Environment

What Turkey Producers Don't Want You to Know

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-11-15 13:51
November 15, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationMartha RosenbergEnvironment & Climate, CAFOs vs. Free Range, Food Safety turkeys_brown_black_grass_farm_1200x630.jpg

As Turkey Day approaches, animal lovers cringe, food safety advocates become vigilant and industrial turkey producers hope you aren’t reading the news.

Specifically, the purveyors of factory farm turkeys hope you haven’t heard about the latest turkey salmonella outbreak in 35 states, causing 63 hospitalizations and at least one death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

The outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading has been identified in various raw turkey products, including ground turkey and turkey patties. The outbreak strain has also been found in raw turkey pet food and live turkeys, indicating it might be widespread in the turkey industry."

Factory farm turkey producers also hope you’ve forgotten that avian flu and its prevention killed so many turkeys in 2015—at least 7.5 million—that turkey giant Jennie-O laid off 233 workers.

They hope you’ve forgotten that scientists at the Bloomberg School’s Center for a Livable Future and Arizona State’s Biodesign Institute found Tylenol, Benadryl, caffeine, statins and Prozac in feather meal samples that included U.S. turkeys—“a surprisingly broad spectrum of prescription and over-the-counter drugs,” said study co-author Rolf Halden of Arizona State University.

And finally, Butterball hopes you’ve forgotten that several of its employees were convicted of sickening animal cruelty and that veterinarian Dr. Sarah Mason admits tipping off Butterball about an imminent raid by Hoke County detectives to investigate the abuse.

Can consumers rely on labels to make good buying decisions? Not really.

Many consumers rely on labels to help them avoid serving a sick, contaminated or abused bird on Thanksgiving Day. Unfortunately, navigating the maze of labels and marketing claims is at best time consuming, and at worst, a waste of time. For example, "cage free" and "hormone free” are meaningless since cages and hormones aren’t used (or at least, aren’t supposed to be used) in turkey production anyway.

Nor does "young” mean anything—all turkeys are young at the time of slaughter. They live only a matter of weeks or a few months.

And don’t even get us started on turkey labeled “natural,” “all natural” or “100% natural.” As Organic Consumers Association and other food safety and animal welfare groups wrote in a letter last year to Cargill:

We are concerned about the production and marketing of Cargill’s turkey products. In particular, we believe that Cargill is misleading consumers about (1) its systematic overuse of antibiotics and other contaminants, which can pose a threat to public health; (2) whether its turkey products, and animal husbandry practices, are “natural;” (3) whether its turkey products emanate from facilities that employ inhumane agro-industrial practices; and (4) whether its turkey production practices are “environmentally conscious.”

Here’s a long list of facts you’ll never see listed on the major turkey brands in your grocery store.

1) Ractopamine is still in use

Hormones may not be used in turkey production but ractopamine, the asthma-like growth enhancer used to quickly add muscle weight to factory farm turkeys is. Banned in 160 countries and widely viewed as dangerous to animals and humans, ractopamine was approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for use in turkey in 2009, under the brand name Topmax. It has never been labeled.

How dangerous is Topmax? This is what its label says: “NOT FOR HUMAN USE. Warning. The active ingredient in Topmax, ractopamine hydrochloride, is a beta-adrenergic agonist. Individuals with cardiovascular disease should exercise special caution to avoid exposure. Not for use in humans. Keep out of the reach of children... When mixing and handling Topmax, use protective clothing, impervious gloves, protective eye wear, and a NIOSH-approved dust mask. Operators should wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling.” There’s even an 800 number for emergencies.

Monkeys fed ractopamine in a Canadian study "developed daily tachycardia" (rapid heartbeat). Rats fed ractopamine developed a constellation of birth defects like cleft palate, protruding tongue, short limbs, missing digits, open eyelids and enlarged hearts.

In its new drug application (no longer on the FDA website), Elanco, ractopamine’s manufacturer, admitted that ractopamine produced “alterations” in turkey meat such as a “mononuclear cell infiltrate and myofiber degeneration,”  “an increase in the incidence of cysts” and differences, some “significant,” in the weight of organs like hearts, kidneys and livers.

2) Antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant bacteria are found in turkey

Antibiotics are widely used in turkey production to produce weight gain with less feed, and to stop disease outbreaks from crowded conditions. In fact, when the FDA tried to ban the use of one class of antibiotic—cephalosporins—in 2008, Michael Rybolt, the National Turkey Federation’s director of scientific and regulatory affairs, said, "To raise turkeys without antibiotics would increase the incidence of illness in turkey flocks."

Referring to 227-acre turkey operations as "small family farms," Rybolt said antibiotics were actually green because the use of antibiotics means less land is required to grow feed, less land is required to house turkeys—and less turkey feed means there is less manure.

Not all antibiotics used in U.S. industrial turkey operations are legal, suggests research by scientists at the Bloomberg School’s Center for a Livable Future and Arizona State’s Biodesign Institute. They found fluoroquinolones in eight of 12 samples of feather meal in a multi-state study. Fluoroquinolones are antibiotics used to treat serious bacterial infections in humans, especially infections that have become resistant to other antibiotic. Fluoroquinolones have been banned for livestock use since 2005.

Why do the government and all leading medical groups condemn routine, daily use of antibiotics in livestock? Because it encourages the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria which cause potentially lethal infections in people.

Almost half of turkey samples purchased at U.S. grocery stores harbored antibiotic resistant-infections, according to a 2011 report in the Los Angeles Times. A serious strain of antibiotic-resistant salmonella called Salmonella Heidelberg and Salmonella Hadar forced recalls of turkey products from Jennie-O Turkey. The resistant salmonella strains were so deadly, officials warned that the meat should be disposed in sealed garbage cans to protect wild animals. Even wildlife is threatened by the factory farm-created scourges.

More recently, Consumer Reports issued a lengthy report on the widespread presence of antibiotics and drugs, some banned for use in livestock production, in meat, poultry (including turkey) and pork.

3) Drugs used to treat turkey diseases pose threats to human health

Industrially produced turkeys are at risk of many diseases for which both medicines and vaccines are administered. Until 2015, an arsenic-containing drug called Nitarsone was FDA-approved for the "first six weeks of a turkey’s 20-week life span." Three other arsenic products were rescinded by the FDA in 2012.

It’s shocking that arsenic has been allowed in U.S. poultry production for almost 50 years, given that increasing evidence supports that chronic low-to-moderate exposure results in numerous non-cancerous health effects, including cardiovascular, kidney and respiratory disease, diabetes and cognitive and reproductive defects,” according to a scientific paper published in 2016, in Environmental Health Perspectives. Inorganic arsenic is an established human carcinogen, known to cause cancers of the lung, skin and bladder and possibly cancers of the liver and kidney.

Turkeys can suffer from Aspergillosis (Brooder Pneumonia), Avian Influenza, Avian Leucosis, Histomoniasis, Coccidiosis, Coronavirus, Erysipelas, Typhoid, TB, Fowl Cholera, Mites, Lice, Herpes, Clostridial dermatitis, Cellulitis and much more—and the treatments are often as scary as the conditions. Consider, for example, the anti-coccidial drug halofuginone which the Federal Register says "is toxic to fish and aquatic life" and "an irritant to eyes and skin.” Users should take care to "Keep [it] out of lakes, ponds, and streams" says the Register. A few years ago, scientists even found the endocrine disrupter Bisphenol A (BPA) in fresh turkey.

4) Animal cruelty abounds in industrial turkey production

Even before 2015 bird flu outbreak that resulted in turkeys being euthanized by suffocation in a way even producers called cruel, industrially produced turkeys had tragic lives.

Unable to mate because of the huge chests they are bred to have (many barely able to walk), producers use a cruel artificial insemination technique, which involves “milking” the males and forcing the semen into the hens. Veterinary journals admit that using chemicals to make turkeys grow abnormally fast puts the birds at risk for "sudden death from cardiac problems and aortic rupture," (diagnosed by the presence of large clots of blood around the turkey's lungs) hypertensive angiopathy and pulmonary edema. Growth drugs in turkeys may also "result in leg weakness or paralysis," says the Federal Code.

Because turkeys are drugged and bred to grow so quickly, their legs can't support their own weight and many arrive with broken and dislocated limbs, a “live hanger” who worked undercover at House of Raeford Farms in Raeford, N.C., the seventh-largest turkey producer in the U.S. , told me a few years ago. When you try to remove them from their crates, their legs twist completely around, offering no resistance he told me. "The turkeys must be in a lot of pain but they don't cry out. The only sound you hear as you hang them is trucks being washed out to go back and get a new load."

And then there’s this: The kill conveyer belt at the slaughterhouse moves so fast, turkeys miss the “stunner” that is supposed to render them insensate, resulting thousands of birds being boiled alive.

While some food safety and animal rights activists have sought to find turkey producers who do not commit such practices, others warn that so-called ethical producers may be disingenuous.

"Our birds live in harmony with the environment and we allow them plenty of room to roam," says a Diestel Turkey Ranch brochure, displayed at Whole Foods meat counters. But Slate reported in 2015 that a visit to Diestel’s Jamestown facility, conducted by Direct Action investigators, "revealed horrific conditions, even by the standards of industrial agriculture." Turkeys were jammed into overcrowded barns, trapped in piles of feces, had swollen eyes and open sores and "dead turkeys [were] strewn across the barn floor."

Clearly there is a lot that turkey producers, even the so-called "humane" ones—don’t want you to know.

Want to avoid factory farm turkeys this holiday season? Here are a few tips.

Martha Rosenberg a freelance journalist and frequent contributor to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). Katherine Paul, associate director, contributed to this article. To keep up with OCA’s news and alerts, sign up here.

Tell Whole Foods to Stop Selling Toxic GMO Potatoes!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-11-13 16:51
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: All About Organics, Food Safety, Genetic EngineeringArea: USA

Remember when Whole Foods promised consumers that by the end of 2018, all of its U.S. and Canada stores would require labels on any foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs)?

About midway through 2018, Whole Foods reneged on that promise.

Now, the retailer once known as a mecca for organic food shoppers is selling GMO potatoes—and those potatoes aren’t labeled.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Whole Foods to stop selling toxic GMO potatoes!Read more

Pesticides Are in So Many Many Foods. Did You Know They May Also Be in Your Home?

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-11-07 18:27
November 7, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonGenetic Engineering, Health Issues homes_1200x630.jpg

By now, most everyone knows that the pesticides used by industrial farming operations pollute the air, linger in the soil and turn up on many foods—including Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Now, a new study suggests those pesticides could also be in your home.

A team of researchers from Cornell University conducted pesticide analyses as part of a larger effort to study pollutants in homes and childcare facilities. Scientists sampled 350 rural homes in six New York state counties, looking for more than a dozen potentially toxic pesticides commonly used in conventional farming operations.

According to their analysis, published in September in JSM Health Education & Primary Health Care, 100 percent of the homes tested contained agricultural pesticide residues.

Joseph Laquatra, one of the researchers and a professor of design and environmental analysis at the College of Human Ecology, told the Cornell Chronicle that his team found that “pesticide residues are ubiquitous in rural homes in New York state.

Laquatra told the Chronicle why the public should be concerned, especially when it comes to babies and small children:

“Numerous health problems occur from exposure to pesticides, such as cancer, birth defects, leukemia and ocular [vision-related] toxicity, among a number of other health issues. Households with crawling toddlers should be concerned, as toddlers will accumulate pesticide residues on their hands and then ingest them due to hand-to-mouth behaviors.”

Despite the proven health risks, data shows that Americans use over a billion pounds of pesticides per year. Worldwide, that number is closer to 5.6 billion pounds.

Natural remedies for fighting pests

Pesticides applied in the home to kill pests, or on lawns and gardens, often up end accumulating in household dust. Pesticides applied outdoors may be tracked into your home on shoes, clothing and even animal fur. Once inside, these chemicals can persist much longer than they do outdoors, where sun and rain degrade them more quickly.

Fortunately, there are ways to reduce exposure to pesticide pollution in your home. For starters, ditch your chemical pest control. There are many non-toxic options when it comes to dealing with pests in your home. 

Integrated pest management, for example, focuses on preventing infestations before they start, and uses chemicals only as a last resort. This strategy includes repairing ripped window and door screens and using silicone caulk to seal off any cracks in the exterior of your home.

The next step is to keep a clean home. It sounds cliché, we know. But pests love floors and countertops riddled with food, so be sure to clean up spills and vacuum and dust regularly. 

Already have a pest problem? Try sweeping up individual bugs and nests. Or trap them in an airtight vacuum bag. Mousetraps, flytraps and jar traps are another effective way to kill persistent pests without having to spray your entire home with chemicals.

You may also dust cracks and crevices with boric acid powder or food-grade Diatomaceous Earth, which is non-toxic to humans but can effectively kill any insect with an exoskeleton.

Integrated pest management is “a low-cost, environmentally friendly solution that has been proven in studies to slash pest-removal costs by one-third—and pest complaints by 90 percent,” states the Natural Resources Defense Council. Click here to learn more about natural, chemical-free methods for dealing with pests.

Mounting research links pesticide exposure to serious harm in children, unborn babies

The research linking pesticide exposure to serious health hazards in children and in developing fetuses is strong.

A class of pesticides known as organophosphates (OPs) are believed to be so dangerous that an expert panel of toxicologists recently called for an outright ban on the chemicals. Exposure to OP pesticides has been shown to increase the risk of autism and lower IQs in prenatal children, causing memory and attention deficits, research shows.

Irva Hertz-Picciotto, director of the UC Davis Environmental Health Sciences Center, recently told UC Davis environmental health sciences center the Guardian:

“We have compelling evidence from dozens of human studies that exposures of pregnant women to very low levels of organophosphate pesticides put children and fetuses at risk for developmental problems that may last a lifetime.”

Also proven dangerous to children and developing fetuses is an insecticide known as chlorpyrifos, an OP pesticide that’s widely used in agriculture and is linked to brain damage and numerous other health problems.

Manufactured by Dow Chemical, chlorpyrifos are widely used by municipalities, golf courses and in agriculture where it’s applied to many commonly eaten foods including apples, oranges, strawberries, corn and broccoli.

The Obama administration moved to ban chlorpyrifos in 2015, but the Trump administration has since reversed that decision. However, in August 2018 a federal court ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ban chlorpyrifos within 60 days based. on compelling evidence linking the chemical to brain damage in children. The Trump administration is currently appealing that ruling.

In addition to ditching chemical pesticides and keeping a clean home, eating organic is another surefire way to protect you and your family from the harm caused by pesticides.

A recent study out of France found that eating an organic diet may help protect against cancer. The study followed 70,000 adults (most of them women) for five years and observed a 25-percent reduction in cancer diagnoses (especially in lymphoma and breast cancer) among those who ate an organic diet, including organic produce, dairy and meat.

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

Tell Florida's Natural: Orange Juice with Roundup Weedkiller Isn't 'Natural'

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-11-07 17:48
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoThe Myth of NaturalCategory: Food Safety, Genetic EngineeringArea: USA

When you buy food labeled “natural,” you probably assume it doesn’t contain “unnatural” ingredients—like agrochemicals known to cause cancer.

But as we’ve found with some other so-called “natural” products, that’s not always true. 

The latest “natural” product to test positive for Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller? Florida’s Natural orange juice.
 
TAKE ACTION: Tell Florida’s Natural: Orange Juice with Roundup Weedkiller Isn’t ‘Natural’Read more

Bayer CEO: Roundup Weedkiller Cancer Victims Are 'Nuisances'

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-11-07 17:35
November 7, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonGenetic Engineering, Health Issues bayer_1200x630.jpg

There are about 8,700 lawsuits pending against Monsanto, by people who allege that exposure to Roundup weedkiller is responsible for their cancer. Most of the people behind these lawsuits have stories not unlike the one told by Dewayne Johnson, during his landmark jury trial which resulted in a unanimous decision against Monsanto.

Like Johnson, many of these people have non-Hodgkin lymphoma—or they have family members who have already died from the disease. They face long, grueling trials as they go up against the biotech behemoth.

To Werner Baumann, CEO of Bayer (which acquired Monsanto last year for $63 billion), these people are just “nuisances.”

According to a recent Reuters report, Baumann told reporters:

“If we can settle nuisances at some point where the defense costs in preparing cases are higher than potential settlement amounts, we will of course consider it from an economic standpoint.” 

No wonder. After all, Bayer could end up on the hook for $800 billion in liability—a possibility that has made shareholders of the German company very unhappy.

But whatever Bayer decides—go to trial or settle—Baumann told reporters he’s clear on one thing:

“We will resolutely and with all means defend ourselves in this (glyphosate) litigation.”

Defending the indefensible

On an August conference call following the verdict in the Johnson trial, Baumann promised investors the agrochemical company would defend glyphosate, and in the meantime, continue business as usual.

“Nothing has changed concerning our strategy. We want to make sure that glyphosate will continue to be available to our key stakeholders as an excellent, safe and very important tool for modern agriculture.”

In other words, Bayer intends to do everything in its power to keep glyphosate on the market—despite a U.S. court’s determination that the weedkiller causes cancer. For Bayer, “business as usual” means profits before human health.

In the meantime, Bayer wants the rest of the world to think that the company is focused on sustainable farming practices that benefit farmers, consumers and the planet.

Bayer tweeted last month about hosting an international group of food bloggers at one of its Forward Farms in Abbenes, North Holland, where the topic of discussion was reported to be “sustainability.”

Vandaag is er een internationale groep food bloggers en vloggers te gast op de Forward Farm in Abbenes, @HinseBoonstra @JorisRoskam  geven uitleg over duurzame landbouw #FutureFarming dialoog pic.twitter.com/LshQtNZ0hu

— Bayer Nederland (@BayerNederland) September 20, 2018

The farm is one of several around the world that make up Bayer’s ForwardFarming network, a project designed to bolster the idea that Bayer cares about the environment. Bayer currently has Forward Farms in the U.S., Latin America and in various parts of Europe including Italy, France, Belgium and Berlin. 

Precision pesticide-spraying—‘holistic’ and ‘sustainable’?

Bayer describes its ForwardFarming project as “an initiative that works with independent farms around the world to help advance sustainable agriculture.”

So, what is it exactly that Bayer is doing that’s sustainable? Promoting GPS technology that helps farmers spray pesticides with precision, glyphosate included. According to Bayer’s website, “digital farming techniques, such as GPS informed precision spraying . . . are all demonstrated on the fam.” These tools allow farmers “to take a holistic approach to sustainable farming.”

Holistic approach? Don’t be fooled by Bayer’s feelgood choice of words, as the agrochemical giant’s definition of “holistic” simply means more glyphosate. Bayer even goes as so far to say that without glyphosate, soil organic matter would suffer, and climate change would actually get worse.

Those claims contradict the latest research, which shows that over time, over time, the application of crop chemicals, such as glyphosate, destroy beneficial bacteria in the soil, which reduces soil fertility and causes soil carbon to escape into the atmosphere where it contributes to a warming planet.

The real future of farming—organic and regenerative

Organic agriculture, on the other hand, prohibits the use of toxic crop chemicals and is repeatedly proven to boost soil health, increase yields and fight climate change, all while supporting farmer livelihood.

Regenerative agriculture, with its focus on biodiversity and soil health (which increases the soil’s capacity to retain water during periods of drought), has the potential to build resilient local farming systems that provide abundant, nutritious food.

Both time and research have shown that industrial, chemical-intensive agriculture is not the solution to feeding the world, and is in fact moving us backwards in terms of being able to solve world hunger, while at the same time reversing global warming.

If the prospect of billions of dollars in settlements from Roundup cancer lawsuits isn’t enough to scare Bayer off of glyphosate, we’re not sure what will. But one thing is for sure—increasing consumer demand for clean, healthy and pesticide-free food is driving the world’s food system away from toxic chemicals and toward a system that promotes healthy humans, healthy animals and healthy soil. No matter what Bayer says.

If you’d like to honor Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who is now terminally ill with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, help OCA and other organizations get Roundup out of schools.

Julie Wilson is communications associate for the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). Katherine Paul, associate director, contributed to this article. To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

Decision to Uphold Verdict Against Monsanto Sends Bayer Stock into Tailspin

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-10-25 12:53
October 25, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulGenetic Engineering holger_zschaepitz_tweet_1200x630.jpg

When the judge in the Monsanto Roundup trial signaled she might overturn the jury’s verdict, we expected the worst.

In the end, Judge Suzanne Bolanos slashed the amount of money the jury said Monsanto should pay its victim, Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, from $289 million to $78 million.

That may not sound like much of a win, but there was good news in her decision: The jury’s verdict in favor of Johnson, and against Monsanto, was upheld..

What Monsanto really wanted was for Bolanos to throw out the jury’s unanimous decision that Monsanto’s wildly profitable flagship weedkiller caused Johnson’s cancer, and that Monsanto knew all along that Roundup is a carcinogen.

That didn’t happen. That was good news for everyone who’s ever fought to get Roundup off the market, and for everyone who’s ever wanted Monsanto to be held accountable for its crimes.

It was not great news for Johnson, but better news than those of us rooting for him expected.

Who, besides Monsanto’s lawyers, didn’t think the decision handed down by Bolanos on Monday, October 22 was good news? Monsanto’s new owner, Bayer.

Let’s do the math. There are thousands of lawsuits, similar to Johnson’s, alleging Roundup causes cancer. News reports put the number at between 8,000 - 9,000 such lawsuits currently pending in U.S. courts.

Bayer shareholders quickly did the math.  According to one report:

Ian Hilliker, an analyst at Jefferies LLC in London, estimated in a note to clients that based on a class action lawsuit involving 8,700 plaintiffs believed to have cancer as a result of glyphosate exposure, Monsanto’s liability could reach $800 billion dollars. To put this in perspective, the original Bayer-Monsanto buyout offer was $57 billion dollars. Clearly, this no longer looks like an "asset" to Bayer and its stockholders.

Indeed. One German analyst tweeted that Bayer’s acquisition may have precipitated the “largest destruction of market capitalization in German stock market history.” The analyst estimated that Bayer’s losses so far stand at about 57.7 billion Euros ($65.8 billion in U.S. dollars) so far.

Biggest destruction of capital in German stock market history? #Bayer has lost €57.7bn in market cap mainly driven by its acquisition of #Monsanto. pic.twitter.com/5hFDujAqg3

— Holger Zschaepitz (@Schuldensuehner) October 23, 2018

In the end, no verdict, no amount of money, will make Dewayne Johnson’s terminal non-Hodgkin lymphoma go away.

But the verdict, even in its diminished form, provides hope that with continued pressure, with more trials, with more financial losses for Monsanto-Bayer, truth and science may one day prevail.

OCA, along with many other good organizations, is calling on schools throughout the country to ban Roundup, in honor of Johnson, a former school groundskeeper, who bravely stood up to Monsanto. Some schools have already stepped up to the plate, including California’s Benicia Unified School District, where Johnson worked before he was diagnosed with cancer.

We’ll have more soon on our campaign to get Roundup out of schools, and how you can help. For now, please take the following actions:

SIGN THE PETITION: Tell the National School Boards Association: Get Monsanto’s Roundup out of schools!

Help us identify schools that use Roundup and other pesticides

Print this flyer and share with you school board, PTA and other parents

Make a tax-deductible donation to OCA’s Millions Against Monsanto campaign

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit grassroots consumer advocacy organization. To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

#MonsantoTrial

Tell Maseca: Consumers Don’t Want Pesticide-Contaminated GMO Flour!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-10-24 13:23
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoThe Myth of NaturalCategory: Food Safety, Genetic EngineeringArea: USA

On October 9, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) reported that samples of Maseca white and yellow corn flour tested positive for concerning levels of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller.

OCA’s testing, organized through its Mexico-based sister organization, also revealed that the some Maseca flour samples tested as high as 94.15 percent for the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMO). That’s a startling finding, given that Maseca flour GMO crops are not allowed to be grown commercially in Mexico.

Those findings can mean only one thing—Mexico-based Gruma, which owns the Maseca brand, is importing GMO corn from the U.S. to produce its flour, sold all over the world, including in Mexico and the U.S.

TAKE ACTION! Tell Maseca: Consumers Don’t Want Pesticide-Contaminated GMO Flour!Read more

Vermont Negligent on Monitoring Dairy Use of Antibiotics

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-10-23 15:14
October 23, 2018VT DiggerMichael ColbyAll About Organics, Health Issues antibioticcow.png

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Michael Colby, of Walden, the president of Regeneration Vermont.

Despite calls from health professionals worldwide to curb the use of farm-animal antibiotics, Vermont’s conventional dairy industry — dominated by concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) – continues to use the antimicrobial drugs extensively, including non-therapeutic uses to prevent diseases caused by the animal confinement and concentration. After numerous records requests and analysis, including eight years of antibiotic violation data obtained from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, we found a rising trend with on-farm antibiotic violations, a lax regulatory environment, and no plan – or even goal – to address the problem.

Vermont’s nonorganic dairy industry is all but ignoring the dire warnings from the World Health Organization to reduce overall antibiotic use in food production, a leading cause of antibiotic resistance, which makes the drugs less effective when necessary to combat human illnesses. While the WHO has called for a complete halt to using antibiotics as a prophylactic in food production– preventing rather than treating animal diseases — Vermont’s dairy industry, with the support of VAAFM regulators, continues to allow healthy cows to be routinely treated between lactations.

While all milk is tested for antibiotic residues, as each farm must provide a sample at the time of the pickup, the tests are based on tolerances, or allowable levels. It is understood that, given the widespread use of antibiotics on CAFO-style dairy farms, that some level of residues exist in the milk. The milk containing antibiotic residues above limits set by the Food & Drug Administration is considered adulterated and is required to be dumped. If it’s below the limits, the milk is legal and processed.

In 2017, there were 18 reported violations of antibiotic residue limits in Vermont, each triggering a site visit and warning from the VAAFM. This was up from 10 such violations reported in 2014, but down from the highest year, 2010, when 32 violations were documented. While these are a fraction of the total milk loads shipped, that doesn’t correlate to low antibiotic usage. It simply means that dairy farmers understand the rules for use and detection, thus keeping within the allowable residue levels.

Included in these violations are what the VAAFM calls “routine” antibiotic test failures, in which above-the-limit, residue-contaminated milk from one farm gets diluted with milk from other farms along the same route, thus comingled into the same milk tanker. The blended milk will fall within legal residue limits, thus processed and introduced into the food supply.

The milk samples collected at each farm are not tested immediately unless the entire tanker tests positive before unloading at the milk buyer’s facility. The samples are all tested later within the buyer’s laboratory, primarily for butterfat and other milk components but also for drug residues. When illegal levels of residues are detected in the lab, the violation is categorized as a “routine positive” by VAAFM, and the farm in violation won’t be flagged and cited until well after the load has been processed.

In 2017, there were three “routine” positive loads of antibiotic-infected milk that were processed by St. Albans Cooperative Creamery, the exclusive supplier for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Agri-Mark, the owners and suppliers of Cabot Creamery’s dairy supply, processed at least one load in 2017 that contained violative levels of antibiotics from a farm.

These “routine” antibiotic test failures in Vermont’s dairy supply only prove what has been suspected all along: antibiotic residues are getting into the food supply. It’s not a matter of whether nonorganic dairy products like those produced by Ben & Jerry’s and Cabot Creamery contain antibiotic residues, but rather at what level.

The WHO, Centers for Disease Control, FDA and every other major health regulator has called the overuse of agricultural antibiotics among the most serious threats to human health facing the world. The CDC estimates that “drug-resistant bacteria cause two million illnesses and approximately 23,000 deaths each year in the United States alone.” As a result, there is a unanimous call among health professionals demanding action, beginning with immediate and substantial reductions in the use of farm-animal antibiotics, which accounts for 80 percent of the total antibiotic usage in the U.S. In the words of the WHO, the human health threat from antimicrobial resistance caused by antibiotic overuse in the agricultural sector is “an increasingly serious threat to global public health that requires action across all government sectors and society.”

In Vermont, the government regulator on the frontlines of agricultural antibiotics use and regulation is the office of VAAFM’s state veterinarian, Dr. Kristin Haas. Oddly enough, she also carries the title of “Director of Food Safety & Consumer Protection,” and it’s Haas’ office that oversees the rules, regulations and enforcement of all agricultural antibiotics. If Vermont’s agricultural sector were to do its part in responding to the dire warnings from health advocates to substantially reduce antibiotic use on the state’s dairy farms, it would be Dr. Haas who would lead such efforts.

Alarmingly, when asked in an official public records request submitted by Regeneration Vermont seeking information about the VAAFM’s efforts and programs to answer the urgent calls to reduce antibiotic use, Dr. Haas responded with the following: “There is not a program in place with the goal of reducing antibiotic use on dairy farms.”

Furthermore, when Regeneration Vermont asked Dr. Haas for records on overall antibiotic usage and trends in the state, she responded – in writing – with this: “The Agency does not monitor antibiotic purchases and sales or maintain records that quantify this data. As such, we do not have records responsive to this request.”

While the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, calls for an all-hands-on-deck approach to reducing agricultural use of antibiotics, Vermont’s chief regulator of such matters seemingly shrugs it all off by declaring that “the reduction of farm animal antibiotics is not a goal of the Agency.”

It’s yet another example of the conflicted, dual roles of the VAAFM, as both promoter and police of the CAFO-dominated dairy industry. On one hand they’re a cheerleader for all things dairy, turning a blind eye to so many of its health and environmental problems, and on the other hand they’re supposed to be the watchdog and enforcer of farm rules and regulations. Having the state veterinarian in charge of food safety and consumer protection should set off all kinds of bells and whistles.

A review of the VAAFM’s antibiotic violations data indicates that most of the infractions are a result of the preventative — or routine – uses of antibiotics on dairy farms, as opposed to treating a sick cow. This prophylactic practice is a primary target of health advocates looking to curb the threat of drug-resistance issues that impacts millions of U.S. medical patients annually, killing tens of thousands. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that over 90 percent of CAFO-style dairy farms administer antibiotics to cows entering a nonlactating, or dry, period, sick or not. This is seen as “necessary” largely because of the concentrated and confined nature of these CAFO farms, which breeds and spreads pathogens and infections.

These “dry cows” being infused with preventative antibiotics between lactations are the cause for most of the antibiotic violations reported in Vermont. If not properly segregated from the milking herd, these cows slip back into the production line, contaminating the farm’s bulk tank.

Regeneration Vermont obtained the “Drug Residue Follow-up Inspection Reports” for each of the more than 150 violations since 2010. These reports are required to be filed by a VAAFM inspector and include an attempt to identify a “probable cause” for the violation. But many simply report “don’t know” or “not sure,” and literally leave it at that, highlighting the agency’s “look away” nature to it all. The reports also included these “causes” for the violations: “producers son thinks Mexicans mistakenly milked a treated cow,” “Mexicans realized she had been milked by mistake but never said anything to producer,” and “had a treated cow and she was tagged but tag was covered with manure.”

One thing is clear after analyzing the state’s programs and data, Vermont is contributing to – not addressing or solving – the very serious antibiotic resistance problem. The residues are ending up in our dairy supply, meat supply (nearly a quarter of the meat supply is currently dairy-cow derived), and spread via the manure on our cropland, the gateways to our water resources. It’s only made worse by a conflicted regulatory framework within the VAAFM that routinely allows its dairy promotional role to supersede and otherwise impair its enforcement and public protection responsibilities.

But it’s time for Vermont to get serious about its contributions to the antibiotic residue problem. Because while Vermont has no plan or goal, health organizations like the WHO, CDC, American Medical Association, American Public Health Association, and the Infectious Disease Society of America are declaring an emergency, calling for immediate and significant reductions in the use of antibiotics for animal food production.

Posted with permision from VT Digger.

Monsanto Trial: Judge Upholds Verdict Saying Weed Killer Caused Worker's Cancer

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-10-23 00:27
Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesSam LevinThe GuardianOctober 22, 2018https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/oct/22/monsanto-cancer-roundup-weedkiller-judge-denies-appeal dj_1200x630.png

Dewayne Johnson originally won $289m after finding Roundup weedkiller caused illness, but judge reduces financial award

A California judge has rejected Monsanto’s appeal to overturn a landmark jury verdict which found that its popular herbicide causes cancer.

The judge’s ruling on Monday largely sided with Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a father of three and former school groundskeeper, who won a $289m award over the summer after alleging that his exposure to Roundup weedkiller gave him cancer. During the trial, the first of its kind, the 46-year-old also alleged that Monsanto had failed to warn him of the risks of using its product.

Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, the German pharmaceutical company, filed an appeal of the verdict, which said the company was responsible for “negligent failure”, knew or should have known that its product was “dangerous”, and had “acted with malice or oppression”.

#MonsantoTrial

Glyphosate and GMO Testing of Maseca Flours: Results and Relevancy

Organic consumers - Fri, 2018-10-19 15:58
October 19, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationMariana OrtegaGenetic Engineering mcorny_1200x630.jpg

Editor's note: Read this article in Spanish here.

On October 9, 2018, Organic Consumers Association (OCA) reported the presence of the chemical glyphosate and AMPA, its main metabolite, in Maseca-brand white and yellow corn flour samples purchased in different regions of Mexico. Some flour samples tested as high as 94.15 percent for the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMO).

Testing was conducted by Health Research Institute (HRI) in Fairfield, Iowa (U.S.), on behalf of Organic Consumers Association Mexico (ACO). HRI  specializes in detecting and quantifying substances in food, water, soils and even the human body. Tests are performed using accredited standards, rigorous quality assurance processes and advanced technologies.

Testing methodology

HRI used the following methodology to test samples of Maseca corn flour:

• HRI TM #8 "Glyphosate and AMPA Detection by LC-MS/MS"

• Sample preparation employed a modification of the method described in Chamkasem, Narong, Cynthia Morris, and Tiffany Harmon. 2016. “Direct Determination of Glyphosate, Glufosinate, and AMPA in Milk by Liquid Chromatography/tandem Mass Spectrometry.” Journal of Regulatory Science 3 (2): 20–26.

• LC-MS/MS analysis employed a modification of the method described in Jensen, Pamela K., Chad E. Wujcik, Michelle K. McGuire, and Mark A. McGuire. 2016. “Validation of Reliable and Selective Methods for Direct Determination of Glyphosate and Aminomethylphosphonic Acid in Milk and Urine Using LC-MS/MS.” Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part B 51 (4): 254–59. doi:10.1080/03601234.2015.1120619.

• Limit of Quantitation (LOQ) and Limit of Detection (LOD) are sub-part per billion for this method and are determined for each sample.

• Effective Glyphosate Level was calculated according to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) method where total glyphosate residue is the sum of the weight of glyphosate + 1.5 × the weight of its metabolite AMPA.

• HRI TM #30 "GMO Detection by PCR"

• Analysis quantitates total of all GMO corn varieties available since 1997. LOQ is 0.01%

Maseca flour test results

HRI analyzed nine products chosen from different regions of Mexico and four products from the U.S. The brands, products and origin, as well as the results reported by the laboratory are the following:

ND- non detectable

Table 1. Results

 

Understanding the results

A clear correlation was observed between the presence of GMOs and glyphosate. The higher the concentration [%] of GMO, the higher the concentration of glyphosate.

In the case of the Maseca flours purchased in Mexico, three of the nine products tested contained high concentrations of GMO and glyphosate. The remaining samples showed very low or no detectable values. This is worrisome for consumers, who have no way of knowing which batches of flour are contaminated.

The concentrations of GMOs detected in the samples are so high that, for example, in Europe these products would have to be labeled as genetically modified foods (the threshold value is 1 percent).

Concerning the presence of glyphosate, the concentrations found are below the threshold proposed by U.S. and EU government regulatory agencies. However, this does not mean that they are safe. In fact, some claim there cannot be safe levels for glyphosate consumption because diseases such as cancer are multifactorial, depending on sensitivity, predisposition and other individual and environmental characteristics that can make a person ill. The problem is that even official “safe” thresholds levels are too high.

The following table presents reference thresholds for the presence of glyphosate in foods.

Table 2. Reference thresholds on the presence of glyphosate in food

 

As can be seen on Table 2, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is safe for a person who weighs 154 lb. to consume 122.5 mg/glyphosate per day. The EU is more conservative. The EU’s chronic reference dose for a 154-lb. person is 21 mg glyphosate per day. California is more conservative yet, setting a “No Significant Risk Level” of 1.1 mg/day for a person weighing 154 lb.

The Environmental Working Group recently conducted an analysis of the safety question and concluded that a level that is protective to children, who are more vulnerable, would be 0.01 mg per day for a 154-lb. person.

The thresholds proposed by these organizations range from 0.01 to 122.5 mg of glyphosate consumption in one day for a 154-lb person. The range between the extremes is very large and could be larger if the most recent studies on the toxicity of glyphosate are considered.

A study published in 2017 by Mesnage et al. found that a dose of only 700 ng/day would trigger early stages of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in a 154-lb. person. This, assuming people would respond to glyphosate at doses similar to rats.

A relevant question is what is the basis of government decisions to set such high “safety” thresholds for glyphosate. Two arguments for explaining this can be made:

Related to crop production. The threshold values established by U.S. and EU agencies were initially much lower than the current ones. In some cases, regulators have been influenced more by the needs of agrochemical companies to sell their products than by the need to protect the health of the public.

For instance, a paper by Bohn, et al. (2014) states the following: “The legally acceptable level of glyphosate contamination in food and feed, i.e. the maximum residue level (MRL) has been increased by authorities in countries where Roundup-Ready GM crops are produced, or where such commodities are imported. In Brazil, the MRL in soybean was increased from 0.2 mg/kg to 10 mg/kg in 2004—a 50-fold increase—but only for GM-soy. The MRL for glyphosate in soybeans has been increased also in the U.S. and Europe. In Europe, it was raised from 0.1 mg/kg to 20 mg/kg (a 200-fold increase) in 1999, and the same MRL of 20 mg/kg was adopted by the U.S. In all of these cases, MRL values appear to have been adjusted, not based on new scientific evidence, but pragmatically in response to actual observed increases in the content of residues in glyphosate-tolerant GM soybeans.”

Related to crop consumption. Threshold levels have been based on outmoded models of toxicology and biochemistry that failed to take into account the properties of endocrine/hormone disruptors such as glyphosate, which can have health damaging effects at even the very low levels. Safety studies are also likely to be underestimating glyphosate toxicity because these studies usually examine the effects of glyphosate alone, while in practice it is always used in combination with surfactants that significantly increase toxicity (Annett et al 2014, Moore et al 2012). Another factor to consider is that most safety testing examines a single endpoint, most commonly cancer. There are many other disease states that are highly debilitating, such as NAFLD, that could easily be missed all-together in current safety assessment protocols.

Taking all of these considerations together, we can conclude that the “safety” thresholds set by governments around the world, even well-intentioned governments like that of California and organizations like the Environmental Working Group, grossly underestimate the toxicity of glyphosate. Further, more conservative thresholds such as the level reported to trigger NAFLD should be used as the threshold for what could be considered safe exposure to this chemical.

Conclusions

In the case of glyphosate concentrations found in Maseca flours and, having as background the previous discussion on safety thresholds, we can conclude that the Maseca products OCA and HRI analyzed are potentially hazardous to human health.

OCA tested a total of 13 masa flour and tortilla samples, finding as much as 30 ng glyphosate per gram in some masa flour samples. The average content was 5.0 ng/g.

A typical tortilla weighs about 30g. Thus, on average a tortilla will contain 30 x 5.0 = 150 ng glyphosate. A typical diet might include at least six tortillas per day, containing a total of 912 ng glyphosate. Thus, through tortilla consumption alone, a person could potentially consume 132% per day of the glyphosate needed to trigger Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.

Additional research is needed to assess this more fully, but current evidence points to a clear health hazard associated with the consumption of Maseca corn flour. this. The levels of glyphosate designated as safe by the U.S. EPA, the EU and even the California authorities are unrealistically high. The safety assurances associated with these thresholds do not serve the public, but create a false sense of security and thus create a hazard to the public for the benefit of agrochemical companies.

There is growing evidence that regulators both in the U.S. and Europe have been unduly influenced by Monsanto and more broadly by the chemical and ag-biotech industry (Baum Hedlund, 2018). This financial benefit for agro-chemical companies is gained at the expense of the public’s health.

There is another core issue, in addition to health and safety: It is of great concern that glyphosate is present at any level in masa flour. It was found in five out of the 13 samples tested. The widespread presence of agrochemicals in masa flour indicates that this brand is not using “natural” methods, but is using instead industrial / chemical farming methods with all of their associated social, environmental and health impacts.

As consumers, we must demand the differentiation of the flour, masa and tortilla in terms of the corn with which it is made: with or without GMO and glyphosate.

“Yo quiero mi tortilla 100% nixtamalizada” — “I want my tortilla 100% nixtamalized”

ACO’s  campaign for healthy, high-quality tortillas was launched in 2017. Through the campaign we expect to:

• Contribute to the protection of the nixtamalized tortilla and the recognition and inclusion of the communities that produce the nixtamalized tortilla.

• Advocate for of the exercise of the full Right to Food (in Mexican law) through the consumption of nixtamalized tortilla.

• Provide enough information for consumers to make decisions in benefit of their health while being aware about the characteristics of low quality corn flour industrialized tortilla.

As a result of the in-depth study of the corn-tortilla system, it became clear that we had to discuss other essential quality criteria in tortillas, in addition to nixtamalization. Thus, the campaign also promotes tortillas made from Mexican, criollo, pesticide-free corn. This is why we performed tests on Maseca, the leading brand worldwide selling industrialized corn flour and tortillas.

For suggestions on how to avoid Maseca and other contaminated corn flours, read this.

References

Annett, R., Habibi, H. R. and Hontela, A. 2014. Impact of glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides on the freshwater environment. – Journal of Applied Toxicology DOI 10.1002/jat.2997.

Bøhn, T., Cuhra, M., Traavik, T., Sanden, M., Fagan,, J., Primicerio, R.: Compositional differences in soybeans on the market: Glyphosate accumulates in Roundup Ready GM soybeans. Food Chemistry 153: 207–215, 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2013.12.054

Mesnage R, et al, “Multiomics reveal non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in rats following chronic exposure to an ultra-low dose of Roundup herbicide.” Scientific Reports (a Nature publication). doi:10.1038/srep39328, Jan. 2017.

Moore, L. J., Fuentes, L., Rodgers, J. H., Bowerman, W. W., Yarrow, G. K., Chao, W. Y. and Bridges, W. C. 2012. Relative toxicity of the components of the original formulation of Roundup (R) to five North American anurans. – Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 78: 128-133.

Baum Hedlund, 2018. Monsanto Papers. https://www.baumhedlundlaw.com/toxic-tort-law/monsanto-roundup-lawsuit/monsanto-secret-documents/ Consulted: September 2018.

Mariana Ortega is campaign director for Organic Consumers Association Mexico (ACO), a project of US-based Organic Consumers Association (OCA). OCA is a US-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit consumer advocacy organization focused on food, agriculture and environmental issues. To keep up with this campaign and other consumer news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

Maseca Flours Test Positive for Weedkiller and GMOs. What Should Consumers Do?

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-10-18 13:37
October 18, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationMariana OrtegaFood Safety, Genetic Engineering maseca_flour_sign_building_1200x630.jpg

Photo: flickr/AndyCastro, cc by-nc 2.0

Editor's note: Read this article in Spanish here.

Are those tortillas you’ve been making with Maseca flour toxic?

On October 9, the Organic Consumers Association reported that samples of Maseca white and yellow corn flour tested positive for concerning levels of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller.

Testing also revealed that some Maseca flour samples tested as high as 94.15 percent for the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMO). That’s a startling finding, given that GMO crops are not allowed to be grown commercially in Mexico.

Those findings can mean only one thing—Mexico-based Gruma, which owns the Maseca brand, is importing GMO corn from the U.S. to produce its flour, sold all over the world, including in Mexico and the U.S.

Since we revealed our test results, concerned consumers from the U.S., Mexico and Canada have reached out asking what they should do. So we’ve researched some alternative corn flour brands that aren’t contaminated with glyphosate and aren’t made from GMO corn.

Maseca flour, masa and traditional Mexican cuisine

Many consumers use Maseca flour to make tortillas, tacos, tamales and many other Mexican dishes, by mixing the flour with water to make corn masa, a paste or dough. But traditionally, corn masa wasn’t made from flour. It was made using a process called nixtamalization, invented in Mexico more than 1,000 years ago, that turned corn into masa without ever using corn flour.

Nixtamalization follows four general steps: cooking corn in an alkaline solution, letting it rest overnight, draining it and grinding it to produce the masa. It’s a time consuming process, but it also creates a much more nutritious product than if the maize weren´t cooked in alkali. Nixtamalization makes the vitamins in the corn more bioavailable. It also fortifies the corn’s calcium and helps it maintain its fiber content. This is why traditional tortillas are a highly nutritious staple food for Mexicans.

The nixtamalization process stayed true to its origins until the 1950s, when industrialization took over. According to a study by Pilcher (1998):

Agricultural and industrial modernization served not to replace the tortilla but, rather, to commodify it, transforming corn from a subsistence crop to a market commodity.

The brand Maseca, meaning masa seca or dried masa, was launched in 1949. It is now the world’s leading brand of commercial masa flour and tortillas. The debut of Maseca coincided with the Green Revolution, increasing use of agrochemicals, hybrid seeds and “improved” productivity. It is not surprising that residues in Maseca’s flours have been found.

Alternative organic, non-GMO tortilla and flour brands

Eating is a political act. Boycotting Maseca’s products is one way to vote against companies whose production practices harm human health and the ecosystem.

Fortunately, there are many available alternatives to risky and suspicious masa flours and tortillas. As part of the “Yo quiero mi tortilla 100% nixtamalizada” (I want my tortilla 100% nixtamalized) campaign, OCA Mexico is mapping consumer sources for tortillas, masa and native corn. This is a collaborative, continuously updated map. Consumers can send a pinpoint location to OCA whenever they identify a place that sells good quality tortillas. Check out the map and fill in your recommended tortilla or masa brand or store.

Our map features a couple of farmer’s markets in the U.S., several tortillerías in Mexico and some sources in Europe. Here’s a list of places you can buy organic tortillas and tortilla chips:

• Three Sisters Nixtamal, in Portland, Oregon, sells regionally. This company has produced a series of very nice short videos on the nixtamalization process.

• Ricardo's Tortilla Factory, in Canton, Massachusetts, sells nationally.

• Mi Tierra Tortillas, in Springfield, Massachusetts, sells regionally.

• Mitla Tortilleria, in Charleston, South Carolina, sells regionally.

• Bueno Foods, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, sells nationally.

• Cadia, sells tortilla chips.

• All Souls Tortilleria, in Warren, Vermont,, sells regionally.

• La Tortilla factory, in Santa Rosa, California, sells nationally.

• Mi Rancho, from San Leandro, California, sells nationally.

• R.W. Garcia Tortilla chips, in Scotts Valley, California, sells nationally.

• One Degree Organic Foods

• Que Pasa Foods, in Richmond, British Columbia, is available in Canada

• 365 Everyday Value/WholeFoodsMarket, sells nationally.

• Masienda, also found at Whole Foods Market nationally.

• Whole Grain Milling, in Welcome, Minnesota, sells regionally

You can also buy organic corn flours and corn grain from this producers and retailers:

• Gold Mine Natural Foods  

• Organic Matters foods

• To Your Health. Sprouted Flour Co

• Grain Millers

• Golden Organics

• Paul’s Grains

• Gluten Free Essentials

• Something Better Natural Foods

• Earth’s Harvest Farms

• Whole Grain Milling

You can also check out the following directories on organic and natural foods retailers, food cooperatives and healthy food grocery stores organized by state:

• Green People Directory from OCA

• Independent Natural Food Retailers Association

• Cooperative Grocer Network

• Co-Op Directory Service Listing

• Co-Op Stronger Together

Also interesting, you can listen to the radio station YoSoyMaíz in Los Angeles and stay tuned to follow up on the news concerning corn and tortilla.

In Mexico, you can get nixtamalized tortillas made from native corns here:

• Vía Orgánica, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato

• Ichuskuta Tortilla Artesanal, Morelia, Michoacán

• Las Tortillas de Mi Abuelita, Iguala de la Independencia, Guerrero

• Tortillas Pipitillas, Cuernavaca, Morelos

• Cal&Maíz, Mexico City

• Cintli Tortillería y Antojería, Mexico City

• L’Artesana Tortillas, Mexico City

• Maizajo Molino y Tortillería, Mexico city

• Molino y Tortillería El Pujol, Mexico City

• Tortillería Corazón de Milpa, Cholula, Puebla

• Matí Tlaolle, Tenancingo, Tlaxcala

• Itanoní Restaurant, Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca

• El Rayito de Sol, Mérida, Yucatán

• Pro-Orgánico, a tortilla brand available in some supermarkets. You can read their story here. It gives a fair understanding of the maize-tortilla system in Mexico.

These are examples, but not a complete list. Here is a directory with places where you can find healthy food in Mexico—most do sell tortillas.

Do-it-yourself masa and nixtamalization

Most tortillerías have a mill where you can take your own nixtamalized native corn to be ground, and make your own masa from scratch. If you’re preparing a small quantity, you can even grind it yourself in a small manual grinder or a food processor.

Find a local corn farmer or a reliable seller and try nixtamalization. In Mexico, you can look into TAMOA, an organization building a native corn farmer´s network and commercializing their produce. In the U.S., you could contact a farm or retailer from the listings mentioned above.

Nixtamalization is a fairly simple process. Begin by boiling water. For each kg of corn (2.2 pounds) you plan to add to the water, you’ll need 2L (34 oz.) of water. Next, add 10g (0.36 oz.) of food-grade lime. Once the water-lime solution is boiling, add the corn and leave the heat on for 5 more minutes. Then, turn it off and cover the pot it with a lid. Preferably, use stainless steel utensils.

Leave the corn in the alkaline solution to rest for 8 hours until it has cooled down. Then drain the liquid, which is called nejayote. Now you’re ready to make the masa. Begin by rinsing the nixtamal with clean water (optional, but recommended).

Next, grind the nixtamal until the texture resembles a paste or dough. You can use either a manual nixtamal grinder (which you will most probably have to buy in Mexico) or a metate (the original Mesoamerican grinder, also available in Mexico). Food processors could work as well, but only for small quantities.

That’s it! Now you’re ready to turn the masa into one of many Mexican dishes: tortillas, sopes, tamales or atole. You can mix masa with any vegetable and give it different flavors and colors.

Best of all, as long as you start with organic ingredients, you’ll know exactly what you’re eating—masa with no chemical additives!

Join the movement for healthy masa and tortillas

Follow OCA and take part in its Yo quiero mi tortilla 100% nixtamalizada campaign. Let us know about reliable masa and tortilla brands and where to buy them so we can pin the locations to the collaborative map.

Help us raise the voice by supporting political campaigns and lobbying work. Become a member of the Alianza por Nuestra Tortilla, a Mexico initiative working for  traditional high quality tortilla for all.

Mariana Ortega is campaign director for Organic Consumers Association Mexico (ACO), a project of US-based Organic Consumers Association (OCA). OCA is a US-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit consumer advocacy organization focused on food, agriculture and environmental issues.To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

Just Got Off the Phone With This Juror. He’s Not Happy.

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-10-17 18:07
October 17, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationAlexis Baden-MayerGenetic Engineering law.jpg

Robert Howard, juror #4 in the trial of former school groundskeeper Dewayne Lee Johnson vs. Monsanto, has two questions for the judge who is threatening to  the jury’s unanimous verdict against Monsanto:

“Do you have any reason at all to believe that myself or my fellow jurors did not follow your instructions?”

Did you assess the credibility of Monsanto witnesses, particularly Monsanto employees, at all?”

TAKE ACTION: Stand with jurors against Monsanto! Tell Judge Suzanne Bolanos to uphold the jury’s unanimous decision!

Howard is one of four jurors who wrote to Judge Suzanne Bolanos, defending the jurors’ unanimous decision and asking her to uphold it.

Howard also called our office, wanting to vent. He’s discouraged. And angry. He told us that he and others on the jury listened to the evidence, and followed the judge’s instructions to the letter.

Yet, now, that same judge appears poised to undo their work by threatening to overturn the jury’s $289-million verdict for the former school groundskeeper.

Johnson has terminal cancer, caused by long-term workplace exposure to Monsanto’s glyphosate-based weedkiller.

On October 10, the Associated Press reported that Bolanos issued a tentative ruling saying she intended to toss out the jury’s $250 million punitive damage award and schedule a new trial on that issue.

The judge also suggested she would reduce the $39 million in compensatory damages awarded to Johnson to only $8 million—if she upholds the jury’s decision that Monsanto’s weedkiller caused Dewayne Johnson’s cancer.

Bolanos is expected to make her decision by  Monday, October 22.

TAKE ACTION: Stand with jurors against Monsanto! Tell Judge Suzanne Bolanos to uphold the jury’s unanimous decision!

Read More#MonsantoTrial

Hidden Health Dangers: A Former Agbiotech Insider Wants His GMO Crops Pulled

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-10-17 16:34
October 17, 2018Independent Science NewsCaius RommensGenetic Engineering potatoes_1200x630.jpg

Genetic engineering isn’t everyone’s childhood dream. Even I didn’t care for it when I started studying biology at the University of Amsterdam, but my professor explained it was an acquired taste and the best option for a good job. So, I suppressed my doubts and learned to extract DNA from plants, recombine the DNA in test tubes, reinsert the fusions into plant cells, and use hormones to regenerate new plants.

People say that love is blind, but I started loving what I did blindly. Or, perhaps, what started as an acquired taste soon became a dangerous addiction. Genetic engineering became part of me.

After I received my PhD, I went to the University of California in Berkeley to help develop a new branch of genetic engineering. I isolated several disease resistance genes from wild plants, and demonstrated, for the first time, that these genes could confer resistance to domesticated plants. Monsanto liked my work and invited me to lead its new disease control program in St. Louis in 1995.

I should not have accepted the invitation. I knew, even then, that pathogens cannot be controlled by single genes. They evolve too quickly around any barrier to infection. It takes about two to three decades for insects and plants to overcome a resistance gene, but it takes only a few years, at most, for pathogens to do the same.

I did accept the invitation, though, and the next six years became a true boot camp in genetic engineering. I learned to apply many tricks about how to change the character of plants and I learned to stop worrying about the consequences of such changes.

In 2000, I left Monsanto and started an independent biotech program at J.R. Simplot Company in Boise, Idaho. Simplot is one of the largest potato processors in the world. It was my goal to develop GMO potatoes that would be admired by farmers, processors, and consumers. Genetic engineering had become an obsession by then, and I created at least 5,000 different GMO versions each year—more than any other genetic engineer. All these potential varieties were propagated, grown in greenhouses or the field, and evaluated for agronomic, biochemical, and molecular characteristics.

The almost daily experience I suppressed was that none of my modifications improved potato’s vigor or yield potential. In contrast, most GMO varieties were stunted, chlorotic, mutated, or sterile, and many of them died quickly, like prematurely-born babies.

Despite all my quiet disappointments, I eventually combined three new traits into potatoes: disease resistance (for farmers), no tuber discoloration (for processors), and reduced food-carcinogenicity (for consumers).

It was as hard for me to consider that my GMO varieties might be corrupted as it is for parents to doubt the perfection of their children. Our assumption was that GMOs are safe. But my pro-biotech filter eventually wore thin and finally shattered entirely.

I identified some minor mistakes and had my first doubts about the products of my work. I wanted to re-evaluate our program and slow it down, but it was too little too late. Business leaders were involved now. They saw dollar signs. They wanted to expand and speed-up the program, not slow it down.

I decided to quit in 2013. It was painful to leave behind the major part of my adult life.

The true scope of my errors became obvious to me only after I had relocated to a small farm in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. By this time Simplot had announced the regulatory approval of my GMO varieties. As the company began to plan for quiet introductions in American and Asian markets, I was breeding plants and animals independently, using conventional methods. And since I still felt uncomfortable about my corporate past, I also re-evaluated the about two hundred patents and articles that I had published in the past, as well as the various petitions for deregulation.

Not so much biased anymore, I easily identified major mistakes.

“With the mistake your life goes in reverse.
Now you can see exactly what you did
Wrong yesterday and wrong the day before
And each mistake leads back to something worse.”
(James Fenton)

For instance, we had silenced three of potato’s most conserved genes, assuming that the three genetic changes would each have one effect only. It was a ludicrous assumption because all gene functions are interconnected. Each change had indeed caused a ripple effect. It should have been clear to me that silencing the ‘melanin gene’ PPO would have numerous effects, including an impairment of potatoes’ natural stress-tolerance response. Similarly, asparagine and glucose are among the most basic compounds of a plant, so why did I believe I could silence the ASN and INV genes involved in the formation of these compounds? And why did nobody question me?

Another strange assumption was that I had felt able to predict the absence of unintentional long-term effects on the basis of short-term experiments. It was the same assumption that chemists had used when they commercialized DDT, Agent Orange, PCBs, rGBH, and so on.

The GMO varieties I created are currently released under innocuous names, such as Innate, Hibernate, and White Russet. They are described as better and easier-to-use than normal potatoes and to contain fewer bruises, but the reality is different. The GMO potatoes are likely to accumulate at least two toxins that are absent in normal potatoes, and newer versions (Innate 2.0) additionally lost their sensory qualities when fried. Furthermore, the GMO potatoes contain at least as many bruises as normal potatoes, but these undesirable bruises are now concealed.

There are many more issues, and some of them could have been identified earlier if they had not been covered-up by misleading statistics in the petitions for deregulation. How could I have missed the issues? How could I have trusted the statisticians? How could the USDA have trusted them? My re-evaluation of the data clearly shows that the GMO varieties are seriously compromised in their yield potential and in their ability to produce normal tubers.

Unfortunately, most GMO potatoes end-up as unlabeled foods that are indistinguishable from normal foods. Consumer groups would have to carry out PCR tests to determine if certain products, including fries and chips, contain or lack the GMO material.

Given the nature of the potato industry, the most common potato varieties, such as Russet Burbank and Ranger Russet, will soon be contaminated with GMO stock.

I have now summarized the new conclusions of this past work (without disclosing company secrets—I am bound by confidentiality agreements) in a book, entitled ‘Pandora’s Potatoes.’ This book, which is now available on Amazon, explains why I renounce my work at Simplot and why the GMO varieties should be withdrawn from the market. It is a warning and a call for action: a hope that others will step forward with additional evidence, so that the public, with its limited financial means, has a chance to counter the narrow-mindedness of the biotech industry.

My book describes the many hidden issues of GMO potatoes, but GMO potatoes are not the exception. They are the rule. I could just as well have written (and may write) about the experimental GMO varieties we developed at Monsanto, which contains an antifungal protein that I now recognize as allergenic, about the disease resistance that caused insect sensitivity, or about anything else in genetic engineering.

On May 3rd 2018 the columnist Michael Gerson wrote in the Washington Post: “Anti-GMO is anti-science.” His statement was echoed by Mitch Daniels, his colleague, who added, “[It] isn’t just anti-science. It’s immoral.” But these two columnists are not scientists. They don’t understand the level of bias and self-deception that exists among genetic engineers. Indeed, anyone who is pro-science should understand that science is meant to study nature, not to modify it—and certainly not to predict, in the face of strong evidence, the absence of unintended effects.

The real anti-science movement is not on the streets. It is, as I discovered, in the laboratories of corporate America.

Posted with permission from Independent Science News.

World Food Day Call to Action. We Need Your Help!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-10-16 16:48
October 16, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationEnvironment & Climate vegetables_wooden_table_produce_1200x630.jpg

Today is World Food Day. 

It’s also a day when millions of people are cleaning up after yet another weather-related disaster, this time in Florida. And millions more around the globe are experiencing devastating droughts and crippling storms that are leaving them unable to grow food and feed their families.

TAKE ACTION: Today, on World Food Day, please ask your state leaders to follow the example of California and Hawaii by adopting food- and agriculture-focused strategies to address climate change.

We often think that we, as individuals, have little or no power to solve problems as complex and overwhelming as global warming and world hunger.

And yet, we do. The personal choices we make when it comes to our food, and the demands we make of our local, state and federal politicians to adopt climate change-reversing food, farming and and land-use policies give us the power to do something, everyday, to reverse our dangerous course.

Some states are already listening to their constituents who want better food and farming policies, and who also want their leaders to do something about climate change. 

California recently signed on to the 4 per 1000 Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate. The 4p1000 Initiative is a bold policy initiative that has the power to restore both food and climate security.

Hawaii joined the 30X30 Forests, Food and Land Challenge. The 30X30 Challenge is based on the premise that food, farming and land-use goals can deliver 30 percent of the climate solutions needed by 2030 to tackle the climate crisis.

It’s a start. But we need all 50 states to get on board with policies that will make them “carbon neutral’—and that means moving aggressively to both slash emissions and draw down and sequester carbon.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just issued its most dire report yet. But along with the bad news, IPCC outlined a number of solutions for averting complete disaster. And Inside Climate News reports, one of the most promising of those solutions is to rethink how we grow food and use land.

The beauty of this solution is that it’s ready to go. We don’t need to wait for new technologies. We just have to adapt existing, tried-and-true practices, on a large scale.

We—as in consumers, policymakers, farmers and producers—can make this transition from degenerative agriculture to organic regenerative agriculture happen. If we act fast, act together and act boldly.

TAKE ACTION: Today, on World Food Day, please ask your state leaders to follow the example of California and Hawaii in implementing food- and agriculture-focused strategies to address climate change.

Let’s celebrate World Food Day together, by celebrating the solution to healthy people, a healthy environment, and healthy local communities. The solution lies in the soil!

Another Reason to End the 'Dirty Dairy' Industry: Contaminated Hamburgers

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-10-11 13:32
October 11, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulEnvironment & Climate, CAFOs vs. Free Range, Food Safety hamburger_beef_bun_bite_1200x630.jpeg

The world’s largest meat packer, JBS Tolleson, is recalling nearly 7 million pounds of beef after an investigation identified JBS as the common supplier of ground beef products sold to people who developed Salmonella Newport, a disease that causes fever and diarrhea, weakness, dyspnea and, potentially, sudden death.

As of October 4, 57 people in 16 states had been sickened by JBS beef.

If that’s not enough to make you swear off industrial factory farm beef, here’s more food for thought: There’s a good chance the JBS beef was contaminated because it contained a combination of cattle raised for beef, and dairy cows sent off for slaughter because they were too sick to produce milk.

According to an article published this week in New Food Economy, scientists have known since the 1980s that dairy cows are a primary reservoir of Salmonella Newport. The authors say the facts point to an “ongoing food safety crisis hidden in plain sight.”

One way to address that crisis? End industrial dairy farming which creates the conditions that make cows susceptible to a host of painful and debilitating illnesses, including Salmonella Newport.

Industrial dairy—bad for the farmers, bad for the environment, bad for you

The dairy industry has been in trouble for a long while. It isn’t working for farmers, who are faced with spending $22-$25 to produce a hundred pounds of milk that their buyers pay only $15 for. It’s so bad, some dairy farmers are committing suicide.

Industrial dairy production is a nightmare for the environment, too. Acres and acres of GMO crops grown to feed dairy cows foul waterways and destroy soil health.

In Vermont’s Franklin County, for example, 36,000 cows are creating a waste stream equivalent to that of nearly 6 million people, reports Regeneration Vermont. None of that waste is treated, and all of it is spread across Vermont fields, “thickly and quickly, before the giant manure pits spill over.”

Industrial dairy farming isn’t doing the general public any favors, either—polluted waters are a public health problem. And dairy products produced by farms that feed GMO crops and use pesticides and antibiotics aren’t the best choice for health-conscious consumers. That’s partly why we sued Ben & Jerry’s, whose ice cream tested positive for Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller.

But what about the cows?

If the industrial factory farm dairy model isn’t good for farmers, the environment or consumers, it’s even worse for the cows it depends on.

In an article he wrote last year, Michael Colby, co-founder of Regeneration Vermont wrote that “the story of the industrial dairy cow “isn’t pretty.” Cobly writes:

It all begins with dairy farm economics. The more milk produced, the bigger the glut and the lower the prices. But the lower the prices, the more milk the farmer needs to produce to try and make money. And around and around it goes, with the dairy cow taking the brunt of the push to produce more and more milk.

That leads us back to the JBS beef recall. New Food Economy reports that dairy cow meat makes up about 20 percent of the ground beef market. Because dairy farmers can’t afford to keep a non- or under-producing cow in their dairy herd, they sell them for meat—mostly ground beef, because the meat isn’t good enough for other cuts.

How sick are those cows? Colby writes:

Dairy cow health is becoming a major issue for the industry, giving rise to extra costs associated with replacing the burned out cows and concerns about meat containing residues of the increased medications being used. A recent Cornell University study found that mortality rates in U.S. dairy herds was over 10 percent a year. That means one out of every 10 cows in a herd is prematurely dying every year. In 2002, the dairy mortality rate was 3.8 percent. Something’s seriously wrong in the dairy barn.

Weakened from living under unhealthy, filthy, stressful conditions, many of those cows, destined for hamburger meat, become sick with Salmonella Newport. New Food Economy reports that “experts seem to agree that whenever Salmonella Newport turns up in ground beef—the exact scenario that lead to last week’s recall—dairy cows tend to be the culprit.”

The author of the article said he couldn’t find a reference to a Salmonella Newport outbreak linked to ground beef that didn’t originate with dairy cows.

Surely there are regulations to prevent this sort of thing? Apparently not. As New Food Economy reports:

According to USDA rules, Salmonella doesn’t even qualify as an “adulterant” in meat. That means processors aren’t required to test for it. And if it does show up, it doesn’t mean they’re doing anything wrong—technically or legally.

What can consumers do?

First, if you think you might have purchased contaminated JBS ground beef anytime in mid-July through the end of September—maybe you stored it in your freezer?—Consumer Reports says don’t eat it, at least for now.

The best way to avoid buying contaminated ground beef in the future? Shop for organic 100% grass-fed beef. This article explains why grass-fed beef is better for your health, and where to buy it.

If you really want to help prevent Salmonella Newport outbreaks, support organic regenerative dairy, not industrial dairy farms.

And help us pressure companies like Ben & Jerry’s to go organic, by signing this petition.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit grassroots consumer advocacy organization. To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

Maseca Corn Flours Test Positive for Toxic Residues of Monsanto Weedkiller

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-10-09 18:21
Genetic EngineeringOrganic Consumers AssociationOctober 9, 2018 maseca_1200x630.jpg

Leading international brand also tests positive for genetically modified organisms, despite marketing claims of ‘100 percent natural.’

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 9, 2018

Contact:
Mexico: Ercilia Sahores, ercilia@organicconsumers.org, +52 (55) 6257 7901
US: Katherine Paul, katherine@organicconsumers.org, (207) 653-3090

MEXICO CITY - Organic Consumers Association Mexico (ACO), a project of US-based Organic Consumers Association (OCA), today announced that samples of Maseca brand white and yellow corn flours tested positive for residues of glyphosate and its main metabolite, AMPA. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller.

“It’s clear from our testing that Maseca’s claims of selling a ‘natural’ and ‘nutritious’ product are false and misleading,” said OCA’s international director, Ronnie Cummins. “Consumers in Mexico and the US who care about pesticide contamination and GMOs should seek organic non-GMO alternatives to Maseca flours until the company agrees to source only non-GMO grains for its products.”

ACO test results on samples of Maseca white and yellow corn flour, sourced from different regions of Mexico, showed glyphosate concentrations of between 5.14 ppb to 17.59 ppb. Some flour samples tested as high as 94.15 percent for the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMO).

Activists have fought for and won a temporary ban on the open-field production of GM corn in Mexico. Mexico’s incoming president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has said that GMO corn will be permanently banned from Mexico when he takes office on December 1.

In March 2015, the World Health Organization classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen.

In a landmark and potentially precedent-setting case, a California jury recently awarded $289 million to a terminally ill former school groundskeeper who said the exposure to Roundup caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Fairfield, Iowa-based Health Research Institute conducted the tests, under FAO testing protocols.

Maseca, owned by Mexico-based Gruma, S.A.B. de C.V., is the leading international brand of corn flours used widely in the production of tortillas.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a US-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit consumer advocacy organization focused on food, agriculture and environmental issues.

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Nordic Aquafarms' Claims of 'Sustainably Produced' Farmed Salmon for a Hungry World Don't Hold Up

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-10-09 16:01
October 9, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationClaudette BethuneEnvironment & Climate, Health Issues chart1.png

 

 

• Salmon farming is an inefficient, unsustainable and potentially unhealthy method of providing fish for human consumption

• Wild fish are harvested in ever greater amounts to produce feed for farmed salmon instead of simply, and more efficiently, putting wild fish directly into the market for consumers

• Farmed salmon accumulate more toxins such as PCBs and other pesticides from feed than do farmed land animals

• Salmon farmers use vegetable-based feed that also contains terrestrial animal byproducts and synthetic antioxidants that may result in an increase in consumer exposure to pesticides, antibiotic residues, and other harmful contaminants in the farmed salmon

The developers of today’s salmon aquaculture often claim that their industry is “sustainable.” In response to concerns regarding the dangers of open-net salmon pens—where feces, chemicals, parasites and disease are directly transmitted into the bodies of water in which they are located—certain companies are moving their salmon farms on land to “closed-containment” models.

But are these farmed Atlantic salmon any more nutritious or sustainable than farmed land-animals? Is salmon farming really helping to feed a hungry world?

Nordic Aquafarms (NAF), a Norway-based company that proposes to build a mega-sized closed-containment salmon farm in Maine, claims that “the world has a growing need for protein sources produced in a sustainable way” and that “farmed Atlantic salmon has proven to be a more sustainable product than most other comparable protein sources."

However, reviewing the actual analysis and results in the scientific literature to date, it is clear that the results related to fish feed do not support the typical claims that closed-containment salmon farming operations can produce sustainable or more nutritious products than conventional salmon aquaculture.  

Currently, NAF has not yet stated unequivocally or publicly what the company intends to feed the salmon at its proposed Belfast, Maine facility, which is described as “one of the largest [salmon farms] in the world.” However, a review of what is currently used or available for use as feed for farm-raised salmon shows that none of the options pass the sustainability test, nor do they result in a more “nutritious” product for consumption.

Misconceptions around the use of fish meal and fish oils in farmed-fish feed

One of the key concerns about farming carnivorous and omnivorous fish such as Atlantic salmon is the use of fish meal and fish oils as ingredients in feed for farmed salmon. That’s because the production of fish meal and fish oils requires raising or catching vast quantities of other fish to produce—fish that could be directly used for human consumption. From a food security, safety, and sustainability perspective, it is highly questionable that farms that consume more fish in feed than they produce could rival the best available protein alternatives.

To address this concern, the industry makes two claims. One, it is reducing the amount of fish oil and fish meal by substituting plant sources. And two, aquatic animals have more efficient feed-conversion rates than livestock, which makes farmed salmon more sustainable.

Let’s look at the first claim. According to the aquaculture industry, the marine protein and oil portion in farmed Atlantic salmon diets has been reduced by about 30 percent since the 1990s by substituting plant sources. However, given the increase during that same time period in the overall volume of farmed salmon being produced, the 30-percent reduction doesn’t translate into an overall reduction in the use of fish meal and fish oils being diverted from human consumption to the farmed salmon industry. [1]

To put this in perspective, we can use something called the Jevons Paradox to show that the salmon farming industry is actually using more fish meal and more fish oils, as the industry becomes more efficient. The Jevons Paradox says that "as production methods grow more efficient, demand for resources actually increases—rather than decreases, as you might expect." [2]

This is what has happened with current salmon aquaculture feed. As fish farming has become more efficient, demand for wild fish as a component of fish feed has increased significantly. This has, in turn, put increased demand on the oceans.

Now, let’s look at the second claim—that aquatic animals require less feed and are therefore more sustainable to produce. The salmon aquaculture industry points to the fact that aquatic animals typically have lower (more efficient) feed-conversion rates (FCRs) than large terrestrial animals. This is in part because aquatic animals use less energy to move and regulate their body temperature. As a result, aquaculture is often viewed as an opportunity to meet rising demand for animal products using less feed, especially compared with the feed requirements for pigs and cattle. [3,4]

However, we now know that FCR is a limited measure of efficiency because it accounts only for the weight of feed inputs, and not for the nutritional content of the feed, or the portion of the animal that is inedible, or the nutritional quality of the final product. The use of FCRs relies on the assumption that various species are similar across these areas. That makes it a potentially misleading tool for cross-species comparisons (Figure 1).

It’s important to consider the implications of consuming farmed aquatic animals, such as farmed salmon, that have higher requirements for protein in their diet compared with the protein requirements of terrestrial animals (including humans), and relatively low retention of protein and calories. Salmon aquaculture generally requires more highly nutrient-dense feed than livestock production (i.e. higher in protein and calories), and results in a loss of most protein (81 percent) and calories (90 percent) during production. [5] 

Current analysis on FCR across species of farmed animals shows that protein and calorie retention in aquaculture vary by species, are all lower than chickens, and are similar to pig and cattle production, despite the lower feed-conversion rates.

Vegetables and animal byproducts in fish feed raise GMO and pesticide concerns

As stated above, to reduce the use of fish meal and fish oil, the salmon aquaculture industry has steadily increased its use of vegetable protein and oil over the last 20 years. This includes an increase in the use of soy, rapeseed, wheat, palm oil, groundnuts, and corn—and their genetically-modified counterparts. The industry has also increased its use of terrestrial animal byproducts. [6]

With the increased use of vegetables in salmon feed, there has been a concurrent increase and concern for the increase in the allowable limit for pesticides used on plants for fish feed. For example, in 2012, a 10-fold increase in the allowable limit of the pesticide endosulfan was approved for salmon feed, because the pesticide was widely present in plants sourced for feed. [7] This occurred despite the fact that in 2011, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants during their 5th meeting added endosulfan to its list of dangerous pollutants because it is known to be highly toxic to humans and wildlife.

In addition to increased levels of pesticides, such as endosulfan, in farmed salmon feeds, other pesticides and contaminants found in fish feed, including PCBs, are known to accumulate in farmed salmon at up to 10-times more than in farmed land animals. National monitoring data on commercial fish feed and farmed Atlantic salmon on the Norwegian market found persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as PCBs up to 10-times higher than those reported for terrestrial meat products on the same feed. [8]

Compared with wild fisheries, farmed salmon feed also uses synthetic antioxidants, such as ethoxyquin, to prevent the feed going rancid. Ethoxyquin and its metabolites that are present in farmed salmon accumulate from feed at relatively high concentrations and are known to be toxic to dogs, and likely to humans as well. [9]

The use of animal byproducts (pig and chicken) in fish feed raises additional concerns about environmental contaminants and synthetic additives. This practice recycles the contaminants and antibiotic residues from farmed animals in the food chain, even when closed-containment systems themselves do not routinely use antibiotics and other contaminants known to be used in industrial poultry and hog production. [10]

Some have suggested that insects could be used in farmed salmon feed, which would benefit the fish and the consumer. However, the use of insects as fish feed is still unproven. As of yet, there is no evidence of the development of an insect-based compound feed that would be sufficient to supply large salmon aquaculture systems, such as the one proposed by NAF.

As we can see, feeds for livestock and farmed salmon rely largely on the same crops. We know that many of these crops, as well as the forage fish used to make fish feed, are also consumed directly by humans, and provide essential nutrition for low-income households.  As salmon aquaculture grows, competition for these crops will increase, and demand for wild fish as feed inputs, will also grow. This will potentially lead to higher prices and price volatility, worsening food insecurity among the most vulnerable populations. [11]

Taken together, we can see that the claims that salmon aquaculture, even on land, is sustainable, more nutritious, or has the potential to feed the world are not founded on actual data or objective results.

 

 

Figure 1. Typical feed Conversion Rates (FCRs) show apotentially misleading tool for cross-species comparisons. Example FCRs for animals raised using commercial feeds and intensive production methods (i.e. not extensive production like grazing) are shown in this figure are as follows: beef cattle: 6.0–10.0, pigs: 2.7–5.0, chickens: 1.7–2.0, and farmed fish and shrimp: 1.0–2.4. Adapted from: Feed conversion efficiency in aquaculture: do we measure it correctly? (Jillian P Fry et al 2018 Environ. Res. Lett. 13 024017 doi:10.1088/1748-9326/aaa273)

References:

1. Ytrestoyl T, Aas TS & Asgard,T (2015) Utilisation of feed resources in production of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in Norway. Aquaculture 448, 365–374.

2. Gandhi, M. (2016) Oh fish! What's wrong in aquaculture and why one needs to educate govt on new fish farm policy. First Post (July 11, 2016). Accessed 5 August 2018 from: https://www.firstpost.com/living/oh-fish-whats-wrong-in-aquaculture-and-why-one-needs-to-educate-govt-on-new-fish-farm-policy-2886938.html

3. Béné C et al. (2005) Feeding 9 billion by 2050—putting fish back on the menu Food Secur. 7, 261–74.

4. High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) on Food Security and Nutrition(2014). Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture for Food Security and Nutrition (Rome: FAO). Accessed 5 August 2018 from: http://www.fao.org/3/a-i3844e.pdf

5. Fry, JP et al. (2018). Feed conversion efficiency in aquaculture: do we measure it correctly? Environ. Res. lett.13 (2): 024017. Accessed 5 August 2018 from: https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aaa273

6. Fry J P et al. (2016) Environmental health impacts of feeding crops to farmed fish Environ. Int. 91 201–14.

7. Tallaksen, E. (2013) Norway to pass EU law on higher toxin level in salmon feed. Undercurrent news June 12, 2013. Accessed 5 August 2018 from: https://www.undercurrentnews.com/2013/06/12/norway-to-pass-eu-law-on-higher-toxin-level-in-salmon-feed/

8. Berntssen M H et al. (2011) Carry-over of dietary organochlorine pesticides, PCDD/Fs, PCBs, and brominated flame retardants to Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) fillets. Chemosphere. 2011 Mar;83(2):95-103. 

9. Błaszczyk A et al. (2013) “Ethoxyquin: An Antioxidant Used in Animal Feed,” International Journal of Food Science, vol. 2013, Article ID 585931, 12 pages, 2013. Accessed 5 August 2018 from: https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/585931.

10. Watts J et al. (2017) The Rising Tide of Antimicrobial Resistance in Aquaculture: Sources, Sinks and Solutions. Mar. Drugs 15(6) 158. Accessed 5 August 2018 from http://www.mdpi.com/1660-3397/15/6/158

 11. Troell et al. (2014) Does aquaculture add resilience to the global food system? Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U S A. 111(37):13257-63.

Dr. Claudette Bethune, Ph.D., pharmaceutics and pharmacokinetics, is an associate director of clinical development at a pharmaceutical company in California. From 2003 – 2006, Bethune was a senior scientist at the Norwegian Institute for Nutrition and Seafood Safety in Bergen, Norway.

    

Three Crises, One Solution: Change the Way We Produce Food

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-10-09 15:26
October 9, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonEnvironment & Climate sheepfield_1200x630.jpg

World hunger is on the rise. Scientists just moved up the deadline for addressing the looming climate crisis. Small independent farms are failing at an alarming rate.

According to three recent studies, one big change could go a long way toward addressing all three of these crises. By transitioning, on a global scale, to organic regenerative agriculture, we could feed more people, sequester more carbon and improve the economic prospects for farmers.

Three crises, one solution—a solution that will require a massive overhaul of food and farming policy, and a paradigm change in consumer behavior.

Can we act in time?

World hunger still on the rise

Large-scale, industrial agriculture has long been touted as the solution to feeding the world. But despite the planting of more than 457 million acres of genetically modified (GM) crops in 28 countries worldwide, a new report reveals that world hunger is actually getting worse, not better.

In “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World,” the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports that world hunger is on the rise for the third year in a row. The number of people suffering worldwide from food insecurity reached nearly 821 million in 2017, an increase from about 804 million the year before.

The FAO report highlights the relationship between climate change-related disasters and the “downward spiral of increased food insecurity and malnutrition:

Climate-related disasters create and sustain poverty, contributing to increased food insecurity and malnutrition as well as current and future vulnerability to climate extremes. They also have impacts on livelihoods and livelihoods assets – especially of the poor – contributing to greater risk of food insecurity and malnutrition. Prolonged or recurrent climate extremes lead to diminished coping capacity, loss of livelihoods, distress migration and destitution.

The FAO report pinpoints the need for resilience-focused strategies as means of addressing hunger and malnutrition:

Addressing climate variability and extremes and their impact on food security and nutrition requires a focus on resilience.

Regenerative agriculture, with its focus on biodiversity and soil health which increases the soil’s capacity to retain water during periods of drought, has the potential to build resilient local farming systems that provide abundant, nutritious food.

Healthy soil sequesters more carbon

A recent study published by the University of California-Berkley found that certain agricultural techniques focused on restoring soil health, such as cover cropping, purposeful grazing and the planting of legumes on rangelands, can help sequester enough carbon in the soil to make a significant contribution in the global fight against climate change.

When combined with “aggressive carbon emission reductions,” the researchers determined that soil carbon sequestration is the most effective—and also one of the most low-tech—tools available to help slow global warming.

In an article for Berkeley News, Whendee Silver, senior author of the study and professor of environmental science, policy and management at UC Berkeley, said:

"As someone who has been working on carbon sequestration for a long time, I have always had this question in the back of my mind, 'Will sequestration in soils make a difference with climate change at a global scale?' We found that there are a wide range of practices deployable on a large scale that could have a detectable worldwide impact. A big take-home message is that we know how to do this, it is achievable."

The researchers also found that using biochar—a charcoal-like substance that’s made by burning organic material from agricultural and forestry wastes in an oxygen-free environment—can help farmers sequester even more carbon in the soil.

Biochar is extremely beneficial in the fight against climate change as it can sequester a billion tons of carbon annually, and hold it in the soil for thousands of years. Biochar also contributes to food security by increasing crop yields and retaining more water in areas prone to drought. (Learn more about biochar here and here.)

Healthy farming means healthy profits for farmers

Farming in a way that protects nature can be of benefit to the environment as well as the economic livelihood of farmers, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Sustainability. A global assessment by more than a dozen scientists in five countries found that nearly one-third of the world’s farms have adopted more environmentally friendly practices while continuing to be productive.

Using information on hundreds of projects and initiatives worldwide, researchers found that environmentally friendly practices, such as no-till, pasture and forage redesign, conservation agriculture and silvopasture, the practice of incorporating trees on farmland to provide shelter for livestock, are being used on 163 million farms covering more than a billion acres.

"Although we have a long way to go, I'm impressed by how far farmers across the world and especially in less developed countries have come in moving our food-production systems in a healthy direction," said John Reganold, Washington State University Regents Professor of Soil Science and Agroecology and a co-author of the paper.

Both time and research have shown that industrial, chemical-intensive agriculture is notthe solution to feeding the world, and is in fact moving us backwards in terms of being able to solve world hunger, while at the same time reversing global warming.

If we want to build a healthy planet with a stable climate, we must invest in a food and farming system that promotes healthy humans, healthy animals, healthy plants and healthy soil.

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

Vegans, Ranchers and Regenerators Unite: Why Fake Meat and Eliminating Livestock Are Really Bad Ideas

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-10-04 14:48
October 4, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsEnvironment & Climate, Genetic Engineering impburger_1200x630.jpg

Industrial agriculture is one of the most unsustainable practices of modern civilization. The “bigger is better” food system has reached a point where its real costs have become readily apparent. Like water running down an open drain, the earth's natural resources are disappearing quickly, as industrialized farming drives air pollution, water pollution, deforestation, rising carbon emissions and the depletion, erosion and poisoning of soils. The long-term answer, however, lies in the transition to sustainable, regenerative, chemical-free farming practices, not in the creation of food manufacturing techniques that replace farms with chemistry labs, which is the "environmentally friendly" alternative envisioned by biotech startups and its chemists. Mercola.com, July 18, 2018 

As a campaigner for organic and regenerative food, and a critic of fast food, GMOs and factory farms for 40-plus years, I am alarmed and disgusted by the degenerate state of food and farming in the United States.  The collective actions of some misguided farmers, together with ignorant and corrupt public officials, greedy investors and food corporations, and mindless consumers are destroying personal and public health, and the health of the environment, including climate stability. What amounts to our “Fast Food Nation,” through everyday food production practices and food choices, is rapidly degrading our planet’s life-support systems.

Whether we’re talking about our food-related public health emergency or the fact that our chemical- and fossil fuel-intensive industrial agriculture system is belching out 43 percent - 57 percent of the greenhouse gas pollution that has dangerously destabilized our climate, corporate America’s trillion-dollar, taxpayer-subsidized system of industrial food and farming, represented most graphically by factory farms and feedlots, is killing us. Big Food Inc. has built its empire of chemical farmers, food processors and marketers by adopting a financial strategy predicated on the theory that maximizing short-term profits trumps all other considerations (health, economic justice, animal welfare, environment and climate stability), and by promoting the idea that convenient, cheap, artificially flavored fast food and commodities represent the pinnacle of modern agricultural production and consumption.

It’s time to disrupt and take down our suicide economy and our degenerate agricultural and food system. A good starting point is to join the growing consumer movement to boycott all meat, dairy and poultry products produced by the industrial factory farm system—not just at the grocery store, but also in restaurants. And not just occasionally, but every day. 

Factory farms inhumanely confine, feed and drug 50 billion of the 70 billion farm animals on the planet. These animals are turned into meat which is supplied to fast-food chains like McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King, and to national and regional supermarket chains. The methods used to produce this cheap, artery-clogging meat and dairy are destroying our environment, climate and health. Combined, CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) and the GMO soybean and corn farms that supply them are the No. 1 source of water pollution in the U.S., as well as a major source of air pollution. Monsanto/Bayer’s GMO crops grown for CAFO animal feed are the No. 1 destroyer of grasslands and forest in the Amazon basin and other areas.

U.S. and international factory farm meat and dairy operations are also major drivers of global warming and climate change. They spew out massive amounts of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide emissions into the atmosphere from giant feedlots, hog and chicken complexes, manure lagoons and the chemical-intensive, GMO grain farms, heavily subsidized with taxpayer dollars, that supply “CAFO Nation” with millions of tons of animal feed every year.

Besides degenerating the environment and destabilizing the climate, CAFOs are also primary drivers of our deteriorating public health. Filthy, inhumane, polluting, greenhouse gas-belching factory farms mass produce approximately 90 percent - 95 percent of the meat and animal products consumed in America today. The average U.S. carnivore now supersizes and toxifies himself with approximately 200 pounds of CAFO meat a year, loaded with bad fats (low in omega 3 and other key nutrients) and laced with antibiotic, pesticide and hormone residues that substantially increase a person’s chances of getting cancer, suffering from obesity, dying from an antibiotic-resistant infection, developing Alzheimer’s or having a heart attack.  

Approximately 75 percent of all the antibiotics in the U.S. today are dumped into factory farm animal feed and water to keep the animals alive under the hellish conditions of intensive confinement, and to force the animals to gain more weight. This massive, reckless and often illegal use of antibiotics on factory farms (along with routine over-prescribing of antibiotics by doctors) has begun to spread deadly antibiotic-resistant pathogens into our food. About 23,000 Americans (and 700,000 people worldwide) die each year from antibiotic-resistant infections. Based on a study commissioned by the UK government, by 2050, multiple drug-resistant infections are projected kill 10 million people a year—more than currently die from cancer—unless significant action is taken. 

False solution No. 1: fake meat 

Although I share the same disgust and hatred of factory farms and CAFO meat as my vegan and vegetarian brothers and sisters, I am nonetheless disturbed to see a growing number of vegan activists, Silicon Valley tycoons, genetic engineering cheerleaders and even some well-meaning climate activists coming together to promote fake meat products, such as the “Impossible Burger,” as a healthy and climate-friendly alternative to beef. Even worse are the growing number of vegans, climate activists and high-tech/GMO enthusiasts who claim that abolishing livestock and animal husbandry altogether will solve our health, environmental and climate crises.

The “Impossible Burger,” made from a highly-processed mix of soy, wheat, coconut oil, potatoes and genetically engineered yeast, is Wall Street’s latest darling and a heavily-hyped menu item in many vegan restaurants. As the Mercola newsletter points out:

The Impossible Burger resembles meat "right down to the taste and beeflike 'blood,' The New York Times notes, and has become a hit in some circles. So far, the company has raised $257 million from investors, which include Bill Gates, Khosla Ventures, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz's Open Philanthropy Project, Li Ka-shing (a Hong Kong billionaire) and Singapore's sovereign wealth fund, Temasek Holdings.“

Unfortunately, it appears that the “Impossible Burger” and other fake meat are neither healthy nor, in the case of the “Impossible Burger,” even proven safe. 

According to Dr. Mercola, fake meat like the “Impossible Burger” is nutritionally inferior to real, non-CAFO meat such as 100% grass-fed beef, which “contains a complex mix of nutrients and cofactors that you cannot recreate by an assembly of individual components.”

Mercola says:

“As a general rule, I believe man-made foods are vastly inferior to natural, whole foods and always will be. Outperforming nature is a tall order, and no one has succeeded yet. As such, I believe extreme caution is warranted. Apparently, so does the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as reported by the New York Times.” 

While it’s true that millions of carnivores, especially in the U.S. are supersizing and poisoning themselves with two or three times as much CAFO meat, dairy and poultry as a natural health expert would recommend, a moderate amount of grass-fed or pastured meat and dairy (especially raw milk dairy products) are actually very good for your health. So if you want a healthy meal, skip the “Impossible Burger” and other fake meat and go for a 100% grass-fed beef, lamb or buffalo burger instead. 

If you prefer to get your protein boost from seafood, skip the farmed fish and go for Wild Alaskan Salmon. If you’re determined to eat a veggie burger, skip the GMO yeast and fake blood and flavors and choose a healthy meat alternative such as an organic tempeh burger, made from fermented soybeans, or a bean burger, made from all natural, organic ingredients.
 
False solution No. 2: abolish livestock

Even more bizarre, elitist and uninformed is the recent trendy chorus calling for the elimination of the planet’s 70 billion livestock  as a major solution to the climate crisis. These “no livestock” fundamentalists ignore the fact that over a billion people, especially in the developing world, rely on raising livestock for their food and survival. They do this on the billions of acres of pasture and rangeland that are simply not suitable for raising crops, but which can and do support properly grazed livestock. 

Besides providing 37 percent of the world’s protein, animal husbandry and livestock today provide 33 percent – 55 percent of the household income for the world’s 640 million small farmers, 190 million pastoralists and one billion urban peasants, more than 50 percent of whom are low-income women. 

Should we just tell these billion “backward” peasants to go into town and line up for their genetically engineered “Impossible Burgers” and forget about raising their cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, ducks and chickens like their ancestors have done for thousands of years?

The animals can save us

Perhaps the most fundamental reason we need to preserve and promote a regenerative system of animal husbandry across the planet on millions of farms and ranches is the little-known fact that properly grazing animals (as opposed to imprisoning animals in factory farms) is the key to sequestering excess carbon-dioxide from the atmosphere and storing this carbon in the world’s 4 billion acres of rangelands and pasturelands.

As world-renowned climate scientist Dr. James Hansen says:

“If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current levels to at most 350 ppm . . . ” 

A growing corps of climate experts have warned us repeatedly that we must stop burning fossil fuels, eliminate destructive food, farming and land use practices, and drawdown enough carbon dioxide (CO2) from the Earth's atmosphere through regenerative farming/ranching and enhanced natural photosynthesis to return us to 350 parts-per-million (ppm), or better yet to pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm.

About half of the total human greenhouse gas emissions causing global warming today come from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) for transportation, heating, cooling, electricity and manufacturing.  The other half, unbeknown to most people, comes from degenerative food, farming and land-use practices.

These greenhouse gas-polluting, climate-destabilizing food, farming and land-use practices include the massive use of fossil fuels and synthetic, climate-destabilizing chemicals on the farm, including diesel fuel, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers. 

They also include energy-intensive food processing, packaging, long-distance transportation of foods, the confinement of billions of methane-belching animals in factory farms, the dumping of rotting waste food and organic garbage into landfills instead of composting it, and the wasting of 30 percent – 50 percent of all the food we grow. 

Compounding the problem are other related degenerate land-use practices, including clear-cutting forests, draining wetlands, degrading marine eco-systems, soil tilling and destroying grasslands. Practices like these degrade the natural ability of plants, pasture, rangeland, wetlands and trees to draw down enough CO2 from the atmosphere (via photosynthesis) to keep the soil, atmosphere, ocean, carbon and hydrological cycles in balance.

So how can we avert climate catastrophe and the collapse of human civilization? Regenerative food, farming and land use, especially grazing and pasturing animals properly on the world’s 8.3 billion acres of pasture and rangeland, is the key to ending CAFO (and GMO grain) emissions and drawing down enough CO2 to reverse global warming. 

As Judith Schwartz explains in detail in her book, “Cows Save the Planet,” holistic rotational grazing, especially in pastures where perennial trees and plants are growing, is the key to averting climate catastrophe. 

Photosynthesis is key

The most important thing about regenerative food, farming, ranching and land use is that these practices qualitatively increase plant photosynthesis. Deployed correctly, these practices have the potential to draw down all of the excess carbon (200-250 billion tons of carbon) in the atmosphere that is causing global warming. 

In other words, if the levels of carbon sequestration now being put into practice by thousands of advanced regenerative farmers and ranchers can be scaled up globally, we can draw down enough excess carbon from the atmosphere to reverse global warming, and restore climate stability. 

Through the miraculous process of photosynthesis, plants (including pasture grasses) have the ability to breathe in CO2 and transpire or release oxygen, simultaneously turning atmospheric CO2 into a form of “liquid carbon” that not only builds up the plant’s above-ground biomass (leaves, flowers, branches, trunk or stem), but also travels though the plant’s roots into the soil below. Exuded or released from the plant’s roots, this liquid carbon or sugar feeds the soil microorganisms in the rhizosphere, which is the soil food web that not only sustains all plant and animal life, including humans, but also regulates the balance between the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and the carbon in our soils. 

Regenerative food and farming, coupled with 100% renewable energy, holds the potential, through qualitatively enhanced soil health and supercharged plant photosynthesis, to mitigate global warming, by drawing down several hundred billion tons of excess carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil. But it gets better. The combined transition to regenerative agriculture and renewable energy actually has the potential to reverse global warming while simultaneously restoring the environment, improving the nutritional quality of our food and regenerating the economic vitality of small farmers, herders, and rural communities. 

Michael Pollan, perhaps America’s best-known food writer, explains how enhanced plant photosynthesis, as generated through healthy soils and forests and 100% grass-fed holistic grazing, is the key to drawing down excess carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in our soils in order to reverse global warming: 

“Consider what happens when the sun shines on a grass plant rooted in the earth. Using that light as a catalyst, the plant takes atmospheric CO2, splits off and releases the oxygen, and synthesizes liquid carbon–sugars, basically. Some of these sugars go to feed and build the aerial portions of the plant we can see, but a large percentage of this liquid carbon—somewhere between 20 and 40 percent—travels underground, leaking out of the roots and into the soil. The roots are feeding these sugars to the soil microbes—the bacteria and fungi that inhabit the rhizosphere—in exchange for which those microbes provide various services to the plant: defense, trace minerals, access to nutrients the roots can’t reach on their own. That liquid carbon has now entered the microbial ecosystem, becoming the bodies of bacteria and fungi that will in turn be eaten by other microbes in the soil food web. Now, what had been atmospheric carbon (a problem) has become soil carbon, a solution—and not just to a single problem, but to a great many problems.

“Besides taking large amounts of carbon out of the air—tons of it per acre when grasslands are properly managed… that process at the same time adds to the land’s fertility and its capacity to hold water. Which means more and better food for us...

“This process of returning atmospheric carbon to the soil works even better when ruminants are added to the mix. Every time a calf or lamb shears a blade of grass, that plant, seeking to rebalance its “root-shoot ratio,” sheds some of its roots. These are then eaten by the worms, nematodes, and microbes—digested by the soil, in effect, and so added to its bank of carbon. This is how soil is created: from the bottom up."

After decades of working alongside vegans and animal rights activists in campaigns such as the McDonald’s Beyond Beef campaign (which I organized with Jeremy Rifkin and Howard Lyman in 1992-94), the campaign against Monsanto’s recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) from 1994 until the present, and most recently working with consumers and farmers in campaigns against GMOs, pesticides and factory farm dairy, poultry and beef, I believe the time is long overdue for everyone concerned about food, farming, health, climate and humane treatment of animals to connect the dots between our common concerns and build a powerful united front to take down factory farms and carry out a global Regeneration Revolution.

Breaking through the tunnel vision and self-righteous walls between our issue silos, (i.e. my issue is more important than your issue, and my solution is the only solution) and uniting to build a new “Beyond USDA Organic” system of regenerative food, farming and land use, we can bring down the factory farm and GMO Behemoth. 
Working together, rather than rallying behind false solutions such as fake meat and abolishing livestock, we can popularize and scale up humane, healthy and climate-friendly solutions to our hydra-headed crisis. We can promote and implement real, positive, shovel-ready solutions rather than promoting simplistic and indeed destructive “silver bullets” such as genetically engineered fake meat and “pharm animals.” These false solutions not only fail to address the real roots of climate (and the health) crisis, but ultimately threaten the livelihoods of a billion small farmers and peasant women across the planet.

So forget about the “Impossible Burger” and other fake meats, and forget the elitist notion of getting rid of the world’s 70 billion livestock. We’re all in this together, and it’s going to take a regeneration of all living creatures—humans, wild animals, livestock, plants, trees and soil microorganisms—working in harmony to build a new world on the ruins of the old.

Given the horrors of factory farms and factory farm food, we need a global boycott of the multi-trillion-dollar CAFO industry. 

More and more of us, conscious consumers and farmers, alarmed by the accelerating climate crisis and the degeneration of the environment, public health and politics are coming together under the banner of regenerative food, farming and land use, the most important new current in the food, farming and climate movement. Please join us today.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a nonprofit consumer advocacy and grassroots organization, and a member of the Regeneration International (RI) steering committee. Sign up for OCA’s newsletter here. Sign up for RI’s newsletter here.

Nonprofits Sue Pret A Manger for Deceptive Marketing of Foods as 'Natural'

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-09-25 15:47
Genetic EngineeringOrganic Consumers AssociationSeptember 25, 2018 bread baguettes bakery baked goods bw cc 1200x630.jpg

For Immediate Release: September 25, 2018

Contacts:
Beyond Pesticides, Jay Feldman, 202.543.5450
GMO Free USA, Diana Reeves, 347.921.1466
Organic Consumers Association, Katherine Paul, 207.653.3090

Nonprofits Sue Pret A Manger for Deceptive Marketing of Foods as ‘Natural’

Washington D.C.,– Beyond Pesticides, GMO Free USA and Organic Consumers Association filed a lawsuit against Pret A Manger restaurant chain for the deceptive marketing and sale of certain bread and other baked goods as “natural food,” after the products tested positive for glyphosate, a component of Roundup weedkiller. The lawsuit charges that Pret exploits consumers’ preferences and willingness to pay more for products marketed as ‘natural.’

“Consumers expect Pret’s food to be free of synthetic pesticides, including glyphosate. Glyphosate, patented as a chelator and an antibiotic, is linked to adverse health effects including cancer, infertility and non-alcoholic fatty liver and kidney diseases. Glyphosate shouldn’t be present in the food system at all, but a company that willfully misrepresents its products needs to be held accountable,” said Diana Reeves, executive director of GMO Free USA.
 
Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides said: “Consumers want truthful information on product ingredients, with labeling and advertising that is transparent about production practices and residues of toxic materials. Given the widespread use of pesticide-intensive practices, this lawsuit establishes the responsibility of purveyors of food products to know the origins of their product ingredients before making a ‘natural’ claim.”

Ronnie Cummins, OCA international director said: " Pret knows consumer perception is that food described as 'natural' is quantitatively better, because consumers believe 'natural' implies the absence of synthetic chemicals. We believe companies should not be allowed to mislead consumers in this way." 

The suit, filed under the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act by Richman Law Group, seeks to end Pret’s deceptive business practices by requiring full disclosure of glyphosate in their products and/or a reformulation of their products to be glyphosate-free.

Read the complaint HERE.

GMO Free USA is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit advocating for a clean and healthy food system and educating consumers about the hazards of genetically engineered organisms and synthetic pesticides.

Beyond Pesticides is a D.C-based national grassroots nonprofit that works with allies in protecting public health and the environment to lead the transition to a world free of toxic pesticides.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit consumer advocacy organization focused on food, agriculture and environmental issues.

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