Environment

Are Factory Farmers Winning the Antibiotics War?

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-07-11 13:37
July 11, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationMartha RosenbergFarm Issues, Health Issues piglet_baby_vaccination_syringe_1200x630.jpg

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) calls antibiotic resistance “one of the biggest public health challenges of our time.” In the U.S., at least 2 million people get an antibiotic-resistant infection every year, and at least 23,000 of those people die, the CDC says.

Antibiotic resistance is a global, and worsening, problem. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “some types of bacteria that cause serious infections in humans have already developed resistance to most or all of the available treatments, and there are very few promising options in the research pipeline.”

In November 2017, a WHO official said:

“A lack of effective antibiotics is as serious a security threat as a sudden and deadly disease outbreak. Strong, sustained action across all sectors is vital if we are to turn back the tide of antimicrobial resistance and keep the world safe."

Unfortunately, the tide isn’t turning back. In the U.S., that’s largely because lobbyists for some of the world’s biggest agribusiness corporations have successfully thwarted efforts by Congress to restrict the rampant and reckless use of antibiotics on factory farms.

A ‘growing’ problem

Antibiotics allow livestock growers to raise animals in unsanitary, confined conditions that would otherwise kill or sicken them.

Antibiotics also allow factory farmers to use less feed. How much less feed? Without antibiotics, 175,550 more tons of feed would be needed to grow U.S turkeys, said Michael Rybolt of the National Turkey Federation hearings held in 2008, when the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) was trying to put limits on antibiotic use by factory farms.

The theory is that antibiotics increase weight in livestock by strengthening microbes that absorb nutrients, making food more "efficient." (Researchers think that theory may at least partly explain the obesity epidemic among humans).

But Big Pharma's animal antibiotic orgy's biggest harm isn’t human obesity. The reckless and widespread use of antibiotics, especially those critical ones used to treat infections in humans, creates antibiotic-resistant microbes, including E. Coli, salmonella, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), C. difficile and others. Each year in the U.S., at least two million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections, says the CDC.

Follow the money

If the “old” antibiotics aren’t working on humans anymore, why doesn’t Big Pharma just come up with new ones?

Because there’s no money in it for them. Unlike the statins and psychoactive drugs, prescribed for long-term use and responsible for making Pharma the most profitable industry in the world, antibiotics are taken for only a few days. But feeding them by the ton every day to farm animals is a different—and highly lucrative—story. So despite efforts by public health agencies and lawmakers to stop factory farmers from feeding healthy animals antibiotics, Pharma is still brazenly pushing the practice.

A  recent New York Times article details how Animal Pharma giant Elanco has launched a shocking new campaign called "Pig Zero" that tells farmers to treat pigs with antibiotics when they are healthy and before a disease outbreaks occurs. This is the exact opposite of what the CDC, doctors and public health officials urge.

U.S. factory farmers turn nasty when the government tries to take away their antibiotics. In 2008, the egg, chicken, turkey, dairy, pork and cattle industries stormed Capitol Hill over the FDA's attempt to prohibit the use of antibiotics called cephalosporins, used to treat a variety of infections in humans, including urinary tract infections, strep throat and pneumonia. The National Turkey Federation told the FDA that antibiotics are downright "green,” because they allow farmers to feed less grain, leading to less land being planted in crops.

On the basis of logic like that—and millions of dollars spent on lobbyists—the factory farmers won that round.

After a decade-long battle with Bayer, whose fluoroquinolone Baytril (enrofloxacin) was routinely used in poultry, in 2015, the government managed to ban the antibiotic's use in poultry water. But, and it’s a big "but," fluoroquinolones––including Baytril––are still clearly in use on U.S. farms, behind the public's back. For example, in 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Residue Program for Meat, Poultry and Egg Products, which tests for six fluoroquinolones, found enrofloxacin (Baytril) and ciprofloxacin (Cipro) residues in meat.

Why is that a big deal? In 2018, the FDA strengthened the warning labels for all fluoroquinolone antibiotics to include mental health side effects and the risk for severe low blood sugar, including hypoglycemic coma.

The USDA also found residues of danofloxacin, an antibiotic not even approved for humans. Danofloxacin is so dangerous its label says "Animals intended for human consumption must not be slaughtered within 4 days from the last treatment. Do not use in cattle intended for dairy production. A withdrawal period has not been established for this product in preruminating calves. Do not use in calves to be processed for veal."

Though a 2013 FDA guidance required Pharma companies that make livestock antibiotics remove "growth production" from the label, the drugs are still routinely used for the new indication of "disease prevention," explained Senior Staff Scientist at Consumers Union, Dr. Michael Hansen, soon after the new guidance was issued.

One example of the persisting uses is seen in feedlots, Hansen said. Feeding cattle grain instead of a more natural diet produces a high level of liver abscesses, he said and feedlot operators routinely give them the antibiotic Tylosin for the abscesses thus "preventing disease." Tylosin reduces abscess incidence by 40 to 70 percent in such cattle according to medical journals.

The late Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter, a microbiologist with a master’s degree in public health, said the 2013 guidance was "an inadequate response to the growing antibiotic resistance crisis caused by overuse of antibiotics on the farm."

A 2014 investigation by Reuters, after the 2013 guidance was issued, confirmed Slaughter’s suspicions. The investigation determined that Tyson Foods, Pilgrim's Pride, Perdue Farms, George's and Koch Foods were using antibiotics "more pervasively than regulators realize."

Pilgrim's Pride's feed mill records show the antibiotics bacitracin and monensin are added "to every ration fed to a flock grown early this year." (Pilgrim's Pride threatened legal action against Reuters for its finding.) After also being caught red-handed using antibiotics despite denying their use on its website, Mark Kaminsky, Koch Foods CFO, said "I regret the wording." Koch Foods supplies Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Both the late Sen. Edward Kennedy and Rep. Slaughter fought valiantly to curtail the reckess use of farm antibiotics but they had formidable enemies. Pharma and factory farmers spent over $17 million to block the bill they were supporting, the Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2007, Slaughter said.

“It seems scarcely believable that these precious medications could be fed by the ton to chickens and pigs,” wrote Kennedy in the bill, noting that up to 70 percent of all U.S. antibiotics go to livestock.

The use of antibiotics isn’t limited to meat. Scientists at the University of Minnesota found antibiotic residues in corn, green onions and cabbage after growing them on soil fertilized with livestock manure. The drugs siphoned right up from the soil in just six weeks.

A 2010 University of Iowa study found the resistant bacteria MRSA in 70 percent of hogs on farms studied and 64 percent of workers. Superbugs have even been found on an unopened soft drink can in a car following a poultry truck.

With pro-public health voices like Kennedy and Slaughter gone, and a pro-industry administration in charge, it looks like Pharma has won the antibiotics war on the farm––at least for now.

Martha Rosenberg is a freelance journalist and frequent contributor to Organic Consumers Assocation (OCA). Katherine Paul, OCA associate director, contributed to this article. To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

Organic Consumers Association Sues Twinings Tea for False and Misleading Advertising

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-07-09 19:33
All About Organics, Food SafetyOrganic Consumers AssociationJuly 9, 2019 tea_bags_green_1200x630.jpg

Nonprofit alleges Twinings’ false claims of “pure” and “100% natural ingredients” on products that contain unnatural herbicide and insecticide residues are misleading to consumers

CONTACT:

Katherine Paul, (207) 653-3090, katherine@organicconsumers.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. - July 9, 2019 - The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) sued Twinings North America, Inc. and its parent company, Associated British Foods PLC, for the deceptive labeling, marketing and sale of Twinings Tea of London products. The suit was filed on behalf of OCA by Richman Law Group, in D.C. Superior Court under the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act.

“No reasonable consumer who reads the words ‘pure’ and ‘100% natural ingredients,’ whether on Twinings’ packaging or in other advertising or marketing communications, such as the company’s website, would expect those products to contain residues of glyphosate, a synthetic herbicide, and unnatural insecticides,” said Ronnie Cummins, OCA co-founder and international director.

“Consumer surveys consistently bear out the fact that health-conscious shoppers rely on labels and online research to make buying decisions. Twinings should have to clean up its supply chain so that its products are in fact ‘pure’ and ‘100% natural,’ or be forced to stop making those claims,” Cummins said.

The suit specifically calls out Twinings Green Tea, and Green Tea with Mint, products. 

Tests conducted by an independent laboratory using liquid chromatography mass spectrometry revealed the amount of glyphosate levels in the Twinings Tea samples to be up to 0.332 milligrams per kilogram. The exact source of the glyphosate residue in the samples is known only to Twinings and its suppliers, according to the suit.

Glyphosate was classified in March 2015 by the World Health Organization’s International Agency of Cancer Research as a “probable human carcinogen.”

Testing also revealed residues of two synthetic insecticides: thiacloprid, a neonicotinoid; and bifenthrin, a pyrethroid. Both chemicals are known neurotoxins.

The suit alleges that by deceiving consumers about the nature, quality and/or ingredients of its products, Twinings is able to sell a greater volume of products, to charge higher prices for the products, and to take away market share from competing products, thereby increasing its own sales and profits. 

Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a grassroots nonprofit consumer advocacy organization representing a network of more than 1 million consumers in the U.S. and 2 million worldwide.

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Join Us In Demanding a Ban on Monsanto's Roundup Weedkiller!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-06-26 13:44
June 26, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAlexis Baden MayerGenetic Engineering roundup_herbicide_bottle_shelf_store_1200x630.jpg

I’m here at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with our allies to deliver the petition signatures we’ve collected so far demanding that the EPA end the use of glyphosate-based herbicides.  (Live video here.)

Even if you’re not here with us, you can help!

First, please submit your comments to the EPA before midnight on Friday, July 5. Demand that the EPA heed the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cance determination that glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen.”

Next, sign this petition asking Congress to ban Monsanto-Bayer’s cancer-causing Roundup weedkiller.

There are members of Congress who are ready to join us in pressuring the EPA to conduct an unbiased, scientific review of the evidence that Roundup causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma. 

We’ve even heard from some of them that they would consider introducing a bill to ban glyphosate--if they heard from enough of their constituents!

When we learned that members of Congress were considering introducing a bill to ban glyphosate, we decided to postpone our Storm the EPA action until the legislation is introduced. This way, we can coordinate our Storm the EPA action with a lobby day in support of the new bill—and give ourselves time to raise the money needed to make these events a success. 

Our plan is to gather Roundup-exposed cancer victims, top-level scientists with the latest research on the pesticide’s harm, successful farmers and ranchers who are living proof that we don’t need Roundup weedkiller to grow food and local leaders who have banned Roundup from their cities.

Our first events will be in Washington, D.C. But then we’ll take the campaign to ban Roundup to St. Louis in October for teach-ins and rallies timed with the next Monsanto trials and World Food Day, the tenth anniversary of the first Global Day of Action against Monsanto.  

We can’t do this without you!

1. Tell the EPA: Ban glyphosate! If you haven’t already, please submit your comment to the EPA in addition to signing our petition. Tell the EPA why glyphosate should be banned. Be sure to include your personal story, especially if you or someone you know has cancer or another illness due to exposure to Monsanto-Bayer’s glyphosate-based herbicides. You can attach photos to your submission.
 

2. Tell Congress: Tell Congress to ban Monsanto/Bayer’s cancer-causing Roundup weedkiller! Your Member of Congress might consider introducing a bill to ban Roundup. All they need is a little encouragement from you!
 

3. Donate to help us cover the costs of organizing impactful, educational and visually interesting events that bring together Roundup-exposed cancer victims, top-level scientists, successful organic farmers, and local leaders who have banned Roundup, in Washington and St. Louis.

A Personal Message from Ronnie Cummins

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-06-25 16:01
June 25, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsAll About Organics soy_plants_sunrise_farm_1200x630.jpg

I’ll get right to the point.

The fundraising campaign we launched earlier this month is lagging.

Can you make a donation, of any size, today? It’s easy and secure to donate online, by mail or by phone, details here.

Like other nonprofits, our team would much rather be out there educating, organizing, mobilizing, lobbying and having a real impact, than in here expending our time and energy on fundraising.

But it’s the reality we’re faced with: We’re powered by you—nearly 80 percent of our funding comes from individual donors like you, who contribute anywhere from $5 to $50 to $500.

Every single one of those donations counts.

I’m looking over our mid-year budget right now. If we don’t raise another $45,000 in the next five days, we’ll have to start looking for ways to cut back.

And if there were ever a time to cut back, it’s not now.

Our work includes fighting on your behalf against corrupt corporations that pollute and plunder, and the politicians who enable corporate crimes.

We use the media, the legal system and lobbying efforts to carry out that work.

But that’s not all we do.

We’re also working side-by-side with strong allies, like the Sunrise Movement, Family Farm Action, Regeneration International, to build a massive movement that we believe will have the power to transform the U.S. food & farming system.

It’s a lot, given our modest resources and small-but-dedicated staff in the U.S.

But we believe we can have a real impact. As long as we have you.

You have a lot of good causes to consider, especially leading up to an important national election. As always, we’re grateful for whatever support you can provide during this critical fundraising campaign. 

Please make a secure online donation today. You can also donate by mail or by phone, details here.

Genetically Engineered Farm Animals: Regulators Rush to Keep Consumers in the Dark

Organic consumers - Fri, 2019-06-21 13:56
June 21, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationPat ThomasGenetic Engineering genetically_modified_cow_1200x630.jpg

If the biotech industry has its way, the meat, eggs and milk on your plate could soon come from genetically engineered farm animals—and without laws requiring these products to be labeled, you’ll never know.

Just a few years ago the idea of genetically engineered farm animals seemed like science fiction to most consumers. But it’s a sign of how powerful the industry has become, and how quickly the science is advancing, that we’ve reached the stage where regulators are having to draft new regulations to deal with the influx new applications.

Behind the scenes there have been squabbles over not just what the regulations will say, but which government department should take the lead.

Meanwhile, “pharm” animals—animals genetically engineered to produce drugs—have been around since for more than two decades. But the first genetically engineered animal for human consumption—GMO salmon—was only recently approved. More are on the way, at an alarming pace, and without adequate testing and consideration for the impact these GMO foods will have on human health and the environment, much less for the animals themselves.

Long and winding regulatory road

Currently genetically engineered animals are under the purview of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—it was the FDA that last year approved genetically engineered salmon. Recently, acting Commissioner Ned Sharpless admitted that the Agency has had to take on more staff just to deal with the scientific evaluation of these biotech creations.

In the background, however, there are questions about why the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which would normally claim jurisdiction over meat products, has been blocked from taking charge or even sharing jurisdiction with the FDA. With lab grown meat, for example, the two agencies have recently agreed to share regulatory oversight.

Regulation of GMO crops is also shared. The FDA, for instance, is responsible for regulating the safety of GM crops that are eaten by humans or animals, while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates biopesticides—crops genetically engineered to expresses a pesticide trait such as the Bt toxin—and the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) regulates the planting, importation or transportation of GM plants.

This “coordinated framework” is vital because genetic engineering in food is a disruptive technology that crosses multiple regulatory borders. Yet the FDA now strongly rejects the idea of sharing the regulatory burden of gene edited animal products with other agencies, even though this contradicts previous statements about its commitment to working closely with other agencies.

Since drugs require a higher evidentiary standard than foods, the FDA approach could be good news.  But decades of hard lessons from GMO crops suggest that how these new gene-edited animals are evaluated, what evidence is considered and, importantly, what is rejected, what resulting regulations permit and don’t permit and who ultimately benefits from them should be of concern to every single consumer.

How did we get here?

The USDA’s 2018 decision not to require labels on food created using so-called “new” GMO techniques—now referred to as ‘gene editing’—would seem to stand in stark contrast to the position of the FDA, which contends that animals whose genomes have been similarly re-engineered should go through a rigorous evaluation before being released onto the market.

But take a closer look at how the regulatory landscape has evolved over the last few years and it’s easy to see how the two agencies have been in lockstep (intentionally or otherwise) to ease older-style GMOs into the market and deregulate the newer, gene-edited products. U.S. regulatory agencies apply different rules for genetic engineering, than they do for gene-editing technologies, such as CRISPR. However, as this Friends of the Earth report indicates, not everyone agrees that the two technologies differ enough that one should be more scrutinized and regulated than the other.

In November 2015, for instance, the FDA gave its first approval for the AquAdvantage Salmon, genetically engineered to grow twice as fast as natural salmon. 

By 2016, Congress made the USDA the leading player in the labeling of genetically engineered food.

In 2017, the FDA issued new guidance for the regulation of gene-edited animals stating that all animals whose genomes have been intentionally altered in this way will be evaluated for safety and efficacy under the new animal drug provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

By late 2018, the USDA had issued its controversial final rule for the labeling of genetically engineered foods, widely thought to be a disaster for food transparency—not the least because it uses the term “bioengineered,” or BE rather than the commonly understood term “genetically engineered.”

Although the AquAdvantage salmon is included on the USDA’s list of BE foods that must be labeled, numerous loopholes in the rule mean that products made with genetic engineering or containing GMOs will not be labeled. In addition, AquaBounty won’t be required label the salmon as a GMO food until 2022.

In response to the USDA’s new powers over labeling, in March 2019, then-FDA Commissioner Gottlieb reversed the regulation prohibiting the importation of AquAdvantage salmon, effectively opening up U.S. markets to the GMO fish. This means there could, in theory, be a period when the fish are on sale—but not labelled.

Around the same time Gottlieb launched a Plant and Animal Biotechnology Innovation Action Plan, a PR offensive to engage “stakeholders.” The plan included public webinars on animal genome editing, and a whole slew of guidance documents on the benefits of plant and animal biotechnology. 

The GMO salmon is not produced using newer gene-editing techniques. For these foods—including those from gene-edited animals—the USDA, as already stated, is taking a hands-off approach.

In March of this year, only a few months after the USDA said it would not require labeling on gene-edited foods, Calyno soybean oil made from a gene-edited soybean had the dubious distinction of being the first unlabeled gene-edited food to come on the U.S. market.

‘Pharm’ animals

With hindsight the progression seems obvious. But why is livestock intended for human consumption regulated as a drug? The FDA says it is because “an rDNA construct that is intended to affect the structure or function of the body of the resulting animal meets the definition of a drug.”

That may be true but, in reality, the FDA framework provided by the new animal drug provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act is also the only one currently in play.

What many consumers don’t realize is that FDA has been regulating animals this way for a decade.

In fact the agency issued its first draft guidance on how transgenic animals (animals genetically engineered with a gene from one or more foreign species) should be regulated as animal drugs in 2008. This decision paved the way for the approval of farm animals genetically re-engineered to produce pharmaceutical drugs.

The first commercial drug produced in this way, ATryn, an antithrombotic (a drug used to prevent blood from clotting) derived from the milk of genetically engineered goats, was approved in February 2009.

Worldwide, there are now ongoing experiments with genetically engineered animals—some of which are being designed as living, breathing bioreactors for producing drugs at industrial scale in their milk, eggs, blood and urine. This is known as “pharming.”

Current FDA guidance for consumers on gene-edited animals makes it clear that there is little to no difference in the way the FDA regulates pharm animals and those intended for the human food chain.

ATryn was only the beginning. In 2014, the FDA approved Ruconest, a drug collected from the milk of genetically engineered rabbits and used to treat hereditary angioedema (swelling under the skin, triggered by an allergy to animal dander, pollen, drugs, venom, food or medication).

In 2015, the FDA approved a genetically modified chicken that makes a drug called Kanuma, used to treat lysosomal acid lipase deficiency—a rare genetic condition that prevents the body from breaking down fatty molecules inside cells.

There are also experimental cows genetically engineered to produce human antibodies.

The big advantage of these innovations, say biotech companies, is lower production costs. Once the animal is reengineered it can simply keep pumping out drugs for the cost of maintaining chickens and goats in cages and pens.

The regulatory framework already in place for these “pharm” animals is undoubtedly what put the FDA in position to take the lead with regard to all genetically engineered livestock.

Is it different for animals?

The regulatory approach to gene-edited non-human animals stands in stark contrast to our precautionary approach to the idea of gene-edited humans. In both cases gene editing has been proposed as a way of altering things like appearance, vulnerability to disease and gender.

For instance in 2018, Chinese biophysicist, He Jiankui, claimed he created the first genetically modified babies. His goal was to gene-edit embryos using CRISPR to give them the ability to resist HIV infection. The claim prompted an international outcry about ethics and safety.

The PR around gene-editing suggests that the technology is precise enough to target only specific areas of the genome. Other claimed benefits center on the idea that gene editing does not involve the insertion of foreign genes, or transgenes. Instead it either uses genes from related species (cis-genes) or simply snips out specific genes (known as ‘knock-out). This latter claim is somewhat misleading since new technologies like CRISPR can also be used to produce transgenic plants and animals.

How much we are willing to believe in these benefits, depends to a large extent on how much we are willing to buy in to the same tired mindsets that underpin older types of genetic engineering. Chief among these is the scientifically-flawed notion that single genes have single functions and that genes are like Lego bricks where you can simply replace a red brick with a yellow one without consequence.

In the case of the gene-edited babies, a group of scientists and bioethicists from seven countries has recently called for a “global moratorium” on gene editing that can lead to changes that can be passed on to offspring. The scientists noted that even efforts at simple genetic corrections, for instance, in order to cure a disease, can have unintended consequences.

For example, a common variant of the gene SLC39A8 decreases a person’s risk of developing hypertension and Parkinson’s disease, but increases their risk of developing schizophrenia, Crohn’s disease and obesity. Its influence on many other diseases and its interactions with other genes and with the environment, they said, remains unknown.

Unintended consequences

Is it so different for non-human animals?

That’s not a question that has benefitted from much examination. But recently, when Chinese researchers engineered rabbits to make them meatier, the animals developed enlarged tongues; similar experiments on pigs led some to develop an additional vertebrae.

Sheep gene-edited to produce a particular colour of wool had more spontaneous abortions; calves in Brazil and New Zealand, genetically engineered to be less vulnerable to heat stress, died prematurely.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of these adverse effects is that they aren’t unique to genetically engineered livestock. 

Genetic selection for high milk yield is the major factor causing poor welfare and health problems in dairy cows. Breeding hens to produce more and more eggs causes osteoporosis creating a substantial risk of fractures, as well as lameness. Likewise, breeding pigs for rapid growth leads to leg disorders and cardiovascular malfunction.

Our system for producing livestock is very broken. But instead of fixing the system, genetic engineering aims to better adapt the animals to crowded, filthy and inhumane living conditions and further entrench a factory farming system that is not fit for a humane and sustainable society.

Slow down the conversation

Gene-editing and other technologies clearly pose a challenge for regulators. Legislative definitions can quickly become obsolete with every new technological development. And in the rush to finalise our regulatory approach, the current debate about genetically engineered livestock seems to skip over several key issues.

It underrepresents the best interests of the animals and fosters the notion that animals which fail to thrive in factory farm conditions as somehow genetically inadequate. Frustratingly, given the potential for distressing side effects, it avoids the question of why the re-engineering of non-human animals is being given less ethical consideration than the re-engineering of humans.

It also hides the real lack of diversity among those academics driving the debate.

For example, a Google search on the topic of gene-edited animals for food will turn up a disproportionate amount of articles by or featuring Dr Alison Van Eenennaam, a specialist in animal genomics and biotechnology at the University of California, Davis—and a former Monsanto employee.

Van Eenennaam believes that requiring regulation for genetically engineered animals is “insane”  and has a particular interest in using CRISPR, to eliminate the horns of dairy cows and to breed all-male terminator cattle that will produce only male offspring—a project she calls “Boys Only.” While she is often presented as an independent, one-woman advocate for gene-edited animals, documents acquired by US Right to Know have shown that she coordinates with agrichemical companies and the PR companies on messaging.

That messaging supports the notion of “substantial equivalence” between GMO and non-GMO organisms and thereby discourages research that could provide meaningful insights into the risks that re-engineering an animal at the cellular level may entail for the animals, or for those consuming their meat, milk and eggs.

Importantly it deepens the schism between public concerns about safety, ethics and environment and the academic/scientific/regulatory discussion which is centred mostly on expediency and the profits to be made from tech ‘innovation’.

Regulators around the world are grappling with these issues, while being pressured by industry to come up with quick solutions. It’s worth asking, however, whether the sense of urgency is real or manufactured and whether, given how much there is still to learn, a slower and more nuanced conversation—combined with a moratorium on gene-edited livestock—might shine much needed light on some important issues and produce a better outcome for the animals and for consumers.

Pat Thomas is a journalist, author and campaigner specializing in food, environment and health. See more on her website. To keep up with Organic Consumers Association (OCA) news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

How to Ban Monsanto's Roundup

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-06-19 16:30
June 19, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAlexis Baden-MayerGenetic Engineering roundup_shelf_silver_gold_black_1200x630.jpg

We’re still trying to raise the money we need to storm the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Washington, D.C., and stand with Roundup-exposed cancer victims in St. Louis, Missouri.

But we want to make sure you know that there’s one thing you can do today to help get Roundup banned.

Before midnight July 5, please submit your comment directly to the EPA on the agency’s Glyphosate Proposed Interim Registration Review Decision.

Then please also sign our petition, so we can deliver signatures in person.

We know it’s quick and easy to add your signature to our petition. But we hope you won’t stop there.

Your personal story about glyphosate is much more powerful than a mere signature, especially if you or someone you know has cancer or another illness due to exposure to Monsanto-Bayer’s glyphosate-based herbicides. You can even attach photos to your submission.

It’s hard to imagine Trump’s EPA will do the right thing when it comes to Monsanto and glyphosate. After all, White House policy advisers have already said, “We have Monsanto’s back on pesticides regulation.”

But your comments are still very important. Why?

Every 15 years, the EPA is required to review the latest science on glyphosate and decide whether or not to re-register it. That process is underway now. In April, the EPA published its Proposed Interim Registration Review Decision. The agency is now seeking public comments on that document. 

Given how slow the EPA has been to act on glyphosate—probably because the chemical is so controversial—the agency may not get around to a final decision before the next presidential election, in 2020.

That means a new EPA administrator, and a new president, may get the final word on glyphosate. This is your chance to influence them.

Need a little inspiration? A scientific review of the latest data on farmers’ glyphosate exposure and health outcomes found that those with heavy exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup were 41 percent more likely to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

If you want more information to include in your EPA comments, you’ll find all the latest glyphosate news here.

In the meantime, what else can you do about Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller?

• Help get Roundup out of your town! At least 100 localities from Los Angeles to Chicago to Miami have taken action to stop the use of glyphosate.

• Help get Roundup out of schools!

• Check out our entire Resist Roundup toolkit here, and spread the word among your friends and family members.

For now, before midnight July 5, please submit your comment to the EPA on the Glyphosate Proposed Interim Registration Review Decision!

Beware of False Knowledge

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-06-18 14:03
June 18, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsGenetic Engineering farmer_tractor_spray_herbicide_crop_field_farm_1200x630.jpg

Long before “fake news” was a household word, playwright and political activist George Bernard Shaw warned:

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”

For decades, Monsanto has manufactured and disseminated “false knowledge” about its top-selling weedkiller.

And our U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been right there by Monsanto’s side. Ignoring the truth. Protecting Monsanto’s profits.

Please donate today to help us raise hell as the EPA plans to approve Monsanto’s toxic glyphosate for another 15 years! You can donate online, by mail or by phone, details here.

There may be little we can do to stop a corrupt EPA from approving Roundup weedkiller for another 15 years.

But that won’t stop us from doing everything in our power to keep the heat on Monsanto and the EPA until Roundup is banned. Forever.

Reporters will soon gather in St. Louis, Missouri, to hear the story of yet another victim of Monsanto’s poison.

They, and a jury, will weigh evidence, again, of how Monsanto knew all along that Roundup can cause cancer, and yet went to great lengths—and expense—to hide that fact from the public.

We’ll be there, too. With top-level scientists, armed with the latest facts, ready to share their knowledge with the media, the public—anyone interested in learning the truth.

We’re also mobilizing activists for a public rally, in Monsanto’s backyard, to coincide with the St. Louis-based trials.

And we have our own lawsuit against Monsanto, filed on behalf of millions of consumers like you. A lawsuit to force Monsanto to stop spreading its “false knowledge” via labels on Roundup weedkiller that lie about the potentially harmful impact of Roundup on human health.

We may lose another round with the EPA, long-ago corrupted by Monsanto and now, more than ever, hell bent on protecting corporate interests over public health.

But sooner or later, the truth will win out. The EPA will no longer be able to run from an angry public, fed up with collusion and corruption.

Sooner or later, Monsanto will go down. If we make it happen.

Please donate today to help us raise hell as the EPA plans to approve Monsanto’s toxic glyphosate for another 15 years! You can donate online, by mail or by phone, details here.

The Climate Emergency: Regenerate or Perish

Organic consumers - Mon, 2019-06-17 19:00
June 17, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAndre Leu, Regeneration InternationalEnvironment & Climate seedling_soil_sprout_1200x630.jpg

May 2019 was a turning point for climate change. The world reached a record of 415.3 parts per million of carbon dioxide (ppm CO2) in the atmosphere—the most in over 3 million years. The UK Parliament declared an environmental and climate emergency on May 1. Pope Francis followed this by declaring a climate emergency on June 14.

A study published in May shows that if we don’t succeed in radically reducing emissions, civilization could collapse by 2050. The authors of the report showed that we are on track to "… a world of 'outright chaos' on a path to the end of human civilization and modern society as we have known it…"

The good news is that we can turn this around by scaling up regenerative agriculture.

Why Regenerative Agriculture?

Regenerative agriculture is based on a range of food and farming systems that use the photosynthesis of plants to capture CO2 and store it in the soil. The soil holds more than double the amount of carbon than the atmosphere and biomass (forests and plants) combined.

Why is it so important to dramatically reduce the current rate of CO2 emissions?

If emissions are not reduced soon, we will be going into catastrophic climate change, that we may not be able to reverse. This is because it will take centuries to get the heat out of our oceans. Ocean heat is a significant driver of our weather. The oceans and the atmosphere are already around 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) warmer than during the industrial revolution.

The energy needed to heat the atmosphere and the ocean by 1.8 degrees is equivalent to billions of atomic bombs. I am using this violent metaphor so that people can understand how much energy is being released into our atmosphere and oceans and why we will get more extreme weather events wreaking havoc on our communities and environment.This extra energy is already violently fueling and disrupting our weather systems. It causing weather events to be far more intense. Winter storms are becoming colder and can be pushed further south and north than normal due to this energy, bringing damaging snowstorms and intense floods. Similarly, summer storms, especially hurricanes, tornadoes, tropical lows etc. are far more frequent and intense with deluging destructive rainfall and floods. Droughts and heat waves are more common and are resulting in more crop failures. They are also fueling damaging forest and grass fires that are burning out whole communities and changing regional ecologies due to not allowing time for recovery before the next fires.

The frequency and intensity of these types of events will only get exponentially worse when the world warms to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) which is the upper limit of the Paris climate agreement. And we are on track to shoot past this goal.

Managing climate change is a major issue that we have to deal with now

Atmospheric CO2 levels have been increasing at 2 parts per million (ppm) per year. The level of CO2 reached a new record of 400 ppm in May 2016. However, despite all the commitments countries made in Paris in December 2015, the levels of CO2 increased by 3.3 ppm in 2016 creating a record. It increased by 3.3 ppm from 2018 to set a new record of 415.3 ppm in May 2019. This is a massive 60 percent increase in emissions per year since Paris and shows the reality is that most countries are not even close to meeting their Paris reduction commitments and many must be cheating on or ignoring their obligations.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, "Geological records show that the current levels of CO2 correspond to an 'equilibrium' climate last observed in the mid-Pliocene (3–5 million years ago), a climate that was 2–3 °C (3.6 - 5.4 F) warmer, where the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets melted and even some of the East Antarctic ice was lost, leading to sea levels that were 10–20 m (30 to 60ft) higher than those today."

Global sea levels rises will cause the atoll island countries, large parts of Bangladesh, Netherlands, coastal USA, New York, New Orleans, Miami, London, Manila, Bangkok, Jakarta, Shanghai, Singapore, Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Dar es Salam and other low lying areas to go under water.

Even if the world transitioned to 100 percent renewable energy tomorrow, this will not stop the temperature and sea level rises because it will take more than 100 years for the CO2 levels to drop. According to latest report, sea level rises, droughts and floods will cause a huge refugee crisis for over a billion people by 2050 and throw our civilization into chaos. The world cannot cope with 2 million refugees from Syria. How do we cope hundreds of millions of climate change refugees? There will be wars over food, water, land.

The fact is we have to speed up the transition to renewable energy and we have to make a great effort to drawdown CO2 in the atmosphere.

Reversing climate change

Four hundred and fifteen ppm is way past the Paris objective of limiting the temperature increase to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius). The levels need to be well below 350 ppm. The excess CO2 must be drawn down from the atmosphere to stop damaging climate change.

In order to stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels, regenerative agricultural systems would have to drawdown the current emissions of 3.3 ppm of CO2 per year. Using the accepted formula that 1 ppm CO2 = 7.76 Gt CO2 means that 25.61 gigatons (Gt) of CO2 per year needs to be drawn down from the atmosphere.

Potential of best practice regenerative agriculture

BEAM (Biologically Enhanced Agricultural Management), developed by Dr. David Johnson of New Mexico State University, produces compost with a high diversity of soil microorganisms. Multiple crops grown with BEAM have achieved very high levels of sequestration. Peer-reviewed research published by Dr. Johnson and colleagues show. “… a 4.5 year agricultural field study promoted annual average capture and storage of 10.27 metric tons soil C ha-1 year -1 while increasing soil macro-, meso- and micro-nutrient availability offering a robust, cost effective carbon sequestration mechanism within a more productive and long-term sustainable agriculture management approach.” These results have since been replicated in other trials.

These figures mean that BEAM can sequester 37,700 kilos of CO2 per hectare per year which is approximately 37,000 pounds of CO2 per acre.

BEAM can be used in all soil based food production systems including annual crops, permanent crops and grazing systems. If BEAM was extrapolated globally across agricultural lands it would sequester 185 Gt of CO2 per year.

Potential of regenerative grazing

The Savory Institute and many others have been scaling up holistic managed grazing systems on every arable continent. There is now a considerable body of published science and evidence based practices showing that these systems regenerate degraded lands, improve productivity, water holding capacity and soil carbon levels.

Around 70 percent of the world’s agricultural lands are used for grazing. The published evidence shows that correctly managed pastures can build up soil carbon faster than many other agricultural systems and this is stored deeper in the soil.

Research by published Machmuller et al. 2015: “In a region of extensive soil degradation in the southeastern United States, we evaluated soil C accumulation for 3 years across a 7-year chronosequence of three farms converted to management-intensive grazing. Here we show that these farms accumulated C at 8.0 Mg ha−1 yr−1, increasing cation exchange and water holding capacity by 95% and 34%, respectively.”

The means that they have sequestered 29,360 kilos of CO2 per hectare per year. This is approximately 29,000 pounds of CO2 per acre. If these regenerative grazing practices were implemented on the world’s grazing lands they would sequester 98.6 Gt of CO2 per year.

Ending the climate emergency

Transitioning a small proportion of global agricultural production to these two peer-reviewed, evidence based, best practice, regenerative systems will sequester enough CO2 to reverse climate change and restore the global climate.

Ten percent of agricultural lands under BEAM could sequester 18.5 Gt of CO2 per year.

And a further 10 percent of grasslands under regenerative grazing could sequester 10 Gt of CO2 per year.

This would result in 28.5 Gt of CO2 per year being sequestered into the soil which is more than the amount of sequestration needed to drawdown the 25.61 Gt of CO2 that is currently being emitted.

These back-of-the envelope calculations are designed to show the considerable potential of scaling up proven high-performing regenerative systems. The examples are "shovel ready" solutions as they are based on existing practices. There is no need to invest in expensive, potentially dangerous and unproven technologies such as carbon capture and storage or geo-engineering.

We are in a climate change emergency and we need every tool in the tool box to fix this problem. We don’t have the luxury of wasting precious time on intellectual arguments about whether this is possible or to convince skeptics and land managers unwilling to change.

It is time to get on with drawing down the excess CO2 by scaling up existing regenerative agriculture practices. This is very doable and achievable. It would require minimal financial costs to fund existing institutions, training organizations and relevant NGOs to run courses and workshops.

The widespread adoption of best practice regenerative agriculture systems should be the highest priority for farmers, ranchers, governments, international organizations, elected representatives, industry, training organizations, educational institutions and climate change organizations. We owe this to future generations and to all the rich biodiversity on our precious living planet.

References/sources:

Johnson D, Ellington J and Eaton W, (2015)  Development of soil microbial communities for promoting sustainability in agriculture and a global carbon fix, PeerJ PrePrints | http://dx.doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.789v1 | CC-BY 4.0 Open Access | rec: 13 Jan 2015, publ: 13 Jan 2015

Lal R (2008). Sequestration of atmospheric CO2 in global carbon pools. Energy and Environmental Science, 1: 86–100.

McCosker, T. 2000. “Cell Grazing – The First 10 Years in Australia,” Tropical Grasslands. 34:  207-218.

Machmuller MB, Kramer MG, Cyle TK, Hill N, Hancock D & Thompson A (2014). Emerging land use practices rapidly increase soil organic matter, Nature Communications 6, Article number: 6995 doi:10.1038/ncomms7995, Received 21 June 2014 Accepted 20 March 2015 Published 30 April 2015

NOAS (2017). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (US)

https://www.climate.gov/news-features/climate-qa/how-much-will-earth-warm-if-carbon-dioxide-doubles-pre-industrial-levels, Accessed Jan 30 2017

Spratt D and Dunlop I, 2019, Existential climate-related security risk: A scenario approach,  

Breakthrough - National Centre for Climate Restoration, Melbourne, Australia

www.breakthroughonline.org.au, May 2019 Updated 11 June 2019

https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/148cb0_90dc2a2637f348edae45943a88da04d4.pdf

Tong W, Teague W R, Park C S and Bevers S, 2015, GHG Mitigation Potential of Different Grazing Strategies in the United States Southern Great Plains, Sustainability 2015, 7, 13500-13521; doi:10.3390/su71013500, ISSN 2071-1050, www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability

United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), FAOSTAT data on land use, retrieved December 4, 2015

The total amount of land used to produce food is 4,911,622,700 Hectares (18,963,881 square miles).

This is divided into:    

Arable/Crop land: 1,396,374,300 Hectares (5,391,431 square miles)

Permanent pastures: 3,358,567,600 Hectares (12,967,502 square miles)

Permanent crops: 153,733,800 square kilometers (593,570 square miles)

BEAM Calculations

A basic calculation shows the potential of scaling up this simple technology across the global agricultural lands. Soil Organic Carbon x 3.67 = CO2 which means that 10.27 metric tons soil carbon = 37.7 metric tons of CO2 per hectare per year (t CO2/ha/yr). This means BEAM can sequester 37.7 tons of CO2 per hectare which is approximately 38,000 pounds of CO2 per acre.

If BEAM was extrapolated globally across agricultural lands it would sequester 185 Gt of CO2/yr.

(37.7 t CO2/ha/yr X 4,911,622,700 ha = 185,168,175,790t CO2/ha/yr)

Regenerative grazing calculations

To explain the significance of Machmuller’s figures: 8.0 Mg ha−1 yr−1 = 8,000 kgs of carbon being stored in the soil per hectare per year. Soil Organic Carbon x 3.67 = CO2, which means that these grazing systems have sequestered 29,360 kgs (29.36 metric tons) of CO2/ha/yr. This is approximately 30,000 pounds of CO2 per acre.

If these regenerative grazing practices were implemented on the world’s grazing lands they would sequester 98.6 Gt CO2/yr.

(29.36t CO2/ha/yr X 3,358,567,600 ha = 98,607,544,736t CO2/ha/yr)

Life After Glyphosate—Let’s Make It a Reality

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-06-12 15:52
June 12, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationPat ThomasGenetic Engineering roundup_bottles_shelves_1200x630.jpg

Glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide, was once hailed as a kind of miracle solution to the problem of weeds.

Today, glyphosate-based weedkillers like Monsanto’s Roundup are a disgraced product, associated with a shocking and increasing number of health and environmental problems.

Glyphosate has long been promoted as a fast-acting weedkiller, as effective in small gardens and lawns as it was in industrial corn and soy fields. Its use on farms dramatically increased with the introduction of herbicide-tolerant GMO crops. But glyphosate is also regularly sprayed on non-GMO crops—‘healthy’ foods such wheat, oats, maize and barley but also soya, rapeseed, sunflower seeds and chick peas—as a desiccant, used to dry out the crops in a uniform fashion, so they can be harvested all at once.

Glyphosate-based herbicides are also used to control weeds in parks, on city streets, roadsides, sidewalks and in playgrounds.

At one time pundits claimed that glyphosate was less toxic than coffee and table salt. This wasn’t merely an outrageous mangling of the science of toxicity—it was an out-and-out lie.

We now know that glyphosate has a dirty secret—one that is being very publicly and forensically exposed in a string of recent court cases involving people who have developed an otherwise rare cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, as a result of regularly using glyphosate. 

These cases may be just the tip of the iceberg. 

A trail of devastation

Glyphosate was classified in March 2015, as probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). A separate formal review of glyphosate by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), published in May 2019, backs this up. The review found statistically significant links to certain cancers, such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

According to a recent international study, glyphosate increases antibiotic resistance. The study found that along with two other toxic herbicides, 2,4-D and dicamba, glyphosate changed the way bacteria responded to a number of antibiotics including ampicillin, ciprofloxacin and tetracycline, which are widely used to treat a range of serious, and sometimes deadly, diseases.

In February 2016, a group of international scientists published a consensus statement drawing attention to the risks posed by increasing exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs). The health concerns highlighted included endocrine system-mediated and developmental impacts. The letter called for better monitoring of GBH residues in water, food and humans.

Indeed most “monitoring” of this kind is still being done by citizen scientists and NGOs. These analyses have shown worryingly high levels in the breastmilk and urine of American mothers, as detailed by Moms Across America, and in drinking water (traces have also been found in the in the urine of European citizens).

In a 2018 survey, glyphosate residues were present in all but two of the 45 oat-derived products sampled by the Environmental Working Group. GMO Free USA found that glyphosate residues are pervasive in foods served by major restaurant and fast food chains in the United States. Laboratory tests conducted by the Organic Consumers Association in 2017, both in the U.S. and in the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands, found glyphosate in multiple flavors of the popular ice cream brand, Ben & Jerry's.

The list goes on. The big question is: Where is the government oversight in all this?

A moment of possibility

As the bad news about glyphosate builds, many places in the U.S. are declaring themselves glyphosate-free zones.

In addition, a large number of EU citizens want the herbicide banned—a recent European Citizens Initiative petition gathered more than 1.3 million signatures.

All these activities present us with a moment of possibility. A moment when we can take a cold, hard look at the way we farm, and at the way we manage our environments, and ask ourselves how we might do it better. They give us an opportunity to ask ourselves what has gone so wildly wrong in our world that we need to use increasingly toxic chemicals to manage our food system and our lives.

These discoveries and actions also give us an opportunity to recognize how fragile are industry claims of “magic bullets,” and to examine the all-too-familiar “natural history” of toxic chemical use which follows a predictable pattern of rising from obscurity to peak concern and eventual decline—a process which that typically takes about take 30 years. This far-to-slow response, hindered by industry lobbyists, means many more people are exposed to toxic chemicals than should be.

This may well be a moment when we can change things—yet you wouldn’t know that from reading either the mainstream media or the farming press. Even as the toxicity of glyphosate is being splashed all over the news, so-called experts and agricultural and scientific commentators are asking what herbicide can we use next. or what machinery can we press into service to spray “precision” doses of herbicide on crops.

Farmers in a bind

There’s no question that the withdrawal of glyphosate would leave many farmers in a bind. The way we farm now—monocultures, GMO crops, heavy applications of synthetic fertilisers—has made conventional farmers, unfamiliar with regenerative, dependent on pesticides. 

Yet all of these components of modern agriculture scream short-termism. They put our farmers on a chemical treadmill with a horizon that stretches only as far as the next planting. They obscure the wider and longer-term context of why we have become so chemically dependent and how we might be able to break free of that addiction.

We need to stop lying to ourselves about pesticides being “safe” and “environmentally friendly.” All but the most short-sighted people recognise this.

Fortunately, an increasing number of experts throughout the world are calling for change.

In 2013, the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) published a report entitled Wake Up Before It’s Too Late. It was a powerful call for a return to sustainable farming practices. 

In 2018, the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES) published a series of case studies of agroecological transition which illustrated how the chemical treadmill—what the authors called the “lock-ins” of industrial food systems—can be overcome, where the key leverage points for transition are, and how transition towards sustainable food and farming systems can be best supported.

A way forward

Today according to the latest annual analysis of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data by the health advocacy group Environmental Working Group, 70 percent of U.S. produce contains pesticide residues

Additionally, up to 50 million Americans could be drinkingfrom pesticide-contaminated water sources, according to a 2000 study by the USDA. 

Well-meaning advice in the media suggests that consumers can protect themselves by washing their produce. Never mind the fact that they are potentially washing their produce in contaminated water, most pesticides simply don’t wash off.

The consumer action that is really needed has nothing to do with kitchen hygiene and everything to do with demanding a better food and farming system.

A recent analysis by German think tank IDDRI found that if the process of agroecological farming began today, Europe could feed itself, pesticide free, in 10 years. A single decade is all it would take to phase out pesticides, reduce its impacts on climate and biodiversity, while ensuring a healthy and secure food system for Europeans. 

If it can happen in Europe, it can happen in the U.S.

In fact studies into regenerative farming show that a “paradigm shift” in agriculture can build soil health and with it, more resilient crops. More resilient crops means a better yield of more nutritious food. Better yields maintain and improve profits for farmers. Agroecology also emphasizes crop diversity which means dietary diversity and biodiversity. 

Regenerative agriculture is also a win in the fight for climate change. According to the Rodale Institute, recent data from farming systems and pasture trials around the globe show that we could sequester more than 100 percent of current annual CO2 emissions by switching to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices, which we term “regenerative organic agriculture.” These practices work to maximize carbon fixation while minimizing the loss of that carbon once returned to the soil, reversing the greenhouse effect. 

Finding the next toxic pesticide is not a solution.

The use of glyphosate, introduced to the world by Monsanto and still being defended by Bayer, is no longer tenable. It’s a product that’s on its way out—though not fast enough. We should be grateful to the independent scientists who risked their jobs to expose its toxicity, and to the legal experts and citizens who have gathered together by the thousands to make its manufacturers pay for the widespread and undeniable chronic ill health and fatal diseases that its use has caused.

Let’s move forward now. Let’s not waste another moment in asking what new poison we can spray on the planet.

Pat Thomas is a journalist, author and campaigner specializing in food, environment and health. See more on her website. To keep up with Organic Consumers Association (OCA) news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

There's No Reassuring Way to Say This

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-06-11 15:27
June 11, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsGenetic Engineering farm_spray_blue_tractor_1200x630.jpg

There’s no reassuring way to say this: You’re being poisoned against your will.

Sure, you can take steps to minimize your exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller.

But given its widespread and reckless use in this country, you’d have to live in a bubble to protect yourself from a chemical so toxic it’s been banned or severely restricted in 17 other countries.

Please donate today to help us push back against the EPA’s plan to approve Monsanto’s toxic glyphosate for another 15 years!

More than 300 million pounds of glyphosate are sprayed every year in the U.S. alone. That’s according to EPA estimates, which don’t include all uses.

You could be eating glyphosate. Tests show contamination in hundreds of common foods, including fresh produce, popular juices, tea, ice cream, cereals, breads—not just GMO corn, soy or beets.

You could be drinking glyphosate. One study said 70 percent of U.S. drinking water contains glyphosate.

You and your kids and your pets could be playing in glyphosate. Just this week, the Guardian reported that in 2017, New York City workers sprayed more than 500 gallons of glyphosate, including in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, which receives 8 million visitors a year.

The fact is, all of us are exposed to glyphosate. Against our will.

That means all of us need to keep the pressure on Congress and the EPA to ban Roundup and other glyphosate-based weedkillers.

Please donate today to help us push back against the EPA’s plan to approve Monsanto’s toxic glyphosate for another 15 years!

Every 15 years, the EPA is supposed to review the latest research on glyphosate and decide whether or not to re-approve it.

The last deadline was December 2015. But that deadline came and went with no word—probably because in March 2015, the World Health Organization inconveniently announced that glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen.”

Three-and-a-half years later, the agency that’s supposed to protect the public came out with its “no risk to public health” statement.

The EPA is seeking “public comment” on its review until July 5.

We think “comments” aren’t enough.

That’s why we’re collaborating with our allies to storm the EPA and demand the agency do what it should have done decades ago: Ban glyphosate!

Please help us raise another $75,000 by midnight June 30 so we can raise hell with the EPA before it approves Monsanto’s toxic glyphosate for another 15 years!

We Can't Afford Another 15 Years of This

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-06-06 13:02
June 6, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie Cummins plane_spray_crops_1200x630.jpg

On April 23, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally got around to issuing its latest (phony) review of glyphosate.

What did the EPA decide? That the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller “poses no public health risk.”

Please donate today to help us push back against the EPA’s plan to approve Monsanto’s toxic glyphosate for another 15 years!

Every 15 years, the EPA is supposed to review the latest science on glyphosate, then issue a determination on whether this toxic chemical should be re-approved for another 15 years.

The last deadline for a new review of glyphosate was December 2015. But that deadline came and went with no word—probably because in March 2015, the World Health Organization inconveniently announced that glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen.”

Three-and-a-half years past the 2015 deadline, the agency that’s supposed to protect your health came out with its bold “no risk to public health” claim.

Now the public has until July 5 to comment on the EPA's so-called scientific review of this deadly herbicide.

We think “comments” aren’t enough.

That’s why we’re collaborating with our allies to storm the EPA and demand the agency do what it should have done decades ago: Ban glyphosate!

Please donate today to help us push back against the EPA’s plan to approve Monsanto’s toxic glyphosate for another 15 years!

The EPA’s loyalty to Monsanto (now owned by Bayer) is mind-blowing.

You’ve probably been following the trials of people who used Roundup and later developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a potentially fatal cancer that was once rare, but is now much more common.

So you probably know that so far, three separate juries (thousands more lawsuits are still to come) have weighed the evidence against Monsanto—and sided with the victims.

Evidence uncovered during these early trials reveals that Monsanto has always known about Roundup’s cancer-causing potential.

That’s bad enough. This is even worse: Internal memos suggest that some EPA officials actually colluded with Monsanto to hide the truth about Roundup and cancer from consumers and farmers.

The EPA has chosen to ignore the evidence presented at these trials.

The EPA, which is supposed to work for you, has chosen to reject nearly two decades’ worth of newer independent, peer-reviewed studies linking glyphosate to a long list of health and environmental issues.

And all you’re allowed to do is “comment?” While your water is polluted, your food is contaminated and the soil we all depend on is degraded beyond repair?

Please donate today to help us push back against the EPA’s plan to approve Monsanto’s toxic glyphosate for another 15 years!

Hardly a day goes by that I’m not reminded of the words of Jane Goodall:

“Someday we shall look back on this dark era of agriculture and shake our heads. How could we have ever believed that it was a good idea to grow our food with poisons?”

I keep waiting for that day. The day when our regulatory agencies come to their senses and banish forever the poisons from our food system.

In the meantime, with your help, we'll keep fighting back.

Want to Help Your Local Food System Thrive? Do This.

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-06-04 15:42
June 4, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulFarm Issues girl_farmers_market_1200x630.jpg

You depend on your local farmers for the healthy food you buy at your community’s natural food store and farmers’ market.

Unfortunately, many small family farms struggle to succeed financially. That’s because farm policies favor big farms and multinational agribusiness corporations, not your local farmers.

It’s time to change that. And the best way to do it is to unite farmers from all over the country around efforts to rewrite U.S. food and farming policies.

Can you reach out to your local farmers and ask them to join a national coalition of Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal?

Politics aside, the Green New Deal offers an unprecedented opportunity for large-scale reform of U.S. food and farming policies.

That’s why we’re working with our sister organization, Regeneration International, to build a coalition of farmers and ranchers who will work together to ensure that the Green New Deal includes policies that help them succeed.

For the first time ever, U.S. presidential candidates are talking about the need to help family farmers succeed—instead of supporting policies that make multinational agribusiness corporations rich, and force small farmers out of business.

But federal lawmakers need to hear from organic regenerative farmers, in large numbers, about what they need.

Can you reach out to your farmers and invite them to join this important national coalition? Click here for more information and downloadable materials. Or fill out this form and we’ll mail materials to you.

Bernie Joins the Regeneration Revolution

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-05-30 13:41
May 30, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsEnvironment & Climate, Politics & Globalization bernie_sanders-gage_skidmore_1200x630.jpg

Photo: Gage Skidmore, (CC BY-SA 2.0)

“We need to incentivize farming systems that help farmers both mitigate climate change and build resilience to its impacts. Pass comprehensive legislation to address climate change that includes a transition to regenerative, independent family farming practices.” – Sen. Bernie Sanders, “Revitalizing Rural America” May 15, 2019

Amidst all the bad news, scandals and neo-fascist machinations in Washington, there is some good news on the political front: A number of leading Democratic Party candidates for president, including U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), emboldened by a wave of grassroots action on the part of the youth-powered Sunrise Movement and Student Strike for the Climate, and bolstered by a group of recently elected members of Congress led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), are putting forth bold proposals that could actually solve the climate crisis.

These relatively new grassroots movements are demanding, in the words of Bernie Sanders, a “Political Revolution”—a new system, based on ecological and egalitarian principles, offering solutions to the intertwined crises of urban and rural America: pollution, environmental destruction, deteriorating public health, economic injustice, political corruption, corporate crime, monopoly control and unending wars.

In the last presidential election cycle in 2016 there was little or no discussion of what has now metasticized into a climate emergency. Nor was there any serious discussion of the industrial, corporate-controlled food, farming and land-use practices that are major drivers of global warming, deteriorating public health, environmental destruction, species extinction and increasingly toxic air and water.

Fortunately, the conversation is evolving. The climate crisis now ranks as a leading concern among registered voters. And it has the attention of most of the two dozen contenders for the Democratic Party nomination for president in 2020. Several of these candidates have offered up detailed proposals to not only slash fossil fuel emissions, but also to repair our broken food and farming system.

The 2016 Presidential election provided a perfect example of contemporary political degeneration. Two highly unpopular politicians, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, both backed by wealthy corporations and donors (including the fossil fuel industry and corporate agribusiness), squared off against one another in a billion-dollar mudslinging contest for the White House—with little or no mention of climate change, food and farming or environmental issues like species extinction and land degradation.

Clinton managed to get 65 million votes. Trump got 62 million and the majority of the Electoral College. But the largest segment of the electorate—92 million people—were so disillusioned or disgusted by “politics as usual” that they didn’t bother to vote at all.

Once in office, scandal-plagued President Trump appointed fossil fuel-apologists and climate change-deniers to high offices and announced that the U.S. was pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement by 2020. His choice for Secretary of Agriculture was Sonny Perdue, a pro-factory farm, pro-Monsanto, pro-Big Meat cheerleader from Georgia.

But things are changing, and changing rapidly. Millions of Americans and more than 100 members of Congress, including leading Democratic Party contenders for president in 2020, are calling for a system-wide transformation called the Green New Deal (GND), a 21st century version of the New Deal of the 1930s.

The GND calls for a World War II-scale transition away from fossil fuels and chemical-intensive agriculture, a green renewable energy economy by 2030, a rebuilding of the nation’s infrastructure and retrofitting of all buildings. The GND also calls for green jobs for all who are willing to work, $15/hour minimum wage, universal health care, abolishing student debt and free public education for all.

Similar system change is now slowly unfolding south of the border, in Mexico, where the ruling MORENA party, (the National Regeneration Movement) has begun implementing what President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador calls the “Fourth Transformation,” a radical populist program to fix the nation’s economic, political, environmental, agricultural, organized crime and climate crises.

Similar movements for reversing climate change through a GND are now spreading across borders and continents, most recently supercharged by mass street protests organized by the Extinction Rebellion movement and the global student strike for the climate. Calls are growing louder from political activists in Canada, the UK and other European nations to drop neo-liberal business-as-usual policies and put forth a Green New Deal.

A look at the food, farming and climate platforms of the Green New Deal, and the campaign platforms of Sanders, Warren and Booker among others, show us just how far we’ve come in the space of three years.

The Green New Deal Resolution, supported by Democratic presidential candidates Sanders, Warren, Booker, Gov. Jay Inslee, Sen. Kamala Harris (D- Calif.) and others,  introduced on February 7, in the House by Ocasio-Cortez and in the Senate by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), explicitly calls for:

. . . working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector… supporting family farming… investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health… building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food… removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and reducing pollution, including by restoring natural ecosystems through proven low-tech solutions that increase soil carbon storage, such as preservation and afforestation… restoring and protecting threatened, endangered, and fragile ecosystems through locally appropriate and science-based projects that enhance biodiversity and support climate resiliency… providing all people of the United States with access to clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and nature.

Sanders’ “Revitalizing Rural America” proposal, issued on May 15, 2019, doesnt mince words. It states:

Agriculture today is not working for the majority of Americans. It is not working economically for farmers, it is not working for rural communities, and it is not working for the environment. But it is working for big agribusiness corporations that are extracting our rural resources for profit… Fundamental change in America’s agricultural and rural policies is no longer just an option; it’s an absolute necessity. Farmers, foresters, and ranchers steward rural landscapes, which benefit all Americans. They provide us with essential resources such as food, fiber, building materials, renewable energy, clean water, and habitat for biodiversity. They also have an enormous potential to address climate change. With the right support and policies, we can have rural communities that are thriving economically and ecologically.

After laying out how we must break the stranglehold of the agribusiness monopolies such as Bayer-Monsanto, and create a level playing field for family farmers through anti-trust action, fair prices for farmers and supply management, Sanders goes on to explicitly point out how sustainable, organic and regenerative farming practices can play a major role in solving our climate Emergency:  

We need to incentivize farming systems that help farmers both mitigate climate change and build resilience to its impacts. [We need to] Pass comprehensive legislation to address climate change that includes a transition to regenerative, independent family farming practices. Help farms of all sizes transition to sustainable agricultural practices that rebuild rural communities, protect the climate, and strengthen the environment. Provide grants, technical assistance, and debt relief to farmers to support their transition to more sustainable farming practices. Support a transition to more sustainable management of livestock systems that are ecologically sound, improve soil health, and sequester carbon in soil. Create financial mechanisms that compensate farmers for improving ecosystems.

Despite all our efforts in terms of public education and mobilization, corrupt government officials, regulatory agencies and international trade bureaucrats have allowed Monsanto-Bayer, Syngenta-ChemChina, Dow-DuPont and a cabal of multinational agribusiness, chemical, seed and GMO corporations, aided and abetted by Madison Avenue, Wall Street and the mass media, to hijack our food and farming system and slowly but surely undermine our health, degrade the soil, pollute the environment and destabilize the climate.

Although the fossil fuel giants, Big Food, the Gene Giants and Corporate America, with the help of the White House and a servile Congress, have managed to derail our efforts so far to stabilize the climate, repair the environment and ban GMOs, toxic chemicals and factory farms, people in the U.S. and around the world are waking up.

For the first time in decades we will have the opportunity in 2020 to elect a president and a Congress that support family farms and organic, regenerative climate-friendly food and farm practices. For the first time ever we can elect a majority, at all levels of government—local, state, and federal—who recognize that we must stop and reverse global warming before our Climate Emergency morphs into climate catastrophe. The situation is dire, but there is still time to turn things around. Help us put pressure on all the politicians running for office in 2019-2020. If you’re a farmer sign here in support of a Green New Deal. If you’re an activist or a green consumer sign here.  

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). To keep up with OCA’s news and alerts, sign up here.

Tell Congress: Support the "Keep Fin Fish Free Act" to Ban Industrial Ocean Fish Farms!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-05-29 18:15
Category: Environment & Climate, CAFOs vs. Free Range, Farm IssuesArea: USA

Industrial ocean fish farms endanger both human and environmental health—yet the Trump administration is pushing for aggressive expansion of this dirty industry.

Raising non-native and/or genetically modified fish in ocean water fish farms can disrupt natural ecosystems when the facilities spread disease to wild fish and release toxic, untreated fish waste and pharmaceutical drugs into the marine environment.

Farmed fish also have more toxins, including pesticides and antibiotics, and contain fewer nutrients than wild caught fish.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress: Support the “Keep Fin Fish Free Act” to Ban Industrial Ocean Fish Farms!Read more

Your Support Needed to Help End Industrial Fish Farms

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-05-29 16:11
May 29, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonEnvironment & Climate, CAFOs vs. Free Range salmon_factory_fish_farm_1200x630.jpg

When you hear “factory farm” you probably think cows and pigs and chickens.

But there’s another type of factory farm, one that pollutes our oceans and produces one of the most toxic foods in the world: industrial ocean fish farms.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress: Support the “Keep Fin Fish Free Act” to Ban Industrial Ocean Fish Farms

Industrial fish farms endanger human health and the environment. Yet their numbers are growing, to meet the growing demand for salmon, in both grocery stores and restaurants.

But here’s the irony: Consumers want more salmon because we’ve been told that it’s a healthy choice. It is—but only if the salmon (and this holds true for other fish) is “wild caught,” meaning it was fished from its natural habitat, where it fed on natural organisms.

That’s not the case with farmed fish, which is raised on a diet of processed, high-fat, high-protein feed that can include everything from GMO soybeans and pesticides, to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins, to antibiotics.

One study found 13 persistent organic pollutants in farmed salmon, and PCB levels on average eight times higher in farmed salmon compared with wild salmon.

In addition to producing a toxic food product, industrial fish farms also pose a host of threats to the environment. As Friends of the Earth reports:

Factory fish farming allows for the free discharge of excess feed, feces, antibiotics, and chemicals into the water, which causes algal blooms and dead zones. The massive amount of fish in one space can attract and harm wildlife, which get entangled in farm nets, harassed by acoustic deterrents, or hunted by larger species.

Despite the human and environmental health hazards associated with industrial fish farms, the Trump administration is pushing for aggressive expansion of this dirty industry.

Fortunately, Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) has introduced the “Keep Fin Fish Free Act,” a bill that would place a moratorium on granting commercial permits for industrial fish farms in federally controlled ocean waters.

Please ask your U.S. Representatives to support H.R. 2467, the “Keep Fin Fish Free Act.”

Trial in Monsanto's Hometown Set for August after $2 Billion Roundup Cancer Verdict

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-05-22 19:41
May 22, 2019US Right to KnowCarey GillamGenetic Engineering roundup_bottles_mike_mozart_1200x630.jpg

After three stunning courtroom losses in California, the legal battle over the safety of Monsanto's top-selling Roundup herbicide is headed for the company's hometown, where corporate officials can be forced to appear on the witness stand, and legal precedence shows a history of anti-corporate judgments.

Sharlean Gordon, a cancer-stricken woman in her 50s, is the next plaintiff currently set for trial. Gordon v. Monsanto starts Aug. 19 in St. Louis County Circuit Court, located just a few miles from the St. Louis, Missouri-area campus that was the company's longtime world headquarters until Bayer bought Monsanto last June. The case was filed in July 2017 on behalf of more than 75 plaintiffs and Gordon is the first of that group to go to trial.

According to the complaint, Gordon purchased and used Roundup for at least 15 continuous years through approximately 2017 and was diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2006. Gordon has gone through two stem cell transplants and spent a year in a nursing home at one point in her treatment. 

She is so debilitated that it is difficult for her to be mobile. 

Her case, like that of the thousands of others filed around the United States, alleges use of Monsanto's glyphosate-based herbicides caused her to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma. 

"She's been through hell," St. Louis attorney Eric Holland, one of the legal team members representing Gordon, told EHN. "She's horribly injured. The human toll here is tremendous. I think Sharlean is really going to put a face on what Monsanto's done to people." 

Gordon said the hardest part about preparing for trial is determining what evidence to present to the jury within the three-week time span that the judge has set for the trial. 

"This evidence against them, their conduct, is the most outrageous I've seen in my 30 years of doing this," Holland said. "The things that have gone on here, I want St. Louis juries to hear this stuff."

That Gordon trial will be followed by a September 9 trial also in St. Louis County in a case brought by plaintiffs Maurice Cohen and Burrell Lamb. 

Monsanto's deep roots in the community, including a large employment base and generous charitable donations throughout the area, could favor its chances with local jurors. 

But on the flip side, St. Louis is regarded in legal circles as one the most favorable places for plaintiffs to bring lawsuits against corporations and there is a long history of large verdicts against major companies. St. Louis City Court is generally considered the most favorable but St. Louis County is also desired by plaintiffs' attorneys.

The approach of the August and September trials comes on the heels of a stunning $2 billion verdict issued against Monsanto May 13. In that case, a jury in Oakland, California, awarded married couple Alva and Alberta Pilliod, who both suffer from cancer, $55 million in compensatory damages and $1 billion each in punitive damages. 

The jury found that Monsanto has spent years covering up evidence that its herbicide causes cancer. 

That verdict came only a little more than a month after a San Francisco jury ordered Monsanto to pay $80 million in damages to Edwin Hardeman, who also developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma after using Roundup. And last summer, a jury ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million to groundskeeper Dewayne "Lee" Johnson who received a terminal cancer diagnosis after using Monsanto herbicides in his job.

Aimee Wagstaff, who was co-lead counsel for Hardeman, is set to try the Gordon case in St. Louis with Holland. Wagstaff said she plans to subpoena several Monsanto scientists to appear on the witness stand to answer questions directly in front of a jury. 

She and the other attorneys trying the California cases were not able to force Monsanto employees to testify live because of the distance. The law provides that witnesses cannot be compelled to travel more than 100 miles or out of state from where they live or work.

Mediation meeting

The trial losses have left Monsanto and its German owner Bayer AG under siege. Angry investors have pushed share prices to the lowest levels in roughly seven years, erasing more than 40 percent of Bayer's market value. 

And some investors are calling for Bayer CEO Werner Baumann to be ousted for championing the Monsanto acquisition, which closed in June of last year just as the first trial was getting underway.

Bayer maintains that there is no valid evidence of cancer causation associated with Monsanto's herbicides, and says it believes it will win on appeal. But U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria has ordered Bayer to begin mediation talks aimed at potentially settling the sprawling mass of lawsuits that includes roughly 13,400 plaintiffs in the United States alone. 

All the plaintiffs are cancer victims or their family members and all allege Monsanto engaged in a range of deceptive tactics to hide the risks of its herbicides, including manipulating the scientific record with ghostwritten studies, colluding with regulators, and using outside individuals and organizations to promote the safety of its products while making sure they falsely appeared to be acting independently of the company. 

A May 22 hearing is being held in part to define details of the mediation process. Bayer has indicated that it will comply with the order, but may not yet be ready to consider settling the litigation despite the courtroom losses. 

Meanwhile, the litigation that originated in the United States has crossed the border into Canada where a Saskatchewan farmer is leading a class action lawsuit against Bayer and Monsanto making allegations that mirror those in the U.S. lawsuits.

"The Queen of Roundup"

Elaine Stevick of Petaluma, California was supposed to be the next in line to take on Monsanto at trial. 

But in his order of mediation, Judge Chhabria also vacated her May 20 trial date. A new trial date is to be discussed at the hearing on Wednesday.

Stevick and her husband Christopher Stevick sued Monsanto in April of 2016 and said in an interview that they are eager to get their chance to confront the company over the devastating damage they say Elaine's use of Roundup has done to her health. 

She was diagnosed in December 2014 at the age of 63 with multiple brain tumors due to a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma called central nervous system lymphoma (CNSL). Alberta Pilliod, who just won the most recent trial, also had a CNSL brain tumor.

The couple purchased an old Victorian home and overgrown property in 1990 and while Christopher worked on renovating the interior of the house, Elaine's job was to spray weed killer over the weeds and wild onions that the couple said took over a good portion of the property. 

She sprayed multiple times a year until she was diagnosed with cancer. She never wore gloves or other protective clothing because believed it to be as safe as advertised, she said.

Stevick is currently in remission but nearly died at one point in her treatment, Christopher Stevick said.

"I called her the 'queen of Roundup' because she was always walking around spraying the stuff," he told EHN.

The couple attended parts of both the Pilliod and Hardeman trials, and said they are grateful the truth about Monsanto's actions to hide the risks are coming into the public spotlight. And they want to see Bayer and Monsanto start warning users about the cancer risks of Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides.

"We want the companies to take responsibility for warning people—even if there is a chance that something would be harmful or hazardous for them, people should be warned," Elaine Stevick told EHN.

Carey Gillam is a journalist and author, and a public interest researcher for US Right to Know, a not-for-profit food industry research group. You can follow her on Twitter @careygillam.

Reposted with permission from US Right to Know.

#MonsantoTrial

Regeneration 2019: State of the Movement

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-05-22 18:17
May 22, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsEnvironment & Climate farm_sunrise_landscape_1200x630.jpg

Regenerate: Formed or created again; spiritually reborn or converted; restored to a better, higher, or more worthy state. -Webster

 

“Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis of democracy.” - Vandana Shiva, Regeneration International Co-Founder

 

Five years ago, at the massive People’s Climate March in New York City, a small but determined band of food, farm, natural health and climate activists held a press conference at the Rodale Institute in Manhattan, where we announced the formation of a new global network: Regeneration International (RI).

 

Vandana Shiva, Andre Leu, Richard Teague, Ryan Zinn, Kris Nichols and myself, among others, put forth the bold, but then little-known proposition that regenerative food, farming and land-use practices, scaled up internationally, and in conjunction with a global transition to renewable energy, could not only substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow down global warming, but could actually draw down enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to reverse climate change.

 

We pointed out that a Regeneration Revolution could also dramatically improve the environment, soil fertility, food quality, public health, biodiversity and rural economies, while revitalizing the body politic.

 

Unfortunately, we didn’t get a lot of media to attend our first RI press conference. But 400,000 people marching in the streets of New York did generate massive world media coverage of the impending Climate Emergency.

 

Five years later . . .

 

Five years later, our growing Regeneration Movement has come a long way. Regenerative Agriculture is rapidly becoming the most talked about new concept in food, farming and climate circles. Media coverage, both mainstream and alternative, has increased exponentially.

 

Leading politicians in the U.S., including Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are now talking about how the combination of regenerative agriculture, natural carbon sequestration in soils, forests, and wetlands, and reducing the massive greenhouse gas emissions of industrial agriculture and factory farms can help us reach “net-zero” emissions by 2030.

 

The concept of regenerative food and farming was featured in the Green New Deal (GND) Resolution introduced in the U.S. House and Senate February 7. The GND has now been endorsed by more than 100 members of Congress, leading Democratic Party contenders and, according to several polls, the majority of the U.S. body politic.

 

The GND calls for sweeping economic reforms (jobs for all, free public education, higher wages, universal health care) as well as a transformation of our energy, infrastructure and agricultural systems, including:

 

. . . working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible, including—by supporting family farming… investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health… and by building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food… removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and reducing pollution, including by restoring natural ecosystems through proven low-tech solutions that increase soil carbon storage, such as preservation and afforestation… restoring and protecting threatened, endangered, and fragile ecosystems through locally appropriate and science-based projects that enhance biodiversity and support climate resiliency… providing all people of the United States with access to clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and nature.

 

As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently stated in a social media post (April 7, 2019):

 

Because of the Green New Deal, entirely new thinkers are now at the policy table instead of just Big Ag and Monsanto writing our public policy for us—from regenerative agriculture experts and family farmers, to indigenous leaders with intergenerational knowledge.

 

Media waking up to game-changing solutions

 

On the scientific and public education fronts, a flood of articles, videos and books are highlighting the fact that regenerative farming and ecosystem restoration practices dramatically increase soil fertility and carbon sequestration.

 

A recent article in Scientific American, features the work of RI member Dr. David Johnson. Johnson’s lab and field research on regenerative compost shows that high-fungal, biologically rich, semi-anaerobic compost and compost extracts produce unusually high crop yields, along with massive carbon sequestration of over four tons of carbon (15 tons of CO2e) per acre per year.

 

The Scientific American article points out the game-changing implications of Johnson’s compost practices, if scaled-up on the world’s four billion acres of croplands:

 

Johnson asserts that if his approach were used across agriculture internationally, the entire world’s carbon output from 2016 could be stored on just 22 percent of the globe’s arable land.

 

Johnson’s “bio-reactor” compost also eliminates the need for synthetic fertilizers—inoculated soils enriched with cover crops naturally accumulate enough nitrogen for massive plant growth. Dr. Johnson’s BEAM (Biologically Enhanced Agricultural Management) practices mirror traditional and indigenous compost and agroecological farming practices used in India and other regions.

 

Potential of regenerative grazing gaining notice
 

The Savory Institute, Will Harris (co-chair of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers for a Green New Deal coalition), Gabe Brown, the American Grassfed Association, and many others have been demonstrating the efficacy of holistic livestock management practices on every continent.

 

As RI International Director Andre Leu writes:

 

There is now a considerable body of published science and evidence-based practices showing that these (livestock) systems regenerate degraded lands, and improve productivity, water holding capacity and soil carbon levels. Nearly 70 percent of the world’s agricultural lands (eight billion acres) are used for grazing. The published evidence is showing that correctly managed pastures can build up SOC (Soil Organic Carbon) faster than many other agricultural systems and that the carbon is stored deeper in the soil.

 

Leu cites a 2015 study conducted in a region with highly degraded soil and pastures in the southeastern U.S. showing that regenerative, holistically managed grazing was able to sequester 3.24 tons of carbon per acre per year (29.36 metric tons of CO2e/hectare/year).

 

If these regenerative grazing practices were implemented on all of the world’s grazing lands they would sequester 26 billion tons of carbon per year—that’s two-and-a-half times as much carbon as is currently being emitted by all human activities.  Even if only 10 percent of the world’s ranchers and farmers adopted regenerative practices, we could sequester more than a quarter of all current emissions.

 

New incentives for reforestation and ecosystem restoration

 

The Earth’s forests once flourished with an estimated six trillion trees growing, storing water below ground, anchoring top soil, maintaining a healthy, predictable system of rainfall and hydrological balance, sequestering vast amounts of atmospheric carbon in tree trunks, limbs, roots, and soil.

 

Besides these essential ecosystem services, forests also provided food and habitat for much of the world’s population, especially in the global south.

 

Now, after several centuries of deforestation, we’ve lost half of our trees and forest cover. And many of our remaining forests are weakened and susceptible to forest fires and pest infestations. We’re now down to an estimated total tree population of three trillion trees on 10 billion acres.

 

But according to a new United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), “The Trillion Tree Campaign,” global reforestation could capture 25 percent of global annual carbon emissions and create wealth in the global south.

 

The UN’s Trillion Tree Campaign is inspired in part by a recent study led by Dr. Thomas Crowther, Crowther and his fellow researchers, using integrated data from ground-based surveys and satellites, found that replanting the world’s forests (an additional 1.2 trillion trees) on a massive scale in the empty spaces in parks, woods, cities and degraded and abandoned land across the planet would drawdown 100 billion tons of excess carbon from the atmosphere.

 

Crowther told the Independent:

 

“There’s 400 gigatons now, in the three trillion trees, and if you were to scale that up by another trillion trees that’s in the order of hundreds of gigatons captured from the atmosphere – at least 10 years of anthropogenic emissions completely wiped out… [trees are] our most powerful weapon in the fight against climate change.”

 

Crowther’s figures don’t even include the massive amount of carbon drawdown and sequestration we can achieve through agroforestry and silvopasture practices, planting trees on the world’s often deforested croplands, pasturelands and rangelands.

 

More than 13.6 billion trees have already been planted as part of the Trillion Tree Campaign, which analyzes and projects not only where trees have been planted, but also the vast areas where forests could be restored. UNEP also emphasizes that there are “170 billion trees in imminent risk of destruction” that must be protected for crucial carbon storage and biodiversity protection.  

 

‘Four for 1000’ global policy initiative gaining traction

 

At the upcoming Global Climate Summit in Santiago, Chile, December 2-13, regenerative, carbon-sequestering, agricultural and land-use practices will be highlighted for the first time at the international level.

 

Countries that are having difficulties meeting their 2015 pledges in Paris to reduce their country’s greenhouse gas emissions to specific levels (most nations are) will now be able to include soil carbon sequestration (along with reforestation and landscape restoration) as part of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

 

Since the 2015 Paris Climate Summit, three dozen nations and hundreds of municipalities, regions and non-governmental organizations have signed on the “4 for 1000: Soils for  Food Security and Climate Initiative.”

 

Governments that sign the initiative agree to augment their emissions reductions with a commitment to increase soil carbon sequestration by 4/1000% every year so as to achieve net-zero emissions (drawing down as much GHG as they are emitting) as soon as possible. Regeneration International is an active partner with the French government and others in encouraging nations, regions, municipal governments and organizations to sign-on to the 4 for 1000 Initiative.

 

Where do we go from here?

 

Besides stepping up our local and individual regenerative education and farming activities, the time has come for regenerators worldwide to focus on grassroots organizing, coalition building and bold political action.

 

With our Climate Emergency accelerating, and current atmospheric CO2 levels soaring to 415 ppm, we no longer have time to slowly scale up renewable energy and regenerative food, farming and land-use practices at our current pace. The inclusion of regenerative food and farming in the U.S. as part of the Green New Deal, amplified in the political arena by several major candidates for President in 2020, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, has opened up an unprecedented opportunity to move forward and gain mass grassroots support. Activists in the UK are now calling for the Labour Party to put forth a bold UK Green New Deal, much as the Sunrise Movement, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Bernie Sanders are doing in the U.S.

 

The final months of 2018 will likely be remembered as the decisive moment when the global grassroots finally awakened to the life-or-death threat posed by global warming. With violent weather and climate disasters becoming the norm, and international scientists finally shedding their customary caution to report that we must drastically slash (by at least 45 percent) global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, hundreds of millions of ordinary people across the world seemed to simultaneously wake up.

 

People are concerned, alarmed and ready to listen to our message. Now is the time for the Regeneration Movement to step forward and help mobilize our millions of allies and would-be allies. We know what to do. The best practices and practitioners in alternative energy, infrastructure rebuilding and regenerative food and farming are already visible in our local communities. Our moral and existential imperative is to mobilize politically and scale up these practices, raising the banner of a Regenerative Green New Deal in every community, region and nation.

 

The hour is late. But there’s still time to turn things around. If you haven’t already, please sign the Organic Consumers Association and Regeneration International’s petition for a Green New Deal. If you’re a farmer or rancher, sign here If you’re an activist or a green consumer sign here.

 

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). To keep up with OCA’s news and alerts, sign up here.

Tell Your State Lawmakers: Ban Chlorpyrifos!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-05-22 18:10
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesArea: USA

Chlorpyrifos, manufactured by DowDuPont, is a neurotoxic organophosphate insecticide that, even at very low levels, has been linked to severe birth defects, brain damage and mental disorders in children, including ADHD and autism.

 Hawaii, California and New York (awaiting the governor’s signature) have passed laws banning chlorpyrifos. 

Connecticut and Oregon are poised to join them. Bills to ban chlorpyrifos ban have also been introduced in Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia. 

TAKE ACTION: Ask your state legislators to ban chlorpyrifos! (If your state has already taken action, please change your letter to a thank-you note).Read more

Organic Farming Explained

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-05-22 00:07
May 21, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulAll About Organics farmworker-2_1200x630.png

It’s easy to forget that before there was a National Organic Program, before there was organic certification, before there were genetically engineered crops and industrial factory farms, there were farmers—farmers who grew nutritious food and raised healthy meat, using farming and ranching practices that worked with, and enhanced, Earth’s natural systems and cycles.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program evolved out of the need to define “organic” in order to protect these good farmers in a marketplace increasingly being taken over by industrial food producers. Unfortunately, over the years, industrial food lobbyists have used their financial and political clout to try their best to weaken organic standards.

We continue to recommend that consumers look for the USDA organic seal, and we continue to lobby to protect and strengthen USDA organic regulations.

But it’s also important to remember that the original “definers” of organic were farmers—not the USDA.

If anyone knows how to define “organic,” it’s one of those farmers—Eliot Coleman. Coleman has more than 50 years’ experience in all aspects of organic farming, including field vegetables, greenhouse vegetables, rotational grazing of cattle and sheep, and range poultry. He’s an educator and researcher, founder of Four Season Farm in Harborside, Maine, and the author of many books, including “The New Organic Grower.” Coleman recently shared his explanation of “organic” in an email, an explanation that serves as a good reminder that this is how we feed the world. Coleman’s “Organic Farming Explained” is printed here with his permission.

1. Organic farming is based on the creation and maintenance of a biologically active fertile soil.

2. Pest-free plants and animals with active immune systems are a direct result of a biologically active fertile soil that has been shown to induce pest resistance in the crops.

3. Truly fertile soil results in food of the highest nutritional quality.

4. Investigations into the miraculous soil microbiome are revealing the vital natural processes that support a self-renewing agriculture.

5. Real soil fertility does not require inputs from off the farm. It can be endlessly self-renewed with farm-derived compost, crop rotations, green manures, cover crops, grazing livestock, and other time-honored practices that nurture the boundless energy and logic of the earth.

6. Deep-rooting grass and legume pastures in the rotation can make available the almost inexhaustible nutrient supply from the lower levels of the soil.

7. Since the biologically based systems of the organic farm are powered by ecologically sound management practices, not purchased fertilizers, this food production system is freely available to farmers everywhere and can thus feed mankind with exceptional food in perpetuity.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

Tell Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown: GMO Soy Is Bad for Consumers, Bad for the Planet

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-05-21 18:05
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Food Safety, Genetic EngineeringArea: USA

The Impossible Burger—deceptively marketed as “natural”—already contains a genetically engineered ingredient, a yeast referred to as "heme."

Now, Impossible Foods, maker of the fake meat patty, is adding another GMO ingredient: genetically engineered soy. Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown wants you to think the switch to GMO soy was motivated by the company’s “commitment to consumers and our planet.”

But that’s a lie. On so many levels.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown: GMO Soy is bad for consumers, bad for the planet!Read more