and probing into conflicts of interest behind the corporate science spin. It’s time to end the corporate war on cancer science.

Stacy Malkan is co-director of the consumer group U.S. Right to Know and author of the book “Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry.” Posted with permission from U.S. Right to Know.

Intimidation, Disinformation, the Formula Industry and the Next Dietary Guidelines

Organic consumers - Mon, 2018-07-16 19:20
July 12, 2018Union of Concerned ScientistsGonna ReedHealth Issues, Politics & Globalization baby_1000x523.png

It’s nearly time for the federal government to update its Dietary Guidelines for the public, and this time around the recommendations will include legally mandated dietary guidance for pregnant women, infants, and toddlers (from birth to age 24 months). With that in mind, my colleagues and I were troubled to read of a dust-up over infant formula that occurred at the World Health Organization this past spring.

According to attendees of the World Health Assembly in Geneva, the United States advocated for industry positions as it negotiated a draft resolution on infant and young child feeding, threatening countries with trade retaliation if they introduced the resolution as written. This led to Ecuador who had originally drafted the resolution to pull out from introducing it. Fortunately, Russia stepped in to reintroduce it and member countries worked together to ensure the passage of a version with strong language in support of breastfeeding over breast milk substitute therein, however the final version was missing some important provisions, including one that would give member countries the ability to ask the WHO director general for support in “implementation, mobilization of financial resources, monitoring and assessment” and legal and regulatory enforcement of the code and those countries seeking to halt “inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and children.”

This type of inappropriate interference from the infant formula industry and the willingness of the US to aggressively push for its positions by employing threats of trade restrictions does not bode well for the what lies ahead for the Dietary Guidelines, the process for which kicked off this year. Like with all science-based processes in federal policymaking, there is an opportunity for undue influence to occur to obscure the facts in order to achieve outcomes that maintain the status quo. And undue industry influence is not a stranger to this process. For example, in the 2015 guidelines, the final recommendations failed to incorporate all of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s  (DGAC’s) evidence-based recommendations that food system sustainability be incorporated into the guidelines, after the big food industry players, most notably the meat industry, opposed the scientific conclusion. Already, the Infant Nutrition Council of America has been actively engaged in the start of the Dietary Guidelines 2020 process, and has lobbied the USDA and HHS on the issue this year. While it makes sense that they’re weighing in on this process, there is no room for inappropriate influence and false characterization of the science.

The formula industry’s long, sordid history spreading misinformation

Three companies dominate the infant formula market: Nestle, Abbott Laboratories, and Mead Johnson. They are members of the Infant Nutrition Council of America, the trade association representing the infant formula industry. There’s a long history of the infant formula and baby food manufacturers pushing back against science-based policies that would limit their ability to make health claims on or sell their products to limited demographics. As a result, we’ve seen delays to evidence-based added sugar labels, missed opportunities to tighten the language on health claims in children’s foods, and even the language in government breastfeeding campaigns toned down.

The infant formula industry used this same disinformation playbook tactic as in the recent WHO proceedings decades ago. In 1977, there was a massive boycott of major formula maker Nestle that urged participants not to buy Nestle products until the company stopped misleading advertising that favored bottle-feeding over breastfeeding. The company then ardently fought against a WHO/UNICEF Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes which, once passed in 1981, prevented formula companies from targeting mothers and health care providers with promotions and health claims on packaging. When it passed, 118 countries voted to approve. The United States was absent from that list of countries, presumably because of industry sway.

Breaking down the science on breastfeeding

Leading scientific authorities on maternal and children’s health at The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Public Health Association, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all promote exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life as the preferred method of infant feeding due to the health benefits for both mother and child. The literature on breastfeeding has revealed its association with a variety of beneficial health outcomes including decreased risk of asthma, obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome, and respiratory tract infections for the infant and decreased risk of type 2 diabetes and breast and ovarian cancers for the mother. Not only is it healthful, but it is cost-effective. A 2013 Lancet series on maternal and child nutrition estimates that universal breastfeeding would prevent the deaths of over 800,000 children and 20,000 mothers, saving $300 billion globally each year. According to researchers at Harvard Medical School, in the United States alone, if 90% of families breastfed exclusively for 6 months, it would save $13 billion per year in healthcare costs and prevent 911 deaths.

It’s imperative that moms are supported in breastfeeding as an option, some moms are unable to for a variety of reasons and formula is the best alternative. Having breast milk substitutes as alternatives is crucial, but spreading misleading information about the benefits of formula over breastfeeding and marketing accordingly to certain demographic groups is completely irresponsible.

Despite what President Trump and others might argue about the need for infant formula for poor women in developing countries, the data has shown that it may actually be more feasible for women to produce healthy breast milk than to have access to clean water to mix with powdered infant formula to feed their infants. A 2018 National Bureau of Economic Research study found that the availability of formula actually increased infant mortality by 9.4 per 1,000 births and estimated that, as a result, 66,000 infants died in low- and middle-income countries just in 1981.

The 2020 Dietary Guidelines must preserve scientific integrity

UCS submitted comments to HHS and USDA in April on the Dietary Guidelines process urging the agencies to “maintain a high degree of integrity, autonomy, and transparency to ensure that the guidelines represent the best available science and avoid any bias that could work against the interests of public health.” In other words, the US government cannot allow the makers of infant formula to pressure them into weaker dietary guidelines that go against the best available science. Ultimately, we need access to accurate information so that we can make dietary decisions that help us achieve optimal health through nutrition, and we are counting on our government to rely on evidence, not industry talking points on matters of our children’s health. We will continue to monitor this process as the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is formed in the coming months to ensure that scientific integrity at the agencies is upheld.

Posted with permission from the Union of Concerned Scientists

Is the HPV Vaccination Preventing Your Pregnancy?

Organic consumers - Mon, 2018-07-16 18:53
July 12, 2018Alliance for Natural HealthHealth Issues syringe vaccine green cc 1000x523.jpg

The data say yes: yet the FDA might approve the vaccine for adults. Action Alert!

A new study shows that women aged 25-29 who received the HPV vaccine have a lower probability of becoming pregnant. This is just the latest in a stream of evidence that points to the dangers of the HPV vaccine, particularly to those already infected with the virus—yet the FDA is considering a request from Merck to expand the population to whom the vaccine can be marketed. If the request is granted, it would be another example of how the agency sells out consumers for the benefit of the vaccine industry.

In addition to the study on the HPV vaccine preventing pregnancies, the government’s vaccine adverse event reporting system (VAERS) lists a startling 57,287 adverse events from the vaccine, including 419 deaths—far more than any other vaccine. A World Health Organization study demonstrated that the vaccination has a tendency to produce clusters of serious adverse events. The American College of Pediatricians raised concerns that the vaccine could be linked to premature ovarian failure. And let’s not forget the former Merck doctor who said that Gardasil “will become the greatest medical scandal of all time,” that it “serves no other purpose than to generate profit for the manufacturer,” and, like some other vaccines, that it can cause “Guillain-Barré syndrome, paralysis of the lower limbs, vaccine-induced MS, and vaccine-induced encephalitis.”

Consider, too, that for women who have already been exposed to certain strains of the HPV virus, vaccination can actually increase the risk of precancerous lesions by 44%. That’s right: if you are already infected with HPV, getting vaccinated could increase your risk of getting cancer. To put this in perspective, 79 million Americans are infected with HPV, and about 14 million are newly infected each year, making HPV the most common sexually transmitted infection. The CDC says that “HPV is so common that almost every person who is sexually active will get HPV at some time in their life.”

Despite substantial evidence of the dangers of vaccinating for HPV, the FDA has granted a request from Merck, the manufacturer of the Gardasil vaccine, to conduct a “priority review” for an expanded application of the vaccine, so it can be given to adults aged 27-45 as well as children. Priority review, as opposed to standard review, simply means that the agency is on an accelerated timeline: priority reviews take six months, standard reviews take ten months.

Merck originally asked for the expanded application in 2008, but the FDA rejected the request and asked for more long-term data. Not much seems to have changed. Gardasil’s current label references a study on 3,000 women aged 27-45 and states there was “no statistically significant efficacy” demonstrated by the vaccine in preventing cervical cancer or cervical lesions. Instead, Merck is pinning its hopes to observational data that supposedly demonstrates that the Gardasil vaccination can protect women from acquiring new HPV infections.

Given all this evidence, the discussion should be whether the HPV vaccine should be given to anyone—certainly not if it should be given to more people. Is the government so beholden to vaccine manufacturers that they will turn a blind eye to this evidence?

If the government won’t protect our health, it is up to consumers to educate themselves. Check out our documentary, Manufactured Crisis: HPV, Hype & Horror.

Posted with permission from the Alliance for Natural Health.

Who Cares? Why We Sued Ben & Jerry's

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-07-12 15:18
July 12, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulAll About Organics dollar bill ice cream cone hand cc 1000x523.jpg

Splashed across the Ben & Jerry’s website are cartoon-like pictures of happy cows romping in green pastures.

There’s a reason those cows are depicted by drawings, not actual photos—most of the real, live cows whose milk and cream are used in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream products are crammed into dark, filthy barns for most of their short lives.

Ben & Jerry’s goes to great lengths to create the perception that the Unilever-owned company “cares” deeply about the farmers who supply milk and cream for the brand, the cows raised on Vermont dairy farms, and the state of Vermont’s environment.

The company’s “Caring Dairy” program sounds like a dream-come-true for Vermont’s dairy farmers and dairy cows.

But it’s more like a nightmare, for the cows, Vermont’s environment and consumers who care about animal welfare.

As we state in the lawsuit we filed this week against Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s markets its products:

. . . as being made from milk produced by “happy cows” raised in “Caring Dairies,” leading consumers to believe that the products are produced using animal-raising practices that are more humane than those used on regular factory-style, mass production dairy operations.

In contrast to Unilever’s representations, the products include milk that comes from cows raised in regular factory-style, mass-production dairy operations, also known as “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations” or “Large Farm Operations”—not in the special “Caring Dairies” emphasized in Unilever’s marketing.

As we reported last year, our testing revealed that many samples of popular Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavors, in the U.S. and in Europe, contain traces of Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller. We see that as a sign that the brand falls far short of its claims of social and environmental responsibility.

Unilever spends nearly $9 billion a year on advertising, second only to Proctor & Gamble. We think the company should spend less on misleading product claims, and invest more in helping Vermont dairy farmers transition to organic and regenerative practices that actually support those claims.

‘Caring Dairies’ program nothing more than a scam

Like any successful brand, Ben & Jerry’s knows that animal welfare tops the list of issues people care about. Hence, the creation of a program—“Caring Dairy”—intended to make consumers believe that Ben & Jerry’s “cares,” too.

But it’s all smoke and mirrors. Here’s why.

On its “Caring Dairy Standards” website page, the company lists a set of standards it says are required for all dairy farms that supply Ben & Jerry’s.

Thanks to the work of Regeneration Vermont, we know that Ben & Jerry’s sources all of its milk and cream through a cooperative based in St. Albans City, Vermont. Fewer than 25 percent of the approximately 360 farms that deliver milk and cream to the St. Albans co-op meet the “Caring Dairy” standards. But when farmers deliver their milk to the co-op, it’s all mixed together—the co-op doesn’t separate the milk delivered by a “Caring Dairy” program participant from the milk of other dairy farms. So even if some of the milk comes from a farm that actually meets those standards, Ben & Jerry’s can’t truthfully claim that all of their milk and cream come from dairies that meet the company’s “Caring Dairy” standards.

Advertising, even the false kind, pays

So you, the consumer, when you visit the Ben & Jerry’s website and see pretty pictures and a long list of standards the company says all of its farmers meet, are being duped.

All that talk of “Caring Dairies” is there to make consumers feel good about buying Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

It’s pretty much all a lie. Especially when you consider that over the years, some members of the St. Albans co-op have been fined for violations of environmental laws, including one that illegally expanded its operation near the Missisquoi River Basin, which drains into the already heavily pollutted Missisquoi Bay.

In fact, the dairy industry is Vermont’s biggest polluter, according to Regeneration Vermont, in part because the state’s conventional dairy farms feed GMO corn, heavily sprayed with pesticides such as atrazine, metolachlor and glyphosate, to dairy cows.

So when Ben & Jerry’s says it’s “on a mission to make great ice cream that respects the farmer and their farmworks, the planet and the cow,” don’t believe it.

Ben & Jerry’s is on a mission to spin a false and misleading story about a company that has a lousy track record when it comes to sourcing ingredients from socially and environmentally responsible producers.

Consumers who care about their health, the environment and animal welfare would do better to buy organic brands from companies that don't source glyphosate-sprayed ingredients and that do source from dairies that meet organic standards.

Happy National Ice Cream Month!

Monsanto’s Roundup on Trial: Day 2 in Court

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-07-11 14:46
July 11, 2018Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.Genetic Engineering, Health Issues roundup.jpg

Thanks to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. for providing a recap of the second day in court in the Dewayne Johnson vs. Monsanto Co. trial. Proceedings began in San Francisco Superior Court on Monday, July 9. The plaintiff, Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old former school groundskeeper who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma four years ago, claims Monsanto hid evidence that the active ingredient in its Roundup herbicide, glyphosate, caused his cancer. This is the first case to go to trial among hundreds of lawsuits alleging Roundup caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The trial is expected to last about a month.

My co-counsel, Brent Wisner from Baum Hedlund, opened the testimony stage Tuesday morning  with video deposition of Dr. Mark Martens, Monsanto’s former toxicology director. Under questioning by Aimee Wagstaff, Martens chronicled Monsanto’s herculean schemes to discredit a series of key animal studies published through the 1990s.

Those studies linked Monsanto’s herbicide to genotoxicity, a potential precursor to cancer. Contemporary emails between Martens and Dr. Donna Farmer, product protection lead, discuss the need to “combat” the damning studies. The emails show Monsanto hired Dr. James Parry, an esteemed independent genotoxicologist, to evaluate the 90s animal studies. Unhappy with his conclusions that also suggested that Roundup might cause cancer, the two Monsanto scientists schemed to persuade Dr. Parry to alter his conclusions.

The email said:

“It would take quite some time and money/studies to get him there. We simply aren’t going to do the studies Parry suggests… We should seriously start looking for one or more other individuals. We have not made much progress [in ginning up studies to prove RoundUp non-genotoxic] and are currently very vulnerable in this area.”

In the end, Monsanto considered converting Parry too costly.

Subsequent emails revealed during the afternoon video testimony of Monsanto’s Dr. William Heydens show that Monsanto ultimately rejected the strategy of bribing legitimate scientists (“We could be pushing $250K or maybe even more”) and concluded that:

“a less expensive/more palatable approach might be to involve experts only for the areas of contention, epidemiology and possibly MOA [Mechanism of Action] (depending on what comes out of the IARC meeting), and we ghost-write the Exposure Tox & Genotox sections. An option would be to add [apparently independent tame Monsanto scientists] Greim and Kier or Kirkland to have their names on the publication, but we would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and they would just edit and sign their names so to speak. Recall that is how we handled Williams Kroes & Monroe.”

The Williams Kroes & Monroe paper, apparently ghostwritten by Monsanto per this email, has been a frequently cited analysis in the field of glyphosate and Roundup’s relationship with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the condition suffered by the thousands of Roundup users in this litigation.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is a longtime environmental advocate and author of American Values: Lessons I Learned From My Family. He is an attorney of counsel to Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, representing nearly 800 people across the nation who allege Roundup exposure caused their non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Follow him on Twitter: @RobertKennedyJr. Like him on Facebook.

Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a nonprofit grassroots consumer advocacy organization. Sign up here to keep up with news and alerts from OCA.

Organic Consumers Association Sues Unilever-Owned Ben & Jerry's Over Deceptive Advertising and Marketing

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-07-10 16:49
All About Organics, Genetic EngineeringJuly 10, 2018 bj1000x523.png

Brand Misleads Consumers About Product Quality, Environmental and Animal Welfare Practices

Contact:

Katherine Paul, Organic Consumers Association, 207-653-3090, katherine@organicconsumers.org;

Michael Colby, Regeneration Vermont, 802-595-0060, mcolbyvt@gmail.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 11, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) today filed suit against Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s Homemade, Inc., for deceptive labeling, marketing and sale of Unilever’s Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream products. The suit was filed in D.C. Superior Court under the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act.

“Unilever reportedly spent more than $9 billion on advertising in 2017 alone,” said OCA International Director, Ronnie Cummins. “A significant portion of that was spent to create the false perception that Ben & Jerry’s is committed to a clean environment and high animal welfare standards. Unilever knows those values foster brand loyalty and also allow the company to charge a premium.”

“Ben & Jerry’s decades-old practice of sourcing dairy ingredients from conventional dairy operations has led to a water pollution crisis in Vermont. There is nothing socially or environmentally responsible about that.”

Michael Colby, president of Regeneration Vermont, said: “For decades, Ben & Jerry’s has been doing bad and feeling good about it. While they market it as ‘Caring Dairy,’ the cheap milk produced for Ben & Jerry’s relies upon factory-style farming practices, such as antibiotics use and animal confinement, that contaminate the state’s waterways.”

Regeneration Vermont, OCA’s campaign partner in the Ben & Jerry’s media campaign, has issued reports on the health, environmental, labor and animal welfare threats from industrial dairies that supply Ben & Jerry’s. The Vermont-based nonprofit’s most recent report, “A Failure to Regulate: Big Dairy & Water Pollution in Vermont,” exposes the role factory farms supplying Ben & Jerry’s play in the state’s water crisis, where more than 100 waterways are classified by the U.S. EPA  as “impaired.”

Last year, OCA testing revealed traces of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, in Ben & Jerry’s products purchased in the US and EU.

Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a grassroots nonprofit consumer advocacy organization representing a network of more than 1 million consumers. Visit www.organicconsumers.org.

Richman Law Group, representing OCA, is a collective of lawyers specializing in impact litigation to repair the world. The firm is dedicated to fighting for the rights of its clients, and the needs of the community at large. Visit www.richmanlawgroup.com.

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Monsanto 'Bullied Scientists' and Hid Weedkiller Cancer Risk, Lawyer Tells Court

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-07-10 15:36
Sam LevinThe GuardianJuly 10, 2018https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/jul/09/monsanto-trial-roundup-weedkiller-cancer-dewayne-johnson?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other monsanto_trial.jpg

As ill California man’s landmark case begins, attorney attacks Roundup maker’s response to researchers’ findings

Monsanto has long worked to “bully scientists” and suppress evidence of the cancer risks of its popular weedkiller, a lawyer argued on Monday in a landmark lawsuit against the global chemical corporation.

“Monsanto has specifically gone out of its way to bully … and to fight independent researchers,” said the attorney Brent Wisner, who presented internal Monsanto emails that he said showed how the agrochemical company rejected critical research and expert warnings over the years while pursuing and helping to write favorable analyses of their products. “They fought science.”

Wisner, who spoke inside a crowded San Francisco courtroom, is representing DeWayne Johnson, known also as Lee, a California man whose cancer has spread through his body. The father of three and former school groundskeeper, who doctors say may have just months to live, is the first person to take Monsanto to trial over allegations that the chemical sold under the Roundup brand is linked to cancer.

Cooking Stirs the Pot for Social Change

Organic consumers - Mon, 2018-07-09 19:07
June 27, 2018Yes! MagazineKorsha WilsonFair Trade & Social Justice spice_1000x523.png

Preparing food—and letting others in our communities cook for us—is how we become good citizens who engage with the communities around us.

My arms hurt as I walked through Brooklyn on a cold December night. I was carrying a 10-pound, party-size tray of macaroni and cheese with three cheeses, cooked to just a touch beyond al dente, with a breadcrumb topping. I was headed to a community potluck and had spent the better part of that morning making (read: babying) a mornay sauce, cooking the pasta, and baking the mixture in the oven. As I walked the six blocks from the subway station to the venue where the meeting was being held, my arms started to shake. I started to wonder why I didn’t just pick up a bag of chips and a jar of dip and call it a day, but then I remembered the excited messages I received when I told my fellow event-goers that I would be bringing macaroni and cheese to our potluck. It was my way of making my friends and community members happy on a cold night and my way of providing comfort as we talked about the future of our community.

Why do we cook? First, we cook to sustain ourselves and our families. But in the current culture of food-as-art-form, we also cook to express ourselves. Cooking may seem like an act of self-preservation, an act that is both self-serving and necessary, but if you look beyond the immediate and beyond the narrow definition of what cooking is, you can see that cooking is and has always been an act of resistance.

Sometimes what we don’t cook says more than what we do cook. For chef Sean Sherman, fry bread is a dish that he will not make. In his cookbook, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, he talks about fry bread, viewed as a sacrosanct part of indigenous cuisine, and explains why this seemingly simple dish is more than the sum of its parts. “I’m often asked why we don’t have fry bread on the menu or offer a recipe for fry bread in this book,” he writes. “It originated nearly 150 years ago when the U.S. government forced our ancestors from the homelands they farmed, foraged, and hunted, and the waters they fished.” For Sherman and for many indigenous communities, fry bread is an edible reminder of the injustices of colonialism and the loss of the ability to explore and develop indigenous cuisine using ingredients from the region. “They lost control of their food and were made to rely on government-issued commodities—canned meat, white flour, sugar, and lard—all lacking nutritive value,” Sherman explains. “Controlling food is a means of controlling power.”

Every time we step to our stoves to make a meal we’re engaging with the society around us. Each ingredient that we use, every technique, every spice tells a story about our access, our privilege, our heritage, and our culture. The foods and dishes we consume are all part of larger forces that impact our lives. Our appetites and what we crave are the result of our place in the world at that time.

Three cookbooks—Feed the Resistance, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, and The Immigrant Cookbook—show how the act of cooking can be a platform for social justice and social action.

For Sherman, creating dishes using ingredients that were available to his ancestors is how he reclaims Native American foodways and supports the indigenous community. In his book, he explains how the work that he does now is about continuing to explore these foodways and create dishes using ingredients that are native to Minnesota. Instead of fry bread, Sherman creates corn cakes with braised bison or smoked duck because these ingredients represent indigenous cuisine and its reliance on the land and ingredients in a more holistic way.

“They taste of a time when we, as a people, were healthy and strong, and of the promise that we can stand up to the foods that have destroyed our health, the forces that have compromised our culture,” he writes. “And our corn cakes are easier to make and far tastier than any fry bread.”

Reclaiming a culture’s cuisine is a clear act of using food in a way to create social change. But home cooking can create change in smaller communities and ways. Feed the Resistance is technically a cookbook, but it’s also a collection of essays from chefs, writers, nonprofit founders, and others who are busy using their stoves in their resisting. Author Julia Turshen writes cookbooks and recently created Equity at the Table, a database for women and nonbinary people of color in the food world. She’s also an activist and intends for the book to be used as a way to support local activism. The recipes are divided into sections for activists who need to feed a crowd or bring portable snacks to a bake sale, or if someone just needs to make a quick meal for herself. They are accompanied by an introduction or essay by the creator of the recipe about what this specific dish means to them and what they are actively “resisting” when they make it. “Homemade food is an act of self-care that will serve you while you’re resisting,” Turshen writes above a simple recipe for roasted broccoli and quinoa with cashew dressing. “It’s important to take care of yourself so you can better take care of the world.”

Feed the Resistance can feel like a diary at times and offers readers a peek into the kitchens of people all over the United States who are actively working in the social justice space. In the essay “How Food Can Be a Platform for Activism,” Shakirah Simley, co-founder and organizer of Nourish/Resist in San Francisco, talks about using food to discuss police brutality with her brother and the function that food has when it comes to activism. “In my work, we seek to nourish so that we may resist,” she writes. In this way, it isn’t just the food that is important, but the act of eating together that creates a platform where activism can happen.

In activism, and in food, there’s also the question of who gets the mic and who gets to tell their story or share their ideas. In The Immigrant Cookbook the recipes are courtesy of chefs and writers from all over the world who have made America home. Well-known chefs like Daniel Boulud, José Andrés, and Nina Compton share recipes alongside chefs who are less known, but each one represents the story of a person or family coming to this country—and bringing their heritage and foodways with them.

Cultures and history come to the stove with us each time we cook, and every recipe in The Immigrant Cookbook is proof of that. Immigrants bring their food and recipes to this country and add to our shared American table. We may think of “American” food as apple pies and hot dogs and hamburgers, but these recipes, with their substitutions and roots in cuisines from other countries, are just as American. American food is a mixture of indigenous cuisine and food from other places adapted to incorporate American ingredients. Cooking these dishes is a way of embracing all of the “recipes that make America great,” as the book says.

When I think about cooking at my stove, or going grocery shopping, I often think about the feeling that I want to have when I sit down to eat. Am I trying to make something healthy so I feel good? Am I trying to comfort myself? Am I trying to make my partner feel loved? Food and cooking tap into what we want to feel, and that’s why they’re the perfect way to create change. Everyone puts down their guard over a good meal, and in that space, change is possible.

In her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver wrote that “cooking is good citizenship. It’s the only way to get serious about putting locally raised foods into your diet, which keeps farmlands healthy and grocery money in the neighborhood.” I would expand that to say that cooking—and letting others in our communities cook for us—is how we become good citizens who engage with the communities around us. That connection is how we create change. That’s why cooking is and will always be an act of resistance.

Posted with permission from Yes! Magazine

Natalie Portman: ‘Here’s Where Your Meat Comes From’

Organic consumers - Fri, 2018-07-06 14:07
July 6, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationAll About Organics hog_farm.jpg Photo credit: Rick Dove, Waterkeeper Alliance

Where does your meat come from? Filmmaker Christopher Quinn and Academy Award-winning actress Natalie Portman set out to answer that question in their new feature-length documentary, “Eating Animals,” an adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer's critically acclaimed book of the same name.

Portman narrates the film, which promotes the transition from industrial factory farming to more humane, and more environmentally sustainable and regenerative farming methods.

From the “Eating Animals” website:

“Eating Animals” is an urgent, eye-opening look at the environmental, economic and public health consequences of factory farming. Tracing the history of food production in the United States, the film charts how farming has gone from local and sustainable to a corporate Frankenstein monster that offers cheap eggs, meat and dairy at a steep cost: the exploitation of animals; the risky use of antibiotics and hormones; and the pollution of our air, soil and water.

“Eating Animals” doesn’t sugarcoat the horrors of factory farming. And though it touches on veganism and plant-based food trends, it doesn’t promote either as the exclusive alternative to corporate factory farms. What the film does, Portman told Stephen Colbert during a promotional visit to “The Late Show,” is focus on the “good farmers who are doing it right,” and the challenges they face trying to work within the existing industrial ag system.

Frank Reese and Craig Watts are two of those “good” farmers. Both are featured in the film, and both come from very different backgrounds.

Reese is a heritage poultry farmer who has committed his life to protecting the oldest continuously bred flock of heritage turkeys in America. He runs The Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch, a 160-acre farmstead in Lindsborg, Kansas, and The Good Shepherd Institute, an educational hub for breeding poultry, and training farmers, chefs and students in agricultural practices that link animal health to the health of everything else—the health of the planet, farmer, consumer and economy.

Watts has a different story. He spent 22 years as a contract farmer for one of the biggest chicken companies in the country, Perdue Farms. After reaching his breaking point, he did something no one had done before. He invited an animal welfare organization, Compassion in World Farming, to his property to show them the shocking conditions on a standard chicken farm. That simple action pushed Perdue to become the first major chicken company to publish a detailed animal welfare policy.

The film also features Dr. Jim Keen, a veterinarian and infectious disease ecologist-epidemiologist who for decades was a supporter of Big Ag. In 2007, Keen had an epiphany. He’s now one of the biggest supporters of livestock protection. He’s also well-known as the whistleblower who exposed the abuse of research livestock at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Nebraska.

Rick Dove, one of the founding members of Waterkeeper Alliance, is responsible for bringing public attention to the serious pollution problems related to factory farming. The film explains his role in documenting swine waste being discharged into local waterways in North Carolina. Larry Baldwin, also with Waterkeeper Alliance, is mentioned in the film for his work bringing environmental justice to communities—mostly poor and rural—that bear the brunt of the water and air pollution generated by factory farms.

What will it take to end factory farming? Collaboration among  producers, buyers, processors, marketers and others is essential for building the alternative industry infrastructure required to support and sustain change at a systems level. And public policy can and should play a role.

But as Portman told Colbert, consumers must do their part to drive the transition toward healthier food production. How? By making conscious, ethical purchasing choices. And by making it clear to producers that they will purchase meat and dairy only from those farmers “who are doing it right.”

If you’re interested in being part of the solution, there are many ways to get involved:

1. Learn more about regenerative agriculture and become a part of the movement.

2. Shop at your local natural health food store or co-op. These businesses make sure they sell only the highest-quality organic and regenerative foods.

3. When eating meat, make sure it’s 100% grass-fed beef or certified organic.

4. Check out the “Eating Animal’s” resources page, which provides information on animal welfare, antibiotic resistance, sustainable food and farming, the future of food and more.

5. Watch "Eating Animals" at a theater near you.

Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a nonprofit grassroots consumer advocacy organization. Sign up here to keep up with news and alerts from OCA.

9 Reasons to Buy Products Made From Organic Cotton

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-07-05 20:54
July 5, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationAll About Organics organic_cotton.jpg  · Photo by Ashley Bilbrey from Pexels

What’s the dirtiest crop on the planet? You may be wearing it.

At a production rate of 25 million tons a year, cotton is one of the top four GMO crops in the world—and nearly 95 percent of that global cotton production is GMO and/or conventionally grown.

Cotton earned the title “dirtiest crop” because it’s sprayed with some of the worst pesticides, including: Bayer’s aldicarb, which was banned in the U.S. in 2010, but reapproved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2016; Syngenta’s paraquat, a highly toxic pesticide banned in the European Union but not in the U.S.; and Monsanto’s glyphosate, classified by the World Health Organization as a “probable” human carcinogen.

Those and other toxic chemicals associated with cotton production pollute waterways and damage the health of farmworkers. They also contaminate consumer products.

GMO cotton isn’t just used to make clothes, bedding, towels and other textile products. Cottonseed oil and other cotton crop waste products also end up in hundreds of processed foods.

Consumers should be just as concerned about wearing GMO cotton (or drying off with it or sleeping on it) as they are about ingesting it.

The best way to avoid GMO cotton textiles? Buy certified organic.

Here are nine reasons to choose organic clothing, bedding and other products:

1. Protect the oceans from microfiber pollution

Conventional cotton used for clothing and textiles is usually combined with synthetic fabrics such as acrylic, fleece and polyester. Research shows that during washing, these synthetic fibers are released into our waterways, in the form of microfibers.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources estimates that around 1.7 million tons of microfibers enter the ocean each year, threatening marine species and sensitive coral reef ecosystems.

Don’t want to contribute to the problem? Avoid synthetic fabrics altogether, including conventional cotton blends. Instead, choose clothing and textiles made from 100 percent pure and organic cotton.

2. Protect the livelihoods of cotton farmers

In 2002, Monsanto introduced in India a pest-resistant cotton, genetically engineered with a gene from the bacteria Bacillus thurengiensis or Bt. Bt cotton plants produce a toxin that kills the bollworm, one of the crop’s primary pests.

According to Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, Monsanto promised that its Bt cotton would reduce the amount of pesticides farmers needed to buy, and increase yields and farm income by reducing crop losses due to pest attacks.

But GMO cotton failed in India. Farmers found that:

  • Bt cotton yields declined
  • Secondary pests emerged, forcing increased pesticide use
  • The price of cotton seed rose
  • Farmers lost the option to buy non-GM cotton seed.

The failure of Bt cotton took a heavy toll on farmers, and was widely blamed for a staggering increase in Indian farmers suicides.

3. Conserve global water and energy resources

It takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce enough cotton for a pair of jeans. In fact, the water needs of cotton are so high that cotton production has contributed to the draining of the Aral Sea in Central Asia.

Organic cotton has a much lower environmental footprint. Production of organic cotton takes 71 percent less water and 62 percent less energy than production of conventional GMO cotton.

4. Reduce your exposure to hazardous insecticides and pesticides

Conventionally grown GMO cotton is one of the most toxic crops in the world. It makes up only 2.5 percent of global cropland, and yet it accounts for up to 25 percent of the world’s use of insecticides.

In addition to being responsible for the use of toxic chemicals such as aldicarb and paraquat, GMO cotton is sprayed with large amounts of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, was classified as “probably carcinogenic to human,” by the World Health Organization. Glyphosate has been linked to metabolic syndrome, obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, cancer and depression.

Organic cotton farmers use only organic-approved fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides from plants, animals and minerals to prevent pests and diseases. This slashes your risk of health issues, while also protecting farmworkers and reducing environmental pollution.

5. Help keep the food supply pesticide-free

According to Rodale Institute, most consumers aren’t aware of the following facts about conventional cotton’s effect on our food:

  • Although cotton is not a food, cottonseed oil is produced for human consumption
  • Cottonseed oil is used to produce Vitamin E
  • Cottonseed oil is the primary ingredient in Crisco
  • Cottonseed meal is fed to animals for dairy and meat production
  • Leftover cotton cellulose fibers that are too short to be spun into textiles are used as food additives
  • Cellulose from cotton fibers is added to a wide range of foods to thicken and stabilize the products
  • Cellulose is used as a filler to extend serving sizes without increasing calories. Humans can’t break down or digest cellulose, so it’s being used to meet the demand for low-calorie, high-fiber foods
  • Cellulose, which is basically a plastic, has migrated into numerous foods including cheese, cream, milk powder, flavored milks, ice cream, sherbet, whey products, processed fruits, cooked vegetables, canned beans, pre-cooked pastas, pre-cooked rice products, vinegars, mustard, soups, cider, salads, yeast, seasonings, sweeteners, soybean products, bakery items, breakfast cereals, including rolled oats, sports drinks and dietetic foods as a non-caloric filler
  • Some brands of pizza cheese consist of cellulose coated cheese granules combined with silicon to aid in melting

Making sure these derivatives come from organic cotton prevents toxic pesticides and herbicides from contaminating the food supply.

6. Reduce your exposure to harsh chemicals used in the cotton manufacturing process

A variety of toxic chemicals are used in the manufacture of conventional cotton clothing, depending on where the garments are made and what characteristics the manufacturer wants to achieve.

For example, “easy care” garments that are marketed as antimicrobial, anti-odor and anti-wrinkle may be saturated in formaldehyde.

Other chemicals used in the production of conventional cotton garments include chlorine bleach, ammonia, heavy metals and phthalates, a known endocrine disruptor.

Azo-aniline dyes are also commonly used. These dyes can cause mild to severe skin irritations, especially where there is friction between your skin and the fabric.

Organic cotton products don’t use any of these chemicals, and use only low-impact and fiber-reactive dyes to get a lasting color.

7. Help provide better working conditions for cotton farmers

The conventional cotton industry has been linked to numerous human rights violations.

In Uzbekistan, Environmental Justice Foundation found widespread environmental and human right abuses in the cotton industry, including state-sponsored forced child labor. One-third of the Uzbekistan population works for the government-owned cotton industry. Workers have no access to protective gear or even a clean source of drinking water.

Buying products made of organic cotton promotes a safer work conditions for cotton farmers, by eliminating workers’ exposure to dangerous chemicals.

8. Support regenerative agriculture

Responsible and sustainable organic cotton production provides a variety of environmental benefits, including reduced soil inputs such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, decreased fertilizer runoff, lower field emissions and less irrigation.

These benefits help promote a healthy ecosystem, including healthy soil, which is a core principle of regenerative agriculture.

9. Increase your peace of mind!

Choosing products made with organic cotton gives you peace of mind by knowing that the items you wear or use are nontoxic to you and the environment, and don’t contribute to human rights violations.

You can also feel good about using your purchasing power to make a difference. By supporting the organic cotton industry, you can influence other brands and manufacturers to consider switching to a more regenerative supply chain.

Organic Consumers Association is a nonprofit grassroots consumer advocacy organization. To keep up to date with OCA’s news and alerts by sign up for our newsletter.

Monsanto Trial Begins Monday, But Only After Dozens of Jurors Excused

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-07-03 17:41
July 3, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationJulie Wilson roundup_trial.jpg

Opening statements are set to begin in San Francisco on Monday, July 9, in the case of a terminally ill man who says Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller caused his cancer.

Jury selection in the trial of DeWayne Johnson v. Monsanto Company was completed last week—but only after dozens of potential jurors were eliminated for having a negative opinion of the biotech company.

Johnson, a 49-year-old former school groundskeeper, is one of thousands of people who allege that exposure to Roundup caused their non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and that Monsanto knowingly put him at risk. He’s the first to go to trial, because California expedites trials for the terminally ill.

The two-and-a-half days of intense questioning of potential jurors was “long and tedious,” according to journalist Carey Gillam.

Gillam, who is also research director for the consumer watchdog group U.S. Right to Know, reported that many potential jurors were excused for having expressed bias or outright disdain for the biotech company.

But some potential jurors were eliminated for having either a history of cancer in their families, or for admitting to concerns about pesticides or other chemicals, or for simply wanting to eat “clean.”

In the end, seven men and five women from diverse backgrounds were selected to hear the case.

Monsanto to judge: ‘Please protect us from our own bad reputation’

Court proceeding began on June 25, with a plea from Monsanto attorneys to the judge to protect the company from its own bad reputation, Gillam reported. Monsanto’s legal team complained that jury questionnaires revealed that a number of potential jurors viewed Monsanto as “evil.”

Some potential jurors even said they believed the company had “killed people,” a Monsanto lawyer told the judge.

“There are jurors who say @MonsantoCo has killed people,” company lawyer tells judge in asking to exclude jurors plaintiff’s attorney says represents 1/3 of total jury pool https://t.co/xyYFm5txfC

— carey gillam (@careygillam) June 25, 2018

Gillam didn’t have a problem with the judge excusing those jurors. “My overwhelming impression was that Monsanto was right in telling the judge at the outset that many jurors held very negative feelings about the company,” she said in an email to Organic Consumers Association.

But did Monsanto go too far?

“After those jurors were removed Monsanto then honed in on people who expressed concerns about the safety of chemicals in general, and people who said they wanted to eat ‘clean,” Gillam said.

Attorneys for Monsanto argued that such jury members would “poison” the rest of the jury pool. But David Dickens, an attorney for plaintiff Johnson said, “Monsanto was wrongly looking to exclude roughly one-third of the jury pool based solely on questionnaires the prospective jurors filled out last week,” Gillam reports.

Got cancer? Go home!

Attorneys on both sides questioned potential jurors about a number of topics including their views on Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller and whether they avoided chemicals when dealing with weeds.

Jurors were also asked about instances of cancer in their families, whether they looked at food package labels when buying groceries and if they had any reservations about the potential for awarding large punitive damages against Monsanto.

One juror told the court, “I don’t like Monsanto, I think it’s an unethical company.” In her view, corporations have a long history of hiding or misrepresenting research when it comes to protecting products and their bottom line.

One juror said she would have a hard time trusting @MonsantoCo evidence or experts. “I don’t like Monsanto, I think it’s an unethical company,” the woman told the court. She says there is a “long history of corporations hiding the research...” https://t.co/CiCt7DBpeR

— carey gillam (@careygillam) June 25, 2018

Another woman, a social media manager for a natural products company, expressed similar reservations, telling the court she views big brands like Monsanto as being “a little shady.” The woman also said that she had dealt extensively with cancer in her family.

One prospective juror says she’s not a fan of “big brands” & thinks they are “a little shady.” Says she favors organic food & cosmetics; another prospective juror says science evolves & products once thought safe may not be.  #Rounduptrial https://t.co/kZqznHBx5V

— carey gillam (@careygillam) June 25, 2018

“Indeed, many of the prospective jurors spoke of cancer in their families, and expressed sympathy for cancer victims,” reports Gillam:

“One potential juror, a cell biologist and a genetic engineer by training, said she thought she could be unbiased. She also has had cancer in her family, without a clear cause.

“Under questioning from Dickens, she said she is familiar with substances that cause cancer. As for her knowledge of Monsanto, she said she has studied the company’s genetic engineering of plants and the connections to glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, and she’s read about concerns glyphosate causes cancer. ‘I’ve heard about Monsanto for a long time,’ she said.”

Some smart people in this jury pool; a genetic biologist, a chemical engineer, & similar. @MonsantoCo attorney quizzing them on views of @EPA regulation, safety of pesticides, etc. Now she's asking Juror No. 10 about his membership in Sierra Club.  #Rounduptrial

— carey gillam (@careygillam) June 26, 2018

None of these jurors made the cut.

The judge told the 12 jurors who were seated to prepare to serve well into August, according to Gillam.

Follow Carey Gillam on Twitter for live updates on DeWayne Johnson v. Monsanto Company.

Julie Wilson is communications associate for the Organic Consumers Association. To keep up with news and alerts, sign up for OCA’s newsletter.

Trump Administration Wants to Turn Our Oceans Into Underwater Factory Farms

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-07-03 11:23
July 3, 2018Friends of the EarthHallie TempletonEnvironment & Climate, Politics & Globalization fish_pen.jpg Fish farming in Myrtoan Sea. Photo credit: Shutterstock

The Trump administration is making a huge push to bring destructive and polluting industrial ocean fish farming to U.S. waters.

Industrial ocean fish farming — also known as open ocean or marine finfish aquaculture — is the mass cultivation of finfish in net pens, pods and cages. These underwater factory farms pollute our oceans, threaten native wildlife, produce unhealthy seafood and harm wild-capture fishing and coastal communities.

The push to commercialize our oceans is coming from all facets of our government. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) offered millions of dollars to net pen farming startups, potentially without any prior environmental or endangered species analysis. Trump’s version of “National Oceans Month” (June) places a high priority on opening our waterways to floating factory farms. And despite the myriad environmental, socio-economic and public health threats from this disastrous industry, we have witnessed Congress cater to net pens, by hosting pro-industry briefings and hearings where insiders cheer the purported “benefits” and “sustainability” of net pens.

And now, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) has introduced a bill that would establish a permitting system for industrial ocean fish farms in U.S. waters. The Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture, or AQUAA Act, would amend the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act — a law that was originally passed with the purpose of protecting our oceans and wild fish stocks — to place net pen regulation under NOAA’s jurisdiction, an agency that should be dedicated to ocean sustainability and conservation. Wicker’s bill also contains language that would allow mega-corporations to directly pollute our waters and administer agricultural drugs and other chemicals, all with very little restriction on the types of fish species that may be farmed.

Sen. Wicker is also propping up his industrial ocean fish farming bill with a number of myths about the purported benefits of open ocean aquaculture.

Let’s Debunk Those Myths.

Myth 1: Open ocean aquaculture will feed the world.

Facts: Despite claims to the contrary, these massive commercial fish farms are not built to feed families or impoverished communities. You won’t find farmed mahi or cobia in a school cafeteria, senior center or correctional institution. These fish are farmed for expensive, exclusive restaurants, not to feed the masses.

Myth 2: This will resolve the seafood trade deficit.

Facts: Most seafood consumed in the U.S. was produced in another coun­­­­try. Wicker’s bill also claims to resolve this seafood trade deficit, assuming that hosting feedlots in our oceans will keep the produce in our borders. But the U.S. also exports a significant amount of seafood, and this bill does not speak to where the farmed fish will eventually go. There is no guarantee that fish farmed in the U.S. will stay in the U.S.

Myth 3: Job creation.

Facts: Aquaculture is one of the country’s most dangerous jobs due do the isolated locations visited and harsh marine conditions like strong storms, winds and tides. And the industry has started utilizing remote feeding and monitoring technologies so that very few employees are actually needed to operate the farm. In contrast, the wild-capture fishing industry supports over 1.5 million jobs in the United States, and will undoubtedly be damaged by the presence of fish farms taking up limited marine space.

Myth 4: Our wild-capture fishing industry and coastal communities will be protected.

Facts: This is folly. There are not enough protections in the world to truly provide security from factory farms anchored to the seabed. Each facility will take up hundreds of acres of limited marine space that will no longer be available to others. The harm to surrounding ecosystems and marine life will impact the availability of healthy fish stocks for harvest. In addition, the mega-corporations controlling the industry will base their business on the factory farm model, culturing as many fish as possible, as cheaply as possible. This will drive down seafood prices, and impact the amount that fishing communities can collect for sustainably harvested produce. Wicker’s bill is completely silent on these points.

We’ve seen how the industrialization of our oceans results in environmental havoc, and we have seen net pens in state waters cause disastrous fish spills and the deaths of endangered species. There is every indication that these floating feedlots will follow suit, endangering the ocean and everything living in and near it for corporate profit.

Sign our petition today: Tell your representative to oppose the AQUAA Act.

Posted with permission from Friends of the Earth.

Superbugs Found in Most U.S. Supermarket Meat

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-07-03 10:17
June 28, 2018Environmental Working GroupAll About Organics, Health Issues meat ground beef label counter cooler cc 1000x523.jpg

The latest round of tests by federal scientists found antibiotic-resistant bacteria on nearly 80 percent of supermarket meat in 2015, according to a new analysis by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Those bacteria were resistant to at least one of 14 antibiotics tested for by the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System, a federal public health partnership.

“Consumers need to know about potential contamination of the meat they eat, so they can be vigilant about food safety, especially when cooking for children, pregnant women, older adults or the immune-compromised,” said Dawn Undurraga, EWG’s nutritionist and author of the report.

The World Health Organization calls antibiotic resistance a serious threat to global health and food security.

Drug-resistant bacteria—sometimes referred to as superbugs—were detected on 79 percent of ground turkey, 71 percent of pork chops, 62 percent of ground beef, and 36 percent of chicken breasts, wings and thighs sampled in supermarkets by NARMS in 2015, the latest year for which data is available.

“Bacteria transfer their antibiotic resistance genes to other bacteria they come in contact with in the environment and in the gastrointestinal tract of people and animals, making it very difficult to effectively treat infections,” said Dr. Gail Hansen, a public health consultant and veterinarian.

Despite this serious threat, the federal government still allows meat producers to give antibiotics important for human health to healthy animals. This practice aims to compensate for stressful, crowded or unsanitary conditions on factory farms.

“When one person or group misuses antibiotics, they cause resistance to the antibiotics to spread, hurting everyone in society,” said Dr. Brad Spellberg, who is the chief medical officer at the Los Angeles County and University of Southern California Medical Center, and associate dean for clinical affairs at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, but expressed his own opinion. “It’s not acceptable for one group of people to profit by hurting everyone else in society.”

“By choosing organic meat and meat raised without antibiotics, consumers can help reduce the amount of antibiotics used in farm animals and slow the spread of drug resistance,” Undurraga said.

She recommended shoppers follow EWG’s tipsheet on how to avoid superbugs in meat. Among other guidance, it tells consumers which food labels accurately identify meat raised without antibiotics.

EWG’s new meat and dairy label decoder also helps consumers understand the truth about labels on meat, dairy and eggs, and see through deceptive claims.

In conjunction with the release of its report and label decoder, EWG submitted a letter to the Food and Drug Administration, calling attention to the issue of superbugs in American meat and asking for proactive federal action to  curtail the threat.

“The public shouldn’t have to wait until 100 percent of the bacteria found on meat are untreatable with antibiotics before the FDA takes strong action,” Undurraga said. “Now is the time for the FDA to get medically important antibiotics off factory farms.”

Posted with permission from Environmental Working Group.

These Farmers Switched to Organic After Pesticides Made Them or Their Family Sick

Organic consumers - Fri, 2018-06-29 14:36
June 29, 2018Ken RoseboroAll About Organics organic_farmer.jpg Levi Lyle (right) transitioned his family’s farm to organic after his father Trent (right) overcame cancer. Photo credit: Bill Tiedje

Some farmers transition to organic production to earn premium prices paid for organic crops. Others switch to make their farms more sustainable. But for some farmers transitioning to organic is a necessity to save their health—and even their lives.

Blaine Schmaltz, who farms in Rugby, North Dakota, is a good example. One day in September 1993, Schmaltz was spraying an herbicide on his field. He stopped to check the level in the sprayer tank. Looking inside, he started to feel lame and then passed out. He was later hospitalized for several months with asthma, muscle aches and pains, and insomnia. A doctor diagnosed him as having “occupational asthma.”

“The doctor told me to leave agriculture,” Schmaltz says. “He said, ‘if you don’t you probably won’t live 10 years.’”

While recovering, Schmaltz read about organic farming and decided to transition because he wanted to continue farming. The next spring he started the transition, and over time found it was the right choice. His symptoms disappeared.

Schmaltz continues to farm organically, growing wheat, edible beans, flax and other specialty grains.

“I didn’t switch to organic farming for the money or a utopian dream,” he says. “I did it for myself and my family in order to stay in agriculture.”

Common story for many farmers

Blaine Schmaltz’s experience is not uncommon. Other farmers in the U.S. and Canada have switched to organic because of a health crisis they had—or even the death of a family member—due to pesticide exposure.

“It’s definitely a common story for many farmers,” says Kate Mendenhall, director of the Organic Farmers Association, about farmers wanting to go organic because of concerns with pesticides.

Mendenhall’s master’s degree thesis at Goddard College involved interviewing farmers worldwide who transitioned to organic, and she found that pesticides were a major concern.

“That was a theme globally,” she says. “Farmers had problems with pesticides or were nervous about them and didn’t want them around their children. Some had prior health problems from pesticides.”

A 2017 report by Oregon State University and organic certifier Oregon Tilth, “Breaking New Ground: Farmer Perspectives on Organic Transition,” found that 86 percent of farmers surveyed said that concerns about health was one of the main motivations for transitioning.

My husband was slowly being poisoned

Klaas Martens also switched to organic because of bad reactions to pesticides. Martens, who farms in Penn Yan, New York, suffered headaches, nausea, and temporary paralysis of his right arm from exposure to 2,4-D herbicide and other chemicals.

Martens dreaded spraying pesticides. “I knew I would feel rotten for a month after,” he says.

His wife, Mary-Howell, would later write: “My husband was slowly being poisoned.”

In 1991, the Martens decided to transition to organic because, according to Mary-Howell, they hated what pesticides “might be doing to us, our family, our land, and our environment.”

The Martens have been farming organically ever since and operate Lakeview Organic Grain, which supplies organic feed, grains, and seeds.

Saskatchewan farmer Gus Zelinski transitioned to organic after being hospitalized for pesticide poisoning. He inhaled the herbicide Buctril-M after it circulated into the air of his tractor cabin while he was spraying his field.

“I couldn’t get my breath; I was just about choking,” Zelinski says.

He was hospitalized for a week. “The doctor said I was lucky,” he says.

His wife Dolores says the incident led Gus to convert the farm to organic.

“We went with organic farming practices and didn’t look back. We decided that health was more important than our pocketbook and using chemicals.”

She says other farmers in their area weren’t as fortunate as Gus.

“There are a few farmers in our area who have passed on because of chemicals. But that’s not spoken about in farming communities.”

According to Dag Falck, organic program manager at Nature’s Path Foods, stories like Gus Zelinski’s are common.

“I can’t tell you how many times I heard that in my (organic) inspection career. There were lots of stories about older farmers getting seriously ill or prematurely dying (due to pesticide-related illnesses),” he says. 

I didn't want my kids exposed to the chemicals

In some cases, farmers switched to organic after their fathers experienced health problems from pesticide exposure. Tim Raile, who is transitioning his 8500-acre farm in St. Francis, Kansas to organic, says his father had used pesticides such as 2,4-D and malathion. He died of chronic leukemia at age 77 when others in his family had lived longer.

“I really believe that’s one reason his life was shortened,” Raile says. “He was not that careful (handling pesticides) and was told they were safe back in the 1960s and 1970s.”

Raile isn’t surprised that farmers have switched to organic because of concerns with pesticides.

“It’s quite common, and was a consideration for me, for sure. I’ve tried to protect myself using protective clothing, but inevitably you get sprayed and eventually it will cause problems,” he says.

Levi Lyle is transitioning his family’s farm in Keota, Iowa to organic, and his father’s cancer was a deciding factor.

“My passion for organic farming was inspired by my dad overcoming cancer,” Levi said in an interview with Iowa Farmer Today.

In the early 1980s, Levi’s father Trent developed stage 4 lung cancer as well as groin cancer.

“He always wondered where the cancer came from,” Levi says. “There’s much we know about toxicity we add to our fields and so much we don’t know.”

Fortunately, Trent overcame his illness and still farms.

Glen Kadelbach’s father wasn’t as lucky. He died of cancer in 2008, and Glen decided to transition the family’s farm in Hutchinson, Minnesota to organic shortly after his father’s death.

“My dad had gotten splashed with Lasso herbicide 20 years before and he was told he would eventually get cancer. He had prostate cancer and that turned to bone cancer,”Kadelbach says.

While Glen can’t be completely sure the pesticide exposure caused his father’s cancer, he says it was reason enough for him to go organic.

“I didn’t want my kids exposed to the chemicals,” he says.

Public health trainwreck

Herbicides were cited as the cause of health problems for farmers like Blaine Schmaltz, Klaas Martens, and Gus Zelinski. What’s worse is that herbicide-related health problems are likely to increase for farmers and even the public, according to Charles Benbrook, visiting scholar at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University. This is because the amount of herbicides being used is accelerating due to weeds becoming resistant to glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide. Encouraged by companies like Monsanto and Dow, farmers are escalating the war on weeds by using older, more toxic herbicides such as dicamba and 2,4-D to kill glyphosate-resistant weeds.

“The concern is the amount of herbicides used in the next five to ten years is going to constitute the largest increase in U.S. history,” Benbrook says.

Such an increase of herbicide use demands attention by public health agencies and regulators but Benbrook says there is no effort to study human health impacts of the chemicals.

“Herbicides are going to pose a greater risk to human health,” he says. “This is a public health trainwreck that no one has the tools, the motivation, or the ability to turn around. The end game will be very costly.”

The solution for established farmers like Blaine Schmaltz, Klaas Martens and Gus Zelinski and for younger farmers like Tim Raile, Levi Lyle and Glen Kadelbach is to transition to organic.

“I am so anxious to get rid of the chemicals. I haven’t looked back,” Raile says.

“If I can reduce herbicide use by 20 percent, then reduce another 20 percent, in a few years I hope to eliminate it all. It’s a clear path for me,” Levi Lyle says.

Without the pesticides, Mary-Howell Martens says, “The farm is a safe place.”

Reposted with permission from The Organic & Non-GMO Report.