Environment

Bayer and Monsanto: A Merger of Two Evils

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-09-22 16:12
September 20, 2016Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulFood Safety, Health Issues billions against bayer scratch 750x500.png

It’s been about a week since Monsanto and Bayer confirmed their intention to say “I do”—ample time for media, lawmakers, consumer and farmer advocacy groups, and of course the happy couple themselves, to weigh in on the pros and cons.

Reactions poured in from all the usual suspects.

Groups like the Farmers Union, Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth and others didn’t mince words when it came to condemning the deal. (Organic Consumers Association tagged it a “Marriage Made in Hell” back in May, pre-announcement, when the two mega-corporations were still doing their mating dance).

Predictably, the corporate heads of state last week promoted the proposed $66-billion deal as an altruistic plan to improve “the lives of growers and people around the world.” This week, they told Senate Judiciary Committee members that the merger “is needed to meet a rising food demand.”

Is anyone out there still buying the line that Monsanto and Bayer are in the business of feeding the world? When the evidence says otherwise?

Even if that claim weren’t ludicrous, who thinks it’s a good idea to entrust the job of “feeding the world” to the likes of Bayer, a company that as part of the I.G. Farben cartel in the 1940s produced the poison gas for the Nazi concentration camps, and more recently sold HIV-infected drugs to parents of haemophiliacs in foreign countries, causing thousands of children to die of AIDS?

The sordid, unethical, greedy, monopolizing and downright criminal histories of both Monsanto and Bayer have been well documented. Does allowing them to merge into the world’s largest seed and pesticide company pose what two former Justice Department officials call "a five-alarm threat to our food supply and to farmers around the world?"

In a press release, Pesticide Action Network senior scientist Marcia Ishii-Eiteman said:

"Just six corporations already dominate worldwide seed and pesticide markets. Additional consolidation will increase prices and further limit choices for farmers, while allowing Monsanto and friends to continue pushing a model of agriculture that has given us superweeds, superbugs and health-harming pesticides. Instead, we need to invest in agroecological, resilient and productive farming.”

Without question, this deal, which strengthens the ties between Big Pharma, Big Food and Big Biotech, will hurt farmers and consumers.

Not to mention an ecosystem already on the brink.

But for those of us committed to ridding the world of toxic pesticides and hideous factory farms, to restoring biodiversity, to cleaning up our waterways, to revitalizing local economies, to helping small farmers thrive, to reclaiming and regenerating the world’s soils so they can do their job—produce nutrient-dense food while drawing down and sequestering carbon—the marriage of Bayer and Monsanto doesn’t change much.

As we wrote last week when the deal was announced, Monsanto will probably pack up its headquarters and head overseas. The much-maligned Monsanto name will be retired.

But a corporate criminal by any other name—or size—is still a corporate criminal.

Merger or no merger, our job remains the same: to expose the crimes and end the toxic tyranny of a failed agricultural experiment. #MillionsAgainstMonsanto will simply morph into #BillionsAgainstBayer.

Feed the world? Or feed the lobbyists?

Bayer and Monsanto had plenty of time to perfect their spin on the merger before the big announcement. Yet even some of the most conservative media outlets saw through it.

A Bloomberg headline read: “Heroin, Nazis, and Agent Orange: Inside the $66 Billion Merger of the Year.” From the article:

Two friends making dyes from coal-tar started Bayer in 1863, and it developed into a chemical and drug company famous for introducing heroin as a cough remedy in 1896, then aspirin in 1899. The company was a Nazi contractor during World War II and used forced labor. Today, the firm based in Leverkusen, Germany, makes drugs and has a crop science unit, which makes weed and bug killers. Its goal is to dominate the chemical and drug markets for people, plants and animals. 

Monsanto, founded in 1901, originally made food additives like saccharin before expanding into industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals and agriculture products. It’s famous for making some controversial and highly toxic chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls, now banned and commonly known as PCBs, and the herbicide Agent Orange, which was used by the U.S. military in Vietnam. It commercialized Roundup herbicide in the 1970s and began developing genetically modified corn and soybean seeds in the 1980s. In 2000, a new Monsanto emerged from a series of corporate mergers.

A skeptical Wall Street Journal reporter suggested that the merger, one of three in the works in the ag industry, is a sign of trouble: “The dominance of genetically modified crops is under threat,” wrote Jacob Bunge on September 14. Bunge interviewed Ohio farmer Joe Logan who told him:

 “The price we are paying for biotech seed now, we’re not able to capture the returns,” said Ohio farmer Joe Logan. This spring, Mr. Logan loaded up his planter with soybean seeds costing $85 a bag, nearly five times what he paid two decades ago. Next spring, he says, he plans to sow many of his corn and soybean fields with non-biotech seeds to save money.

Nasdaq took the merger announcement as an opportunity to highlight numbers published by OpenSecrets.org showing that Monsanto and Bayer are not only the two largest agrichemical corporations in the world, they’re also two of the biggest spenders when it comes to lobbying.

Together, according to OpenSecrets, Bayer and Monsanto have spent about $120 million on lobbying in the last decade. Monsanto’s spending has been largely focused on the agricultural industry, while Bayer has spent heavily in the pharmaceutical arena.

Both Monsanto and Bayer forked over millions to keep labels off of foods that contain GMOs, according to OpenSecrets:

A big issue for both companies has been labeling of genetically modified foods, which both companies oppose. That put them in support of the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (H.R. 1599), which was signed into law this summer. The law permits corporations to identify products made with genetically modified organisms in ways that critics argue will be hard for consumers to interpret, while superseding state laws that are sometimes tougher, like the one in Vermont.

To be clear, the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling” was just an intentionally misleading description of a bill intended to protect corporations from having to reveal the GMO ingredients in their products.

A criminal by any other name

Last week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague made a big announcement of its own. For the first time in history, the ICC will “prioritise crimes that result in the ‘destruction of the environment,’ ‘exploitation of natural resources’ and the ‘illegal dispossession’ of land,” according to a report in the Guardian.

The announcement came within the same two-week period as three new reports on the sad state of our ecosystem, all of which implicate industrial agriculture:

•    Researchers at the University of Virginia University of Virginia reported that widespread adoption of GMO crops has decreased the use of insecticides, but increased the use of weed-killing herbicides as weeds become more resistant, leading to “serious environmental damage.”

•    Mother Jones magazine reported that “A Massive Sinkhole Just Dumped Radioactive Waste Into Florida Water The cause? A fertilizer company deep in the heart of phosphate country.”

•    NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that when it comes to global warming, “even the records themselves are breaking records now” after reporting that Earth just experienced its hottest August on record. What’s that got to do with Bayer and Monsanto? Industrial, chemical, degenerative agriculture is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Organic regenerative agriculture, by contrast, holds the greatest promise for drawing down and sequestering excess carbon from the atmosphere.

Whether or not regulators approve the Bayer-Monsanto merger, these companies will continue their rampage against nature. Governments and courts have a lousy track record when it comes to holding these, and other, corporations accountable for the damage they’ve inflicted, over decades, on human health and the environment.

The ICC has signaled that this may change. In the meantime, frustrated with the lack of action and fed up with paying the price for making corporations like Bayer and Monsanto filthy rich, the grassroots are fighting back.

On October 15-16, a panel of distinguished international judges will hear testimony from 30 witnesses and scientific and legal experts from five continents who have been injured by Monsanto’s products. This grassroots-led international citizens’ tribunal and People’s Assembly (October 14-16) will culminate in November with the release of advisory opinions prepared by the judges. The tribunal’s work, which includes making the case for corporations to be prosecuted for ecocide, is made all the more relevant by the ICC’s announcement.

The International Monsanto Tribunal is named for Monsanto, the perfect poster child. But the advisory opinions, which will form the basis for future legal action, will be applicable to all agrichemical companies—including Bayer.

In the meantime, we encourage citizens around the world who cannot participate in the official tribunal and People’s Assembly, to show solidarity by organizing their own World Food Day “March Against Monsanto.”

Monsanto. Bayer. The name doesn’t matter, and though size does matter when it comes to throwing weight around, the crimes perpetrated by the companies remain the same. It’s time to stop them.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association.

 

Tell Bimbo: End the Use of Pesticides in the World Food Supply!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2016-09-20 18:51
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Food Safety, Genetic EngineeringArea: USA

“If you want a healthy life, get up early.”

So says Bimbo, the world’s largest marketer of breads, organizer of the upcoming Global Energy Race, and a contributor of over $1 million to campaigns to keep labels off of GMO foods.
 
TAKE ACTION: Tell Daniel Servitje, CEO of Grupo Bimbo, do something really great for the world! Take the lead in ending the use of pesticides in the world food supply.Read more

BREAKING: International Criminal Court Paves Way to Prosecute Monsanto

Organic consumers - Fri, 2016-09-16 13:03
Genetic EngineeringRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationSeptember 15, 2016 2016 Sept $140k 420x280

Just as the International Monsanto Citizens’ Tribunal is preparing to hold Monsanto accountable for its crimes in The Hague next month, comes this breaking news from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The ICC, will for the first time in history prioritize crimes “committed by means of, or that result in the destruction of the environment, the illegal exploitation of natural resources or the illegal dispossession of land.”

What does this mean for the Monsanto Tribunal? 

It means that the work we do there next month will form the foundation for prosecuting companies like Monsanto, Bayer, Dow and the rest of the corporate biotech criminals in the United Nations-backed international court, based in The Hague.

We are still about $60,000 short of our midnight tonight fundraising goal. Please donate today and your donation will be matched by Mercola.com and Dr. Bronner’s. You can donate online, by phone or by mail, details here.

When we began planning for the Monsanto Tribunal, our intent was to draw international attention to Monsanto’s crimes—all of them.

We especially wanted to change the rules so that corporations like Monsanto could be prosecuted for crimes against nature or the environment, not just crimes against humanity.

That’s why this news from the United Nations-backed ICC is breathtaking. It validates the work of the citizens’ tribunal. It means that finally, Monsanto and companies like it will have to answer for destroying the world’s soils, wiping out biodiversity, poisoning our water and air.

Finally, Monsanto will have to face the music.

As we wrote earlier this week, the proposed takeover of Monsanto by Bayer doesn’t change the impact the Monsanto Tribunal will have.

A corporate criminal by any other name is still a corporate criminal.

Now, thanks to this breaking news from the ICC, and the work we’re doing on the Monsanto Tribunal, the world will be able to hold these corporate criminals accountable.

I am on the Monsanto Tribunal and People’s Assembly organizing committees, and the Organic Consumers Association is helping to fund the initiative.

But the Tribunal is just one of the projects OCA is working on. With Bayer’s proposed buyout of Monsanto, we will have to double down in 2017 on our work to expose Big Biotech’s efforts to monopolize seeds and the world’s food supply, and its rampant poisoning of our food, bodies and our environment.

The work of the grassroots is always challenging. But when Monsanto needs to be bought out in order to survive, and the ICC steps up to finally recognize corporate attacks on the environment as international crimes, it’s clear that the work you are supporting is shaking up the system.

Please help us hit our midnight fundraising goal. Your donation today will be matched by Mercola.com and Dr. Bronner’s. You can donate online, by phone or by mail, details here.

We could not do this work without you.Thank you!

 

In solidarity,

Ronnie Cummins
International Director

P.S. Mercola.com and Dr. Bronner’s will match your donation, made by midnight September 16. Please make a donation today, to take advantage of these generous matching funds offers, and to fuel the battle against Monsanto’s (and Bayer's) crimes against the world. Donate online here.

#BillionsAgainstBayer Here We Come!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-09-15 11:38
September 13, 2016Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulGenetic Engineering, Health Issues Monsanto Bayer 420x280

Bayer and Monsanto finally agreed to say “I do” yesterday (September 14), striking a $66-billion deal that Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant tried to sell as a move to improve “the lives of growers and people around the world.”

Wall Street Journal reporter Jacob Bunge painted the news in a different light. Bunge implied that behind the Bayer-Monsanto buyout, a similar proposed merger between Dow and Dupont, and the recently approved ChemChina-Syngenta deal, runs the story of an industry in trouble.

“The dominance of genetically modified crops is under threat,” wrote Bunge on Wednesday. Bunge interviewed a Ohio farmer Joe Logan who told him:

“The price we are paying for biotech seed now, we’re not able to capture the returns,” said Ohio farmer Joe Logan. This spring, Mr. Logan loaded up his planter with soybean seeds costing $85 a bag, nearly five times what he paid two decades ago. Next spring, he says, he plans to sow many of his corn and soybean fields with non-biotech seeds to save money.

With farmers giving up on biotech seeds, a global public wise to the destruction wrought by poisons like glyphosate (Monsanto) and neonicotinoids (Bayer), and a food industry increasingly under pressure to remove GMO ingredients, the Gene Giants figure all they need to do is get bigger—and more powerful—and they’ll be able to use their clout to step up the bullying of farmers, governments, scientists and the media.

Outraged consumer and environmental advocacy groups are already calling for regulatory agencies to block the Bayer-Monsanto match-up. Agency officials will no doubt go through the motions, solemnly promising a “thorough review” before they do what they almost always do—hand multinational corporations a blank check.

As soon as the media frenzy dies down and officials think the coast is clear, the Bayer-Monsanto “marriage made in hell” will likely be blessed by the powers that be.

Two of the world’s most foul corporate criminals will be one. Monsanto will pack up its headquarters and head overseas. The much-maligned Monsanto name will be retired.

But a corporate criminal by any other name—or size—is still a corporate criminal.

This merger only heightens the urgency, and strengthens our resolve, to hunt down the corporations that are poisoning everything in sight. We will follow them to the ends of the earth, if need be. We will expose their crimes. We will end the toxic tyranny.

We will become the Billions Against Bayer. And we will need your help.

Monsanto (and Bayer) are on trial. You be the judge.

Tell Your Representative to Stop Big Food’s "Secrecy" Rider!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-09-15 00:54
Belong to campaign: USDA WatchCategory: Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

Last year, The American Egg Board (AEB) was caught in the act trying to sabotage Hampton Creek, a company that markets a plant-based egg-free alternative and a product called “Just Mayo,” an egg-free mayonnaise. Board members view Hampton Creek as a threat to the $5.5-billion-a-year egg industry.

A series of emails, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) revealed the details of AEB’s vendetta against Hampton Creek and its CEO, Josh Tetrick. (Michele Simon, Eat Drink Politics, reported on the emails, including one in which Mike Sencer, executive vice president of AEB member Hidden Villa Ranch, wrote: "Can we pool our money and put a hit on him [Tetrick]?").

Now, some of the largest U.S. food producers and their lobbyists, want Congress to shield groups like AEB from FOIA requests. With help from their friends in the U.S. House of Representatives, they’ve attached a rider to the House agricultural appropriations bill that would exempt groups like AEB from FOIA requests.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Your Representative to Stop Big Food’s "Secrecy" Rider!Read more

International Monsanto Citizens’ Tribunal Names New Judges, Announces Program and Registration

Organic consumers - Wed, 2016-09-14 22:37
Genetic EngineeringOrganic Consumers AssociationSeptember 14, 2016 gavel scales court law justice cc 420x280.jpg

Five international judges will hear testimony from 30 witnesses representing five continents

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 15, 2016

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

THE HAGUE, Netherlands—The organizers of the International Monsanto Tribunal today named two additional judges and also announced the programs for both the Tribunal and the People’s Assembly.

"The Monsanto Tribunal is one of the most important initiatives of organized citizen society in the last decade," said Boaventura de Sousa Santos, sociology professor University of Coimbra and one of the official Tribunal ambassadors. 

“The proposed Bayer – Monsanto merger, announced yesterday, brings even more momentum to the Tribunal.” said Marie-Monique Robin, patron of the Tribunal “Plus, we now have a panel of five international judges, reviewing testimonies from 30 witnesses and experts across five continents. We encourage the citizens everywhere to endorse the Tribunal, and participate.”

Joining the previously announced judges are: Eleonora Lamm, Argentina, human rights director for the Supreme Court of Justice of Mendoza University, Jorge Abraham Fernández Souza, Mexico, judge of the Court of Administrative Litigation of México City, Mexico, also guarantor in the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal, Chapter Mexico 2011-2015, and Steven Shrybman who practices public interest and international trade law in Canada.  

The International Monsanto Tribunal will take place October 15-16 in The Hague, Netherlands. A parallel People’s Assembly, starting October 14th, will feature interactive workshops, speakers and films where social movements will rally and plan for a just and regenerative agricultural system that respects human rights and the environment. Registration is now open for both the People’s Assembly and the formal Tribunal.

More on the Monsanto Tribunal here and here. 

People’s Assembly program 

The Monsanto Tribunal is an international civil society initiative to examine accountability for human rights violations, crimes against humanity, and ecocide, that are alleged to have been committed by Monsanto. Eminent judges will hear testimonies from victims, and deliver an advisory opinion following procedures of the International Court of Justice. A parallel People's Assembly provides the opportunity for social movements to rally and plan for the future we want. The Tribunal and People's Assembly will take place between 14 and 16 October 2016 in The Hague, Netherlands.

Tell Your Favorite Organic Brands: Exit the Organic ‘Traitors’ Association!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2016-09-14 09:43
September 13, 2016Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulAll About Organics, Genetic Engineering OTA logo 420x280

“This is one celebration you don’t want to miss!”

That’s the message leaders of the Organic Trade Association (aka the Organic “Traitors” Association) sent to their members recently, in an email inviting them to the OTA’s 2016 Leadership Awards Celebration at Expo East.

Here’s one thing that OCA and organic consumers will not be celebrating—the fact that the OTA’s “Organic Elite” conspired with Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) to overturn Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law, and ensure that food companies will never be required to reveal GMO ingredients in their products, using clear, on-package labels.

OTA has over 8000 members—which means the brands you give your money to are probably dues-paying members or the OTA. Click here to find out—then pick 4 or 5 of your favorite brands. Call, email, post on their facebook pages—ask these brands to exit the OTA!  (Click here to see who else is urging OTA members to drop out).

“We'll toast inspirational leaders building bridges and making connections that advance organic food, fiber, and farming,” wrote OTA leadership in its recent invitation to members.

“Inspirational leaders?” Here’s what the OTA leadership did to consumers. In a purely self-serving move, OTA Executive Director Laura Batcha, and board chair Missy Hughes (who also serves as general counsel for Organic Valley), with support from Organic Valley CEO George Siemon, endorsed the Stabenow-Roberts DARK—Deny Americans the Right to Know—Act.  Supporting this act of treachery were Stonyfield Farm CEO Gary Hirshberg, a prominent member of the OTA, and his so-called “Just Label It” organization, as well as Whole Foods and others.

Support from the OTA’s bureaucrats was all it took for Congress to pass the DARK Act, and for President Obama to sign it into law.

Why would the trade group that supposedly represents organic companies, the companies that organic consumers support, helped pass the DARK Act?

Here’s why: Because many of companies and brands are subsidiaries of multinational junk food corporations such as General Mills, Smuckers, or Dannone, who don’t want to label their non-organic products as containing GMOs. And, so USDA certified organic brands could make the label claim that they are GMO-free.

Never mind that, by helping to pass the DARK Act, the OTA stabbed the 90 percent of consumers who want GMO labels in the back.

It was all about them, and their bosses or business partners in multinational junk food corporations. Not you.

The movement was poised to win

After years of fighting for the basic right to know about GMOs, the GMO labeling movement was on the verge of winning. The courts had declared Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law constitutional. On July 1, more than two years after it was unanimously passed by Vermont lawmakers, the law took effect. Major food brands had already begun labeling their products as “contains genetically engineered ingredients” or “produced with genetic engineering.”

The U.S. Senate, under tremendous pressure from the Grocery Manufacturers Association, was struggling to pass a federal law that would preempt Vermont’s law with anything less than mandatory, on-package labeling—until the OTA got involved.

OTA’s endorsement was all Stabenow and Roberts needed in order to get the DARK Act passed, and forever deprive consumers of the right to know if their food contains GMOs.

The Stabenow-Roberts “no-labeling” bill continues to be sold to the public by Congress, and by the OTA and its allies in the Grocery Manufacturers Association as a “federal mandatory GMO labeling solution.” It is anything but.

The DARK Act exempts most of the most commonly used GMO ingredients; it allows companies to hide information about GMOs behind confusing and discriminatory electronic QR codes; and it contains no enforcement mechanism and imposes no penalties for non-compliance.

More than 60 organic brands and supporters of GMO labeling have signed our letter condemning the OTA’s role in passing the DARK Act.

Did the brands you buy and support secretly support OTA’s back-stabbing work on the DARK Act? The only way to prove they didn’t, is to show solidarity with you, by dropping out of the OTA.

TAKE ACTION: Contact your favorite organic brands and ask them to stand with you—not Monsanto and Big Food, and not the back-stabbing bureaucrats who run the Organic “Traitors” Association!

Click here to find out if your favorite organic brands are members of the OTA.

 

Monsanto is on trial. You be the judge.

Organic consumers - Tue, 2016-09-13 13:42
Food Safety, Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationSeptember 12, 2016https://secure.organicconsumers.org/o/50865/p/salsa/donation/common/public/?donate_page_KEY=12139 2016 Sept $115 420x280

If you could be “judge for a day,” which of Monsanto’s crimes would you take the most satisfaction in prosecuting?

Would you hold the world’s most famous corporate criminal accountable for poisoning the people of Monte Maíz, Argentina—the “City of Death”—where glyphosate has caused a huge spike in miscarriages and cancer?

Would you bring down the hammer of justice on Monsanto for making the lives of India’s farmers so desperate that nearly 300,000 of them have committed suicide?

Or would you look closer to home, where here in the U.S. Monsanto's calculated infiltration of regulatory agencies resulted in the unleashing of cancer-causing GMOs into our food system without safety testing?

Where non-GMO farmers whose crops are contaminated by nearby GMO crops are sued by Monsanto for “illegally growing” the company’s patented seeds?

Where Monsanto's attacks on independent scientists and journalists have ruined careers?

And most recently, where the Biotech Bully’s big spending corrupted our democracy to the point where Congress ignored the will of 90 percent of American citizens and instead, at Monsanto’s bidding, stripped Americans of the most basic right to know if our food has been contaminated with toxic pesticide-drenched GMOs?

Monsanto’s crimes against human health and the environment, on a global scale, are well-documented.

And yet, with great arrogance, diabolical planning and riches acquired at the expense of human suffering and irreparable harm to the environment, Monsanto carries on with business as usual, even as it looks to merge with yet another corporate criminal, Bayer.

With less than a week to go, we are far short of our fall online fundraising goal. Fortunately, corporate heroes like Mercola.com and Dr. Bronner’s have stepped up with a matching funds offer—but we need your help to raise $85,000 by midnight Friday, September 16. If like us, you believe Monsanto has to be stopped, please make a contribution today. You can donate online, by phone or by mail, details here.

On October 15-16, in The Hague, Netherlands, a panel of five distinguished international judges and numerous lawyers will hear testimony from 29 witnesses representing five continents. OCA will pay for many of these witnesses to fly to The Hague, so they can tell the world how Monsanto has devastated their lives, their farms, their careers, their countries.

The International Monsanto Tribunal is a citizens’ initiative. It is being organized by the people, to give Monsanto’s victims a voice, on an international stage. While the opinions that will be issued by the judges are non-binding, this tribunal, as has historically been the case with citizens’ tribunals, will create grassroots pressure on governments and the United Nations to hold Monsanto legally liable for its criminal activity.

I am on the Monsanto Tribunal organizing committee, and OCA is making a substantial financial commitment to the tribunal, because we believe this initiative is a necessary step in bringing down what is arguably one of the worst multinational corporations in history.

But the Monsanto Tribunal is just one example of our ongoing work to expose Monsanto and its allies. We have much more work to do.

In 2017, OCA will work tirelessly to expose the health hazards of glyphosate and other poisons peddled by Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta and the rest. We will test as many food products as we can, for as many toxic chemicals as we can find—and pressure the mainstream media to publish our results.

We will go after the food companies that mislead consumers with blatantly false product labels.

We will continue to provide financial support to US Right to Know, a nonprofit dedicated to exposing the lies behind slick PR campaigns by biotech, food and pharmaceutical companies, and attacks on scientists and journalists.

We will launch a massive education and media campaign exposing the link between Monsanto and a factory farm system that produces toxic food, pollutes more water and air than any other industry, treats workers unfairly and inflicts unconscionable suffering on animals.

It would be easy to give up this fight—especially after Monsanto’s masterful manipulation of Congress, which led to passage of the DARK Act.

But giving up is exactly what Monsanto wants you, all of us, to do. 

Let me assure you, that we will not stop standing up to corporate criminals on your behalf. Ever. But we need your help.

Please help us raise $85,000 by midnight Friday, September 16. Every donation, large, small or in-between, will help fuel the battle against corrupt power. You can donate online, by phone or by mail, details here.

Thank you!

In solidarity,

Ronnie Cummins
International Director

P.S. Mercola.com and Dr. Bronner’s will match your donation, made by midnight September 16. Please make a donation today, to take advantage of these generous matching funds offers, and to fuel the battle against Monsanto’s crimes against the world. Donate online here.

Is Your Ice Cream Flavored With a Poison Banned in Europe?

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-09-08 14:40
Food Safety, Genetic EngineeringRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationSeptember 6, 2016 2016 Sept $35k 420x280

Would you feed your child yogurt or ice cream contaminated with an herbicide so bad it was banned in Europe more than a decade ago?

Not knowingly, of course. But unknowingly, you may be doing just that.

Can you make a donation today to help us expose the poisons in our food and start a #ConsumerRevolution to clean up our food supply? You can donate online, by check or by mail, details here.

A few weeks ago, we ran an article at the top of our weekly newsletter that should have alarmed everyone who read it.

In case you missed it, the gist of the story was this: Dairy cows in Vermont eat a diet of GMO corn sprayed with, among other poisons, atrazine—a chemical the EPA says is unsafe at any level.

We're not talking small amounts here. Between 1999 to 2012, Vermont’s dairy farmers applied more than 2,533,329 pounds of metolachlor, atrazine and simazine to their cornfields.

All three of these chemicals are classified as  “probable” human carcinogens, known endocrine disruptors, and birth defect progenitors.

All three of these chemicals are poisoning Vermont’s waterways. 

Are these dangerous chemicals also poisoning the milk, cheese, ice cream and yogurt made from cows fed GMO corn?

With your help, we aim to find out. 

We've started testing dairy products made not only in Vermont, but in other states where atrazine is sprayed on GMO crops.

Can you make a donation today to help us expose the poisons in our food and start a #ConsumerRevolution to clean up our food supply? You can donate online, by check or by mail, details here.

It’s high time you knew the truth about the poisons in your food. Once you do, we believe you’ll join the growing army of consumers who will ultimately force food corporations to clean up their acts.

That’s why OCA is now involved in five lawsuits against companies that falsely label their products “organic” or “100% natural,” when in fact they aren’t.

And it’s why we are now testing a wide variety of foods for not just glyphosate, but also for atrazine, metolachlor, simazine, growth hormones, antibiotics and other chemicals and substances that humans were never intended to eat.

Let’s not kid ourselves. The battle for labels on GMO foods was as much about getting cancer-causing chemicals like glyphosate out of our food, as it was about labeling GMOs.

If the GMO labeling fight taught us anything, it’s that politicians and U.S. regulatory agencies work to protect corporate profits, not us.

We will lobby hard to get glyphosate, atrazine and other chemicals banned.

But I believe that ultimately, it will take a #ConsumerRevolution to get these poisons off the market. We must first identify the foods that are contaminated. Then educate the public and mass media. Then mobilize boycotts.

Over the coming months, as we test foods for poisons like glyphosate and atrazine, we'll need your help to launch massive boycotts.

Right now, we need your help to fund this work.

We still need to raise about $165,000 to reach our goal of $200,000 by midnight September 16. Can you make a donation today? You can donate online, by check or by mail, details here.

Thank you!

 

In solidarity,

Ronnie Cummins
International Director

P.S. Atrazine is the second most commonly used herbicide in the U.S. It’s widely used to combat weeds on golf courses, residential lawns and Christmas tree farms. It’s also used on half of all corn grown in the U.S. That means it's in our food. Donate online here.

Time to Drive Factory Farmed Food off the Market

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-09-08 13:43
Environment & Climate, CAFOs vs. Free Range, Genetic EngineeringMartha RosenbergRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationSeptember 7, 2016 cow animal farm mad angry cc 420x280.jpg

After a decade of exposing and demonizing Monsanto and genetically engineered foods, including an intense four-year battle to force mandatory labeling of GMOs (a battle rudely terminated in July when Congress rammed through the outrageous DARK Act), the U.S. food movement stands at the crossroads. 

Should we keep badgering Monsanto’s minions in Washington for the right to know what’s in our food, a sentiment shared by the overwhelming majority of consumers? Or should we focus more on single-issue reforms, such as banning neonicotinoid bee-killing pesticides, better nutrition in schools, taxes on soda, and an end to the reckless use of antibiotics in animal feed? 

A growing number of food activists believe it’s time to move beyond limited or single-issue campaigning and lobbying and take on the entire degenerative food and farming system, starting with the malevolent profit-driver and lynchpin of industrial agriculture, GMOs and fast food: factory farming.

We obviously can’t count on a corrupt Congress or a Clinton/Trump White House to enact significant policy change, no matter how popular or just our demands. So we need to shift our strategy and tactics. We need to aggressively mobilize a full-blown online and on-the-ground food fight, complete with marketplace pressure, popular education, boycotts, litigation, brand de-legitimization, and direct action.  

To bolster these strategies and tactics, we need to increase independent lab testing of brand-name foods so we can expose the human health and environmental poisons and toxins lurking in chemical-GMO-factory-farmed foods. At the same time, we will reveal the nutritional and environmental superiority of organic, grass-fed and regenerative foods and crops.

Millions of Americans are rejecting Big Food’s tainted fare, voting with their consumer dollars for healthier, humane, environmental- and climate-friendly foods and products. Our job as consumer advocates is to move organic and regenerative food and farming, including meat, dairy and eggs, from being a niche market to being the dominant force in U.S. and world agriculture. 

Factory farms are the malevolent profit-driver of Big Food 

Why do we categorize factory farms (euphemistically called Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs by the government and industry) the “malevolent profit-driver and lynchpin” of industrial and GMO agriculture? 

Factory farming is a trillion-dollar industry that has a devastating impact on food quality, human health, animal welfare, farmworkers, rural communities, water quality, air pollution, biodiversity, and greenhouse gas emissions. Globally, two-thirds of all farm animals are now confined on factory farms. In the US the figure is even higher—90-95 percent. 

The overwhelming majority of U.S. and global farmland today is used either to raise animals before they are sent to the CAFO feedlots, or to grow the GMO and chemical intensive crops such as alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, soybeans and sugar beets.

The U.S. factory farm meat, dairy and poultry industry is an out-of-control system based on cruel, filthy, disease-ridden and environmentally destructive animal prisons; GMO-and pesticide-tainted feeds; labor exploitation; false advertising; corporate corruption of government; and the use of massive amounts of dangerous pesticides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones and growth promoters.

Factory-farm meat, dairy, poultry and fish are the number one cause of water pollution, soil degradation, greenhouse gas emissions diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, reproductive defects, hormone disruption and obesity. 
We will never get rid of GMOs, chemical-intensive mono-crops, antibiotic resistance, animal cruelty and agriculturally derived greenhouse gas emissions until we eliminate factory farms. 

We need to stop feeding herbivores (cattle, sheep, goats) billions of tons of GMO and pesticide-contaminated grain. We need to stop lacing animal feed with antibiotics and growth hormones. We need to promote zero consumption of factory farm foods. We need to move the world’s billions of farm animals back onto the pastures, rangelands, and agroforestry paddocks where they belong.

And we need to stop the overconsumption of meat and animal products in general. Americans consume on the average 10 ounces a day of meat, whereas natural health experts recommend three. 

It’s time to mobilize public consciousness and market pressure against factory farming. It’s time to transform our entire degenerate chemical- and energy-intensive industrial food and farming system into a system that regenerates—a system that can restore biodiversity and revitalize public health, animal health, the environment, rural communities and the body politic, while drawing down billions of tons of excess CO2 from the atmosphere and safely sequestering this carbon in the soil and forests, where it belongs.

It’s time to drive factory farms and GMOs off the market, for good.

Factory farms are the lynchpin of the GMO industry

The multi-billion dollar GMO and pesticide industries could not survive without factory farms (or CAFOs). These animal prisons monopolize farmland for chemical fertilizer and pesticide-dependent GMO grains while denying animals access to pasture and the ability to exercise their natural behavior. 

Ninety-five percent of the nine billion cows, pigs, goats, chickens and turkeys raised for meat in the U.S. every year are kept in confinement for most of their lives. These CAFO prisons are the lynchpin and foundation of Monsanto and the Gene Giants.

Factory farming creates a huge market for “animal pharma”—the divisions of drug companies that create livestock drugs. CAFO meat, dairy, and poultry is routinely laced with antibiotics, vaccines, anti-inflammatory drugs, hormones and growth chemicals to keep animals alive in deplorable conditions. These dangerous drug residues end up in food and drinking water. 

For example, the Office of Inspector General of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) found in 2010 that beef released to the public contained penicillin, the antibiotics florfenicol, sulfamethazine and sulfadimethoxine, the anti-parasite drug ivermectin, the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug flunixin and heavy metals.

Factory farms are also unremittingly cruel. “We have industrialized the production of animals for food, putting them wing to wing and shoulder to shoulder in factory farms,” writes Wayne Pacelle of HSUS. “We confine animals in small cages and crates; mutilate them by cutting off their tails or beaks without painkillers; slaughter them when they're too sick or injured to walk; and cause them immense chronic pain and disease through unhealthy breeding practices that swell their size and unnaturally accelerate their reproduction.”

Factory farms are a blight on the environment

Mono-Cropping—repeatedly growing a single GMO crop with chemical fertilizers and pesticides on large amounts of land to feed animals —decarbonizes soil, reduces food quality and nutrients, destroys biodiversity and creates "super pests" and "super weeds.” 

If that weren’t bad enough, factory farms are the nation’s biggest polluters, contaminating not only soil, but air and water. For example, Tyson Foods alone released 104.4 million pounds of toxic pollutants into waterways between 2010 and 2014 according to a report by Environment America.

In 2003, Tyson the second worst polluter of U.S. waterways (second only to a polluting steel manufacturing company) pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act with effluvia from its Sedalia, Mo. facility and agreed to pay $7.5 million. But before its probation ended, Tyson was charged by the state of Oklahoma with polluting the Illinois River watershed. Poultry polluters eject as much phosphorous into the watershed as a city of ten million people, said State Attorney General Drew Edmondson in bringing charges.

Factory farming and the mismanagement of fertilizers also have long been known to cause huge “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere. A 1998 EPA study found 35,000 miles of streams in 22 states and ground water in 17 states that had been polluted by factory farms. Even though six of the top 15 polluting industries in the U.S. are food producers—paper and gasoline producers pollute less—these factory farm polluters are exempt from federal water-pollution regulation.

Factory farms harm workers

Those people who are against immigration or foreign workers don’t seem to realize that without cheap labor their fast-food hamburgers would cost $10—not $1 - $4. The fact is, the fast food industry relies on cheap, foreign labor at factory farms to help keep costs and prices down.

When it was raided in 2008, the huge kosher slaughterhouse Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa, employed 290 Guatemalans, 93 Mexicans, two Israelis and four Ukrainians. (It also had a meth lab in the plant to keep workers motivated.) Within weeks of the raid, Agriprocessors was canvassing homeless shelters and running radio ads in Mexico to replenish its workforce. At many meat plants legal workers from places like Somali and the Palau Islands—not U.S. workers—dominate. 

Factory farms invariably treat these workers, who cannot protest their working conditions, as abysmally as they do animals and the environment. Still, lawmakers defend factory farms because they allegedly create “jobs.” But what kind of jobs?

Here’s just a sampling of what factory farm workers have endured.

“Aaron,” an undercover investigator for Mercy for Animals who was employed at the egg producer Norco Ranch in Menifee, Calif., told the author that only two employees were in charge of seven barns, each holding 30,000 hens when he worked there. His job, maintaining conveyer belts 12 hours a day, six days a week with no overtime paid $8.50 an hour but his non-English-speaking coworkers earned less, he said.

The death of a slaughterhouse worker from tuberculosis at a Tyson Foods slaughterhouse in 2007 brought tempers to a froth in Emporia, Kan. “Was Tyson attempting to deceive the public as to the reason or cause for this employee’s death?” asked a commentator on the Emporia Gazette’s website, according to an article on Counterpunch.

According to a 2013 article in Alternet, the case of Jose Navarro, a federal poultry inspector who died at the age of 37, also raised questions. Navarro, who coughed up blood several months before his death, may have had lung and kidney failure, according to the autopsy report.

In 2007 and 2008, a debilitating neurological disease called progressive inflammatory neuropathy (PIN) broke out at Quality Pork Producers in Austin, Minn., Indiana Packers Corp. in Delphi, Ind. and Hormel Foods Corp. in Fremont, Neb. PIN afflicted only those workers at the “head table” where hog brains were turbo-charged out the animals’ snouts with a high pressure hose and poured into containers for shipment to countries where brains are considered a delicacy. A Plexiglas shield protected the hose operator, but other workers were likely breathing the pulverized brain material and developing PIN.

PIN led to limb weakness, paralysis, wheelchairs and hospitalization. Employees protested at the Quality Pork Producers plant in Austin holding signs that said “Hormel and QPP Guilty For Our Disease.”

The dismal lives of animals on factory farms

Confining animals wing-to-wing and shoulder-to-shoulder over their own manure, then inundating them with chemicals to keep them from dying is clearly a recipe for disease. 

By May 2013, the scourge of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) had killed one-tenth of all U.S. pigs—a fact Big Meat was able to downplay in the media. By 2014, PEDv had killed at least 7 million piglets in their first days of life. PEDv was so bad that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) caught a Kentucky farm that lost 900 piglets in two days feeding dead pigs to other pigs in an attempt to induce "immunity" in survivors.  Footage from the Iron Maiden Hog Farm in Owensboro, Ky. also shows pigs whose legs had been bound together to keep them standing when they otherwise would have collapsed.

Big Meat hopes the public has forgotten about bird flu which took the lives of 50 million chickens and turkeys in 2015, mostly healthy animals killed through cruel suffocation methods to protect farmers’ profits.

“It’s reasonable when we see these outbreaks to wonder if they are a manifestation of the unsustainability of the system,” says Suzanne McMillan, senior director of the farm and animal welfare campaign at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) citing the intensive confinement, unsanitary conditions, unnatural and unsustainable conditions on factory farms. 

Big Meat downplayed both porcine epidemic diarrhea and bird flu in the press, not wanting customers to fear their products—or to reveal the appalling conditions factory farmed animals live in.

GMO animals on the dinner plate

While the FDA approval of the AquAdvantage “frankensalmon” got media attention, other, less well-publicized GMO animals are also in the works. 

Scientists at the University of Missouri, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Harvard Medical School have developed “White piglets with muscle tissue larded with omega-3 fatty acids,” that can lead to "healthy pork," reports the New York Times, because such fatty acids are linked to a lowered incidence of heart disease. “People can continue to eat their junk food,” rhapsodized Harvard’s Alexander Leaf. “You won’t have to change your diet, but you will be getting what you need.” Aren’t animals great?

Brave New scientists at the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, where the cloned sheep Dolly was created, have developed chickens that produce eggs with interferon functioning as living, breathing biofactories for humans. “Once you’ve made the transgenic birds, then it’s very easy,” enthused scientist Helen Sang, PhD. “You can breed up hundreds of birds from one cockerel [young male] — because they can be bred with hundreds of hens and you can collect an egg a day and have hundreds of chicks in no time.”

The end product—unhealthy, toxic food

In addition to causing water pollution, soil degradation, fish kills, dead zones, greenhouse gas emissions and extreme animal cruelty, factory farms harm human health itself. They make fattening, over-processed, chemically-adulterated food so cheap, obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome are epidemic. The average American man today weights 194 pounds and the average woman 165 pounds--everything from airline seats to coffins to hospital operating tables are being made bigger to accommodate the growing girth.

But there is money in growing GMOs for livestock and unhealthy human foods and the industry increasingly monopolizes. Ninety-five percent of all grain reserves in the world are now controlled by just six multinational agribusinesses and the same concentration of power is seen with beef packers, pork packers and flour milling. Big Food has become so wealthy and politically powerful, it “money bombs” politicians in the U.S. to pass laws that ensure our degenerate chemical- and energy-intensive industrial food and farming system. The system pumps out billions of tons of climate-disruptive greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and destroys soils, destroys biodiversity and drives climate change.

But even though Monsanto, its indentured scientists, politicians, regulatory agencies and members of the mass media succeeded in ramming through the DARK Act this summer, consumers are building a grassroots-powered revolution that will succeed. 

Fast Food giants like McDonald’s, Burger King, and KFC; factory farm kingpins like Cargill, Tyson, JBS, Perdue, and Archer Daniels Midland; along with junk food multinationals such Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Nestlé, Campbell’s, Dannon, Smuckers and Starbucks are losing credibility and sales. Yet even as their profits stagnate, they want to hang on to their chemicals, their food additives, GMOs, their cronies in government, and their “cheap food” factory farm empire. 

But Big Food, Ag, and Pharma’s current problems are just the beginning.  It’s time for a change, Big Change. It’s time to zero in on factory farms and the entire degenerate food and farming system before it kills us all.

Martha Rosenberg is a contributing writer to the Organic Consumers Association. 

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

Tell These Retailers: Stop Selling 'Organic' Eggs that Actually Come from Factory Farms!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2016-09-07 20:32
Belong to campaign: Safeguard Organic StandardsCook Organic Not the PlanetCategory: All About Organics, Environment & ClimateArea: USA

You buy organic eggs for any number of reasons, probably related to not wanting to support factory farms that mistreat chickens, pollute the environment and produce eggs that are nutritionally inferior.

Unfortunately, not all organic eggs are created equal. You may be surprised to learn that most of the retail grocery chain store-brand “organic” eggs actually come from huge factory farm-type operations that routinely violate USDA National Organic Program (NOP) rules.

How do these companies get away with running fake “organic” egg operations? 

In theory, USDA standards for organic eggs dictate that hens should have access to the outdoors. But as a 2015 report by the Cornucopia Institute explains, those standards are unclear and thus open to interpretation. 

We would ask you to hound the Big Three fake organic egg producers—but we know they won’t care what you think, as long as stores like Kroger and Target and Safeway and others keep buying up the eggs and slapping their own labels on them.

The only way to make the organic egg industry honest is to get retailers, including the big retail grocery chains like Publix and Giant Eagle and Costco, to stop sourcing their eggs from industrial-scale producers like Cal-Maine Foods, Rose Acre Farms and Herbruck’s. And the only way to do that, is to stop buying the store brands until they switch. 

TAKE ACTION: Tell These Retailers: Stop Selling 'Organic' Eggs that Actually Come from Factory Farms!Read more

"100% Natural" Weed Killer?

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-09-01 18:40
All About Organics, Genetic EngineeringOrganic Consumers AssociationAugust 31, 2016 surprised baby face 420x280

You’ve heard a lot in the past few years about consumers’ right to know about GMOs. And believe me when I say that battle is not over yet.

But what about your "right to know" about irradiated synthetic ingredients in “organic” baby formula?  Or about Monsanto’s glyphosate in “100% Whole Grain” Shredded Wheat and “100% Natural” Nature Valley granola bars?

And shouldn't you have the "right to know" if the eggs you bought that had a "pasture-raised" label on them actually came from chickens that never spent a day outdoors, much less on a pasture?

Food manufacturers are lying to you. Every day.

That’s why the OCA is behind five lawsuits against food companies—and why we will soon announce several more.

Can you help support this work by donating to our fall online fundraising campaign? We need to raise $200,000 by midnight, September 16, to meet our budget and keep these, and future, lawsuits going. You can donate online, by check or by mail, details here.

Junk food makers spend millions of dollars studying consumer preferences. They know what you want—and what you don't want.

They know you don’t want food full of pesticides and hormones and other toxic chemicals. They know you care about the environment, about the welfare of farmers, and about the way animals raised for food are treated.

But rather than produce the food consumers want, companies like General Mills, Post, Earth’s Best, Handsome Brook—even a company that calls itself The Honest Co.!—use false and misleading labels to trick you into thinking you’re buying the food you want. 

And then they charge you a premium for it!

On Monday this week, we announced our latest lawsuit, against Handsome Brook Farm. This egg producer was started by a husband and wife, on a “bucolic” farm in New York, according to a recent article in Forbes. When the company started out, its eggs probably came from “pasture-raised” chickens.

But like a lot of small companies, Handsome Brook has grown. According to Forbes, the company has contracts with 75 farms in six states, and its eggs are sold in more than 4500 stores—including Kroger, Publix, Wegmans and Sprouts Farmers Market.

Handsome Brook still labels its eggs “pasture-raised.” But it’s not true. And by lying about it, Handsome Brook is cheating you, and its competitors—those companies that are doing the right thing.

We’ve also recently sued Post Holdings (maker of Shredded Wheat), and General Mills and its subsidiary, Nature Valley, for claiming that their products that test positive for Monsanto’s glyphosate are “100% natural.”

In April, we sued two baby formula makers—The Honest Co. and Earth’s Best—for stating that some of their infant formula brands are “organic” when they in fact contain ingredients not allowed under federal organic standards.

Last month, we forced Colgate-Palmolive to take down a webpage that intentionally misled consumers into thinking Tom’s of Maine toothpaste, owned by Colgate, was organic. Fortunately, we didn’t need to sue—one letter from our attorney was enough to end the deception.

I’m not personally a big fan of lawyers and courts. But I believe you deserve the truth about what you’re buying.

If Big Food companies refuse to label properly, OCA will sue them.

These lawsuits won’t bring in money for OCA, that’s not why we’re doing this. Our goal is to force companies to stop lying to you. And we need your help to do it.

Please help support this work by donating to our fall online fundraising campaign. We need to raise $200,000 by midnight, September 16, to meet our budget and keep these, and future, lawsuits going. You can donate online, by check or by mail, details here.

Thank you!

In solidarity,

Ronnie Cummins
International Director

P.S. We must also bring down the factory farm system. Less than 25 percent of GMO crops go into non-organic processed food. The overwhelming majority are used to make animal feed and ethanol. Factory farms are polluting our  water and air, abusing animals, treating workers unfairly, creating an antibiotic-resistant public health crisis and producing food that makes us sick. Please support this important work!  Donate online here.

Source Author 2: Ronnie Cummins

Tell Jessica Alba and Honest Co.: No Fake Organic Baby Formula!

Organic consumers - Mon, 2016-08-29 21:38
Belong to campaign: Safeguard Organic StandardsCategory: All About Organics, Food SafetyArea: USA

When new moms buy baby formula labeled “organic” they expect that product to actually meet USDA organic standards.

But if you bought the “Premium Organic” infant formula sold by The Honest Co., you were deceived—because that product contains synthetic ingredients that are not allowed under federal law.

In April, the Organic Consumers Association sued the Honest Co., founded by celebrity Jessica Alba, for duping consumers by falsely labeling some of its infant formula products as organic after learning that the products contained synthetic ingredients that under federal law are not allowed in organics.

In fact, of the 40 ingredients in the “Organic” Infant Formula, more than a quarter (11) are synthetic substances that are not allowed in organic products. The prohibited synthetic ingredients include: sodium selenite, taurine, ascorbyl palmitate, calcium pantothenate, choline bitartrate, cholecalciferol, beta-carotene, biotin, dl-alpha tocopherol, inositol, phytonadione.

Not only are these synthetic ingredients prohibited under USDA organic standards, but some of them ingredients are federally regulated as hazardous compounds. At least one is irradiated.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Jessica Alba and Honest Co.: No Fake Organic Baby Formula!Read more

Egg Retailer Handsome Brook Farm Sued Over Accuracy of Pasture-Raised Labeling

Organic consumers - Mon, 2016-08-29 16:30
All About OrganicsOrganic Consumers AssociationAugust 27, 2016 handsome brook eggs 420x280

EGG RETAILER HANDSOME BROOK FARM SUED OVER ACCURACY OF PASTURE-RAISED LABELING

Consumer and Animal Protection Advocates Allege Eggs Do Not Meet Consumer Expectations

For immediate release: August 29, 2016

Contact:
Natalia Lima, (201) 679-7088; Katherine Paul, (207) 653-3090
Alexis Baden-Mayer, (202) 744-0853

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), and The Richman Law Group announced the filing of a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court against egg retailer Handsome Brook Farm, on behalf of OCA. The lawsuit alleges Handsome Brook Farm has been selling eggs labeled as “pasture raised” that fall far short of consumer expectations for this term—thus violating the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act. The misleading labels also undercut the market for truly pasture-raised eggs.

Handsome Brook Farm has claimed all its eggs come from family farms in its distribution network, but with the rapid growth of the privately owned company, the suit alleges the company has failed to maintain the standards reflected in its packaging and is sourcing eggs from supplier farms that provide limited indoor space or outdoor access for birds. The suit alleges Handsome Brook Farm has even bought eggs on the open market, without regard for whether they came from pasture-raised hens. 

While the American Humane Association (AHA) touts Handsome Brook Farm as a 100 percent pasture raised, American Humane Certified™ egg provider, there are concerns regarding the thoroughness of the AHA audit of Handsome Brook Farm suppliers. And when the company has purchased eggs in the open market for resale, of course, there has been no guarantee they were American Humane Certified or “pasture raised.” Handsome Brook Farm has been reaping a windfall on these falsely labeled eggs, to the detriment of consumers and competitors. 

“There is raised awareness about the treatment of animals in the food industry, and consumers are willing to pay higher prices for more humane eggs,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “It is vital that labels accurately represent the products, so that consumers know what they are supporting with their dollars.”

“Consumers have the right to expect that food labels will accurately reflect the ingredients and the production methods described by those labels,” said OCA International Director Ronnie Cummins. “When corporations make false claims on their packaging, consumers are deceived, and honest producers are cheated. It’s our job to call them out on behalf of consumers.”

Read the formal complaint here. 

###

About the Animal Legal Defense Fund
The Animal Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1979 to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. To accomplish this mission, the Animal Legal Defense Fund files high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm; provides free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes; supports tough animal protection legislation and fights harmful legislation; and provides resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. For more information, please visit aldf.org.

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

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

 

Non Profits Sue General Mills for False and Misleading Use of ‘Natural’

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-08-25 16:26
All About Organics, The Myth of Natural, Food SafetyOrganic Consumers AssociationAugust 24, 2016 nature valley

Tests Reveal Nature Valley Products Contain Glyphosate, an Ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup

For Immediate Release: August 25, 2016

Contacts:
Beyond Pesticides, Jay Feldman, 202-255-4296, Stephanie Davio, 202-543-5450 
Organic Consumers Association, Katherine Paul, 207-653-3090
Moms Across America, Blair FitzGibbon, 202-503-6141

Non Profits Sue General Mills for False and Misleading Use of ‘Natural’ 
Tests Reveal Nature Valley Products Contain Glyphosate, an Ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup

Washington, DC - Today, three non profit organizations filed a lawsuit against General Mills for misleading the public by labeling their Nature Valley brand granola bars “Made with 100% NATURAL whole grain OATS.” It was recently discovered that the herbicide chemical glyphosate, an ingredient in Roundup and hundreds of other glyphosate-based herbicides, is present in the Nature Valley granola bars, which consumers expect to be natural and free of toxins.

Moms Across America, Beyond Pesticides and Organic Consumers Association with The Richman Law Group filed jointly on behalf of the non profit members in Washington DC under the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act.

“As a mother, when I read “100% Natural” I would expect that to mean no synthetic or toxic chemicals at all. Glyphosate is a toxic chemical that the EPA recognizes as a “reproductive effector” which “can cause liver and kidney damage” and “digestive effects.” It is unacceptable that Nature Valley granola bars contain any amount of this chemical.” Zen Honeycutt, Founder and Executive Director of Moms Across America.

A national survey conducted by Consumer Reports in 2015 finds that sixty six percent of consumers seek out products with a "natural" food label under the false belief that they are produced without pesticides, genetically modified organisms, hormones, and artificial ingredients.

“Glyphosate cannot be considered ‘natural’ because it is a toxic, synthetic herbicide,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “Identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a carcinogen, it should not be allowed for use in food production, and certainly not in food with a label that suggests to consumers that the major ingredient –oats– is 100% natural, when it is produced with and contains the highly hazardous glyphosate,” he said.

"Food grown with dangerous pesticides like glyphosate isn't natural. Consumers understand this. That's why sales of natural products are booming. Unfortunately, companies' misleading claims trick consumers into buying just what they're trying to avoid. This has to be stopped." -Alexis Baden-Mayer, Political Director of the Organic Consumers Association.

The case specifically cites the use and presence of the weedkiller glyphosate in General Mills’ Nature Valley Granola products. The hazardous chemical is used during the production of oats, the major ingredient in these products, which are marketed as “natural” and labeled “Made with 100% Natural Whole Grain Oats.” As a result, glyphosate is present in the natural-labeled products.

Proponents of glyphosate herbicide use may claim that the residue levels found in many foods and beverages in America recently are below the EPA allowable levels established in 2014, and therefore consumers have no reason to be concerned. However, a 2015 study published in the journal Environmental Health finds that chronic, low-dose exposure to glyphosate as low as .1 parts per billion leads to adverse effects on liver and kidney health. A study released in early 2016 finds that glyphosate can cause changes to DNA function resulting in the onset of chronic disease, including diabetes, obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease. 

The lawsuit alleges that, when marketing Nature Valley products, General Mills misleads and fails to disclose to consumers of the use and presence of glyphosate and its harmful effects. Plaintiffs are asking a jury to find that General Mills’ “natural” labeling is deceptive and misleading and therefore a violation of law, and require its removal from the market.

Read the full complaint here

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

Moms Across America is 501(c)3 non profit and a national coalition of unstoppable moms raising awareness about GMOs and toxins in our food and environment. Their motto is "Empowered Moms, Healthy Kids.” Visit www.momsacrossamerica.org

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

 

Why Stop The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)?

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-08-25 15:26
Fair Trade & Social Justice, Farm Issues, Politics & GlobalizationDana GeffnerHuffington PostAugust 24, 2016http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-geffner/why-stop-the-transpacific_b_11665450.html frack

wilpf.org

At the Democratic National Convention signs read No TPP, a concert is traveling the U.S. called Rock Against the TPP, and even Donald Trump wants to stop the TPP. Unlike Donald Trump, most of us are not protectionists looking out only for U.S. corporate interests and the rich 1 percent, but rather embrace global trade when it is through fair trade agreements and policies that protect farmers, workers, and consumers around the world as well as protects our planet. Those of us working in the fair trade movement, and in social justice have been working on fighting unjust trade agreements for years, and it is gaining momentum in the mainstream.

So what is the TPP? The TPP is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive trade agreement between 12 countries — the United States, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru — that has been coined by anti-TPP activists as NAFTA on steroids. NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) was a trade agreement signed in 1994 by the United States, Mexico and Canada that displaced over 2 million farmers and agricultural workers in Mexico. Family farmers in the United States and Canada also struggled and lost income while large-scale farmers and agricultural corporations thrived. The TPP is expected to have similar effects on a much larger scale.

The government and mainstream media have reported that the TPP will benefit the agriculture sector. But what they are not saying is that the sector of the agriculture system that will benefit is the industrial system that harms people and the planet.

The United States is highly reliant on industrial agriculture, which means those 12 countries going into the agreement will be pitting their small-scale farmers against our large-scale farming practices. This will force small-scale farmers out of business and off their lands strengthening the industrial agricultural machine. The industrial food system drives climate change; we cannot break our reliance on industrial food without first breaking our reliance on unjust free trade agreements. So it is not the organic, regenerative, biodiverse farmer who provides your CSA or morning coffee who will benefit.

Tell Congress: Stop the Tyson Foods Anti-Farmer Act!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2016-08-24 09:12
Belong to campaign: Cook Organic Not the PlanetCategory: Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

The factory farm industry is so full of bad actors it’s tough to say who’s the worst.

But Tyson Foods (NYSE: TSN) surely belongs at or near the top of the list.

Besides Tyson’s well-documented animal abuse record, its callous disregard for the safety of its employees, and its role as one of this country’s worst polluters, Tyson is also actively lobbying to prevent Congress from passing legislation that would provide basic protections for the farmers who raise the animals, under contract, destined for Tyson’s processing plants.

Why? So Tyson Foods Chairman John Tyson can protect his billions in profits.

Over the years, Tyson’s farmers’ incomes have dropped, while Tyson has been feathering his nest thanks to higher and higher profit margins.  Tyson doesn’t even pay farmers enough to meet their operating costs. Of growers whose sole source of income is chicken farming, 71 percent of are living below the poverty line.

New but yet-to-be-enacted rules under the Packers and Stockyards Act would help protect farmers who supply chicken to Tyson. But if Tyson has its way, those rules will never see the light of day.

Take Action: Tell Congress to stop the Tyson Foods Anti-Farmer Act!Read more

Toothpaste ‘Truthiness’

Organic consumers - Wed, 2016-08-17 16:18
August 15, 2016Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulAll About Organics Toms of Maine Toothpaste 420x280

Stephen Colbert made it popular, but the word “truthiness” has been around for a long time.

Webster’s provides a list of definitions for "truthiness," including this one: (noun) : truth level of a statement; and this one: (noun) : The quality of stating what one wishes or feels to be true instead of what is actually true.

Tom’s of Maine, or more accurately, the brand’s majority owner, Colgate-Palmolive, was clearly guilty of “truthiness” when it created a webpage titled “How to Identify Organic Toothpaste.” On that page, intended primarily to promote the Tom’s of Maine toothpaste brand, the company stopped just short of overtly claiming the brand is organic. But it clearly implied that it is.

We complained (here’s the letter from our lawyer). And we asked you to complain, by emailing Colgate’s CEO, Ian M. Cook, and speaking out on social media.

You did. And within hours, we were contacted by a manager at Tom’s, and a Colgate lawyer. They apologized, and removed the webpage.

Some of you pointed out that Tom’s of Maine toothpaste doesn’t label its product organic. That’s true, but that wasn’t the point. In addition to falsely claiming that no USDA organic certification exists for personal products like toothpaste (it does), the company did everything it could to imply that the brand is organic—including using OCA’s name to imply endorsement.

Thanks to you, Colgate is no longer playing the “truthiness” game with the Tom’s of Maine brand.

Coincidentally, days after our alert went out, the truth police at Cornucopia Institute issued this report: Behind the Dazzling Smile:  Toxic Ingredients in Your Toothpaste.

Want to know which toothpaste is the most consumer-friendly? Check out Cornucopia’s Toothpaste Brand Scorecard.

The short-lived campaign against Tom’s was so successful, we thought it was high time we enlisted your help in identifying other cases of mislabeling, false advertising or Tom’s of Maine-like “truthiness.” Suspect a brand is misleading consumers? Let us know! Email: fraud@organicconsumers.org

Tell Tom’s of Maine: Your toothpaste is not organic. Stop misleading consumers!

Organic consumers - Fri, 2016-08-12 14:40
Belong to campaign: Coming CleanSafeguard Organic StandardsCategory: All About OrganicsArea: USA

Tom’s of Maine, that homespun brand from the quaint little state of Maine, wouldn’t lie to you about its toothpaste, would it?

Yes, it would. It turns out that the popular brand, now owned by Colgate-Palmolive, is lying to you about quite a few things, including the biggest lie: that Tom’s of Maine toothpaste is organic (it’s not).

If you’re a conscious consumer who cares about everything you put in your mouth, including toothpaste, you might at some point have gone online to search for organic toothpaste. If you did, you might have been woefully misled.

Guess what happened when we googled “organic toothpaste?"

Several Tom’s of Maine toothpaste products popped up. Strange, given that Tom’s of Maine doesn’t even use organic ingredients in its toothpaste, much less does the brand offer a certified organic toothpaste.

Tom’s of Maine built its reputation on being an independent, honest, ethical (no animal testing) brand. But in 2006, Colgate-Palmolive bought a controlling 84-percent interest in the company. We all know what happens when the big, greedy, unethical (Colgate tests its products on animals) big guys buy up the little guys—nothing good.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Tom’s of Maine: Your toothpaste is not organic. Stop misleading consumers!Read more

Contemporary Shrimp Production Poses Risks to Consumers and the Environment

Organic consumers - Wed, 2016-08-10 16:45
Environment & Climate, Health IssuesMartha RosenbergOrganic ConsumersAugust 9, 2016 shrimp 420x280 cc

Americans love shrimp. On average, we consume about 4.10 pounds of it a year, compared with only 2.8 pounds of canned tuna and 1.84 pounds of salmon. Most of that shrimp is imported from countries in Southeast Asia, where it’s produced using chemicals and drugs not approved in the U.S.

Shrimp may be the most popular seafood in the U.S. But would we eat as much of it if we fully understood the food safety, environmental and ethical issues associated with its production?

Like contemporary factory farm meat production, shrimp farming has become intensive. Shrimp are crowded into small ponds. Because the water in those ponds typically is not re-circulated, harmful waste builds up, oxygen is depleted and disease breaks out. To combat disease, fish farmers often turn to the excessive use of antibiotics. 

It isn’t just the shrimp itself that’s questionable. Shrimp production in Southeast Asia is rife with worker abuse and destruction of local farmland—which means destruction of local livelihoods. In Bangladesh, for instance, local farmers have lost land to industrial shrimp operations that are operated by non-locals. Their once-fertile land now is submerged under the commercial operations’ man-made ponds, which often are built by destroying mangrove forests which previously supported the local community. The "chemical soup" that commercial shrimp are grown in threatens local workers, and pollutes their water bodies and marine life with toxic effluent. When the ponds become so polluted that even antibiotics no longer work, the operators pack up and move on to a new location where they destroy another local environment.

Clearly, consumers should avoid imported shrimp. But unfortunately, it’s not easy. Labeling omissions and even outright fraud make it almost impossible to know where the shrimp you buy comes from, or how it was produced. Farmed fish are often labeled “gulf shrimp” even though an Oceana exposé found instances where packages of “gulf shrimp” included many non-gulf species—even aquarium pet shrimp. Yet packages marked just “shrimp” often, ironically, contain wild-caught shrimp. Such fraud costs Americans an estimated $25 billion annually says the Atlantic.

Mislabeling is more often than not intentional. The largest seafood vendors pressure the government not to enforce proper labeling, seafood writer Jerald Horst told 
the New York Times. The federal Country of Origin Labeling Law (COOL) used to mandate disclosure of where fresh seafood was farmed or caught, but the law didn’t apply to processed foods, including boiled and breaded seafood, seafood added to packaged meals, or shrimp sold in restaurants. However now, even that consumer protection is gone—Congress repealed COOL in December 2015.

Chemicals, including banned ones, dominate shrimp farming 

Commercial shrimp production in India, the second largest exporter of shrimp to the U.S, begins with a long list of chemicals, including urea, superphosphate and diesel. From there it gets worse.  Fish-killing chemicals like chlorine and rotenone (linked to Parkinson’s Disease), and the use of Borax and sodium tripolyphosphate (a suspected neurotoxin), are rampant in in India’s shrimp production, according to “Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood.”

By contrast, only one chemical, formalin, is approved for use in U.S. shrimp production. Formalin is a parasiticide which contains formaldehyde gas. It has no mandatory withdrawal time or legal residue tolerance.  Other chemicals, such as the antibiotics the chloramphenicol and quinolones, are completely banned in U.S shrimp production, while others are "unapproved" but widely used "off-label." 

Too many inspection loopholes

Both the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the shrimp industry have mechanisms to protect the consumer from bacterial and chemical shrimp risks, but the regulations are difficult to enforce. The FDA relies on the Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) program, the PREDICT system, random shipment checks, "import alerts" and 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations to stop unhealthful shrimp. But there are only 200 fulltime inspectors to police 300 ports, according to interviews. HACCP does not include checks for a bacterium called Vibrio in shrimp. Widely but erroneously believed to be destroyed by a quick freezing process, Vibrio is known to sometimes survive freezing.

When imported shrimp arrives in the U.S., the FDA is in charge of ensuring its safety—but over 96 percent of shipments are not opened or checked at the ports. Instead, the FDA relies on an automated system that flags companies with prior offenses for greater scrutiny, including document inspection, visual inspection (is it really shrimp?) and actual lab tests. If a company or country is an actual violator of FDA regulations, shipments are automatically detained and denied entry under the FDA’s Import Alert program, without inspections or lab tests. Automatic detention of shipments is not lifted until a manufacturer, shipper, grower or importer demonstrates to the FDA that the violation has been corrected.  But the system isn’t foolproof. When a country is blocked from shipping shrimp it often "transships" through a different country, one that is believed to be safe, say seafood safety experts.

Most trade and seafood experts agree the solution to unsafe shrimp from farming operations is not stopping it at the port but at the pond, using third-party certification in the country where it is produced. Yet a 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which assessed FDA third-party certification of shrimp production, found language barriers, data collection irregularities and a general feeling that "no one was minding the store." Six out of eight auditors, for example, did not even know what drugs and chemicals were approved in U.S. exports. 

Wild-Caught shrimp—better for you, bad for the environment

Wild-caught shrimp do not put consumers at the same risk of exposure to chemicals as farm-raised shrimp, especially imported farm-raised shrimp. But wild-caught shrimp takes a huge toll on the environment.

The process used to catch wild shrimp involves dragging cone-shaped nets, called otter trawlers, along the ocean floor. But these nets catch more than just shrimp. For every pound of wild-caught shrimp, another six pounds of other marine life, referred to as “bycatch,” is destroyed—and discarded. 

Bycatch, including dolphins and sharks, can be reduced if shrimpers replace otter trawlers with Turtle Exclusion Devices (TED). But some shrimpers forego these devices because they reduce the size of the shrimp catch. In 1987, Louisiana even passed a law prohibiting enforcement of federal TED regulations in its water, rightfully inspiring the Monterey Bay Aquarium to blacklist Louisiana wild shrimp. 

Is there a way to safely and ethically eat shrimp?

Clearly, designations like “gulf shrimp,” “wild caught,” "organic" or "turtle safe” mean nothing.  Unless labels are third-party certified, shrimp sellers can, and do, claim whatever they like on their labels. Luckily several third-party certified labels exist on shrimp packages that provide some transparency about production methods, from stocking density and chemicals used to negative environmental and social impacts, including the use of unethical labor. 

Certifications that are widely trusted are the Marine Stewardship Council, Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices label (BAP), the Aquaculture Stewardship Council's Farmed Responsibly label, Whole Foods Market's Responsibly Farmed label and the Naturland label. 

But for the most part, when it comes to buying shrimp—whether from a store or a restaurant—it’s buyer beware.

Martha Rosenberg is a contributing writer to the Organic Consumers Association.