Could Farms Like This Change the World?

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-09-13 15:39
September 13, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationEnvironment & Climate regen_farm_1200x630.jpg

Regeneration International and Kiss the Ground have teamed up to create a video series they call “Trails of Regeneration.” Their latest segment takes you to Normandy, France, for a closer look at a farm that has been highly successful over the last 12 years: Farm du Bec Hellouin.

By what yardstick do farmers Charles and Perrine Hervé-Gruyer measure the success of their farm business? For starters: yield.
Using regenerative practices, the husband-and-wife team says they can grow as much food on one-tenth of a hectare (one hectare equals about 2.3 acres) of land as neighboring farms grow on only one hectare of land! How? The organic farm, based on the principles of permaculture, uses mound cultivation, agroforestry, associated crops, animal traction, fragmented ramal wood, effective microorganisms, terra preta and more.
But better yields is just one aspect of this farm’s success. These farmers are also restoring soil fertility, sequestering carbon and cultivating biodiversity.
As the couple explains on their website:

We believe that permaculture may be the "new software" that would allow us to transform our relationship to the Earth. The vision of permaculture proposes to put trees back at the heart of the system. We are convinced that trees will save the planet. We can create edible landscapes based on fruit trees and perennial plants around our homes, towns and villages, and change our diet by consuming fewer animal products, less cereals and more fruits...
More tree-based and living agriculture is good for both people and the earth, generates fertility, produces eco-building materials, biomass and firewood, and heals the climate by storing carbon in soils and trees.

In the “Trails of Regeneration” episode featuring their farm, Charles and Perrine walk viewers through the regenerative practices they use, and why. Charles shares their obsession with increasing soil fertility and sequestering carbon in the soil. Perrine explains how they try to use as little water as possible, describing the ponds throughout their property, how they are interconnected and why that matters.

You might wonder: What might the planet look like if all farmers and ranchers were as conscientious about stewarding their land as Charles and Perrine?
If the world’s food producers adopted a regenerative, rather than degenerative, production model, could we achieve the goal envisioned by these farmers in Normandy? Which is: “the necessary transformation of our civilization from an energy-consuming and globalized society, predatory and conquering, based on the accumulation of the wealth of the planet in the hands of a minority, to a socially supportive society, sober, saving energy and resources, but ensuring the essential goods for everyone.”
Let’s hope. And let’s, as consumers, support the farmers in our own communities and regions who share this vision for a Regeneration Revolution.
Stay tuned for the next episode of “Trials of Regeneration,” for more about Farm du Bec Hellouin, one of the most productive regenerative farming systems in the world.
Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a nonprofit grassroots consumer advocacy organization. Sign up here to keep up with news and alerts from OCA.

Huge Win! Avaaz Beats Monsanto in Court After Judge Blocks Subpoena to Collect Activists' Personal Information

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-09-13 12:26
September 13, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonGenetic Engineering avaazwin_1200x630.jpg

Monsanto can’t catch a break, not that it deserves one. The $50-billion mega-corporation, now owned by Bayer, has taken a beating this year, both in the courts and in the public eye.

On August 10, a jury ordered Monsanto to pay $289.2 million to a former groundskeeper who successfully argued that the company’s flagship weedkiller, Roundup, caused his cancer. A few days later, Monsanto lost its bid to keep glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, off of California’s Proposition 65 list of carcinogens.
Now this:  On September 6 (2018), a Manhattan judge threw out a subpoena filed by Monsanto against an activist group, going so far as to lecture Monsanto on the importance of free speech and democracy. 

The 168-page subpoena, issued on behalf of Monsanto from a New York court, would have forced the global activist organization Avaaz to hand over decade’s worth of internal campaign communications, including personal information belonging to millions of activists who signed petitions against Monsanto’s genetically modified crops and Roundup weedkiller.
In an email to members sent immediately following the court victory, Avaaz campaign director Iain Keith said:

This subpoena was terrifying and would have had Avaaz spend months and hundreds of thousands of dollars digging up and handing over to Monsanto everything anyone on our team ever said or wrote about them for YEARS. Including even the email addresses and identities of our members who had sent messages to officials about Monsanto!

In a Facebook video Keith said:

“Monsanto was so angry about the millions of activists who fought to convince the European Union and other governments to step up and protect citizens from glyphosate that it took us to court and wanted us to hand over all of our strategies and partnerships.”

But the case didn’t go Monsanto’s way.  Judge Shlomo S. Hagler of the Manhattan Supreme Court Justice “absolutely destroyed” Monsanto’s subpoena, Avaaz said.
Judge Hagler said “the subpoena would have a ‘tremendous chilling effect’” and that “no member would want to have their privacy and their activity known.”

We beat #Monsanto in court! The judge even said that Monsanto was trying to stop the lobbying efforts of our members. In his words, “This is America...you can speak your mind.”

— Avaaz (@Avaaz) September 6, 2018

The ruling sparked celebrations around the globe, with users taking to social media to voice their support for Avaaz, as well as for the judge who delivered justice in their case.

BREAKING: Judge Hagler quash subpoena from Monsanto against Avaaz. Democracy won. Freedom of speech rules the day! #FirstAmendment

— Oscar Soria (@OscarHSoria) September 6, 2018

I love when common sense, #truth, #justice, #wisdom, #freedom, and #integrity stand tall!

Thank you @Avaaz for your courage to speak for freedom in court in response to #Monsanto subpoena. Huge gratitude to the judge who is beyond bullying, who sees simple Truth! https://t.co/FdvXFWacSZ

— Jeanine DuBois (@jrd1776) September 7, 2018

NY Supreme Court just quashed Monsanto's subpoena against @Avaaz. I hear the judge delivered a spanking to Monsanto's lawyers. This wouldn't have been possible without the thousands of Avaazers who donated towards the legal defence -- very grateful to them! pic.twitter.com/8HVK0PKSQ6

— Fatima-Zahra Ibrahim (@fortuashla) September 6, 2018

Avaaz Deputy Director, Emma Ruby-Sachs, said in a press release:

“It’s unbelievable, but we beat back Monsanto and won in court! Not only are we safe from this legal attack, but the judge even told Monsanto that what they were doing was anti-democratic and an attempt to ‘chill’ the voices of our members, and the voices of citizens engaged in lobbying everywhere. Monsanto can appeal, but they’d be crazy to try to take on this amazing community of almost 50 million people again.”

The defeat is the latest in a string of obstacles Monsanto is facing over its flagship Roundup herbicide, the key ingredient of which has repeatedly been linked to cancer by world health officials, and most recently a San Francisco jury.
Last month a jury of 12 determined that exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup caused cancer in 46-year-old Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who, after being required to spray the herbicide, is terminally ill with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The jury said that Monsanto acted with “malice, oppression or fraud.”

Monsanto is expected to appeal the verdict, and could very well do the same in the Avaaz case. Still, the ruling incited a wave of unease among Bayer investors, pushing the stock price to its lowest in five years. 
Monsanto’s—technically Bayer’s, now—headache doesn’t stop there. The agrochemical giant suffered another major blow when the California Supreme Court rejected its attempt to appeal a key provision of the state’s landmark chemical consumer-disclosure law, Proposition 65, which states that products containing cancer-causing substances must bear a warning label.
The result? Any and all products containing glyphosate in California will soon carry a cancer-warning label. The requirement is bad news for Monsanto and its infamous bad reputation.
Monsanto’s string of losses creates an opportunity for opponents of Roundup to ratchet up the pressure on Bayer-Monsanto. That’s why Organic Consumers Association, in collaboration with several other groups, will work together to get Roundup and other toxic, cancer-causing agro-chemicals out of America’s schools.
About 26 million pounds of Roundup are sprayed on public parks, school grounds, lawns and gardens every year—despite all the studies linking glyphosate to a host of chronic (and worse) diseases. Please sign this petition telling the National School Boards Association: No more Roundup weedkiller! Take your action a step further and share this post on Facebook and retweet this tweet on Twitter.
Julie Wilson is a communications associate for the Organic Consumers Association a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit grassroots consumer advocacy organization. To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

You Have the Right to the Truth

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-09-12 17:36
September 12, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationRobert F. Kennedy, Jr.Genetic Engineering fundraising_letter_1200x630.jpg

Every day, for eight weeks, I sat in a San Francisco courtroom.

I listened as Dewayne “Lee” Johnson described, in excruciating detail, how non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a painful and potentially terminal cancer, robbed him of his health. 

I watched the spectacle of Monsanto’s lawyers trying to deny that Roundup weedkiller caused Lee’s cancer. 

I watched Monsanto’s hired guns tap dance and dissemble, as they tried to explain Monsanto’s herculean 40-year campaign to hide the truth about Roundup’s deadly cancer-causing properties.

I know that my many friends like you, who support OCA, have been doing your part for years to expose Monsanto and to bring down this criminal enterprise.

That’s why this $289-million verdict for Lee Johnson is your victory, too.

This recent win makes our joint mission much clearer: We must leverage the short-term victory and win the long game.

That’s why I’m asking for your support for the Organic Consumers Association. OCA needs to meet its fall fundraising goal of $200,000 by midnight, September 22. Please make a generous donation online, by phone or by mail—details here.

Every citizen has the right to a poison-free environment, to clean drinking water, to pesticide-free food.

And you have the right to the truth.

Sadly, using the strategies pioneered by Big Tobacco to escape accountability for its lethal product for 60 years, Monsanto captured our regulatory agencies, corrupted our public officials, bribed scientists, ghostwrote science, and lied to consumers, farmers, gardeners and the public.

Our recent landmark trial is the turning point we’ve been waiting for. 

But our success will depend on what we do next.

Together, we must turn this legal victory into hundreds, or thousands of similar victories, against Monsanto.

Together, we must keep Monsanto in the news and in the courtrooms, until Roundup is banned, everywhere.

Please help OCA meet its fall fundraising goal of $200,000 by midnight, September 22. You can donate online, by phone or by mail—details here.

I promise not to abandon this big fist fight against Monsanto until glyphosate is relegated to history’s toxic dustheap, our children have safe food, and the butterflies, bees and songbirds can return to America’s fields and forests. 

We can do this. Please help us.

Read More

Raw Milk: It's Time for Congress to Act

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-09-11 17:27
September 11, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationAlexis Baden-MayerPolitics & Globalization milk_1200x630.jpg

States are allowed to write their own laws governing the sale of raw milk. But thanks to a 1987 ordinance passed by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), all milk sold across state lines, even between two states where raw milk sales are legal, must be pasteurized.

We think that’s wrong. So, on September 26, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) will join our allies at the Real Food Consumer Coalition, the Organic and Natural Health Association and the American Grassfed Association to bring the truth about raw milk to Congress.

Want to help? We’re calling on all raw milk farmers and drinkers to join us in educating their members of Congress about the benefits of raw milk. Please register for our pre-lobby-day training webinar on September 17, at 8 p.m. EDT and sign up to join our lobbying team in person, in Washington, D.C., on September 26.

We had hoped that a bipartisan amendment to the Farm Bill, introduced earlier this year by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), would have ended the FDA’s ban on interstate sales of raw milk. After all, in Europe, raw milk is considered so safe that you can buy it in vending machines.

But unfortunately, Massie’s amendment was defeated—though not without a historic debate and roll call vote, the first real challenge to what Massie calls “pasteurization without representation.”

In a press release issued before the amendment went down, Massie’s office said:

The FDA should not have the power to shut down peaceful farmers selling milk to willing consumers. It is Congress’s job to legislate. Federal agencies that are part of the executive branch (such as the FDA) do not and should not have this power.

It’s time to thank the 79 members of Congress who voted in favor of Massie’s amendment—and let the 331 who voted against it why they should change their views on raw milk. Find out how your Representative voted. Then please schedule a visit to the district office of your Congress member.

Better yet, If you can make it to Washington on September 26, to join our lobbying team in person. And join us that evening for a delicious dinner of food donated by regenerative organic farms and prepared by award winning chefs.

Want to learn more about the health benefits of raw milk? And share the information with your member of Congress? FarmersOverPharmacies.com provides information on how raw milk can be part of a nutrient-dense, restorative diet helpful for nursing moms and people with cancer, Crohne’s disease, asthma and allergies.

Alexis Baden-Mayer is political director for the Organic Consumers Association. Keep up with news on raw milk and other food, agriculture and environment issues by subscribing to OCA’s online newsletter.

Help us write the ending to this story.

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-09-06 18:30
September 6, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie Cummins child girl write pen note cc 1200x630.jpg

The storyline right now is this: A jury in California hands a huge victory to one of Monsanto’s victims, accusing the biotech giant of causing a man’s cancer, with “malice and oppression.” 

That one victory pushes up the number of similar lawsuits against Monsanto to more than 8,000.

California’s Supreme Court says “no” to Monsanto—and “yes” to requiring manufacturers whose products contain glyphosate to tell consumers that their products could cause cancer.

Chemical and pharmaceutical giant Bayer, which recently paid $66 billion to acquire Monsanto, watches its stock price plummet.

Cities from Santa Rosa, California, to Austin, Texas, ban Roundup in public parks.

Those are the latest in a string of plot twists. And they've all happened in less than one month’s time.

Things are going our way in this, the latest chapter in a story that began decades ago, when Monsanto corrupted the EPA in order to push its GMO and Roundup products on an unsuspecting public.

But how the story ends, whether consumers and common sense prevail over the powerful, corruptive ways of Monsanto, depends on what we do next, together.

That’s why I’m asking for your help today, to meet our fall fundraising goal of $200,000 by midnight, September 22. Please make a generous donation online, by phone or by mail—details here.

I’m more hopeful than ever that we can topple the biochemical industry that has made our food so toxic, our soil and water so polluted.

But hope alone won’t get Monsanto’s, or anyone else’s, toxic chemicals out of our food and environment. 

We have to work at it. We have to have a plan. 

Fortunately, we have that plan. But we need you to help us execute it.

The plan involves keeping up relentless pressure on Monsanto. 

It involves consumer education. It involves campaigns targeting companies like Ben & Jerry’s, Bigelow, Florida Natural and others that sell products contaminated with Roundup.

It involves using the courts, at every turn, to protect us—including presenting a bulletproof argument in our own lawsuit against Monsanto for the deceptive labeling of Roundup sold in stores like Costco and Walmart.

It involves campaigns targeting school boards and city councils.

But our plan goes nowhere unless it involves you. We need your support now, more than ever. Please help us meet our fall fundraising goal of $200,000 by midnight, September 22. You can donate online, by phone or by mail—details here. 

We are riding a wave of victories right now. And that's all the more reason to work even harder.

The story of you against Monsanto still needs an ending. Please help us write it.

Thank you.




  Ronnie Cummins
  International Director

P.S. Don’t let Monsanto write the ending to your story. Because if you do, it won’t turn out well for you. Please support our fall fundraising campaign by donating online, by phone or by mail—details here.

Read More

The Environmental Cowboy: ‘Climate Change Can Unite the World’

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-08-29 18:23
August 29, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationEnvironment & Climate, Farm Issues environmental_cowboy.jpg

If you believe carbon farming is a big part of the solution to climate change, then you need to learn more about The Environmental Cowboy and his new film “A Dry Hope.”

Khory Hancock, an Australian environmental scientist, climate change solutions strategist and documentarian who is best known as The Environmental Cowboy, recently went on a journey through New South Wales to see firsthand the impacts of what is being called the worst drought in more than 400 years.

His film spotlights this historic drought and explains how climate change is responsible for making these events more intense and frequent. But his documentary isn’t just about exposing the problem. Hancock focuses more on the solutions to climate change, including how Australia can regenerate itself by using different farming practices while maintaining agricultural productivity.

The film showcases real-life groundbreaking examples of land regeneration. For example, Hancock meets grass-fed beef producers Derek and Kirrily Blomfield of The Conscious Farmer, who use holistic management grazing principles that regenerates the soil. He also meets Eric Harvey of Gilgai Farms, which produces hormone-free, steroid-free and antibiotic-free grass-fed beef and lamb using an ecological farming system that promotes biodiversity.

OCA had the chance to interview Hancock via email to get more insight into his work and upcoming film. Here’s what The Environmental Cowboy had to say.

OCA: Can you explain what the drought has been like in your community and how it has impacted farmers?

Hancock: The drought has been so widespread across Australia, but in particular in Queensland and New South Wales. The impacts are devastating to all aspects of life here. Suicide rates in men, particularly farmers in rural areas, increased.

The direct impact is on the farmers living in these areas that haven't received rainfall. But the impacts extend well beyond the agricultural industry. Businesses in rural small towns are closing down because there isn't money around to spend . . . we will see an increase in food prices in the urban cities eventually.

Obviously, the land has suffered greatly, the land has begun a desertification process in parts of Australia. This hasn't just happened overnight. This is the fifth or sixth year of drought conditions in most areas. There are now stories of wildlife being found in areas where they’ve never been sighted previously . . . in particular rare species of birds being found along the coastlines now near “wetter” conditions. The climate is shifting dramatically, and the impacts are extraordinary.

OCA: Can you share some of the regenerative practices farmers are using to manage drought conditions and store carbon in the soil?

Hancock: I work as a professional in the carbon farming industry in Australia, so I have covered a lot of territory here. I’ve seen a large majority of the land and cattle stations out here. The really positive aspect of all this, is that the solutions to climate change are equally as remarkable as the consequences we’re now experiencing as a result of global warming.

You can clearly see from paddock to paddock the different management styles of the farmer. Some with plentiful amounts of grass and coverage, thick layer of organic matter on the soil surface and diverse range of plant species. I wondered why, and I met an agronomist by the name of David Ward who introduced me to regenerative and “holistic” farming practises. These practices basically look at the triple bottom line, they include tools and strategies derived from more “sustainable” economic, environmental and social principles. My mind was blown. Scientific monitoring charts from some of the farmers implementing these types of regenerative practices on their properties showed an increase in soil carbon and nutrient levels with a simultaneous increase in animal agricultural productivity . . . even as the rainfall amount decreased!

Farmers were using their cattle and sheep to heal areas of their land that were eroded, such as creeks and bare paddocks. There are whole clay pans out west that used to be inland lakes . . .  they looked like a complete desert, and these farmers have turned them into grasslands . . . which almost seems impossible. And I caught it all on film.

OCA: You mention you've been inspired by Eric Harvey and The Conscious Farmer for their efforts in using holistic farming practices to better prepare for the future. How can we get more farmers to adopt these regenerative practices?

Hancock: I think once people see the results for themselves, and have a big enough reason to change, they will change almost immediately. This drought has shaken up a lot of people, and many are now questioning whether the traditional methods are the most effective way to manage our land in the current climate. The conversation has started, and it will continue. The ideas are catching on, people will follow when they see the right and true path to take.

OCA: The trailer of your film clearly outlines the importance of mitigating climate change and the role agriculture can play, but do you think we can transition to a regenerative farming system fast enough to make a difference?

Hancock: This is a much bigger question than just regenerative agriculture. If the world doesn't transition our entire energy system into renewable energy—and do it soon—parts of Australia (and the rest of the world) will become uninhabitable from extreme temperatures, heat waves, lack of rainfall and evaporation rates. We can already see some farmers moving closer inland to farmland areas with higher rainfall conditions, parts of western Queensland and NSW may become “unfarmable” in the future.

The worst part of this is that regenerative agriculture alone can't effectively mitigate climate change. And changing a mindset and culture which encourages traditional farming methods is extremely difficult to do. However, the best part about this is that humans are generally reactive, not proactive. This is a global crisis, and once we properly realize this . . . which we're starting to . . . and once it becomes a “must” for people and not just a “should” . . . dreams become reality. The impossible, becomes possible.

Humans don't understand the limitless potential we have as a species. We have the solutions in front of us, everything we need to reverse climate change. The only question left is when will we implement these solutions? I have a belief that climate change will unite the world, regardless of our differences in race, religion and culture. It will awaken the creativity we need to solve a challenge we all face.

OCA: Can you describe the projects you're working on to reverse the impacts of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef?

Hancock: I'm working on open ocean seaweed farming as a methodology for carbon farming as an international emissions trade scheme. Trading carbon credits will industrialize the carbon price and make it competitive and profitable, which it currently isn't in Australia.

Seaweed farming has been proven to reverse ocean acidification and reduce ocean surface water temperature. I’m working on a project to line the barrier reef with seaweed farms, that both sequester carbon to sell as credits and also provide a buffer zone for the reef during marine heat waves that cause the bleaching.

Reducing the heat energy in the ocean will also reduce the severity of the cyclones. The other amazing benefit of seaweed, which I am working on . . . is that if you feed it to cattle—just a 2- percent intake into their diet—it will reduce the methane emissions up to 99 percent. Seaweed is amazing. It has multiple benefits and grows 30-60 times faster than any land-based plant . . .  drawing down and sequestering carbon dioxide emissions at a rapid rate, which is what we need now: fast and effective solutions to counteract climate change.

OCA: What's the most important takeaway from your film "A Dry Hope?"

Hancock: If we choose to do nothing and ignore the climate warnings, we will sacrifice everything. We can all be part of the solution in some way, and we need to look at it as not a problem we can't fix . . . but an opportunity. An opportunity to create wealth, wealth in our economy, community and the environment around us that is the very foundation of our existence.

Australians pride themselves on being able to get back up when we get knocked down. We've been knocked down hard this time. But you wouldn't rebuild a house the same way after a cyclone destroyed it would you? You would make it stronger, reinforce the framework with better design and materials. Now, we need to do the same with agriculture and all that is, is about thinking differently about the way we currently do things.

OCA: How can people see your film?

Hancock: I am currently looking for more funding to finish the rest of the filming and produce the film. To date I have funded everything myself and won't be able to finish it without further partnerships/funding. If anyone would like to potentially partner with me to help sponsor this film, please don't hesitate to get in contact with me.

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

Bayer Needs More Than an Aspirin to Cure Its Monsanto-Sized Headache

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-08-28 18:49
August 28, 2018Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.Genetic Engineering, Health Issues bayer_stock.jpg

In a special telephone meeting on Thursday, August 23, Bayer AG’s CEO Werner Bauman tried to reassure the German conglomerate’s principal shareholders who were concerned about the recent drop in the company’s stock. Bayer’s stock fell dramatically after an unfavorable verdict against Bayer’s St. Louis subsidiary, Monsanto.

Bauman expressed his confidence in Monsanto and predicted a sunny future for its flagship herbicide, Roundup.

He told his top-tier investors that Bayer had performed an adequate due-diligence on Monsanto before purchasing the troubled company for $66 billion this past June. At the time of its purchase, Monsanto told its German suitors that a $270-million set-aside would cover all its outstanding liabilities arising from Monsanto’s 5,000 Roundup cancer lawsuits.

Bauman did concede to anxious shareholders that Monsanto had withheld internal papers relevant to the case. Bayer never saw those internal Monsanto documents prior to the purchase.  

The source of the brouhaha was the August 10, $289-million verdict by a San Francisco jury in favor of Dwayne “Lee” Johnson, a California public school groundskeeper who said his terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma resulted from exposure to the Monsanto weedkiller. That single jury award consumed 100 percent of Monsanto’s set-aside and more.

On news of the verdict, Bayer watched its stock plummet 14 percent and forfeited $16 billion in shareholder value. Now Bayer is facing a cascade of new Roundup cases and a possible rash of shareholder lawsuits by its own investors alleging that Bayer failed to disclose its true liabilities.    

It’s no surprise that Monsanto kept secrets from Bayer. Johnson’s jury heard evidence that for four decades Monsanto maneuvered to conceal Roundup’s carcinogenicity by capturing regulatory agencies, corrupting public officials, bribing scientists and engaging in scientific fraud to delay its day of reckoning. The jury found that these activities constituted “malice, fraud and oppression” warranting $250 million in punitive damages.

I am one of several attorneys representing, collectively, now some 8,000 clients with similar cases. I attended the two-month trial and worked with the trial team led by two young and exceptionally gifted lawyers, Brent Wisner of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman and Dave Dickens of The Miller Firm.  

For Bayer the worst is yet to come.

Despite Monsanto’s efforts, the science linking glyphosate—Roundup’s active ingredient—to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma has passed the critical inflection point. European nations are moving to ban or restrict the chemical, and California regulators and courts have ordered Monsanto to warn consumers of Roundup’s carcinogenicity at all points of sale. Both federal and state courts across the country have agreed that the question can be sent to juries. Hundreds of new inquiries have flooded our offices since the Johnson verdict.

Perhaps more ominously for Bayer, Monsanto also faces cascading scientific evidence linking glyphosate to a constellation of other injuries that have become prevalent since its introduction, including obesity, depression, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, autism, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, kidney disease, and inflammatory bowel disease, brain, breast and prostate cancer, miscarriage, birth defects and declining sperm counts. Strong science suggests glyphosate is the culprit in the exploding epidemics of celiac disease, colitis, gluten sensitivities, diabetes and non-alcoholic liver cancer which, for the first time, is attacking children as young as 10.

Researchers peg glyphosate as a potent endocrine disruptor, which interferes with sexual development in children. The chemical compound is certainly a chelator that removes important minerals from the body, including iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium and molybdenum. Roundup disrupts the microbiome destroying beneficial bacteria in the human gut and triggering brain inflammation and other ill effects.  

The public’s growing concerns with Roundup are, in part, due to Monsanto’s overreaching. For two decades following its licensing in 1974, farmers and gardeners used Roundup as a conventional weedkiller. After Monsanto’s introduction of Roundup Ready seeds in the 1990s, farmers began aerial spraying of the herbicide on entire fields, including newly planted corn, canola and soy genetically altered to thrive in the toxic mist that killed all neighboring weeds.

Then, around 2006, Monsanto started marketing Roundup as a desiccant to dry up oats and wheat immediately before harvest. For the first time, farmers were spraying the chemical directly on food. Roundup sales rose dramatically to 300 million pounds annually in the U.S., with farmers spraying enough to cover every tillable acre in America with a gallon of Roundup.

Glyphosate now accounts for about 50% of all herbicide use in the U.S. About 75% of glyphosate use has occurred since 2006, with the global glyphosate market projected to reach $11.74 billion by 2023.

Never in history has a chemical been used so pervasively. Glyphosate is in our air, water, plants, animals, grains, vegetables and meats. It’s in beer and wine, children’s breakfast cereal and snack bars and mother’s breast milk. It’s even in our vaccines.  

As grim as its financials now look, Monsanto’s reputational liability may be even more of an anchor for Bayer than all the lawsuits. Environmentalists complain that Roundup is exterminating at least 13 species in the U.S. alone, including North America’s iconic Monarch butterfly. Human rights advocates blame the suicides of more than 200,000 Indian farmers on the suffocating economics caused by Monsanto’s monopolistic control of international seed stocks. Government regulators are already under pressure to restrict these sorts of chemical mayhems with laws limiting glyphosate and GMOs.

Monsanto has carved out a market niche monetizing deadly chemicals that more squeamish companies shun, a strategy that has made the company the Snidely Whiplash of corporate scoundrels and the planet’s worst villain, according to many environmentalists and human rights advocates. As a boy, I watched Monsanto’s vicious campaign to pillory the dying heroine Rachel Carson over her book, “Silent Spring,” in its efforts to exonerate its pesticide DDT which was wiping out songbirds and the American bald eagle.

At the same time, Monsanto amplified its notoriety among the 1960s and 1970s generations by producing Agent Orange herbicide that devastated Vietnam and poisoned thousands of U.S. soldiers and Vietnamese peasants. In the 1990s, Monsanto was forced to recall its drug “Celebrex” which cured headaches and caused heart attacks. Nutritionists condemned Monsanto’s artificial sweetener aspartame as a “neurotoxin masquerading as a supplement.”

I spent 30 years as an environmental lawyer fighting to clean the Hudson of Monsanto’s PCBs, a contamination crisis which closed the river’s historical fisheries, put thousands of fishermen out of work and poisoned Hudson Valley residents. All these sordid ventures have tarnished Monsanto’s standing with the public in ways that could contribute to a string of punishing verdicts.

During his Thursday telephone offensive, Bauman rejected the possibility of settlement talks with the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma plaintiff. He promised to appeal the Johnson verdict and doubled down on Monsanto’s discredited claims that Roundup is safe.

Bauman repeated three times to Bayer’s investors, “We are committed to defending glyphosate.” An escalation in troll and bot activity against Monsanto’s critics at the height of the trial signaled a full-bore Monsanto PR campaign. A Monsanto-loving troll suddenly appeared to shadow and slander Zen Honeycutt, who attended the trial. Honeycutt is a modern-day Rachel Carson. The mother of two glyphosate-injured kids, she has become one of Roundup’s most vocal and effective scourges.

These strategies are more likely to inflame future juries angered that the chemical company is not coming clean about poisoning our farms, our food and our families and to remind consumers of Bayer’s own dingy history. Bayer, after all, is not just a benign aspirin company. Formerly known as IG Farben, the company supported the rise of Adolf Hitler and made a killing by selling the Nazis Zyklon B gas to exterminate Jews at Auschwitz. The Nuremberg tribunals convicted a half-dozen IG Farben executives for slavery and mass murder. One of them, Fritz ter Meer, returned from Spandau prison in 1956 to become Bayer’s first board chairman. Today, Bayer is an agrochemical and pharmaceutical giant with its own inventory of deadly farm chemicals.

Monsanto boosters hope that San Francisco’s highly educated jury (our panel included two scientists) was an anomaly. Jurors in farm country, they argue, particularly those in Monsanto’s home court, St. Louis County, Missouri, will be less generous to local plaintiffs. Bauman told his shareholders that there is only a single scheduled case in St. Louis. Not true! Our team has a half dozen trials scheduled in St. Louis and others in Bozeman, Montana, and Oakland, California. But there is ample reason that those juries won’t be any happier with Monsanto than the jury in Johnson’s case.

After all, the California judge overseeing Johnson v. Monsanto bent over backward to exclude evidence she perceived as damaging to Monsanto. Beginning in pretrial hearings and continuing throughout the eight-week Johnson trial, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Suzanne Ramos Bolanos, a former prosecutor, consistently sided with Monsanto in her rulings on the company’s evidentiary objections.  

My colleague, Brent Wisner, estimates that 80 percent of the documents we wanted to show to the jury were not used, many because of the rulings we considered to be judicial error. We believe that our future Monsanto juries will see this evidence.

Here are some of the worst examples:

• In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) determined that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, was an animal carcinogen and a probable human carcinogen. In 2017, the California Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) followed suit, listing glyphosate as a carcinogen under Proposition 65. While Judge Bolanos allowed Monsanto’s lawyers to tell the jury that federal EPA and some European health agencies disputed the IARC findings, she blocked us from mentioning California’s decision to list glyphosate as a carcinogen, declaring that it would bias the jury. The surreal incongruity of a California state court silencing California’s own environmental agency while crediting the findings of foreign health agencies and a demonstrably corrupt federal EPA, struck us as strange. Because of the judge’s rulings, Monsanto’s attorneys were able to paint IARC as a lonely (and therefore unreliable) outlier in its conclusions on glyphosate.

• Judge Bolanos also forbade us from showing the jury evidence of Monsanto’s fraudulent scheme to win regulatory approval for Roundup. In the mid-1970’s when Monsanto first sought to license Roundup, the company hired a corrupt consultant, Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories (IBT), to conduct toxicology studies on the active ingredient, glyphosate. The EPA approved glyphosate for sale in 1974 based on IBT Labs' jiggered data. IBT Labs made little effort to conceal the fact that its science was fraudulent.

One EPA reviewer dryly observed that it was “hard to believe the scientific integrity of the studies when they said they took specimens of the uterus from male rabbits.” A subsequent EPA review found that producing falsified data for Monsanto and other corporations was IBT’s core business model. A federal jury found three IBT officials guilty of attempting to defraud the government by covering up inaccurate research data. Judge Bolanos ruled that Lee Johnson’s jury should hear no mention of the Monsanto/IBT flim-flams.  

• The next chapter of that story was particularly relevant to our case. When the EPA asked Monsanto to retest glyphosate safety in the wake of the IBT scandal, the company’s own 1983 study found a statistically significant number of benign and malignant kidney tumors in male mice exposed to high amounts of glyphosate. This study prompted EPA to classify glyphosate as a possible human carcinogen in 1985. Monsanto protested that its researchers had made errors in performing the mouse study despite anemic evidence that this was indeed the case. Under extreme political pressure from Monsanto’s allies in Ronald Reagan’s cabinet, EPA folded and withdrew the cancer classification on the condition that Monsanto re-perform the mouse test. Monsanto promised to do so, but once the EPA cancelled the cancer classification, the company reneged, refusing to test glyphosate’s carcinogenicity for 40 years. Judge Bolanos ordered that the jury should hear nothing of this important tale and allowed Monsanto to tell the jury that EPA had always believed Roundup to be non-carcinogenic.

• In one noteworthy email exchange between an academic and Daniel Goldstein, a Monsanto employee, Goldstein joked that the company has been playing “whack-a-mole” to kill or derail carcinogenicity and toxicity studies of Roundup and its associated GMOs for years. At Monsanto’s request, Judge Bolanos deemed any mention of GMOs off-limits in our case. She believed that even a mention of that hot topic would inflame the jury against Monsanto. We therefore could not show the jury Monsanto’s inculpatory “whack a mole” memo. Judge Bolanos’ ban on any reference to GMOs also allowed Monsanto to get away with its unrebutted assertion that “Roundup is great for the soil.” We couldn’t show the abundant evidence of the damage to soils and ecosystems for the Roundup-GMO combination.

• Most frustrating, Judge Bolanos forbade us from mentioning Monsanto’s “TNO dermal absorption” study, which she inexplicably deemed “irrelevant.” The “TNO Dermal Absorption” study was the company’s own critical research paper documenting how the human body absorbs far higher amounts of formulated Roundup through the skin than previously reported. Monsanto illegally kept the study secret from regulators and acknowledged in its internal communications that public knowledge of this study would “blow up Roundup’s risk evaluations.” Following that study, Monsanto recommended waterproof jackets, pants, faceplate, et cetera for its employees handling Roundup. Monsanto included none of those precautions on the warning label of the Roundup used by our client Lee Johnson.

Instead of pursuing the TNO safety study to ensure that Roundup was safe, Monsanto executive William Heydens killed the product research “because a further study was not likely to help us meet the project objective.” The “project objective” was maintaining Roundup’s market dominance. Monsanto’s choice to illegally hide the results of the TNO study from the EPA and to abandon the research were directly relevant to punitive damages, but the jury never learned about those events.

• During the trial, we showed the deposition of Monsanto’s markets supervisor Kirk Azevedo. Azevedo was an idealist who joined Monsanto after watching a speech by Monsanto CEO Robert Shapiro promising to make Monsanto a template for green technology and ethical corporate culture. When Azevedo invoked the speech during an office strategy discussion, his direct boss told Azevedo that Shapiro’s speech was PR window dressing, “We are about making money—you need to get that straight.” Strangely, Judge Bolanos decided to order us not to talk about the Azevedo testimony on summation even though she had earlier ruled it admissible.  

• Finally, Judge Bolanos gave a “curative instruction” telling the jury that Monsanto had never manufactured Agent Orange. This statement was simply not true—however, the judge deemed the instruction necessary to neutralize potential bias from statements made by dismissed jurors about Agent Orange in front of their fellow jurymen.

In his Thursday phone conference, Bauman dismissed all the evidence heard at trial about Monsanto’s reprehensible behavior, telling his investors it was “taken out of context.” Johnson’s jury heard the same lame assertions from Monsanto’s lawyers and did not agree. The next jury is likely to hear much more.

The science against Roundup continues to snowball and we anticipate that other judges will rule these and many other documents admissible in future trials. Of course we won’t consistently get quarter billion dollar verdicts but the headache for Bayer is just beginning and it will require more than aspirin to cure.

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


WATCH: New Film Exposes ‘Monstrous’ Child Deformities Caused by Agrochemicals in Argentina

Organic consumers - Mon, 2018-08-27 18:45
August 27, 2018Dr. MercolaGenetic Engineering, Health Issues gechild.jpg

The shocking film "Genetically Modified Children" unveils the horrors of decades of chemical-intensive agricultural practices in Argentina, where the majority of crops are genetically modified (GM) and routinely doused in dangerous agrochemicals, and the chokehold big tobacco companies such as Philip Morris and chemical and seed giants have on poverty-stricken farmers desperate to earn a living.

The film, produced by Juliette Igier and Stephanie Lebrun, shows the devastating health effects the region's agricultural sector is having on children,1 an increasing number of whom are being born with monstrous physical deformities. Some of the children's cases are so severe that, without a medical intervention, will result in death before the age of five.

The film begins with the crew traveling from North Argentina in the Province of Misiones to the Brazilian frontier, an agricultural region that was one of the nation's first to begin growing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the mid-'90s.

Featured in the film is Ricardo Rivero, regional head of the local electricity company. He learned that the reason families cannot pay their bills is because often they are taking care of a sick or handicapped child, and receive no assistance from the Argentinian government.

The film shows them visiting the humble home of a tobacco farmer where they meet Lucas Texeira, a 5-year-old boy with an incurable genetic skin disease. The family believes it was caused by the mother's exposure to Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller early on in her pregnancy. No one told her it was toxic, she says.

The genetic mutation that caused her son's condition left him with no pores in his skin, which means he doesn't perspire. The heat from his body stays inside, causing him severe and painful itching that leads to frequent crying spells. Mr. Texeira expresses his sadness over Lucas' condition, as well as his fears that he could have another child in the future with a similar deformity.

Agrochemicals lead to rise in birth defects, deformities in Argentinian children

Like many families in rural Argentina, the Texeiras have grown GM tobacco on their land for years, using a number of various agrochemicals required to produce a crop that's certifiable by Philip Morris, an American multinational cigarette and tobacco manufacturing company (a division of Altria Company since 2003).

Philip Morris provides farmers GM burley tobacco seeds for the manufacturer of light tobacco cigarettes. Each year, Argentinian farmers are forced to use more than 100 different chemicals in order to grow the perfect-looking tobacco crop — that is, if they hope to make any money.

The Texeira family is no exception. For more than a decade, they have treated their tobacco plants with glyphosate and other agrochemicals — and without any protection. However, after seeing a rise in birth defects among the community's children, including in their own child, they began to fear for their safety and moved off their farmland, away from the toxic chemicals. 

"It's not easy, but you have to live the life you have," said Mr. Texeira. "Thank God, Lucas' problem is just his skin. He's healthy and can eat. He eats almost anything." Lucas is a miracle, says the film's narrator. In this region, there's a disproportionate number of children born with deformities.

300 million liters of glyphosate are applied to the land each year in Argentina

GM crops first entered the country through the Misiones Province of Argentina after the government authorized their use from 1996 onward, a decision based solely on studies conducted by Monsanto, and with no contradicting research.

For more than two decades the land was sprayed with glyphosate and other agrochemicals, contaminating the region's soil and water. By 2013, more than 24 million hectares2 (59.3 million acres) of GM crops were grown in Argentina, including soy, maize, cotton and tobacco.

Mounting scientific evidence connecting the rise in miscarriages, birth defects and cancer to GMOs and agrochemicals did not dissuade the Argentinian government from subsidizing GM crops. Perhaps, that decision is due in part to the 35 percent in taxes Argentina receives from GMO soy exports.

Despite the dangers, no one warned tobacco farmers of the risks. In fact, the opposite was true. Farmers in the Misiones province were inundated with various forms of marketing, including commercials from chemical companies insisting agrochemicals were the key to prosperity.

Television advertisements touted the benefits of Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller, including its ability to kill everything except for GMOs. The marketing worked. Today, more than 300 million liters (79.2 million gallons) of glyphosate are dumped each year onto more than 28 million hectares (69.1 million acres) of land in Argentina.3

Total desertion

The film shows the crew visiting the home of another sick child. Lucas Krauss was born with congenital microcephaly. He suffers from epilepsy, delayed motor and mental development, multiple muscular atrophy and numerous other related pathologies.

The first doctor the family consulted said their son's condition was due to a lack of oxygen; however, the neurologist had a different opinion. At first, he agreed and said it was due to a lack of oxygen; however, when they pressed him further he admitted that a lack of oxygen was not the only cause, but he refused to say what he believed the true cause was of Lucas' condition. They wouldn't even run medical tests, said the boy's mother.

The family understands that Lucas' condition, as well as many others in the community, is likely tied to the agrochemicals used to farm tobacco. But the family can't quit the trade because it's the main source of income in their area, and most importantly, it's the only sector that provides social security for its workers. Without the financial aid of the tobacco industry, the father fears he will be unable to care for his special needs son.

"The whole family feels discriminated against because it seems that society doesn't want to see their reality," said Rivero. "His parents don't ask anything for themselves. They're not asking for anything out of the ordinary. It's just that the responsible parties — the state is the responsible one for these children's problems — and it's not taking responsibility and there's total desertion."

In 2010, things started to move. Lawyers from the U.S. traveled to Misiones to visit the families of severely handicapped children. One of their stops included the home of 17-year-old William Nuñez, who was born severely handicapped.

He can't walk or talk, and has to be fed through a feeding tube in his stomach. The family has received no aid from the government for the medical treatment William needs. Instead, they have learned on their own how to care for their disabled child.

Ignorance and exploitation

The Nuñez family says they were visited by American lawyers four or five times in a sixth-month period, as well as a handful of doctors from the U.S. and Mexico. The Nuñez family were told that they were not at fault for using agrochemicals, and that they could be awarded up to $3 million for William's case.

The attorneys asked the family to sign a contract with a commitment not to discuss their case with anyone. Up until now, they have respected the contract. But they haven't heard from the lawyers in over four years and don't want to keep quiet any longer.

Next the film introduces a man named Emilio, the son of a tobacco farmer who has created an independent labor union to contend with the two tobacco companies in the region, which often take the side of Big Tobacco.

Tobacco farming is a tough job, says Emilio, adding that people suffer a lot because they work all year long, and the financial incentive is not great. Emilio describes the tobacco industry in San Jacinto, Argentina as a slavery system, one encapsulated by ignorance and exploitation.

The film crew visits a warehouse where all of the region's tobacco farmers come to sell their product. The farmers' tobacco crop is transported here at the end of the growing cycle, which includes the sowing, treating, harvesting, drying and sorting. This is the only place they can sell their crop, says Emilio. The film crew is there on the day the farmers learn the value of their year's work.

"It's when you get happy or get angry, because if it went well, you know that you'll be able to buy what you need or what you dreamed about when you were working for it. So, you'll find out here," says Emilio.

The crop must meet strict standards set by the cooperative, which inspects each bale in the blink of an eye. They examine the texture, breadth and the color of the leaves. Tobacco in its natural state would never pass the test — only the use of agrochemicals can ensure a good result.

Big tobacco dominstes the industry

The film interviews one of the farmers about his feelings on his earnings. He says he received 11,575 Mexican pesos (or about $610 U.S. dollars) for 975 kilos of tobacco. That's about $3.50 per pound of tobacco. It's a low price, he says. "To me, it seems like a total rip-off. It's unfair."

The farmers say their income was especially low this year as result of the expensive chemical inputs they are forced to use. The chemical companies charge them in U.S. dollars, but they pay in pesos, says one frustrated farmer, adding that he has no way out of the business because he can't risk losing his social security.

Big Tobacco dominates the industry in San Jacinto, Argentina. It dominates to such an extent that companies like Philip Morris have completely changed tobacco farming. Today, farmers are enslaved by the companies that produce and sell the agrochemicals required to grow a crop that can be certified by Philip Morris.

The film crew manages to capture footage inside a warehouse where farmers go to buy pesticides. Tall stacks of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides line the walls — all of it handled with bare hands.

Among the insecticides is a chemical manufactured by Bayer called Confidor, which contains the insecticides clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and methiocarb,4 all of which, except for methiocarb, belong to a class of bee-killing pesticides known as neonicotinoids, which were recently banned on all crops grown outdoors in Europe.5

Poison is a recurrent word in Argentina

Before leaving the region, the film crew makes one last stop to visit 50-year-old Raul Gomez, who has created a list of all the chemicals he has had to handle over the past two decades, most of which are now banned due to their toxicity. Gomez is concerned about having to keep the chemicals on his property, most of which are too dangerous for him to dispose of.

He says he was told someone would come and take them, but no one has, so he built shacks to store them. Gomez says he believes he was definitely a guinea pig in that he was forced to work with such dangerous poisons without any knowledge of the implication to his or his family's health.

He and other farmers say the question isn't if they will become ill, but when. Everyone in this region has poison running through their bodies, he says, and while he doesn't feel it now, in a few years he may. "That's how it is. The consequences come later."

Next the film crew travels to Posadas, the capital of the Province of Misiones, where doctors are considering a terrifying hypothesis: Exposure to agrochemicals may actually modify the human genome.

They meet 73-year-old Dr. Hugo Gomez Demaio, head of the neurosurgery service at the Pediatric Hospital of Posadas, and Dr. Mario Barrera, neurosurgeon at the Medical School of Nordeste. (Both institutions are in Buenos Aries). The doctors are dedicated to highlighting and treating the link between glyphosate exposure and other agrochemicals and birth defects caused by DNA damage.

Over the years, Demaio has witnessed an increasing number of children suffering from malformations. "These are no more empirical observations, but an inescapable statistic that he has drawn up with his successor, Dr. Barrera," says the film's narrator. One hundred percent of these children with severe deformities will die before the age of 5 if they do not have a medical intervention, says Demaio.

The film shows two little girls suffering from hydrocephalus, a condition linked to an abnormality affecting the X chromosome. Hydrocephalus is the buildup of fluids deep within the brain. The excess fluids put pressure on the brain causing damage to brain tissue. Symptoms of hydrocephalus include an unusually large head, a rapid increase in the size of the head and a bulging spot on top.6

'They have the money and we have the illness'

The mothers of the two little girls with hydrocephalus say they were exposed to agrochemicals, but indirectly. While agrochemicals were not stored in their home, they say they were exposed to them through the contaminated clothing of their male family members who farm tobacco. The women would wash the men's clothing in a nearby creek, which also served as their source of drinking water.

Demaio says exposure to agrochemicals may cause genetic damage that's transmitted to an individual's offspring, causing a modification of genetic heritage. Barrera explains:

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

In the beginning, Demaio and Barrera worked alone, but soon other doctors who had made similar observations joined them in their work. In 2009, they published results showing miscarriages and congenital defects among newborns were six times higher than normal, and cancers in small children were five times more common than elsewhere.7

The doctors say the agrochemicals pass from mother to child and cause damage within the first 28 days of pregnancy, resulting in monstrous deformities that are difficult to repair. The most common expression is myelomeningocele,8 a birth defect of the backbone and spinal cord. It's the most severe lesion of the central nervous system that one can still live with.

Demaio says the Argentinian government refuses to listen to him, so he has dedicated his time to educating young people at universities, many of whom have grown up in tobacco farming families and around pesticides, but know very little about them.

They were told agrochemicals are safe, and necessary, to feed people. "They have the money and we have the illness," says Demaio, referring to the chemical companies and the profits they've earned on unsuspecting farmers forced in a chemical-reliant trade.

A David vs. Goliath battle

The film crew visits the lawyers in their office in Bueno Aires, the ones who never followed up after visiting the families four years ago. They were not very knowledgeable about the case, so the film crew visits the New York office for which the attorneys had worked on the file years ago.

They speak with Steven J. Phillips of the Phillips & Paolicelli LLP office, which specializes in defending children from toxic products. Phillips says he believes he has a strong case against Monsanto and Philip Morris. Monsanto designed and sold glyphosate to people in South America under conditions in which it knew there would be pregnant women mixing the chemicals.

Monsanto knew it was extremely dangerous but sold the stuff anyway and made a ton of money, said Phillips. Philip Morris insisted the farmers grow the tobacco in a specific way that included the use of glyphosate, and if they didn't, Philip Morris wouldn't buy the tobacco. So, the farmers had no choice.

"If you force someone to behave in a way that's dangerous, mislead them about it, and then their children get hurt, then that's a reason to bring them to court," said Phillips. While the attorneys recognize the battle as being a David versus Goliath type, they also know that the truth is on their side.

The truth often prevails, as is the case in the recent guilty verdict in the landmark Monsanto trial. A jury in San Francisco, California, awarded plaintiff Dewayne Johnson $289 million in damages after determining his cancer was caused by exposure Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller.9 Organic Consumers Association (OCA) reports:

"The jury's decision was unanimous: Monsanto was guilty of manufacturing and selling a product that caused Johnson's cancer. What's more, the company knew its product could cause cancer — and yet it intentionally hid that fact from Johnson and the public."

The case is eerily similar to that of the farmers and their families who are suffering from exposure to agrochemicals, including glyphosate, in Argentina. And the tobacco farmers aren't alone in their battle. There's another region in Argentina that has become the symbol in the fight against agrochemicals.

Cordoba, the realm of the transgenic soybean

The film crew travels to Cordoba, Argentina's second most important city, and the last stop in their investigation. Cordoba is characterized for its planting of transgenic soy and where glyphosate is applied from above through aerial spraying.

The town is littered with anti-Monsanto graffiti. In 2012, a historical verdict10 was delivered in Cordoba when a farmer and the owner of a crop-dusting plane were sentenced to three years in prison for illegal aerial spraying. They had been spraying glyphosate within 2,500 meters of a densely, populated area.

The film introduces anti-agrochemical activist Sofia Gatica, who cofounded Mothers of Ituzaingo,11 a group of moms working to stop the indiscriminate agrochemical use that has poisoned the region's children. Gatica lost her own infant daughter to kidney malformation, and her son lost his ability to walk following exposure to a local agrochemical fumigation.

Gatica is recognized for her work in tracking the abnormal rates of cancer, kidney disease and other conditions in areas close to where glyphosate was applied to GMO soy crops. The Mothers of Ituzaingo had blood tests done on their kids and found that 3 in 4 children living in their community had agrochemicals in their blood, including pesticides, chromium, lead and arsenic.

Hoping to get help from the government, the group presented the results to Argentinian officials, who told them they would only improve the water if the families signed away their right to sue for the water contamination.

Gatica has repeatedly been threatened and physically assaulted for her efforts in fighting the chemical companies. On one occasion in 2014, she was threatened with a gun and told by a man that if she didn't stop protesting against Monsanto, he would "blow her brains out."

Making progress

Despite the uphill battle, Mothers of Ituzaingo and other activists have made good progress. As the OCA reports:12

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

Gatica also succeeded in getting a municipal ordinance passed that prohibited aerial spraying in Ituzaingó at distances of less than 2,500 meters from residences.

And, in a huge victory, a 2010 Supreme Court ruling banned agrochemical spraying near populated areas and reversed the burden of proof — now the government and soy producers have to prove the chemicals they are using are safe, instead of residents having to prove that the spraying is making them sick."

Despite the victories, people living in Argentina and other regions saturated with GMOs and agrochemicals have a long, hard road ahead. According to the World Health Organization, 3 million people are poisoned by pesticides each year.13 But agrochemicals are worth $40 billion per year, and are projected to reach $308 billion in value by the year 2025.14

Will the world's multinational chemical companies ever sacrifice profits to protect public health? Only time will tell; however, the solution likely lies in the legal system, which is making strides around the world to protect the public from harmful agrochemicals.

Biotech companies are gaining power by taking over the government

There is no doubt in my mind that GMOs and the toxic chemicals used along with them pose a serious threat to the environment and our health, yet government agencies turn a blind eye and refuse to act — and the reason is very clear: They are furthering the interests of the biotech giants.

It is well known that there is a revolving door between government agencies and biotech companies such as Monsanto. Consider the hypocrisy of the FDA. On paper, the U.S. may have the strictest food safety laws in the world governing new food additives, but this agency has repeatedly allowed GMOs and their accompanying pesticides such as Roundup to evade these laws.

In fact, the only legal basis for allowing GE foods to be marketed in the U.S. is the FDA’s claim that these foods are inherently safe, a claim which is patently ridiculous. Documents released as a result of a lawsuit against the FDA reveal that the agency's own scientists warned their superiors about the detrimental risks of GE foods. But their warnings fell on deaf ears.

The influence of the biotech giants is not limited to the U.S. In a June 2017 article, GMWatch revealedthat 26 of the 34 members of the National Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology of Argentina (CONABIA) are either employed by chemical technology companies or have major conflicts of interest.

You may be aware that Argentina is one of the countries where single-crop fields of GE cotton, corn and soy dominate the countryside. Argentina is also a country facing severe environmental destruction. Argentinians are plagued with health issues, including degenerative diseases and physical deformities. It would appear that the rapid expansion of GE crops and the subsequent decline in national health indicators are intrinsically linked.

Don't be duped by industry shills!

Biotech companies’ outrageous attempts to push for their corporate interests extend far beyond the halls of government. In a further effort to hoodwink the public, Monsanto and its cohorts are now zealously spoon-feeding scientists, academics and journalists with questionable studies that depict them in a positive light.

By hiring “third-party experts,” biotech companies are able to take information of dubious validity and present it as independent and authoritative. It’s a shameful practice that is far more common than anyone would like to think. One notorious example of this is Henry Miller, who was thoroughly outed as a Monsanto shill during the 2012 Proposition 37 GMO labeling campaign in California.

Miller, falsely posing as a Stanford professor, promoted GE foods during this campaign. In 2015, he published a paper in Forbes Magazine attacking the findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization, after it classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. After it was revealed that Miller’s work was in fact ghostwritten by Monsanto, Forbes not only fired him, but also removed all of his work from its site.

Industry front groups also abound. The Genetic Literacy Project and the American Council for Science and Health are both Monsanto-funded. Even WebMD, a website that is often presented as a trustworthy source of "independent and objective" health information, is acting as a lackey for Monsanto by using its influence to promote corporate-backed health strategies and products, displaying advertisements and advertorials on Biotech’s behalf, furthering the biotech industry’s agenda — all for the sake of profit.

Monsanto has adopted underhanded tactics to peddle its toxic products, but the company is unable to hide the truth: Genetic engineering will, in no way, shape or form, make the world a better place. It will not solve world hunger. It will not increase farmers’ livelihoods. And it will most certainly not do any good for your health — and may in fact prove to be detrimental.

There's no better time to act than now — Here's what you can do

So now the question is: Will you continue supporting the corrupt, toxic and unsustainable food system that Monsanto and its industry shills and profit-hungry lackeys have painstakingly crafted? It is largely up to all of us, as consumers, to loosen and break Monsanto’s tight hold on our food supply. The good news is that the tide has been turned.

As consumers worldwide become increasingly aware of the problems linked to GE crops and the toxic chemicals and pesticides used on them, more and more people are proactively refusing to eat these foods. There’s also strong growth in the global organic and grass fed sectors. This just proves one thing: We can make a difference if we steadily work toward the same goal.

One of the best things you can do is to buy your foods from a local farmer who runs a small business and uses diverse methods that promote regenerative agriculture. You can also join a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, where you can buy a “share” of the vegetables produced by the farm, so that you get a regular supply of fresh food. I believe that joining a CSA is a powerful investment not only in your own health, but in that of your local community and economy as well.

In addition, you should also adopt preventive strategies that can help reduce the toxic chemical pollution that assaults your body. I recommend visiting these trustworthy sites for non-GMO food resources in your country:

Organic Food Directory (Australia)Eat Wild (Canada)Organic Explorer (New Zealand)Eat Well Guide (United States and Canada)Farm Match (United States)Local Harvest (United States)Weston A. Price Foundation (United States)The Cornucopia Institute

Monsanto and its allies want you to think that they control everything, but they do not. It’s you, the masses, who hold the power in your hands. Let’s all work together to topple the biotech industry’s house of cards. Remember — it all starts with shopping smart and making the best food purchases for you and your family.

As an exclusive offer, Organic Consumers Association readers will receive 15% off the "Genetically Modified Children" DVD by entering the discount code OCA15 at checkout (domestic and international shipping fees apply). Want to share the important information in this film with friends and family? Discounted 10-pack DVDs are also available for purchase. CLICK HERE to purchase the DVD and enter OCA15 at checkout for 15% off.

‘Natural’ Settlements Good for Consumers—But Ridding the Food Supply of Pesticides Would Be Better

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-08-22 17:31
August 22, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulFood Safety, Genetic Engineering naturalval_12600_jpg.jpg

It’s one of the industrial food industry’s biggest marketing scams—labeling a product “natural” or “all-natural” or “100% natural” in order to sell more product, despite knowing full well that the product contains ingredients that consumers would reasonably conclude are not natural.

We call it the “Myth of Natural.” 

This week, we settled a lawsuit with General Mills.

According to the joint statement we issued with our co-plaintiffs, Beyond Pesticides and Moms Across America:

At a time specified by the agreement, packaging for General Mills Nature Valley Granola bars will no longer bear the term “100% Natural Whole Grain Oats.”

Agreements like the one with General Mills are just the first step. We still have to push for a long-term solution to the problem of using the word "natural" in ways that mislead consumers.

More important, we need to push for a food system free of unnatural ingredients, including pesticides. 

A new report this week highlights, yet again, the widespread contamination of our food with this glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller.

The recent verdict in the Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto Co. also shines a spotlight on glyphosate—its potential to cause cancer and the potential legal ramifications for food companies whose products are contaminated with it.

Our settlement with General Mills comes after another settlement we reached with Post, over its Shredded Wheat cereal. We have similar (though not identical) claims pending against Bigelow Tea and Ben & Jerry’s.

OCA isn’t the only organization filing claims against food companies for misleading labeling and advertising claims. And we will have more lawsuits to announce in the near future.

Why pursue these lawsuits?

One, because consumers are deceived by false labeling and false advertising, and it’s our job to protect consumers.

Two, because companies use false advertising and marketing to boost their profits. We think that’s wrong.

Three, because in many of these cases involving glyphosate, we know that food companies know their products are contaminated—even if the products are GMO-free—because they know that glyphosate and is used, probably as a desiccant, in their supply chains.

Going to court over false advertising and labeling claims is just one way to educate consumers, hold food companies accountable and force companies to be truthful and transparent about the products they peddle.

Our ultimate aim is to convince the food industry that consumers don’t want pesticides in their food. Period.

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.

A Story Behind the Monsanto Cancer Trial—Journal Sits on Retraction

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-08-22 16:53
August 22, 2018Environmental Health NewsCarey GillamGenetic Engineering roundup_monsanto.jpg Mike Mozart / Flickr

What "ghostwriting" by Monsanto means, how it has influenced, and still is influencing, material found in peer-reviewed scientific journals

Consumers and journalists around the world were stunned earlier this month when Monsanto, after being forced in a court of law for the first time to defend the safety of its popular weed killer Roundup, was found liable for the terminal cancer of California groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson.

The unanimous 12-member jury found that Mr. Johnson's exposure to Monsanto's weedkiller was a "substantial" contributing factor to his disease and that there was "clear and convincing" evidence that Monsanto acted with "malice or oppression" because the risks were evident and Monsanto failed to warn of those known risks.

Aside from dueling expert testimony on both sides, the jury was provided with internal company emails and work plans indicating that Monsanto had been corrupting the scientific record by ghostwriting literature asserting safety. 

As the jury's decision sets in, and thousands of additional plaintiffs who have filed similar suits wait for their day in court, it is worth taking time to understand exactly what "ghostwriting" by Monsanto means, how it has influenced, and still is influencing, material found in peer-reviewed scientific journals. 

We offer this example: 

When the scientific journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology (CRT) published a series of papers reviewing the carcinogenic potential of weed-killing agent glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup, in September 2016, the findings were so significant that they were widely reported by media outlets around the world. 

The papers, published in a special issue of CRT entitled "An Independent Review of the Carcinogenic Potential of Glyphosate," directly contradicted the findings of the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which in 2015 found glyphosate to be a probable human carcinogen. The authors of the 2016 review found that the weight of evidence showed the weed killer was unlikely to pose any carcinogenic risk to people. 

The findings were critical to Monsanto – the company was facing doubts by European regulators about allowing glyphosate to remain on the market. As well, Monsanto was facing a growing mass of lawsuits claiming its weed killer caused people to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Sixteen scientists from "four independent panels" signed their names to the published work, declaring to readers that their conclusions were free of Monsanto's intervention. Underscoring the supposed independence of the work, the declaration of interest section stated: "Neither any Monsanto company employees nor any attorneys reviewed any of the Expert Panel's manuscripts prior to submission to the journal."

It has since become evident that these papers were anything but independent. Internal Monsanto documents forced into the public spotlight through litigation show that the papers were conceptualized from the outset as a deceptive strategy for Monsanto. One of Monsanto's top scientists not only reviewed the manuscripts but had a hand in drafting and editing them. The finished papers were aimed directly at discrediting IARC's classification. 

In one internal email, Monsanto's chief of regulatory science, William Heydens, told the organizer of the panel: "I have gone through the entire document and indicated what I think should stay, what can go, and in a couple spots I did a little editing." 

The internal documents show that Heydens even argued over statements that he wanted included but that author John Acquavella deemed "inflammatory" and "not necessary" criticisms of IARC. Draft documents show Heydens' edits contradicted Acquavella's edits even though Heydens was not supposed to have even reviewed the papers. Heydens went so far as to state: "I would ignore John's comment" and "I don't see a reason for deleting the text that John did below."

Other edits show Heydens attempting to control the tone of the manuscript, stating: "The deleted statement below has nothing to do with IARC criticism and should be put back in, John over-stepped the bounds here" and "I can live with deleting the text below, assuming that exposure text above … is added back in." He also argued for putting a deleted phrase back in because it gave "clarity about IARC's approach." "This is not inflammatory, it is descriptive," he wrote. 

The importance of the papers to Monsanto as a tool to counter IARC's classification of glyphosate as a probable carcinogen was laid out in a confidential document dated May 11, 2015, naming several of the scientists who could be used as authors to give the papers credibility. The internal documents speak of "ghost-writing" strategies aimed at using non-company scientists as authors to lend credibility to the findings.

When placed under oath in a deposition, Heydens acknowledged that the manuscripts were sent to him and he read "parts of some of them," prior to their submission to the journal. He said he did not "recall" whether or not he made the 28 edits that plaintiffs' attorneys counted in the internal records. 

All of this was among the evidence presented to jurors in San Francisco Superior Court as they considered Johnson's claims. But the evidence of ghostwriting and misconduct have far broader implications than one lawsuit. 

No action has been taken

How many ghostwritten papers declaring pesticide safety are littering the scientific literature? And given the evidence of misconduct in this instance, why are these papers still in publication? Why has there been no retraction, no clarification, no correction to the obviously deceptive disclosure?

Last August, after the documents gained media attention CRT editor Roger McClellan said the "serious accusations" deserved "careful investigation," and he and CRT publisher Taylor & Francis would take "appropriate action." 

Shortly thereafter the Center for Biological Diversity and three other national environmental-health organizations sent a letter to CRT and Taylor & Francis detailing the ethical misconduct and formally asking for a retraction. It's been more than a year since this investigation was begun and, despite multiple follow-up requests by the organizations, no action has been taken. 

With Taylor & Francis's own policy being to issue a retraction for misconduct "when there has been an infringement of publishing ethics," the case for retraction couldn't be more clear.

Monsanto's fingerprints are all over this "independent" review, as laid out in Monsanto's own internal documents. 

Taylor & Francis must determine the standards to which it is willing to hold scientists who publish in its journals – if not for the reputation of the journals themselves, then for the sake of scientific integrity itself and the public's right to the truth. 

Carey Gillam is a journalist and author, and a public interest researcher for US Right to Know, a non-profit food industry research group

Nathan Donley, Ph.D, is a former cancer researcher who now works as senior scientist in the Center for Biological Diversity's environmental health program.

Posted with permission from Environmental Health News.

#MonsantoTrialSource Author 2: Nathan Donley

4 Must-See Videos on Huge Win in #MonsantoTrial

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-08-22 14:30
August 22, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationGenetic Engineering, Health Issues monsanto_verdict_videos.jpg

It’s been nearly two weeks since the historic verdict in the Monsanto trial and the news is still buzzing.

On Friday, Aug. 10, a jury in San Francisco ruled that the world’s most widely used herbicide—Monsanto’s Roundup—caused Dewayne “Lee” Johnson’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The jury found in favor of Mr. Johnson on all 16 questions the court asked them to answer.

Widespread media coverage of this landmark case has included articles by most major mainstream news organizations, including CNN, CBS News, NBC and others—a signal that concerns about the health impacts of Roundup are mainstream, not limited to “fringe” groups, as the chemistry industry would like us to believe.

Though extensive, the recent news coverage of Johnson’s trial marks just the beginning of the story of Monsanto being held liable for its decades of deception—because Johnson is just the first of more than 4,000 people in the U.S. to file suit against Monsanto in state and federal courts, alleging Roundup caused their cancer.

Organic Consumers Association’s (OCA) Ronnie Cummins put it best:

“This verdict proves that when ordinary citizens, in this case a jury of 12, hear the facts about Monsanto’s products, and the lengths to which this company has gone to buy off scientists, deceive the public and influence government regulatory agencies, there is no confusion. This is a company that has always put profits ahead of public safety, and today, Monsanto has finally been held accountable.”

Here are four must-see videos that help sum up the gravity of the outcome of this trial.

1. Judge Suzanne Ramos Bolanos reads the verdict

On Friday, Aug. 10, Judge Bolanos read the verdict in the Monsanto trial. The jury found in favor of Johnson, the first person to take the agrochemical giant to trial, and awarded him $289.2 million in damages. The jury determined that Monsanto’s Roundup caused his cancer, that the company failed to warn him of the health hazards from exposure and that Monsanto “acted with malice or oppression,” because the company knew that its marquee product was dangerous and could cause cancer, but it hid that fact from consumers.

Watch here as Bolanos reads the verdict:

2. Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman interviews lead trial counsel

Watch this excellent 16-minute Democracy Now! report as Goodman interviews the plaintiff’s lead trial counsel, Brent Wisner of Baum Hedlund Law. Wisner responds to the historic nature of the case:

“This verdict is without question truly historic. What Mr. Johnson has done, taking on this massive corporation, the courage, the tenacity and willingness to speak out against what he believed was a real problem is truly spectacular. And this jury heard it. This verdict is groundbreaking, it’s presidential, it’s something that I think Monsanto and its shareholders, particularly Bayer, are hearing loud and clear and realizing they have a problem with this product and they have to start warning people that it can cause cancer.”

Listen as Goodman and Wisner discuss the science behind the safety of Roundup and the “unhealthy and kind of creepy relationship between Monsanto and the regulators at the EPA.”

3. OCA’s Alexis Baden-Mayer’s interview on RT America

Baden-Mayer, political director for OCA, appeared on RT America last week sharing her hopes that this verdict will encourage people to stop using Roundup on their lawns and stop eating foods that are grown with Roundup.

She explains that:

“The Environmental Protection Agency is currently reviewing Monsanto’s herbicide registration. So there’s an opportunity for us to demand now that Roundup be banned nationally, and I hope everyone gets involved in the Millions Against Monsanto campaign to do that.”

She goes on to say that “the problem is that so many of our federal politicians are taking money from Monsanto.” She says that with the midterm elections for Congress coming up, people should find out if their members of Congress take money from Monsanto and if so, “call them out and demand candidates who do not take money from the pesticides industry.”

Watch as Baden-Mayer shares what she thinks will be most effective in going after Monsanto.

4. Bayer’s shares plunged the most in nearly seven years

Bloomberg’s Naomi Kresge reports that Bayer AG shares plunged the most in nearly seven years following the $289.2 million-verdict against Monsanto.

Kresge says:

“I think investors are worried about the uncertainty here, concerned about potential legal liabilities and they’re concerned that this could lead to a wave of other lawsuits and even if this verdict doesn’t stand that Bayer might have to pay settlement cost for other suits.”

Watch here:

What can you do? Sign this petition and tell the National School Boards Association: No more Monsanto Roundup weedkiller!

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


How Do We Honor This Victim? Get Poisons Out of Our Schools.

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-08-21 17:33
August 21, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulGenetic Engineering dj_monsanto_verdict.jpg

“If you know you’re dying, it gives you that extra push. You can’t just die for nothing.”

Those words were spoken by Dewayne “Lee” Johnson in a recent TV interview with CBS News. Johnson was interviewed after a jury in San Francisco found that Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller caused his cancer.

Until he became too sick to work, Johnson was a school groundskeeper.

His job required him to spray Roundup on school properties, including on playgrounds.

According to U.S. PIRG, 26 million pounds of Roundup are sprayed on public parks, schoolgrounds, playgrounds and gardens every year.

TAKE ACTION: Tell the National School Boards Association: Get Monsanto’s Roundup and other toxic agro-chemicals out of schools!

The jury in Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto Co. awarded Johnson $289.2 million. Monsanto has vowed to appeal the verdict. 

Johnson knows that by the time his case finally makes it through a protracted appeals process, he may not be alive to collect the money Monsanto owes him.

Johnson’s family could use that money to pay off medical expenses. But what’s more important to this terminally ill father of two, is that something good, something bigger than a monetary award, result from his David v. Goliath battle.

We all owe Dewayne Johnson a huge debt of gratitude for standing up to Monsanto. What better way to thank him, and to honor his sacrifice, than by joining the movement to rid schools of Roundup and other toxic chemicals. 

TAKE ACTION: Tell the National School Boards Association: Get Monsanto’s Roundup and other toxic agro-chemicals out of schools!


Expert Witness From Landmark Monsanto Trial Offers 5 Fixes to Shortcomings in Current GE Food Regulations

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-08-15 17:14
August 15, 2018Environmental Health NewsCharles BenbrookGenetic Engineering canola.png

Charles Benbrook on the mistakes made in the approval of the first genetically engineered crops—and what we can learn from them

Editor's note: Charles Benbrook served as an expert witness in support of Lee Johnson, a groundskeeper suffering from terminal non-Hodgkin lymphoma following heavy use of, and exposures to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide.

Johnson sued Monsanto and was awarded $289 million in damages last week, after the jury delivered a stunning, unanimous verdict against Monsanto. 

Hardly a day goes by without a new scientific paper or news coverage addressing problems down on the farm.

Just this month, for example, two studies highlighted the growing problem of weeds resistant to the herbicide glyphosate—the main ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup—and how this continues to push herbicide use, expenditures, and collateral damage upward. The more herbicide farmers spray, the faster herbicide efficacy slips.

The studies found:

- The effectiveness of Bt-cotton, which initially had positive impacts on yields, is now declining worldwide because of the spread of resistant insects. Bees exposed to glyphosate in a recently treated field have reduced brood survival and altered gut microbiomes.

-Both wild and managed pollinators are in decline as a result of exposure to toxics, loss of healthy habitat, and poor nutrition.

Unfortunately, there is no Plan B for committed, large-scale genetically engineered (GE) crop farmers, many of whom find themselves locked onto a costly herbicide-use treadmill.

For corn, soybean, and cotton farmers in the U.S., many of today's problems are rooted in bad decisions made in the early 1990s as first-generation, GE crops were reviewed and approved by government agencies, and then marketed by the industry.

In a new paper I focus on how the industry, regulators, and the scientific community dealt with the significant increase in selection pressure on insect populations and weed communities. 

Past mistakes in the testing and regulation of first-generation GE-crops are widely recognized. 

While there is general agreement of why the GE-crop train jumped the tracks, there has been little serious discussion of solutions and today, constructive engagement by regulators or Congress is nearly unimaginable. 

In the hope of triggering reforms, here are five fixes to shortcomings in current law and ag biotech regulation.

Problem #1: Excessive confidence in current federal regulation

Each new GE crop technology goes through a voluntary review of food safety risks triggered by a letter from technology developers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Through these "voluntary consultations," the companies provide basic information to the FDA on the genes moved into the new GE crop.

The primary focus of the FDA's voluntary consultation is whether the composition and nutrients in the GE crop is "substantially equivalent" to that of the not-engineered crop. The FDA reviews the data, raises any questions it has, and, in most cases, accepts the conclusions of the technology developer.

The FDA does not conduct an independent safety determination, nor does it do any testing of a newly proposed GE crop, but rather accepts the company's assertion of its safety. It is a shallow and flawed process, that has been "under review" for two decades, but persists because of the lack of consensus on a better way forward.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) focus in the regulatory review process is driven by an old federal statute, the Plant Pest Act. The USDA must determine whether the technology might trigger a new, or worsen an existing "plant pest" (i.e., a weed, insect, or fungal pathogen that attacks or competes with plants). If there is no evidence of such "plant pest" risk, the USDA deregulates the new GE-crop trait, and companies are then free to move the new trait into various crop cultivars.

In the case of GE crops that entail expression of compounds that act as pesticides, the EPA also has to approve the new crops under national pesticide law. For GE crops engineered to tolerate applications of herbicides after the crop has emerged and is actively growing, the EPA typically has to approve: (a) new and/or higher tolerance levels covering residues in food, and (b) herbicide product labels that contain different directions for use.

Each agency's role and authority is seriously limited because Congress has been unable to pass new legislation to give the agencies the tools and mandates needed to conduct thorough reviews of the risks, benefits, costs, and uncertainties associated with novel GE-crop technologies. As a result, pre-approval risk assessments are typically a mile wide but just inches deep. Some of the most worrisome risks are largely ignored. 

Problem #2: Ignoring “inert” ingredients

Every pesticide sold to farmers contains one or more "active ingredients" that kill or control pests, and several "inert ingredients" that help assure the pesticide accomplishes its desired impact.

Inert ingredients help keep the active ingredient in suspension, and assure the pesticide sticks to plant or weed tissues long enough to be absorbed or come into contact with an insect pest. Some promote compatibility when mixed with other pesticides or liquid fertilizers, prior to spraying on a field.

For decades, a dangerous myth has persisted -- "inert ingredients" in formulated, ready-for-sale pesticides are not harmful to human health and the environment. For this reason, the impact of inert ingredients are not taken into account when the industry and government conducts a risk assessment of an active ingredient. Federal law classifies inert ingredients as "Confidential Business Information" (CBI), and blocks disclosure to poison control centers and physicians routinely treating pesticide poisoning victims.

The heightened toxicity of Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides, in contrast to pure glyphosate, played a dual role in Lee Johnson's trial in San Francisco, CA. 

EPA's near-sole focus on the toxicity of pure glyphosate undermined the relevance of the agency's reassuring risk assessment, since no one ever sprays, or is exposed to pure glyphosate. 

Monsanto's systematic effort over decades to suppress chronic animal studies on formulated Roundup, despite knowing from its own studies that the inert ingredients in its many Roundup brands increased risks substantially, no doubt influenced the jury, especially as it pondered the award of punitive damages. 

Old myths die hard, despite the now well-known fact that inert ingredients in the world's leading, formulated herbicide, Roundup, and the world's leading family of insecticides (called neonicotinyls) dramatically increase toxicity to organisms up and down the tree of life, including people. 

The policy fixes for problem #2 are obvious and simple—Congress needs to amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to: (a) require all active and inert ingredients to be disclosed on pesticide product labels, and (b) direct the EPA to require chronic feeding studies in mice and rats on at least some major formulations when there is evidence from short-term testing of heightened toxicity following exposures to formulated pesticides, as opposed to pure active ingredients.

Problem # 3: Lack of real-world monitoring 

Despite shortcomings in risk assessments, regulators generally are aware of the major areas of concern and uncertainty. In the first few years post-approval of a new GE technology, research and mandatory monitoring should be conducted to gain deeper understanding of human exposures and risks, unforeseen environmental impacts, or whether efficacy is slipping or uneven, raising the risk of resistance.

By targeting such monitoring in areas where new GE technology, and/or associated pesticides, have been most rapidly adopted, post-approval monitoring can serve as an early-warning system. Data gathered can alert the industry, farmers, and regulators of the need for more in-depth study and possible changes in the way a pesticide or GE-crop technology is used.

Problem #4: Focusing on one pesticide at a time

Regulators focus on the impact of one pesticide at a time, in isolation. Yet, adverse impacts arise as a result of all the pesticides, toxics, and technology deployed by farmers in a given area.

Tactical changes within prevention-based pest management systems are the surest way to achieve real progress toward safer pest management. Tweaking labels can reduce risks at the margins, but do nothing to stabilize failing pest management systems.

Both farmers and regulators need help, and new tools to recognize when a pest management system is failing because of the spread of resistant organisms, emergence of secondary pests, or unacceptable collateral damage on the environment, human health, or international trade flows. 

In such cases, systemic pesticide regulatory interventions need to be considered that help farmers move away from heavy reliance on pesticides, and toward multi-tactic, prevention-based management systems. 

Problem # 5: Lack of tools for struggling farmers 

Pest management specialists generally agree on the factors eroding the efficacy of a pest management system, or nudging risks and costs incrementally higher year to year. But they lack the tools and support needed to convince farmers to adopt system changes to alter underlying crop and pest-population dynamics.

Finding ways to reduce reliance on pesticides has proven elusive over the last half-century, despite general consensus that such system changes are necessary, especially in the case of pest management systems in active decline (e.g., soybean and cotton weed management; whiteflies and thrips in some vegetable and citrus crops). 

Tackling this 5th problem will be difficult and take time. Fortunately, progress in addressing the other four problems will reduce risks in the interim, while also encouraging farmers to invest more management attention in preventing spikes in pest populations. 

Ironically, reducing reliance on pesticides is the surest way to assure effective ones will be accessible when really needed.

Charles Benbrook is a Visiting Scholar in the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Newcastle in the U.K. 

Benbrook has served as an expert witness in several major pesticide and food-labeling related cases in which government regulatory policy has played a central role. He worked as a testifying expert in the Lee Johnson case, and is involved in other, similar litigation. 

Visit his website or contact him at charlesbenbrook@gmail.com.

Posted with permission from Environmental Health News.

Monsanto's Loss Is Our Gain—Let's Make the Most of It

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-08-14 15:38
August 14, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulGenetic Engineering roundup glyphosate herbicide shelf cc 1200x630.jpg

First, let’s say a big, collective “Thank you.”

Thank you to the 12 jurors who listened attentively and critically, during long days of testimony, then deliberated with care, and ultimately did the right thing.

Thank you to the lawyers who invested countless hours in investigative work and trial preparation, and who argued rationally and intelligently on behalf of the plaintiff, science and ethics.

Thank you to those media outlets and advocacy organizations who covered the case, pored over the “Monsanto Papers” and took seriously their obligation to inform the public.

But most of all, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, the plaintiff in the Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto case. For his persistence in getting to the bottom of what caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma. For his bravery in going up against one of the most powerful corporations in the world.

And for his refusal to give up, no matter the toll on his family, and on his failing health.

As our director, Ronnie Cummins, said in an interview this week about the trial, and about Monsanto’s corruption and deception:

“We talk about these things in the abstract. But when you see the face of a victim, it literally brings these issues home.”

Day of reckoning: ‘guilty’ on all counts

Media outlets across the globe lit up on Friday, August 10, when jury members filed into a San Francisco courtroom and handed a piece of paper to Judge Suzanne Bolano who read off, one by one, their answers to each of the 17 questions the jurors were asked.

The jury’s decision was unanimous: Monsanto was guilty of manufacturing and selling a product that caused Johnson’s cancer. What’s more, the company knew its product could cause cancer—and yet it intentionally hid that fact from Johnson and the public.

Johnson’s victory is a victory not just for one man and his family, but for anyone who has fought the good fight against Monsanto, including victims still living and those who have died.

It’s also a beginning, not an end. There are thousands of lawsuits already teed up against Monsanto. The next trial is set to take place in October, in Monsanto’s backyard, St. Louis, Missouri. In all, so far, there are about 4,000 plaintiffs lined up to sue Monsanto. And Friday’s victory in San Francisco will likely empower tens of thousands more victims to come forth.

Let’s hope that the old adage, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall,” will hold true as these lawsuits roll out.

Of course, that’s not the way Monsanto, and its new owner, Germany-based Bayer, see it. Bayer, which has its own dark history of selling poisons, including bee-killing neonicotinoids, wasted no time claiming that Monsanto’s flagship Roundup weedkiller is “safe.” But shareholders weren’t so sure—they sent Bayer stocks into a freefall after the guilty verdict. And with good reason, given the number of pending lawsuits against Monsanto, plus those yet to be filed.

Barron’s this week quoted an industry analyst who said that Monsanto’s new parent company is probably experiencing a heavy dose of “Bayer’s remorse.” Michael Leacock, an analyst with Frankfurt-based Mainfirst Bank, told Barron’s:

“If a settlement were to emerge, following more lost suits, the total cost, in our view, could easily reach USD10bn (assuming USD 1m per plaintiff, and twice the current number of plaintiffs) or about 11 percent of the current market cap of Bayer.”

That’s a big hit for a company that shelled out $66 billion to buy Monsanto.

Monsanto also came out swinging after the verdict was announced, no surprise there. In a statement, Vice-President Scott Partridge wrote:

Glyphosate is not the answer. Glyphosate does not cause cancer. The jury got it wrong. We will appeal the jury’s opinion and continue to vigorously defend glyphosate, which is an essential tool for farmers and others. We are confident science will prevail upon appeal.

Partridge is of course referring to “Monsanto science,” the kind that the biotech industry manufactures, in quantities rivaling those of its toxic chemicals, and uses to attack legitimate studies and the scientists who conduct them.

Ironically, it was Monsanto’s aggressive strategy of manipulating science that contributed to its undoing in the Johnson case. As U.S. Right to Know’s Carey Gillam reported last week:

Monsanto, which became a unit of Bayer AG in June, has spent decades convincing consumers, farmers, politicians and regulators to ignore mounting evidence linking its glyphosate-based herbicides to cancer and other health problems. The company has employed a range of tactics – some drawn from the same playbook used by the tobacco industry in defending the safety of cigarettes—to suppress and manipulate scientific literature, harass journalists and scientists who did not parrot the company’s propaganda, and arm-twist and collude with regulators. Indeed, one of Monsanto’s lead defense attorneys in the San Francisco case was George Lombardi, whose resumé boasts of his work defending big tobacco.

Regulatory agencies on trial, too

Friday’s verdict isn’t just an indictment of Monsanto and Bayer. It’s also a scathing indictment of regulatory agencies in countries around the world, and especially of the agencies here in the U.S.—the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration—all of which have failed miserably at their jobs: to protect our health and home.

As Cummins says in his interview, we need to make the most of this victory against Monsanto by ramping up pressure on our politicians and government agencies to clean up their acts, and do their jobs: “There’s no way to stay a-political. We’ve all got to get involved in politics.”

In the meantime, Johnson and other victims, and all of those who care about the future of food and farming, will continue to take our case the courts, where we’re finally beginning to reap some rewards. Friday’s verdict followed on the heels of a federal court ruling requiring the EPA to ban chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxin especially damaging to kids. The agency had banned the pesticide under the Obama administration, only to have the ban overturned when Trump’s EPA took over.

And, we’ll keep giving thanks—to all those who have been fighting this battle for decades, and who are committed to seeing it through until corporations and governments stop the insane practice of poisoning our food and environment.

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.


Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry's Farmworker Exploitation

Organic consumers - Mon, 2018-08-13 20:07
August 13, 2018Michael ColbyFair Trade & Social Justice dairy_cow_fb.jpg  · mhall209 / Flickr

These are harrowing times for the nearly 1,500 migrant workers laboring on Vermont’s largest dairy farms. These farmworkers, predominantly from Mexico, are forced to live in the shadows, where their farm bosses harbor them in exchange for long hours, low wages, and cheap housing. It’s a human rights stain on the state, allowing these migrant workers to live and be treated this way. And it continues because there’s a whole lot of “looking away” from the deep-rooted ugliness of this system, which has been described by human rights advocates as “close to slavery.”

Worse than looking away, with its implicit acceptance of the exploitation, is the complicit role Vermont’s dairy industry giants are playing to maximize their profits on the backs of this cheap labor. As the state’s near-billion-dollar-a-year ice cream and cheese corporations – Ben & Jerry’s and Cabot Creamery – continue to pay less than the cost of production for its dairy supply, Vermont’s remaining 700-or-so dairy farms are forced to cut costs at every opportunity, particularly when it comes to labor. Gone are the days when these farm jobs were filled by neighbors and community members, as the danger, speed, scale and filth – coupled with poverty-level wages — has made it impossible to attract local workers.

But Ben & Jerry’s took its complicity in the migrant worker exploitation to a whole new level of cruel and delusional recently when, in what can only be called a publicity stunt, corporate officials announced that its “Milk with Dignity” program was successfully addressing the migrant labor problem. At a hastily called press conference just days after the ice cream giant was stung by a consumer deception lawsuit by the Organic Consumer Association, claiming its health and environmental claims were fraudulent, Ben & Jerry’s revved up its public relations machine and, in search of some positive marketing spin, declared themselves to be “succeeding” in addressing the migrant labor issue.

Missing from the event, however, were any actual farmworkers to attest to Ben & Jerry’s cynical spin. The one farmworker who was scheduled to appear did not show up, creating a rather awkward moment when it was announced he “couldn’t get off his milking shift.” Sadly, it was a very believable excuse, as research shows that Vermont’s migrant dairy workers are putting in close to 80 hours a week. There was no similar attendance problem for the six-figure-salaried Ben & Jerry’s executives and their bevy of assistants, who showed up en mass to tell the media just how wonderful things were for the 250 farmworkers in its program, regardless of the fact that not one of them could get time off to be there.

Of course, it’s about more than just getting time off.  There is a very real – and understandable — fear within the migrant community about leaving the farm. Unlike other migrant farmworkers, those laboring in the dairy industry have no rights or legal standing because their work is considered permanent, not seasonal like the work associated with fruit or vegetable production, where farmworkers get temporary H-2 visas.

There are no such visas available for dairy workers. They are defined as “illegal” by the federal government, leaving them in constant jeopardy of arrest and deportation. And it’s worse in the current political climate, where increasingly aggressive ICE tactics become the norm, leaving them vulnerable at all times, even while doing the most mundane daily tasks like going to the store, visiting the doctor, or simply driving our roadways. It is no way to live in the land of the free.

Besides, the last time migrant farmworkers appeared publicly at Ben & Jerry’s Waterbury, Vermont headquarters, two were arrested by ICE agents on their way home, beginning a long legal ordeal they eventually won with enormous community support, but not after extended incarceration and weeks of lost wages. Those arrests occurred last summer, 2017, when the farmworkers were marching on Ben & Jerry’s to contrast their abysmal conditions and pay with the corporation’s exploding profits, growing at more than $100 million a year, and to demonstrate their frustration over the three-year stall that was happening with the Milk with Dignity negotiations. [Disclaimer: I marched with them.]

Those profiting from this exploited labor, the large dairy farmers and the dairy buyers like Ben & Jerry’s, don’t share in any of the legal risks born by the workers. They don’t fear arrests for their role in the “illegal” nature of the arrangement, and they remain fully insulated from the near-constant worries about being caught. It is a pure and blatant show of privilege, for sure.

But it’s within this reality – this core of exploitation — that Ben & Jerry’s would now like the public to believe that progress is being made for these farmworkers. They point to the Milk with Dignity agreement they finally signed last year in partnership with Migrant Justice, a Vermont-based nonprofit that campaigns for the rights of migrant workers. While negotiating the “Code of Conduct” that was more than three years in the making, the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation was a major funder of its negotiating partners, Migrant Justice. Foundation records show that they gave the nonprofit at least $75,000 during negotiations.

They were together again at the press event in July to applaud their farmworker “progress.”  It came with the typical Ben & Jerry’s hype and circumstance. They spoke, for example, about the 72 farms that had signed up for the program, where roughly 250 migrant workers are employed, representing just 17% of the state’s total migrant workforce.

But what they didn’t tell the people gathering for the publicity stunt was that there’s no connection between signing up for the program and adhering to the program’s Code of Conduct, the nitty-gritty of the agreement that outlines the farmworker protections. Among the most touted aspects of the Code are a “right” to the prevailing minimum wage (current $10.50/hour), one day off a week, 8 hours off per 24 hours of work, a real bed – not straw piles, and running water.

“Compliance with the Code of Conduct is the goal,” reported Will Lambek of Migrant Justice, in an interview with Regeneration Vermont after the press event.

And when asked how many of the 72 farms that have signed up for the program are in compliance, Lambek replied: “Zero.”

Unfortunately, that bit of truth didn’t make it into the fawning media coverage the well-orchestrated press event received, including a short New York Times piece that was headlined, “Farm Worker Program a Success.” It was the kind of coverage that must have had them dancing in the corporate headquarters of Unilever, the European mega-corporation that owns the Ben & Jerry’s brand, among dozens of others, where market share – not social justice – is the primary goal. Unilever has called for Ben & Jerry’s to be among its billion-dollar-a-year-brands by 2020.

The media coverage also dutifully reported on Ben & Jerry’s assertions of a “third party” that was set up to monitor and enforce the “improvements” for the farmworkers, the Milk with Dignity Standards Council. Not disclosed, however, was the close financial relationship between the ice cream corporation and this “third party.”

“Ben & Jerry’s provided the initial financial support to the Council,” said Rob Michalak, Ben & Jerry’s Director of Social Impact, in an interview with Regeneration Vermont. And, according to Michalak and Lambek, most of the Council’s enforcement and compliance efforts continue to be funded by Ben & Jerry’s, via premiums paid to farms that sign up for the program.

Regeneration Vermont asked for the details on these premiums, including total amounts paid out this year, the average per farm, and specifics about how these premiums were improving the conditions and salaries of the farmworkers.

“We don’t make that public,” replied Ben & Jerry’s Michalak.

“We’re not disclosing that,” offered Migrant Justice’s Lambek. “There’s a dearth of specifics.”

But Lambek did point to the “testimonials page” of his group’s website, where evidence of the program’s success could be found, he claimed. The testimonials, however, only prove the voluntary nature of the Code of Conduct, as one featured farmworker, identified only as “David,” underscoring the fear of even being able to use their own names in relation to this “successful” program, declared that “now I have two full days off a month.” The Code of Conduct calls for at least four days off a month. But it’s just a goal, with “success” being a moving target, as long as it’s subservient to Ben & Jerry’s marketing and sales, apparently.

Finally, there was much fanfare about the “hotline” that the Milk with Dignity program set up for farmworkers to call if they had complaints about their working conditions, treatment or even pay. It was reported that several dozen calls had already been made to the hotline. But, once again, the nature of these calls and, more importantly, the results were “not being made public,” according to Lambek.

Which brings us to what is perhaps the biggest loophole in the program, the annual nature of the farms’ commitment to it. Each year, every one of the current 72 farms has the right to simply opt out of the program, with no consequences other than no longer being eligible for the secret premiums. So if  — or when — the Ben & Jerry’s-funded Standards Council starts to really make demands on these farms, or decides to enforce compliance with things like earning a minimum wage or not having a pile of straw be called a bed, these farms can simply walk away, thus arguably leaving the farmworkers at these farms even more vulnerable, not just to the conditions and treatment but also to potential retaliation.

And how would Ben & Jerry’s respond to this? “Our goal is to have enough farms signed up to cover our dairy purchasing universe,” reported Ben & Jerry’s Michalek. “So if farms left the program, we’d have to find replacements.”

In other words, Ben & Jerry’s just wants enough farms signed up for its Milk with Dignity program every year so that they can say the amount of milk produced by these farms is roughly the same as the amount of milk they purchase, regardless of the farms’ long-term commitment to the program.

Those 72 farms exist within the universe of the more than 300 farms that ship milk to Ben & Jerry’s dairy supplier, the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery. Since none of the milk from these 72 farms is segregated for the exclusive use for Ben & Jerry’s and its products, it wouldn’t be hard for farm replacements to be found amongst the other 230 farms not currently in the program, thus beginning – again – the road to compliance. Until, that is, they, too, might find it too burdensome, potentially creating a revolving door of farm participation in the program, keeping it alive for public relations purposes but leaving the farmworkers unprotected.

It’s this lack of segregation of Ben & Jerry’s dairy supply that is central to the “deceptive labeling and marketing” lawsuit filed against the corporation earlier this summer by OCA. Those 72 farms are also considered to be part of yet another publicity stunt by Ben & Jerry’s, known as its “Caring Dairy” program, which makes claims about pesticide use, water quality and animal welfare on those farms. But, again, the program is voluntary, policed by those funded by Ben & Jerry’s, and none of the milk from these supposedly “caring” dairies is dedicated to the Ben & Jerry’s product line. It’s just marketing, and, as OCA asserts, “deceptive marketing,” because not only do most of these “caring” farms still use pesticides, antibiotics, GMO feed corn, and full-time cow confinement, none of them have a direct and verifiable relationship to what’s in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. The milk they produce might be in that pint of ice cream, or, more likely given the odds, it might not. But the public relations show must go on.

Unfortunately, these kinds of marketing gimmicks are nothing new to Ben & Jerry’s. We all remember, for example, how they were going to “save the Rainforest” with a mere flavor, or that the wars of the world would be ended with its “1% for Peace” donations. And with each gimmick, the public relations game is the same: Quick and easy publicity to boost sales and then move on to the next, great claim.

But these kinds of marketing games cross a line when it comes to farmworkers and basic human rights and dignity. These are truly scary times for the migrant workers on the farms that supply Ben & Jerry’s, where they live in abject fear of arrest and deportation – 24 hours a day, including the 8 of which Ben & Jerry’s “hopes” to let them have off. They have no legal standing or rights, with or without a “Milk with Dignity” program.

Worse, the false publicity generated from its Milk with Dignity program creates the impression that progress is being made for these still-exploited farmworkers. It’s still a migrant worker scenario that is “close to slavery,” which, at best, is made a little bit better if you trust the unverified claims. But where is the dignity in a system that’s just a little bit better than close to slavery?

In the end, as is always the case with these publicity stunts, there’s only one, verifiable place where progress is made: Ben & Jerry’s rising sales and the growing profits shipped off to its parent corporation, Unilever.

To which, we say: No justice, no ice cream.

Michael Colby is the president of Regeneration Vermont, a nonprofit that documents the threats of industrial agriculture while promoting regenerative alternatives. He is also a campaign consultant to the Organic Consumers Association.

'Guilty on All Counts!': In Historic Victory, Monsanto Ordered to Pay $289 Million in Roundup Cancer Lawsuit

Organic consumers - Fri, 2018-08-10 23:18
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Strikingly, the majority of the fine imposed was $200 million in punitive damages against Monsanto for "acting with malice and oppression"

In an historic victory for those who have long sought to see agro-chemical giant Monsanto held to account for the powerful company's toxic and deadly legacy, a court in California on Friday found the corporation liable for damages suffered by a cancer patient who alleged his sickness was directly caused by exposure to the glyphosate-based herbicides, including the  widely used weed-killer Roundup.

As Reuter reports:

The case of school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson was the first lawsuit alleging glyphosate causes cancer to go to trial.

Monsanto, a unit of Bayer AG following a $62.5 billion acquisition by the German conglomerate, faces more than 5,000 similar lawsuits across the United States. 

The jury at San Francisco's Superior Court of California deliberated for three days before finding that Monsanto had failed to warn Johnson and other consumers of the cancer risks posed by its weed killers.  It awarded $39 million in compensatory and $250 million in punitive damages.

As Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a lawyer representing Johnson in the case, declared on Twitter, the court "awarded 200 million in punitive damages against Monsanto for 'acting with malice and oppression.'"

HUGE WIN in #MonsantoTrial! #MONSANTO GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS!https://t.co/Bi9xtGyuDN

— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@RobertKennedyJr) August 10, 2018

The Organic Consumers Association, an advocacy group and longtime critic of Monsanto's deadly poisons, celebrated the verdict:

VICTORY! @MonsantoCo GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS! https://t.co/AdtvixExCs

— Organic Consumers (@OrganicConsumer) August 10, 2018

Journalist Tom Philpott also put the ruling in context, noting that even while the Trump administration is doing its best to lift restrictions on toxic pesticides and the chemical industry, the courts appear to be coming around to the unique and far-reaching dangers posed by pesticides, herbicides, and other powerful compounds:

Oh and of course yesterday’s rebuke from the 9th Circuit on the EPA for blessing Dow-DoPont’s neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos. https://t.co/SsXEx8u3KR

— Tom Philpott (@tomphilpott) August 10, 2018

Posted with permission from Common Dreams

Monsanto Loses Landmark Roundup Weedkiller Case; Jury Awards $289M to Cancer Victim

Organic consumers - Fri, 2018-08-10 23:03
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Contact: Katherine Paul, Organic Consumers Association, 207-653-3090, katherine@organicconsumers.org;

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) today issued this statement in response to today’s verdict in the case of Dewayne Johnson vs. Monsanto Co., awarding $289.2 million in damages to plaintiff Dwayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who, after being required to spray Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, is terminally ill with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“This verdict proves that when ordinary citizens, in this case a jury of 12, hear the facts about Monsanto’s products, and the lengths to which this company has gone to buy off scientists, deceive the public and influence government regulatory agencies, there is no confusion,” said Ronnie Cummins, OCA’s international director. “This is a company that has always put profits ahead of public safety, and today, Monsanto has finally been held accountable.

“We hope that this is just the first of many defeats for Monsanto, and that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will pull this product off the market immediately. In the meantime, OCA looks forward to the next steps in our own lawsuit against Monsanto, for misleading consumers about the safety of Roundup for humans and pets. And we are grateful to Mr. Johnson for bravely facing down the 'most evil corporation' in the world.”

Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit consumer advocacy organization representing a network of more than 1 million consumers in the U.S. Visit www.organicconsumers.org.

#MonsantoTrialPush to Facebook Instant Articles: 

FDA Investigating Possible Link Between Factory Farms and Tainted Lettuce

Organic consumers - Fri, 2018-08-10 14:34
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Statement by Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch

Washington - This week, the FDA acknowledged it is investigating whether a nearby massive concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), or factory farm, could be the source of E. coli contamination of romaine lettuce earlier this year. The tainted lettuce resulted in hundreds of illnesses in 36 states and resulted in five deaths.

According to Food & Water Watch’s Factory Farm Map, an analysis of USDA data on factory farms, the density of cattle feedlots in the region where the tainted lettuce was grown is extreme. In Yuma county in 2012, cattle feedlots had an estimated average of over 67,000 head of cattle per facility. In the region implicated in the outbreak, samples of nearby irrigation canal water tested positive for the same strain of E. coli that caused the outbreak. The canal is close to a CAFO that can hold in excess of 100,000 head of cattle at any one time. 

In response, Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter issued the following statement:

“It is unsurprising that a factory farm could be the source of this massive E. coli outbreak. We know they are a dangerous public health menace on a variety of fronts. Packing tens of thousands of animals in at these industrial facilities leads to massive amounts of water and air pollution that the surrounding environment simply cannot absorb safely. The only reason they exist is to increase meat industry profits. But it is happening at the expense of our health and our lives.

“This is the latest reason – and one of many reasons – that we need to ban factory farms. It’s unacceptable that this business model continues to exist when we know there are so many risks to human health and the environment. The factory farm industry is spreading antibiotic resistance, polluting our food and drinking water, spewing noxious particulate pollution into surrounding communities, imperiling workers, and contributing to climate chaos. Any one of these factors alone show the need to ban these facilities. Taken all together, it is clear that we urgently must prioritize policies that support small-scale, diversified meat production, not factory farms.”

Posted with permission from Common Dreams.

Beware the Slippery Slope of Facebook Censorship

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-08-09 19:17
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The social network is too big and broken to properly function, and these “fixes” will only create more problems

You may have seen a story this week detailing how Facebook shut down a series of accounts. As noted by Politico, Facebook claimed these accounts “sought to inflame social and political tensions in the United States, and said their activity was similar — and in some cases connected — to that of Russian accounts during the 2016 election.”

Similar? What does “similar” mean?

The death-pit for civil liberties is usually found in a combination of fringe/unpopular people or ideas and a national security emergency.

This is where we are with this unsettling new confab of Facebook, Congress and the Trump administration.

Read this jarring quote from Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) about the shutting down of the “inauthentic” accounts:

“Today’s disclosure is further evidence that the Kremlin continues to exploit platforms like Facebook to sow division and spread disinformation… I also expect Facebook, along with other platform companies, will continue to identify Russian troll activity and to work with Congress…”

This was in a story in which Facebook stated that it did not know the source of all the pages. They might be Russian, or they might just be Warner’s idea of “sowing division.” Are we comfortable with that range of possibilities?

Many of the banned pages look like parodies of some paranoid bureaucrat’s idea of dangerous speech.

A page called “Black Elevation” shows a picture of Huey Newton and offers readers a job. “Aztlan Warriors” contains a meme celebrating the likes of Geronimo and Zapata, giving thanks for their service in the “the 500 year war against colonialism.”

And a banned “Mindful Being” page shared this, which seems culled from Jack Handey’s Deep Thoughts bit:

“We must unlearn what we have learned because a conditioned mind cannot comprehend the infinite.”

Facebook also wiped out a “No Unite The Right 2” page, appearing to advertise a counter-rally on the upcoming anniversary of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Facebook was “helped” in its efforts to wipe out these dangerous memes by the Atlantic Council, on whose board you’ll find confidence-inspiring names like Henry Kissinger, former CIA chief Michael Hayden, former acting CIA head Michael Morell and former Bush-era Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff. (The latter is the guy who used to bring you the insane color-coded terror threat level system.)

These people now have their hands on what is essentially a direct lever over nationwide news distribution. It’s hard to understate the potential mischief that lurks behind this union of Internet platforms and would-be government censors.

As noted in Rolling Stone earlier this year, 70 percent of Americans get their news from just two sources, Facebook and Google. As that number rises, the power of just a few people to decide what information does and does not reach the public will amplify significantly.

In a way, this is the other shoe dropping after last week’s much-publicized brouhaha over Infowars lunatic Alex Jones. Jones had four videos removed from YouTube and had his Facebook page banned for 30 days, though he seemed to find a way around that more or less instantly.

These moves were celebrated across social media, because who doesn’t hate Alex Jones?

The complainants in the Jones case included parents of Sandy Hook victims, who have legitimate beef with Jones and his conspiratorial coverage. The Infowars reports asserting the grieving parents were green-screen fakes were not just demonstrably false and rightfully the subject of a defamation suit, but also seemingly crossed a separate line when they published maps and addresses of family members, who experienced threats.

When Jones and his like-minded pals cried censorship and bias, they came across as more than a little disingenuous. After all, right-wingers have consistently argued on behalf of the speech rights of big corporations.

Conservative justices have handed down rulings using the First Amendment to hold back regulation of big tobacco and the gun industry, and to justify unlimited campaign spending. Citizens United was a crucial moment in the degradation of the First Amendment, essentially defining corporate influence as speech.

As many pointed out last week, the Jones ban was not a legal speech issue – not exactly, anyway. No matter how often Jones yelped about “Hitler levels of censorship,” and no matter how many rambling pages he and his minions typed up in their “emergency report” on the “deep state plan to kill the First Amendment,” it didn’t change the objectively true fact their ban was not (yet) a First Amendment issue.

The First Amendment, after all, only addresses the government’s power to restrict speech. It doesn’t address what Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter can do as private companies, enforcing their terms of service.

So it’s true, there was no First Amendment issue with the Jones ban. But that’s the problem.

The pre-Internet system for dealing with defamatory and libelous speech was litigation, which was pretty effective. The standard for punishment was also very high. In the 1964 Supreme Court case New York Times v. Sullivan — the bedrock case for libel law involving a public figure — the court went out of its way to make sure that complainants needed to prove reckless or knowing disregard for fact.

Among other things, the court worried that absent such a tough legal standard, outlets would play it too safe with speech, and “make only statements which ‘steer far wider of the unlawful zone.’”

This mostly worked. Historically there were few analogs to Infowars that got anything like wide distribution because of the financial threat, which scared publishers most of all. In order to have power to distribute widely you needed resources, but you put those resources at risk if you defamed people.

That all changed with digital media. Way back in 1996, when mastodons roamed the earth and people used dial-up to connect to the Internet, Congress passed the Communications Decency Act.It contained the following landmark language:

“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

Essentially this meant that Internet providers wouldn’t be treated like news organizations. In the eyes of the law, they were less like CBS or Random House than they were bookstores or newsstands.

The rule allowed platforms to grow exponentially without the same fear of litigation. Companies like Facebook and Google became all-powerful media distributors, and were able to profit from InfoWars-style programs without having to be liable for them.

This led to the flowering of so much obnoxious speech that the First Amendment acquired a reputation as a racist con, and online media distributors, instead of being sued themselves as publishers, began to be viewed as potential restorers of order, beneficent censors.

Now, at a moment of crisis and high political tension, the public seems unable to grasp the gravity of allowing the government or anyone else to use that power.

It is already a scandal that these de facto private media regulators have secret algorithmic processes that push down some news organizations in favor of others. Witness the complaints by outlets like Alternet, Truthdig and others that big platforms have been de-emphasizing alternative sites in the name of combating “fake news.”

But this week’s revelation is worse. When Facebook works with the government and wannabe star-chamber organizations like the Atlantic Council to delete sites on national security grounds, using secret methodology, it opens the door to nightmare possibilities that you’d find in dystopian novels.

The sheer market power of these companies over information flow has always been the real threat. This is why breaking them up should have long ago become an urgent national priority.

Instead, as was obvious during the Senate hearing with Mark Zuckerberg earlier this year, politicians are more interested in using than curtailing the power of these companies. The platforms, for their part, will cave rather than be regulated. The endgame here couldn’t be clearer. This is how authoritarian marriages begin, and people should be very worried.

Posted with permission from Common Dreams.

A 'Hothouse' Future for Humanity: Scientists Behind Terrifying Climate Analysis Hope They Are Wrong

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-08-09 19:06
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"This is, by far, the biggest political issue in the world. It is the one thing that will affect everyone on the planet for centuries to come. Why isn't everyone shouting it from the rooftops?"

Warning of a possible domino effect as multiple climate feedback loops are triggered within a dynamic cascade of rising temperatures and warming oceans, scientists behind a frightening new study say that for the sake of humanity's future they hope scenarios explored in their new models do not come to pass.

"I do hope we are wrong, but as scientists we have a responsibility to explore whether this is real," Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, where the research was done, told the Guardian. "We need to know now. It's so urgent. This is one of the most existential questions in science."

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the new study, while not conclusive in its findings, warns that humanity may be just 1°C away from creating a series of dynamic feedback loops that could push the world into a climate scenario not seen since the dawn of the Helocene Period, nearly 12,000 years ago.

The research, according to its abstract, explores "the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a 'Hothouse Earth' pathway even as human emissions are reduced. Crossing the threshold would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene."

As Rockström explains, the "tipping elements" examined in the research "can potentially act like a row of dominoes. Once one is pushed over, it pushes Earth towards another." And in an interview with the BBC, he added,  "What we are saying is that when we reach 2 degrees of warming, we may be at a point where we hand over the control mechanism to Planet Earth herself. We are the ones in control right now, but once we go past 2 degrees, we see that the Earth system tips over from being a friend to a foe. We totally hand over our fate to an Earth system that starts rolling out of equilibrium."

Such feedback occurences, the authors of the study write, would pose "severe risks for health, economies, political stability, and ultimately, the habitability of the planet for humans."

With Arctic ice and glaciers melting away; increasingly powerful and frequent storms in the Atlantic and Pacific; coral reefs dying from warming oceans; record-setting wildfires in the U.S.; unprecedented heatwaves in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere—climate researchers have been at the forefront of sounding the alarms about the frightening path humanity is now following.

"In the context of the summer of 2018, this is definitely not a case of crying wolf, raising a false alarm: the wolves are now in sight," said Dr. Phil Williamson, a climate researcher at the University of East Anglia, about the latest study. "The authors argue that we need to be much more proactive in that regard, not just ending greenhouse gas emissions as rapidly as possible, but also building resilience in the context of complex Earth system processes that we might not fully understand until it is too late."

In order to avoid the worst-case scenarios, the researchers behind the study say that "collective human action is required" to steer planet's systems away from dangerous tipping points. "Such action," they write, "entails stewardship of the entire Earth System—biosphere, climate, and societies—and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values."

Posted with permission from Common Dreams.