New Study: EPA's 'Safe' Levels of this Chemical in Your Food Aren't So Safe After All

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-05-17 13:43
May 16, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulGenetic Engineering, Health Issues pesticide_herbicide_chemical_toxic_mask_usda_1000x523.jpg

Last summer, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) announced that our testing of Ben & Jerry’s popular ice cream flavors for glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller) turned up positive results in 10 of 11 samples we tested.

Our critics fired back that the glyphosate levels we found were “well below” the levels that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tells us are “safe.”

In other words, relax! A little bit of Monsanto Roundup weedkiller in your ice cream is nothing to fret over.

Now a new pilot study, soon to be published in the prestigious scientific journal Environmental Health, suggests that EPA “safe” levels aren’t safe at all—especially for kids.

The Global Glyphosate Study pilot experimental phase, the first study of its kind, suggests that exposure to glyphosate at levels the EPA wants us to believe are “safe” can in fact lead to “certain important biological parameters, mainly relating to sexual development, genotoxicity and the alteration of the intestinal microbiome.”

We were especially intrigued by the study’s mention of how glyphosate alters the intestinal microbiome. OCA, along with Beyond Pesticides, is involved in a lawsuit against Monsanto for falsely for misleading consumers who buy Roundup for their lawns about the product's safety. Monsanto tried to get the lawsuit dismissed, but a federal judge recently ruled in favor of allowing the lawsuit to proceed.

This new study follows on the heels of last week’s news that when glyphosate is combined with other chemicals to create the final weedkiller formulation, the herbicide is more toxic to human cells than glyphosate alone.

Will this new evidence lead to a ban on glyphosate? Hard to tell, given what we know about possible collusion in the past between Monsanto and the EPA to keep consumers in the dark about how toxic Roundup and glyphosate are to human health. Plus we’re now dealing with an EPA that favors hiding the truth about toxic chemicals from the public, over protecting the chemical industry’s image.

Why this study is different

There have been many studies conducted on the potential health hazards of glyphosate, including the Seralini study which linked glyphosate to cancer in rats.

But until now, there have been no long-term, peer-reviewed studies of the potential health impact of glyphosate exposure at levels lower than the EPA’s guidelines.

Why is that critical? Because it tells us that the EPA set its “allowable safe limits” without having any scientific evidence to back up the “safety” claim—because glyphosate had never been tested for potential human health effects at levels below those so-called safe limits.

The Ramazzini Institute’s Global Glyphosate Pilot, which is the first phase of a longer study to come, differs from previous studies in that it is the only comprehensive study of glyphosate. Previous studies have looked at toxicity, and omics (genomics, proteomics or metabolomics). But the Ramazzini multi-generational study covers toxicity, carcinogenicity, neurotoxicity, prenatal developmental toxicity, endocrine disruption, and impact on the microbiome.

No other glyphosate studies have incorporated all of those elements.

Why is this study critical for consumers?

Glyphosate contamination is widespread in the U.S. It’s in many foods, even those labeled “natural,” including foods we feed our kids.

As long as the EPA sticks to its claim that there are “safe” levels of glyphosate contamination, nothing will change. If we want glyphosate banned, we need a comprehensive, long-term study of glyphosate’s adverse effect on human health, even at low levels.

According to the Ramazzini Institute, there are still “many large gaps in our knowledge regarding the health effects of glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides, especially at real-life exposure levels of the chemical. The main reasons for these gaps in our knowledge are, according to the Global Glyphosate website, are:

• Independent scientists have never had the funding available to create and carry out a comprehensive study

• Glyphosate industry safety studies on glyphosate have never concentrated on real-life exposure levels
of the chemical

• Glyphosate industry safety studies on glyphosate are often ‘commercially confidential’ and kept hidden from the public and independent scientists, so cannot be independently evaluated

• Independent researchers have never before been able to call on the expert advice of a wide range of scientific experts during the creation of the protocol for the study

Can the scientists at the Ramazzini Institute fill in these gaps? The Institute has an impressive history of exposing the dangers—and reducing allowed limits—of multiple chemicals, including vinyl chloride, benzene and formaldehyde.

On glyphosate, the Institute claims that is “one of the only independent scientific bodies in the world that has the ability to create and carry out a comprehensive long-term study that will have the backing of a large number of global scientific experts as well as the general public.”

Monsanto wasted no time in attacking the pilot study, and will no doubt ramp up a well-funded campaign to discredit the Ramazzini scientists—just as it did when the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research Cancer classified glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen.”

But the chemical giant will have to work extra hard to discredit this study because the Ramazzini Institute has built up a network of authoritative partners which includes the University of Bologna (Faculty of Agriculture, Veterinary Science and Biostatistics), the Genoa Hospital San Martino, the Italian National Institute of Health, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and the George Washington University. That means Monsanto's attack dogs won't be able to focus exclusively on one institution, especially when talking to regulators and the media

For now, at least, this new study is our best hope for ridding the world of glyphosate, once and for all.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association. To keep up with OCA’s news and alerts, sign up here.

How Seeds from War-Torn Syria Could Help Save American Wheat

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-05-16 18:57
All About Organics, Environment & ClimateMark SchapiroYaleEnvironment360May 14, 2018https://e360.yale.edu/features/how-seeds-from-war-torn-syria-could-help-save-american-wheat wheat 1000x523

As temperatures rise, pests and diseases are moving north into the U.S. heartland, killing crops and diminishing yields. To combat this, researchers are turning to a wild grass variety whose seeds were smuggled out of Syria as the bombs fell. 

When a team of researchers set loose a buzzing horde of Hessian flies on 20,000 seedlings in a Kansas greenhouse, they made a discovery that continues to ripple from Midwestern wheat fields to the rolling hills that surround the battered Syrian city of Aleppo. The seeds once stored in a seed bank outside of that now largely destroyed city could end up saving United States wheat from the disruptions triggered by climate change — and look likely to, soon enough, make their way into the foods that Americans eat.  

According to the National Climatic Data Center, from 2000 to 2015, average temperatures in the Midwest rose from 1 to 2 degrees Fahrenheit above what had been the 20th-century average. Periods of time between rainfalls are lengthening, according to a 2016 assessment by the EPA. In other words, conditions in some areas of the Midwest are starting to resemble conditions in the Mideast. 

Look & See: Words of Wisdom, and Hope, From Wendell Berry

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-05-16 17:16
May 16, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationEnvironment & Climate, Farm Issues blog_farmer_3.png

“I think when the traditional people disappear, the traditional values will disappear.”

So says Wendell Berry in a recent film that portrays the changing landscape and shifting values of rural America and describes the lives of farmers who have been deeply affected by the industrial agricultural era.

“Look & See: Wendell Berry’s Kentucky” features observations by this prominent writer, farmer and activist on how the agrarian way of life has been lost.

Berry is one of the most ardent defenders of rural America and traditional farming techniques that use nature as the model. In the last 83 years this poet, novelist and essayist has published more than 40 books. He’s widely revered and celebrated by people eager for his words of wisdom.

Video of Independent Lens | Look & See: Wendell Berry's Kentucky | Trailer | PBS


And words of wisdom are just what viewers of “Look & See: Wendell Berry’s Kentucky” get.

Berry doesn’t appear in the present in the film. Instead, we hear his voice in the background as still images from the early days on his Kentucky farm scroll across the screen, juxtaposed with scenes of destruction.

The film begins with a montage of images of machines chopping down trees, mountaintop removal coal mining, polluted rivers and fast-paced city life as you hear Berry reading his poem “A Timbered Choir:”

Even while I dreamed I prayed that what I saw was only fear and no foretelling,
for I saw the last known landscape destroyed for the sake
of the objective, the soil bludgeoned, the rock blasted.
Those who had wanted to go home would never get there now.

I saw the forest reduced to stumps and gullies
I saw the poisoned river, the mountain cast into the valley;
I came to the city that nobody recognized because it looked like every other city.
Men, women, and children now pursued the objective
as if nobody ever had pursued it before.

Berry’s daughter Mary, executive director of The Berry Center, is interviewed in the film.

“It’s the lack of imagination that my father talks about,” she says. About today’s industrial farming system, she says:

“It’s not really looking at what’s happening. It’s not really counting the cost. It’s some kind of dream or ideal that is false. It serves an economy that is false and it works against nature so it’s not in any way sustainable and it’s made slaves out of a lot of people.”

Mary’s words resonate throughout the film, especially during interviews with Kentucky farmers who are struggling to stay afloat.

Mary also shares the story of the notorious debate in the late 1970s between her father and then U.S. Sec. of Agriculture Earl Butz. Butz, who served under Nixon and Ford, and was a major proponent of the industrialization of farming. Mary Berry thinks her father at that time felt that “we were losing precious things so quickly and he was scared himself and scared for the people he loved, and I can remember that I thought he was lonely.”

During the debate, Wendell Berry said:

“Now, Mr. Butz has given you a lot of quantitative arguments, but let me just take a few of them. We may never meet because he’s arguing from quantities and I’m arguing from values. As I see it, the farmer is standing in his field is not isolated as simply a component of a production machine. He stands where lots of lines cross—cultural lines. The traditional farmer, that is the farmer who was first independent, who first fed himself off his farm and then fed other people, who farmed with his family and who passed the land on down to people who knew it and had the best reasons to take care of it. That farmer stood at the convergence of traditional values. Our values. Independence, thrift, stewardship, private property, political liberty, family, marriage, parenthood, neighborhood. Values that declined as that farmer is replaced by technologies whose only standard is profit.”

Though the film focuses on the many challenges farmers face in the Big Ag era, it drives home the urgent message that we must transition away from industrial farming and back to an agrarian way of life.

As Wendell Berry writes in “The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays:”

...the care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.

That hope that Berry clings to can be found in regenerative agriculture, a farming model that regenerates and revitalizes the soil and the environment. Regenerative farming leads to healthy soil, capable of producing high-quality, nutrient-dense food while simultaneously improving the land, and ultimately leading to productive farms and healthy communities and economies.

Regenerative farming and ranching are dynamic and holistic, incorporating permaculture and organic farming practices, including conservation tillage, cover crops, crop rotation, composting, mobile animal shelters and pasture cropping, and leading to increased food production, more income for farmers, and more high-quality organic soil.

Want to join the regenerative movement and be a part of the community that’s dedicated to fixing the world’s climate, hunger and environmental crises through regenerative and organic food, farming and land management? If so, learn more here.

Want to watch “Look & See: Wendell Berry’s Kentucky?” You can download it via Netflix, order the film online or host a screening.

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

Pilot Study Shows Consumers Should Be Concerned About So-Called 'Safe' Levels of Glyphosate-Based Weedkillers

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-05-16 14:07
Environment & Climate, Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesOrganic Consumers AssociationMay 14, 2018 roundupredbottle1000x523.png

Photocredit: Mike Mozart, cc


May 16, 2018


Organic Consumers Association: Katherine Paul, katherine@organicconsumers.org, 207.653.3090

FINLAND, Minnesota –  The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) today issued the following statement on the announcement by the Global Glyphosate Study that preliminary test results of a single-dose study on glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs) in rats, using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) guidelines for "safe levels" produced adverse health effects in rats.

International Director Ronnie Cummins said:

“For years, the U.S. EPA has dismissed consumer concerns about glyphosate-based weedkillers in their drinking water and in their food, claiming that exposure to the chemical at low levels is harmless. This new pilot study confirms what many responsible scientists have been saying all along: There is no such thing as ‘safe’ levels when it comes to glyphosate, especially when it comes to children.

“In fact, the EPA established what it calls ‘safe’ levels without having any scientific evidence to back up its claim because, until now, have been no comprehensive publicly available peer-reviewed studies of the potential health impact of glyphosate exposure at or lower than the EPA’s guidelines.

“This new study confirms that consumers should be alarmed when products such as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream test positive for glyphosate at any level—despite corporations’ claims that these levels are ‘harmless.’

“OCA looks forward to the completion of the full Global Glyphosate Study and will continue to test food products for glyphosate and warn consumers when food products test positive for this toxic chemical, no matter how small the amount.”

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The Organic Consumers Fund is a 501(c)4 allied organization of the Organic Consumers Association, focused on grassroots lobbying and legislative action. Visit: https://www.organicconsumers.org 

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What Big Meat Doesn't Want You to Know about Slaughterhouses

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-05-15 19:40
May 15, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationMartha RosenbergEnvironment & Climate, CAFOs vs. Free Range pigs hogs fence black cafo cc 1000x523.jpg

It has happened at slaughterhouses run by Smithfield Foods, Swift and Agriprocessors.

Now U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has swooped down on Southeastern Provision, a cattle slaughterhouse in Bean Station, Tennessee.

On April 5, with helicopters chopping overhead, 97 workers, mostly Hispanic, were detained by ICA. That left a workforce of only three. According to an article in the New Yorker, 32 of the detainees were released the same day, 54 were kept in detention and 10 were arrested for defying previous deportation orders.

Original news reports about the raid stressed the immigration detentions. But it was soon learned that the raid, conducted jointly by ICE and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), was triggered by suspicious cash withdrawals by the slaughterhouse owners. The millions in withdrawals were allegedly used to pay workers in cash in order to avoid paying payroll taxes. The owners of the slaughterhouse operation owe at least $2.5 million in back payroll taxes, according to federal authorities.

But the raid led to other revelations, including evidence that Southeastern Provision's undocumented workers were handling harsh chemicals without proper eye protection, and were not paid extra for overtime. Some earned only $6 an hour.

The April raid was reminiscent of the 2008 ICE raid on Agriprocessors, the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse, in Postville, Iowa. In that case, almost 400 undocumented workers were not just detained but arrested. Initial charges against owners and management included harboring illegal aliens, use of child labor, document fraud, identity theft, physical and sexual abuse of workers, unsafe working conditions, wage and hour violations, and shorting workers’ pay.

Agriprocessors' CEO, Sholom Rubashkin, was convicted of financial fraud and money laundering through a charity. Trump commuted his prison sentence in December, 2017.

In addition to alleged financial wrongdoing, both Southeastern Provisions and Agriprocessors are polluters. In March, Southeastern Provision's septic system failed, contaminating well water with E. coli bacteria. In 2006, Agriprocessors admitted to discharging untreated slaughterhouse wastewater into the Postville sewer system. The company agreed to pay a $600,000 fine.

While many defend the undocumented workers, few want to talk about the jobs they are defending that keep the U.S. in cheap meat.

Maiming and amputations are disturbingly common, yet seldom reported by workers who have no rights.

A few years ago slaughterhouse workers developed autoimmune diseases from aerosolizing hog brains.

“It’s an industry that targets the most vulnerable group of workers and brings them in,” Debbie Berkowitz, former Occupational Safety and Health Administration senior policy adviser, told the New Yorker. "When one group gets too powerful and stands up for their rights they figure out who’s even more vulnerable and move them in.”

Berkowitz is right. After the raid at Agriprocessors, the company hired Somalis, Sudanese and Pacific Islanders, recruiting some of them at homeless shelters.

Some slaughterhouses use prisoners on work-release. Tyson Foods was charged with operating an elaborate illegal worker smuggling scheme replete with fake social security cards.

The huge chicken processor Case Farms, which supplies Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell and the U.S. government, reportedly exploited the Guatemalan civil war for workers. The company recruited so many Guatemalans that, in one village, a commonly heard slur at soccer games was he "couldn’t even grab the chickens at Case Farms." Reports say Case housed the workers in cockroach-infested houses with no heat, furniture or blankets.

While it's true that undocumented workers perform much of the U.S.'s agriculture labor, slaughterhouse work is very different. No other industry involves such worker abuse, animal abuse, environmental abuse and, often, financial corruption to produce a product, in the amounts our cheap meat economy allows, that is harmful to consumers.

While most people know red meat is linked to heart disease and many cancers, the saturated fat in chicken and turkey is linked to breast cancer, as well as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and cognitive decline. Yet cheap prices keep these foods popular.

According to “Meatonomics,” if Big Meat didn’t offload onto society the true costs of meat production, "a two-pound package of pork ribs would run $32." The offloaded costs include degraded water systems, polluted air, reduced property values near factory farms, higher taxes through government subsidies and higher healthcare costs associated with meat-related heart disease, obesity and more.

And yet, despite Big Meat's taxpayer-funded subsidies, the industry still finds a way to squeeze out even more profits by undocumented workers.

The situation in U.S. slaughterhouses is egregious for workers, animals and the environment. But consumers who buy “cheap” meat bear some of the responsibility for this mess.

Martha Rosenberg a freelance journalist and frequent contributor to the Organic Consumers Association. To keep up with OCA’s news and alerts, sign up here.

Tell Congress: Pass the Local FARMS Act!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-05-10 15:37
Belong to campaign: Regenerative AgricultureCategory: Farm Issues, Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

Demand for locally grown food is on the rise, as consumers take more interest in how their food is produced, and how food production affects their own health, and the health of their communities.

That’s a positive trend. But if consumers want more local food, shouldn’t we do more to ensure the economic success of the independent farmers who grow that food?

TAKE ACTION: Tell your members of Congress to support the Local Food and Regional Market Supply (Local FARMS) Act.Read more

Toxic Truth: New Evidence for Banning Monsanto's Roundup Weedkiller

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-05-10 13:24
May 10, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulGenetic Engineering, Health Issues ban_roundup.png

“We see the formulations are much more toxic. The formulations were killing the cells. The glyphosate really didn’t do it.” — Mike DeVito, acting chief, National Toxicology Program Laboratory

Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller may be even worse for human health than we thought.

As reported this week in the Guardian, new tests show that when Roundup’s key active ingredient, glyphosate, is combined with other chemicals to create the final product, the herbicide is more toxic to human cells than glyphosate alone.

As if glyphosate alone weren’t toxic enough.

U.S. Right to Know’s Carey Gillam reported on the first-ever testing, conducted by the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP), of glyphosate-based formulations. Previous testing focused exclusively on glyphosate in isolation.

NTP’s acting chief of the National Toxicology Program Laboratory, Mike DeVito, told the Guardian the agency’s work is ongoing but its early findings are clear on one key point. “We see the formulations are much more toxic. The formulations were killing the cells. The glyphosate really didn’t do it,” DeVito said.

Labels mislead, Monsanto pleads ‘proprietary’

That’s bad for farmers who spray Roundup, for people who eat Roundup-contaminated food, or for the millions of humans and their pets who are exposed to Roundup because it runs off into our waterways or is sprayed on parks, playgrounds and neighborhood lawns. According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) latest figures, $9 billion worth of glyphosate-based herbicides were sold in the U.S. in 2012.

Monsanto continues to claim that its product is safe, including the formulation it sells direct to consumers for their lawns and gardens. Beyond Pesticides (BP) and the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) sued Monsanto for misleading consumers about the safety of its flagship herbicide. Monsanto tried to get the lawsuit dismissed, but a federal judge recently ruled in favor of BP and OCA.

The consumer case revolves around glyphosate, not the whole formulation, and Monsanto’s claim on Roundup containers that the product is safe because it “target[s] an enzyme found in plants but not in people or pets.” The lawsuit alleges this statement is false, deceptive and misleading, because the enzyme targeted by glyphosate is, in fact, found in people and pets.

Besides providing new information about glyphosate-based herbicides, the NTP testing also highlights what the public (and interested scientists) don’t know about these herbicides, even though they’ve been on the market for 40 years, because Monsanto won’t tell us.

“We don’t know what the formulation is,” Devito told the Guardian.” That is confidential business information.” According to the Guardian, for testing purposes, scientists sourced some samples from store shelves, picking up products the EPA told them were the top sellers, he said.

Testing the full formulation—why it matters

According to André Leu, international director of Regeneration International and author of "The Myth of Safe Pesticides," the overwhelming majority of registered pesticide products used in agriculture as insecticides, herbicides and fungicides are formulations of several chemicals. They are mixtures composed of one or more chemicals that are defined as the active ingredient(s) or active principle, and are combined with other mostly toxic chemicals, such as solvents, adjuvants and surfactants—otherwise known as “inerts.”

The active ingredient is the primary chemical that acts as the pesticide and is the only chemical tested, Leu told us. The other chemicals in the mixture are called inerts because they have a secondary role in the formulation.

“The name ‘inert’ is misleading as most of these other compounds are chemically active in their functions in the pesticide formulations. They help to make the active ingredient work more effectively. According to the United States President's Cancer panel report, many of these ‘inert’ ingredients are toxic; however, they are not tested for their potential to cause health problems.

Many of the solvents, fillers and other chemicals listed as inert ingredients on pesticide labels also are toxic, but are not required to be tested for their potential to cause chronic diseases such as cancer.”

Leu said it should be of “great concern” to everyone that the vast majority of the nearly 1,400 registered pesticide and veterinary products used in the U.S. for the production of food have had no testing for numerous health and environmental problems linked to the exposure to cocktails of chemicals.

“These are the toxicities that cause other health issues such as cancers, cell mutations, endocrine disruption, birth defects, organ and tissue damage, nervous system damage, behavior changes, epigenetic damage, and immune system damage,” Leu said.

In the only study where nine formulated pesticides were tested on human cells at levels well below agricultural dilutions, the research scientists found that eight of the nine formulations were several hundred times more toxic than their respective active ingredients. The researchers stated:

Adjuvants in pesticides are generally declared as inerts, and for this reason they are not tested in long-term regulatory experiments. It is thus very surprising that they amplify up to 1000 times the toxicity of their AP [active ingredient] in 100% of the cases where they are indicated to be present by the manufacturer.”

The only peer-reviewed, lifetime comparison feeding study of a formulated pesticide, in this case Roundup, found that rats fed a diet that contains minute residues of Roundup had significantly higher rates of kidney disease, liver damage, tumors and other negative health effects including endocrine disruption.

 Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association. To keep up with OCA’s news and alerts, sign up here. 

How to Buy Local

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-05-09 22:50
May 8, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationAll About Organics, Health Issues farmers market stall food produce cc 1000x523.jpg

Despite growing demand for locally produced foods, millions of Americans live in rural areas where they have little or no access to any kind of healthy, nutrient-dense food, much less food produced in their own community.

That’s not healthy for residents of those communities. And it’s not healthy for the communities. According to a report from the American Planning Association: 

Disparities in food access are influenced by geographic, economic and social factors, but also by a community’s food production, processing, distribution, consumption and waste recovery policies and practices. Food access is not simply a health issue but also a community development and equity issue. For this reason, access to healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food is a key component not only in a healthy, sustainable local food system, but also in a healthy, sustainable community.”

To build healthy local, organic and regenerative food systems, we need help from policymakers and from forward-looking business and community leaders.

We also need strong consumer demand. You can help, by supporting local businesses and independent farmers. Here’s a list to help you get started.

•    LocalHarvest.org is the most comprehensive database for buying direct from family farmers.

•    1000ecofarms.com is fast becoming the Etsy of artisanal foods.

•    FoodWaze.com helps you find restaurants that live up to their claims of sourcing from local farms.

•    EatWild.com specializes in grass-fed and pasture-raised animal products. The site includes a directory of farms by state, a list of farms that ship, and has excellent information on the latest scientific research on the health benefits of farm-raised, as opposed to factory-farm-raised, animal products. 

•    RealMilk.com provides a directory of raw milk sellers.

•    Monterey Seafood Watch helps you locate sources of sustainable seafood.

•    Local Food Directories, published and by the USDA, help you locate farmers markets, on-farm markets, CSAs, and food hubs.

Should we add to this list? Please email campaigns@organicconsumers.org and let us know.

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

When Corporations Play 'Monopoly,' Consumers Lose

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-05-09 18:47
May 9, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationAll About Organics, Health Issues reich 1000x523.png

Robert Reich wants you to know about the biggest economic problem you’ve heard almost nothing about—the Monopolization of America—and how it affects what you pay for food and other consumer products.

In his latest video on Facebook, released Sunday and already seen by more than 500,000 viewers, Reich says America’s monopoly problem stems from the “hidden upward redistribution of money and power from the majority of Americans to corporate executives and wealthy shareholders.”

The only way to fix it? Revive antitrust enforcement.

Reich recently visited with Missouri farmers, whose profits have been disappearing. He explains:

Monsanto alone owns the key genetic traits to more than 90 percent of the soybeans planted by farmers in the U.S. and 80 percent of the corn, which means Monsanto can charge farmers much higher prices. And farmers are getting squeezed from the other side too, because the food processors they sell their products to are also consolidating into mega companies that have so much market power they can cut the prices they pay to farmers. This doesn’t mean lower food prices to you, it means more profits to the monopolists.

Reich also takes his video viewers to a grocery store, to point out how it looks as if you have a lot of choices as you cruise the aisles. But when you take a closer look, you see monopolies everywhere.

Did you know that 82 percent of beef packing, 85 percent of soybean processing, 63 percent of pork packing and 53 percent of chicken processing are all controlled by just 10 huge corporations—Tyson, Kraft, Dean Foods, Pepsico, Smithfield, ConAgra Foods, Nestle, General Mills, ABInBev and JBS?

Reich also points to products like toothpaste, sunglasses, plastic hangers and cat food. And yep, monopolies there, too.

Bottom line? Massive consolidation has created just a handful of giant corporations that don’t have to compete because they control the marketplace. And that means, as Reich puts it, “they can jack up your prices.”

Which industries are playing “Monopoly?” Big Pharma, health insurers, online travel, cable and internet service are just a few of the industries highlighted by Reich as being able to charge you more because they have little or no competition.

And it’s not just consumers who get gouged—lack of competition keeps wages low, too.

“Workers with less choice of who to work for have a harder time getting a raise,” Reich says. “When local labor markets are dominated by one major big box retailer or one grocery chain, for example, those firms essentially set wage rates for the area.”

As if price-gouging and shafting workers weren’t bad enough, these mega corporations also have a lot of political power. Reich says antitrust laws are supposed to promote fair competition for the benefit of consumers. It was during the Gilded Age that progressive reformer President Teddy Roosevelt successfully used the Sherman Antitrust Act to dismantle trusts, including the Northern Securities Company and Standard Oil.

For the next 65 years, things got better for consumers thanks to the Sherman Antitrust Act. But all that changed in the 1980s when Robert Bork wrote “The Antitrust Paradox,” which criticized the antitrust law and proclaimed trusts to be just fine. Bork’s philosophy was aligned with the conservative Chicago School of Economics and embraced by the Reagan administration.

Since then, Reich says, “antitrust has all but disappeared,” rushing in the new economy, characterized by declining competition and unprecedented consolidation.

“Big techs, sweeping patents, standard platforms, fleets of lawyers to litigate against potential rivals and armies of lobbyists have created formidable barriers to new entrance,” Reich says. As a result, the rate at which new businesses are formed has been slashed by nearly half.

“Big Tech along with the drug, insurance, agriculture and financial giants dominates both are economy and our politics,” Reich says. “It is time to revive antitrust.”

What does this mean for the future of our food? Well, the $62.5-billion Bayer acquisition of Monsanto, now that the European Commission and U.S. Department of Justice have given the green light, is certainly a big step in the wrong direction.

“The monopolistic and criminal histories of Monsanto and Bayer have been well documented,” said Ronnie Cummins, international director of Organic Consumers Association. “Allowing these two companies to merge into the world’s largest seed and pesticide company spells disaster for consumers, for the environment and for farmers who will now have even fewer choices.”

But as Cummins affirms, “The industrial chemical agriculture model—where factory farms and GMO monoculture crops have produced unhealthy food while poisoning the environment and creating a nightmare of superweeds and superbugs—is not the future of food. We will continue to promote an alternative organic regenerative model that truly nourishes the world while restoring the ecosystem."

Check out Regeneration International’s website to learn how you can join the regeneration movement.

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

Food and Mood: Is Lack of Healthy Food Behind U.S. Mental Health Crisis?

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-05-09 15:30
May 8, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonHealth Issues breakfast table set plates food eggs fruit waffles cc 1000x523.jpg

There’s no way around it. Food affects our mood, big time.

Just as eating starchy, refined carbohydrates—think pasta, white bread and other processed foods—makes us feel drowsy and sluggish, eating fresh, raw fruits and vegetables can have the opposite effect, brightening our mood and our outlook on life.

Fruits and veggies, most effective when eaten in their raw form, boost mental health, while also alleviating symptoms of depression, according to a new study published in the Frontiers of Psychology journal. The research suggests that there’s truth in the old saying, “You are what you eat.”

The notion that eating raw fruits and veggies can make us feel happy and improve our mental health is huge—particularly in a nation embroiled in a mental health crisis centered on depression and anxiety, among other mental health issues.

The link between food and mood

The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that one in five adults—or about 44 million Americans—experience some form of mental illness in a given year.

Depression, one of the most common mental health conditions in the U.S., affects upwards of 16 million American adults, with 32 being the median age at which depression sets in, says the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

This hardly seems normal. Why are young Americans, who should be enjoying the prime of their lives, increasingly having to battle the onset of a serious and sometimes life-threatening illness like depression?

Mounting research suggests that the answer may lie in what we eat.

Scientists at the University of Otago in New Zealand surveyed 422 adults between the ages of 18 and 25, collecting data on raw versus cooked produce consumption. The study took in to account other variables including the participant’s weight, exercise habits, overall diet and socioeconomic status.

Researchers observed a link between the consumption of raw fruits and veggies and improved mental well-being—a correlation scientists say could be a result of higher nutrient levels in raw produce versus those in processed and cooked produce.

“Raw fruits and vegetables may provide greater levels of micronutrients than processed fruits and vegetables, which could explain their stronger association with improved mental well-being,” the study states.

Those who ate more raw fruits and veggies not only reported an improvement in their mood, but also greater feelings of life satisfaction and lessened feelings of depression.

Eating more veggies—easier said than done

It goes without saying that nearly all of us could stand to eat more fruits and veggies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends we eat 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day. Yet more than 90 percent of us aren’t meeting that recommendation.

A few factors are to blame, one being that schools don’t serve veggies, so kids grow up without developing a taste for them.

But the reality is this: If every American wanted to eat the USDA-recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, they couldn’t—because there aren’t enough to go around.

We have the Farm Bill to thank for that. The Farm Bill, a massive piece of legislation that determines how $90 billion a year is spent to shape our food system, favors subsidies that support processed, GMO junk foods over healthy, nutrient-rich veggies.

If health food is one of the solutions to America’s raging mental health crisis, then why isn’t the government working harder to make these foods available and affordable to all?

The answer is that Congress is too busy using the Farm Bill to subsidize the richest landowners growing monocultures of Monsanto’s pesticide-drenched genetically engineered grains used to make products like high fructose corn syrup, ethanol and feed for animals in factory farms.

Fortunately, there’s good news. Once every five years, the Farm Bill comes up for reauthorization, giving Congress a chance to rewrite it. This year, 2018, it’s up again.

If Congress wants to help reduce diet-related disease, it should include legislation in the Farm Bill to encourage the production of more organic vegetables. Please take action today, to ask Congress to provide more support in the next Farm Bill for nutrient-dense vegetables.

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

FDA Approves First Genetically Engineered Salmon Facility: Now What?

Organic consumers - Mon, 2018-05-07 13:15
May 6, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationFood Safety, Genetic Engineering salmon

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved last week the first U.S. facility for production of genetically engineered (GE) salmon.

Though the facility near Albany, Indiana, has now been approved, AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. is prohibited from importing eggs necessary for producing GE salmon due to an FDA appropriations law requiring labeling of imported foods derived from “bioengineered” sources. Once the “import alert” labeling guidelines are established, the company will be given the green light to begin production of its AquAdvantage Salmon in the new U.S. facility.

These fish, approved for commercial sale by the FDA in November 2015, are the first genetically modified animals to be approved for human consumption. The FDA is not requiring the product to be labeled as genetically engineered because, as the agency —stated, the data and information evaluated show that AquAdvantage Salmon is not materially different from other Atlantic salmon.

Not everyone agrees with the FDA. AquAdvantage Salmon were created by mixing the genes of two fish that would never mate in nature. The genetically engineered salmon contains a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon, and a gene from the ocean pout, which has the intended purpose of keeping the growth hormone gene switched on. This makes the AquAdvantage Salmon grow about twice as fast as conventionally farmed salmon—it reaches adult size in 18 months rather than 30 months.

It also means that the AquAdvantage Salmon contains elevated levels of IGF-1, an insulin-like growth factor-1 that occurs naturally and is instrumental in normal growth during childhood, but in adulthood can promote abnormal growth, including the spread (metastasis) of cancer cells. Elevated levels of IGF-1 have been linked to colon, prostate and breast cancer.

According to a coalition of environmental groups in Canada and the U.S., the science just isn't there to prove AquAdvantage GE salmon is safe for either human health, or wild fish stocks.

Canadians became the first guinea pigs to unknowingly eat AquaBounty’s GE salmon because labels are not required in this country either. When Canada began selling the product in the summer of 2017, opposition to the “frankenfish” being sold in the U.S. escalated. Several large grocery store chains including Safeway, Costco, Kroger, Target, Trader Joe's, Walmart, Aldi USA and Whole Foods vowed not to stock the engineered fish.

“Now that the GE salmon is somewhere unknown in our food system, grocery stores find themselves faced with a flood of customer questions and confusions,” Lucy Sharratt, coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, told SeafoodSource. “Without mandatory labeling of GE foods, retailers are not compelled to give their consumers this information. Without this information, consumers are shopping blind, and many are choosing not to shop for salmon.”

In addition to concerns related to GE salmon, farmed salmon is becoming known as one of the most toxic foods in the American diet today.

“Salmon farming is a disaster for the environment and human health,” according to Dr. Joseph Mercola. “Tests show farmed salmon is about five times more toxic than any other food tested.”

Farmed salmon has been linked to high toxicity levels, leading to a heightened risk for obesity and diabetes, mainly due to its pesticide, antibiotic, dioxin and PCB load—chemicals that tend to concentrate in the fatty tissues of fish. Not only that, but the practice of fish farming endangers the integrity of wild salmon and other marine species by spreading disease and contaminating coastal waters and the ocean with toxic chemicals from the feed used on fish farms.

If you think you’re saving wild salmon by eating farmed salmon, think again. As International Director of Organic Consumers Association Ronnie Cummins said in a blog post:

The now common advice from natural health experts is to avoid all factory-farm fish and larger fish (who have had more time to absorb toxins), and to consume only wild Alaskan salmon, along with smaller fish species, such as anchovies, sardines and herring.

To learn more about the best choices when it comes to eating seafood, check out Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, which helps consumers and businesses make choices for a healthy ocean.

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

Judge Rules Non-Profits Can Sue Monsanto for Misleading Labeling of Popular Herbicide Roundup

Organic consumers - Fri, 2018-05-04 19:21
Genetic EngineeringOrganic Consumers AssociationMay 6, 2018 gavel court law judge cc 1000x523.jpg

May 7, 2018

Jay Feldman, Beyond Pesticides, 202-543-5450, JFeldman@beyondpesticides.org 
Katherine Paul, Organic Consumers Assoc.: (207) 653-3090, katherine@organicconsumers.org

Washington, DC- Beyond Pesticides (BP) and The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) today responded to a federal judge’s ruling against Monsanto Co.’s motion to dismiss the groups’ lawsuit, filed in April, 2017.

Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, the lead plaintiff in the case, said: 

“In the face of EPA’s poor regulation of pesticides, misleading pesticide product labeling cannot be left unchecked. The court’s decision to allow our case to move forward, in denying Monsanto’s motion to dismiss, is critical to showing that the company is deceiving the public with a safety claim on its Roundup (glyphosate) label. Its advertising and labeling claim that Roundup ‘targets an enzyme found in plants but not in people or pets’ is false, given the devastating harm that glyphosate has on beneficial bacteria in the gut biome. The disruption of the gut biome is associated with a host of 21st century diseases, including asthma, autism, bacterial vaginosis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, Crohn’s disease, depression, inflammatory bowel disease, leaky gut syndrome, multiple sclerosis, obesity, Type 1 and 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s. 

“The science on the hazards of Roundup (glyphosate) are clear and Monsanto officials know it. With this case, we seek to ensure that the public is not misled by false advertising and product labeling in the marketplace. It is a critical step toward ensuring that people are fully informed before purchasing toxic products that can poison them, their families, and the communities where they live.” 

OCA International Director, Ronnie Cummins said: 

“Monsanto aggressively markets Roundup as ‘safe’ for humans and animals, despite newer studies indicating that glyphosate may be carcinogenic and its use may affect human and animal cardiovascular, endocrine, nervous and reproductive systems. No reasonable consumer seeing the claim on this product that glyphosate targets an enzyme not found ‘in people or pets’ would expect that Roundup actually targets an important bacterial enzyme found in humans and animals, affecting the health of their immune system.

“Survey after survey shows that consumers rely on labels to guide their purchases and keep them and their families safe. When corporations mislead on the issue of a product’s effect on consumers and their families, they put everyone, but especially young children—in this case, playing in yards and parks—at risk, leaving the public no other recourse than to use the legal system to seek the removal of this misleading information.”

U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, ruled that OCA and BP presented enough evidence to support that Monsanto’s labeling of its flagship weedkiller, Roundup, misleads consumers.

Through their attorneys, Richman Law Group, OCA and BP sued Monsanto on behalf of the general public, in Washington D.C., under the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act, for misleading the public by labeling its popular weedkiller Roundup as “target[ing] an enzyme found in plants but not in people or pets.” The nonprofits allege that this statement is false, deceptive and misleading, because the enzyme targeted by glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is, in fact, found in people and pets.

Beyond Pesticides is a national grassroots non-profit organization headquartered in the District of Columbia that works with allies in protecting public health and the environment to lead the transition to a world free of toxic pesticides. For more information, visit www.beyondpesticides.org.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. For more information, visit: www.organicconsumers.org. 

Richman Law Group (RLG) is a boutique law firm specializing in consumer protection and civil rights. RLG is dedicated to serving the greater good by holding large corporations accountable for actions that harm consumers, the environment, and the general public. For more information, visit: www.richmanlawgroup.com.

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Statement on Organic Consumers and Post Holdings Lawsuit Settlement

Organic consumers - Fri, 2018-05-04 18:58
All About OrganicsOrganic Consumers AssociationMay 3, 2018 cerealandspoon1000x523.png


Organic Consumers Association: Katherine Paul, katherine@organicconsumers.org, 207.653.3090

FINLAND, Minn. –  The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) today issued the following statement regarding a lawsuit the organization filed in June 2016, against Post Holdings, Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiary, Post Foods, LLC:

“The matter was resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. Post Shredded Wheat no longer includes the term ‘natural’ on its U.S. packaging.”

OCA was represented by The Richman Law Group.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The Organic Consumers Fund is a 501(c)4 allied organization of the Organic Consumers Association, focused on grassroots lobbying and legislative action. Visit: https://www.organicconsumers.org/ 

The Richman Law Group is dedicated to using the class action tool in a creative manner, bringing about meaningful change. The law firm also handles numerous federal civil rights claims, representing clients both individually and on a class-wide basis. Visit: http://richmanlawgroup.com/

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New Federally Required GMO Labels Won't Say 'GMO'

Organic consumers - Fri, 2018-05-04 16:03
May 4, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulGenetic Engineering proposed_be_labeling_1000x523.jpg

On August 1, then-President Obama signed a meaningless so-called mandatory GMO labeling law that, for all practical purposes, ended an intense four-year grassroots-led campaign for consumers’ right to know if their food is genetically engineered, or contains genetically engineered ingredients.

Now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has unveiled its proposed version of GMO labels. Wait ‘till you see them. All bright and cheery, with sunburst and smiley-faced images—but without “GMO” appearing anywhere on the labels. (You can see all of the proposed images here).

According to Politico, the USDA’s long-awaited106-page proposal for how companies must disclose the presence of genetically modified ingredients in their products includes eliminating the words “genetically modified” or “genetically engineered” and replacing them with “bioengineered.”

That means no more “GMO”—instead consumers will see “BE” on the environmentally friendly looking green and yellow images.

The images are just as insulting to consumers as the law, which the chemical and junk food industry lobbyists spent $400 million to pass—under the specious name of the “Safe and Affordable Food Labeling Act.”

Opponents renamed the loophole-ridden bill the Dark (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act” because its intent is clear: Keep consumers in the dark, by creating a long list of exemptions and/or by allowing companies to opt for electronic “smart labels” instead of clear, plain language that anyone can easily read.

The Dark Act preempted states from requiring labels on GMO foods, including Vermont which had previously passed a GMO labeling law that took effect one month before Obama signed the Dark Act. Vermont’s law required far more foods and ingredients to be identified than the federal law that preempted it, and also required on-package labels stating a month before “produced with genetic engineering.” 

The USDA has until July 29, 2018, deadline for completing the rulemaking process for the law that industry lobbyists and their friends in Congress claim will establish a “mandatory national standard” for GMO labeling—but will in reality do little or nothing to help consumers avoid GMO foods.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association. To keep up with OCA’s news and alerts, sign up here. 

Regenerative Farming: Single Solution to a World of Problems?

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-05-02 16:50
May 1, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationAll About Organics, Biodynamics, Environment & Climate, Farm Issues grain1000x523.jpg

What if there were one solution that could fix a lot of the world’s problems?

That’s how organic farmer Ben Dobson began his TEDxHudson talk a few years ago. “Appropriate organic farming techniques and properly planned grazing can reverse climate change,” Dobson told his audience.

Dobson has been a farmer his entire life. But it wasn’t until six years ago that he made the connection between agriculture and climate change:

“We emit carbon dioxide in many more ways than just out of our exhaust pipes, out of coal plants, out of factories. We emit potentially more from our soils and by cutting down trees. Carbon is the skeleton of what’s under our feet and we’ve been taking that skeleton out of the ground bone by bone and putting it in the atmosphere.”

In Dobson’s opinion, photosynthesis is another word for carbon sequestration.

“Photosynthesis is the process by which plants breathe in carbon dioxide. They keep the carbon and they breathe the oxygen back out. The carbon then becomes the stock of the plant, the leaves, the roots. The extra carbon goes out of the roots into the soil—and in a proper farming system, it stay there.”

Video of Regenerative agriculture -- a solution to climate change | Ben Dobson | TEDxHudson

Dobson, who spent time farming in Maine, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, in addition to his family’s land in Hillsdale, New York, now works at Stone House Farm in Livingston, New York. He joined the 2,200-acre farm when the owners were planning to completely transition from conventional corn and soy production to a diversified organic farm.

Today, Stone House Farm is a model for regenerative organic agriculture that uses holistic management and long-term crop rotation to rebuild healthy soil and minimize the use of inputs from outside the farm.

And, Dobson says in his talk, “We’re really making it organic. We’re taking carbon dioxide from the air and putting it in the soil.”

How do they do that? After a crop is harvested, they grow cover crops, using crops that will live through the winter. They never leave the soil bare, so they are photosynthesizing all year long, bringing carbon out of the air and putting it in the soil.

“Having more carbon in the soil gives a better home for all the microbes in the soil to live in. They then can make more nitrogen available to plants naturally. That’s right nitrogen, that $40-billion industry that they pollute a lot to make and it’s ruining our oceans with runoff. That can be made naturally with bacteria under our feet while we’re sequestering carbon dioxide.”

Dobson is referring to the $40-billion fertilizer industry, responsible for the widespread nitrate-contamination of U.S. and global waterways and water supplies.

Stone House Farm has figured out “how to grow major commodity crops without chemicals, without pesticides and come close to conventional production targets while sequestering carbon dioxide,” the young pioneer said.

And grow major commodity crops is exactly what Stone House Farm is doing. The farm sells certified organic, non-GMO grains, seeds and animal feeds to local farms and food businesses. It also grazes black angus cattle, which are 100% grass-fed and free of growth hormones or antibiotics.

Ronnie Cummins, international director of Organic Consumers Association, and Steve Rye, CEO of Mercola Health Resources, visited Stone House Farms last month.

“I’ve been steadily visiting organic, biodynamic and regenerative or transition-to-regenerative farms and ranches across North America for the past several years,” Cummins said. “I must say that the several-thousand-acre Stone House Farm is the most impressive biodynamic and regenerative farm and grazing operation (and research center on carbon and methane sequestration) that I’ve ever seen. Ben Dobson is an agronomic genius and a true leader in the U.S. regeneration movement. Watch this TEDx Talk and you’ll see what I’m talking about.”

Rye was most impressed with Dobson’s ability to combine historical best practices and modern technology on a large scale:

“Accelerating soil improvements needs to happen quickly. Along with other innovative farmers like Will Harris, Gabe Brown and Joel Salatin, Ben is proving there’s reason to be optimistic.”

Dobson hopes that everyone listening to his TEDx Talk can understand the point he is trying to make:

“This one solution I’m talking about can make more money for farmers, produce the food we need and treat the earth in such a way that we can hold more water in it.

“We can sequester our carbon dioxide. We can reinvigorate local economies by taking corporate suppliers of chemicals, too much equipment and herbicides off the table and keep that money local where we can trade seeds. We can trade manure. We can sell crops locally to bakers who need it, to local farms who want food with no GMOs in it. This is what can be done. This is what we’re doing.”

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

Save the Bees! Ban Neonics!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-05-01 06:09
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoSave the BeesCategory: Environment & Climate, Farm IssuesArea: USA

“If we lose the insects then everything is going to collapse.” - Dr. David Goulson, Sussex University, UK

Victory for bees in Europe! As reported in the Guardian, the world’s most widely used insecticides will be banned from all fields in the E.U. within six months to protect both wild and commercially raised honeybees that are vital to crop pollination.

The neonicotinoid insecticides now banned in the E.U are sold by Bayer and Syngenta and used by Monsanto to coat its genetically engineered seeds. They are the cause of the massive bee die-offs that commercial beekeepers in the U.S. reported this year—and every year since 2006.

Take Action to Ban Neonics in the U.S.!Read more

Regenerative Farming at Rancho Vía Orgánica

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-04-25 16:29
April 23, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationEnvironment & Climate, Health Issues viaorganica1000x523.jpg

How do you grow sunflower sprouts? Start your own seedlings without plastic pots? Should you save seeds?


These are just a few of the questions people interested in homesteading ask themselves. They’re also topics that the managers of Vía Orgánica, a regenerative teaching farm and ranch in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, provide instruction on to local farmers and students. (Vía Orgánica is a sister organization of Organic Consumers Association).


Sustainable living expert Marjory Wildcraft, founder of The Grow Network, and Rosana Álvarez, director of Vía Orgánica, recently produced a series of videos at the ranch, on these and other topics of interest to homesteaders and home gardeners.


In this first video, Wildcraft and Álvarez share tips on how to grow strong, nutrient-dense sunflower sprouts. The secret, they explain, is to keep steady pressure on the seedlings. Growers at the Vía Orgánica farm accomplish this by placing heavy tiles on top of the trays containing the soil and seedlings.


Sunflower sprouts are typically 30 times more nutritious than organic vegetables and are high in protein, healthy fats, essential fatty acids and fiber. Álvarez credited Dr. Mercola with teaching them how to make the most of their sunflowers seeds, which they use in their restaurants and also feed to their chickens.



In this next video, Wildcraft and OCA International Director Ronnie Cummins discuss how to start seedlings without using plastic pots. Cummins grabs a tool showing how you can make soil blocks ready for planting. Eliminating plastic pots is good for the environment. But as Cummins explains, it’s also better for the plant because you don’t disturb the roots when you transplant them into your garden bed.


In this third video, Álvarez talks about the origins of a sacred plant called muicle. Muicle is a medicinal plant that provides important minerals including iron, zinc and calcium. It can also be used to make dyes. Muicle, which dates back to the first settlers of Mexico, is still used by the Otomi ethic groups to make beautifully decorated ceremonial tortillas.


And finally, in this last video, Wildcraft and Álvarez catch up with Azucena Cabrera, manager of Vía Orgánica’s research and demonstration farm, for a tour of the farm’s large seed-saving library dedicated to recreating the traditions of heritage seeds in Mexico. In this video, Álvarez explains that the main purpose of the project is to “preserve the seeds of our ancestors, the seeds of life and the security of our food.” The seed bank has more than 65 species of seeds, all of which are known to flourish in Mexico’s central highlands.


Want to learn more about growing your own food and other homesteading techniques? Join The Grow Network community.


Learn more here about Vía Orgánica’s mission to promote healthy eating and a sustainable future.  Vía Orgánica operates a store, which buys produce from about 200 local producers, and a restaurant, in addition to running the regenerative farm/ranch and educational center.


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


Tell the EPA: Ban Monsanto's Carcinogenic Glyphosate-Based Roundup Weedkiller!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-04-24 16:34
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoAppetite for a ChangeCategory: Environment & Climate, Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesArea: USA

Glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, is the most-used agricultural chemical ever. Mounting scientific evidence of its human health impacts indicates that it may also be the most devastating.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been conducting its required 15-year re-registration review of glyphosate since 2009. The agency was supposed to reapprove or ban the chemical by the end of 2015. 

Then, in March 2015, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) panel of cancer experts, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), unanimously agreed to reclassify the chemical as a probable human carcinogen.

The IARC cancer finding forced the EPA to take its glyphosate review more seriously. That slowed down the process. Now, the decision is in the hands of the Trump administration’s EPA.

TAKE ACTION! Tell the EPA: Ban Monsanto’s carcinogenic glyphosate-based Roundup weedkiller! Read more

Time to Ban Monsanto's Roundup Weedkiller—But Will the EPA Act?

Organic consumers - Mon, 2018-04-23 19:00
April 22, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationAlexis Baden-MayerEnvironment & Climate, Genetic Engineering, Health Issues roundup1000x523.png

Photo credit: Mike Mozart

Glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, is the most-used agricultural chemical ever. Mounting scientific evidence of its human health impacts indicates that it may also be the most devastating.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been conducting its required 15-year re-registration review of glyphosate since 2009. The agency was supposed to reapprove or ban the chemical by the end of 2015. We assumed that glyphosate would get the stamp of approval for another 15 years while President Obama was still in office.  

Then, in March 2015, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) panel of cancer experts, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), did its own review of the latest science on glyphosate. The IARC panel of 17 scientists unanimously agreed to reclassify  the chemical as a probable human carcinogen.

The IARC cancer finding forced the EPA to take its glyphosate review more seriously. That slowed down the process. Now, the decision is in the hands of the Trump administration’s EPA.

Campaign to ban glyphosate alive and well, despite pro-chemical EPA

Under Trump, the EPA is controlled by the notorious Scott Pruitt who has a cozy relationship with Monsanto, one of his former campaign funders.

We probably have a better chance of getting Pruitt fired than we have of getting him to ban glyphosate.

That said, the campaign to ban Monsanto’s Roundup is winning around the globe. And here in the U.S., despite a pro-chemical EPA, there’s plenty of activity around opposition to glyphosate.

Non-Toxic Neighborhoods campaigners are getting localities to stop using glyphosate on parks and playgrounds.

Testing that revealed glyphosate in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and other so-called “natural” foods has spurred a movement to get these products out of grocery stores—which would mean getting glyphosate out of the U.S. food supply chain.

Even local hardware stores are dropping Roundup and going organic.

Cancer victims take Monsanto to court

Meanwhile, farmers, farm workers, landscapers and gardeners who used Roundup and developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) are suing Monsanto in courts across the country.

Earlier this year, in a federal court in California where 380 of these lawsuits have been combined into a single case, scientists educated the court on glyphosate-cancer science. The judge must review scientific experts’ methodologies for analyzing the scientific evidence to make sure they are valid. Ultimately jurors will decide whether the scientific evidence shows that Roundup causes NHL. The judge will determine which experts may testify at trial after a hearing set for May 10. 

According to Carey Gillam, reporting for U.S. Right to Know, and the plaintiffs’ attorneys, the following experts testified for the plaintiffs.

Beate Ritz, M.D., Ph.D., Chair of the Epidemiology Department at UCLA, walked the judge through a series of epidemiology studies conducted over the years that show statistically significant risk factors linking glyphosate to cancer. The literature shows that the risk to individuals considered “routine users” of glyphosate was significant, she testified. When asked if the studies she evaluated show that glyphosate has caused NHL in people, her reply: “Yes, I think they do.”
Dennis Weisenburger, M.D., Chair of the Pathology Department of the City of Hope Medical Center where he specializes in the study of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, described a series of studies that show DNA damage in people exposed to glyphosate, including through aerial spraying. Research shows that both glyphosate and formulations like Roundup cause genetic damage that leads to NHL, he said. In one study, the North American Pooled Project the risk for NHL increased almost twofold for people who used glyphosate more than two days per year.

Alfred Neugut, M.D., Ph.D., a practicing medical oncologist and professor of cancer research, medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University, began his testimony by saying research shows a connection between glyphosate and NHL with great specificity. The consistency in study findings is something that cannot be ignored, he said, as scientists have seen repeated evidence linking glyphosate to NHL. “Every time you look what comes up? Glyphosate and NHL,” said Dr. Neugut.

Charles Jameson, Ph.D., who served as program leader for the National Toxicology Program at NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences for 12 years and was a member of the IARC working group that concluded glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen, detailed the body of research that led him to conclude that glyphosate and Roundup can cause NHL at real-world exposure levels that farmers, farm workers and others face when spraying the herbicide. The science showing that glyphosate-based herbicides cause oxidative stress is important, as is the known link to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, he explained

Christopher Portier, Ph.D., who over the course of a lengthy career, has held prominent leadership positions with the U.S. government, including, Associate Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences National Toxicology Program, Director of the National Center for Environmental Health, Center for Disease and Prevention, and Director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, was also an “invited specialist” to the IARC review on glyphosate. “To a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, given the human, animal, and mechanistic evidence, glyphosate probably causes NHL, and the probability that glyphosate causes NHL is high,” he said.

Aaron Blair, Ph.D., the Overall Chair of the IARC glyphosate review, explained how he weighed the totality of the epidemiology studies to support his opinion that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen.

Matthew Ross, Ph.D., part of the mechanism section of the IARC glyphosate review, explained why the strong evidence that glyphosate is genotoxic and causes oxidative stress are relevant to carcinogenicity in humans.

Chadi Nabhan, M.D., F.A.C.P, a board-certified clinical medical oncologist who, until last year, treated approximately 30 lymphoma patients per week, currently serves as Medical Director of Cardinal Health. In his testimony, Dr. Nabhan discussed the process by which IARC determines whether chemicals and substances are carcinogens. The agency has a high bar in consideration for what chemicals or substances it will review, he said. Exposures must be high and the animal data must be strong. Since 1965, IARC has reviewed over 1000 agents and found around 20 percent to be carcinogens. “In my opinion, the [NHL] risk [of exposure to glyphosate] is clinically significant enough that patients should be aware of it,” said Dr. Nabhan. “The IARC report is very convincing.”

Lawsuits reveal Monsanto-EPA collusion

If these experts are all permitted to testify without restriction, the court’s glyphosate-cancer review will be far more rigorous than the EPA’s. This is especially true given what we know now (from evidence uncovered in the lawsuit) about how the EPA’s review has been corrupted by Monsanto.

It all started when EPA scientists saw that a 1983 mouse study provided evidence that glyphosate was carcinogenic. Monsanto managed to convince EPA political appointees to overrule the scientists and declare that the study proved that glyphosate was not carcinogenic. This Orwellian misstatement of the facts continues to be repeated as a mantra by EPA decision-makers still under Monsanto’s sway.

Congress weighs in, attempts to discredit IARC

In February, the U.S. Congress weighed in on the glyphosate-cancer connection. The House Science Committee held a hearing, “In Defense of Scientific Integrity: Examining the IARC Monograph Programme and Glyphosate Review.” For the Republican leaders of the committee, Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Vice Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), the purpose of the hearing was to attempt to discredit WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.

The strategy backfired, as the hearing only stirred public concern over Roundup’s carcinogenicity and Monsanto’s undue influence over EPA decision makers. Chairman Smith’s witnesses were not credible. In fact, they are among the chemical industry’s most notorious shills:

Dr. Timothy Pastoor was identified as “CEO, Pastoor Science Communications.” Until 2015, he worked for Syngenta as Principal Scientist. At Syngenta, he spent his time menacing independent scientists like Dr. Tyrone Hayes, who he threatened to have lynched and even threatened Dr. Hayes’ wife and daughter with sexual violence.

Dr. Robert Tarone was listed a “(retired) mathematical statistician, U.S. National Cancer Institute and Biostatistics Director, International Epidemiology Institute.” In fact, in his “retirement,” Tarone was paid by Monsanto as a consultant to one of the company’s lawyers.

Dr. Anna Lowit was truthfully presented as a senior science adviser at the EPA. What wasn’t mentioned is that documents uncovered in the lawsuits filed by Roundup-exposed cancer victims put Dr. Lowit at the center of EPA-Monsanto collusion. A 2013 letter from EPA toxicologist Marion Copley to Jess Rowlands, the former deputy director in the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) who is currently the subject of an Office of Inspector General investigation, says Dr. Lowit:

. . . intimidated staff on CARC [Cancer Assessment Review Committee] and changed HIARC [Hazard Identification Assessment Review Committee] and HASPOC [Hazard and Science Policy Committee] final reports to favor industry. ... Just promise me to never let Anna on the CARC committee, her decisions don't make rational sense. If anyone at OPP is taking bribes it is her.

Calling a carcinogen a carcinogen

The testimony provided by Drs. Pastoor, Tarone and Lowit’s was particularly untrustworthy compared with the testimony of Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson’s only witness, Jennifer Sass, Ph.D., senior scientist at the National Resources Defense Council, who said in her testimony:

“This hearing is about the ability of a public health agency to call a carcinogen a carcinogen, even if it makes a huge amount of money for a powerful corporation,” Dr. Sass testified. “Are we willing to sell out the public’s right to know about harmful chemicals in the places we work live, and play, just so that Monsanto Co. can sell more glyphosate?”

The committee’s Democratic members produced a scathing minority report,  “Spinning Science & Silencing Scientists: A Case Study in How the Chemical Industry Attempts to Influence Science.” The report outlined the tactics Monsanto has used to suppress scientific evidence that Roundup causes cancer and evade regulation, including secretly ghostwriting scientific journal articles on glyphosate, discrediting critical independent scientists, and discretely paying scientists, journalists and journal editors to do this dirty work.

The most egregious example the report cites is that of A. Wallace (“Wally”) Hayes: Former Editor-in-Chief for Vision and Strategy at Food and Chemical Toxicology. Monsanto paid him $16,000 to retract a study he published by Dr. Gilles-Eric Seralini that found that Roundup and genetically modified glyphosate-resistant corn caused tumors in rats—in levels below regulatory limits for food and drinking water. Not only did he do this, he lied about it. According to the report:

Hayes told the New York Times that he had not been under contract with Monsanto at the time of the retraction and was paid by the company only after he left the journal. “Monsanto played no role whatsoever in the decision that was made to retract,” he told the newspaper.

This lie would never have been uncovered if it weren’t for the lawsuits filed on behalf of Roundup-exposed cancer victims that, as the report states, have “revealed hundreds of pages of internal Monsanto e-mails, memorandums, and other records that clearly show Monsanto engaged in a decades-long concerted effort to fend off any evidence suggesting potential adverse human health effects from glyphosate and more recently to undermine IARC’s findings.”

The results of ongoing investigations and court testimony will likely undermine the legitimacy of the EPA’s decision, should it approve glyphosate. As consumers whose food supply is contaminated with glyphosate, we need to keep up the pressure on the EPA, regardless of Pruitt’s ties to Monsanto.

TAKE ACTION! Tell the EPA: Ban Monsanto’s carcinogenic glyphosate-based Roundup weedkiller! Please add your own comments, especially if you or your loved-ones have been sickened by exposure to glyphosate.

Alexis Baden-Mayer is political director for the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). Sign up here for news and alerts from OCA.


Tell Congress: Support the Tribal Food and Housing Security Act!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-04-17 17:35
Belong to campaign: USDA WatchRegenerative AgricultureCategory: Environment & Climate, Fair Trade & Social JusticeArea: USA

About 60 percent of the food eaten around the world today originated in the Americas. Meanwhile, Native Americans are twice as likely to be food insecure compared to whites.

This meme says it best: “Give a man some corn, feed him for a day. Teach a man to grow corn, he kills you and steals your land.”  

The Native Farm Bill Coalition, which represents 65 tribes throughout the U.S., is  advocating for equity in the Farm Bill, legislation that determines how more than $900 billion in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) resources is distributed each year. 

The coalition is backing the Tribal Food and Housing Security Act, a bill introduced by U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), to improve affordable nutrition, housing and rural development assistance for Native American communities.

Tell Congress: Support the Tribal Food and Housing Security Act!Read more