Let's Talk . . . About the Truth

Organic consumers - 8 hours 36 min ago
March 26, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsGenetic Engineering truth_paper_rip_torn_edge_open_1200x630.png

Mere days after a jury unanimously concluded that Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller caused Edwin Hardeman’s cancer, Monsanto’s parent company, Bayer, took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal with this headline: “Let’s talk about Roundup® herbicides.”

As you might expect, Bayer’s ad wasn’t intended to discuss the truth about Roundup—it was intended to spread the same old lies.

The fact that Bayer was willing to splurge for an ad (the going rate for a WaPo full-page ad is $163,422) to try to convince the public that Roundup is safe, speaks volumes.

We can’t spend that kind of money on mainstream media advertising to counter the multitude of lies by companies like Monsanto and Bayer.

Instead, we’ve always relied on people like you to spread the truth by sharing our emails, and promoting our messages on social media.

That is, until now. But now our message is under attack.

We’re halfway through our spring fundraising campaign, but only a quarter way toward our goal. Please donate by midnight March 31, so your donation can be matched dollar-for-dollar by Mercola.com.

This didn’t happen overnight. But it happened. And it’s getting worse. Everyday.

Our ability to speak the truth about Monsanto and other corporate agribusiness giants is under attack—by the corporations that don’t want you to know what their products are really doing to you, and to our entire earthly ecosystem.

Powerful corporations, backed by people like pro-GMO Bill Gates, are working to silence us. And to make it more difficult than ever to raise the money we need to do this work.

The fact that juries have found in favor of Monsanto’s victims in two landmark trials . . . and the fact that Monsanto-Bayer is facing nearly 9,000 more similar lawsuits . . . has these corporate criminals running scared.

Their only recourse? Silence the critics. Censor the truth.

Under the guise of stopping "fake news," internet watchdogs are burying alternative news that threatens the financial interests of companies like Monsanto and Bayer.

Only a fraction of what we post on social media is getting through to your news feeds.

Google is deciding what emails will go to your inbox—and which ones will go to spam.

Our job may be getting harder. But our determination to uncover the truth is stronger than ever.

As historian and activist Howard Zinn put it:

“. . . I suppose the most revolutionary act one can engage in is . . . to tell the truth.”

So, to Bayer and Monsanto, we say, “Yes, let’s talk. But let’s talk about the truth.”

And let’s keep talking . . . in voices so loud, and so persistent, that no amount of money will be able to silence them.

Please help keep our voices strong! Please donate by midnight March 31, so your donation can be matched dollar-for-dollar by Mercola.com.

Demand to Know! Is the CDC Colluding with Coke?

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-03-21 20:33
March 21, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonPolitics & Globalization coca_cola_coke_plastic_bottles_store_1200x630.jpg

A new study suggests that people who frequently drink sugar-sweetened drinks, including soda, increase their risk of death from cardiovascular diseases, and to a lesser extend, cancer.

We think that’s all the more reason it’s time to investigate recent allegations that Coca-Cola is colluding with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to downplay the negative health consequences associated with drinking Coke.

TAKE ACTION: Ask the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform to investigate Coca-Cola’s influence on the CDC.

Your tax dollars fund the CDC, a federal agency that bills itself as “the nation’s health protection agency, working 24/7 to protect America from health and safety threats.”

But emails between the CDC and Coca-Cola executives reveal a cozy relationship, which Coke used to “to gain and expand access, to lobby and to shift attention and blame away from sugar-sweetened beverages,” according to a study published in The Milbank Quarterly.

The study based its findings on emails and documents obtained by U.S. Right to Know (USRTK), under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

You probably don’t drink Coke or other effects of sugary soft drinks, which scientists link to type 2 diabetes and heart disease, among other health problems. Still, shouldn’t America’s “health” authorities protect public health? Not the profits of big corporations and their health-harming products?

TAKE ACTION: Ask the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform to investigate Coca-Cola’s influence on the CDC.

'It's Probably Over for Us'

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-03-20 16:31
March 20, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsAll About Organics kid_boy_child_strawberries_farm_field_crop_1200x630.jpg

As I write this today, many of our friends in Midwest farming communities are reeling—record catastrophic flooding is threatening their livelihoods and lives.

It’s the last straw for many farmers who were already struggling financially. As one of them told a New York Times reporter, “It’s probably over for us.”

If we want to secure the safety and security of our food system, it’s time we revolutionize how farmlands are managed and how food is produced. Please pitch in today to help us take on the corporations that are destroying our food and health. Donate online, by mail or by phone, details here.

There are still a minority of Americans who will argue over whether this new wave of extreme weather is a result of human-induced climate change.

But the debate over whether our dominant factory farm, GMO industrial food system is healthy for humans, animals or the planet is over.

And so is the debate over who is responsible for what’s gone wrong.

An industrial food system propped up by taxpayer-funded subsidies, a food system that sticks you with the bill to clean up polluted waterways, a food system that shifts all the financial risk onto small farmers while funneling all of the profits to CEOs and corporate shareholders, a system that produces pesticide- and hormone-contaminated meat, dairy and highly processed junk foods, is unhealthy by any measure.

This system exists only because a handful of powerful corporations have been able to buy policies to support their degenerative business model . . . and in the process, make it nearly impossible for the organic regenerative farmers and ranchers who are good stewards of the land to compete.

Our job is to take on those corporations, and the political leaders who enable them. But we need your help.

Please pitch in today to help us take on the corporations that are destroying our food and health. Donate online, by mail or by phone, details here.

I recently watched a video called “The Children’s Fire.” It tells the story of how long ago, wise tribal leaders who saw that their former way of life was disappearing, delved into questions around life, living, dying, relationship and meaning.

The question they ultimately posed to themselves was this: “How shall we govern our people?”

Their answer was this: “No law, no decision, no action, nothing of any kind will be permitted to go out from this council of chiefs that will harm the children.”

The “Children’s Fire” is a pledge to the welfare of unborn future children.

It’s a commitment to the responsibility of each generation to protect the vitality and regenerative capacity of our common ecosystem.

It’s time we applied this long-term thinking to the policy decisions that determine how we manage the soil and water, and the natural cycles of our ecosystem, that are essential to producing food that nourishes and sustains us.

It’s time to protect farmers and ranchers like our friends in the Midwest, by demanding policies that support them in adopting agricultural practices that heal, not harm, the earth, and make their farms more prosperous and more resilient.

We can do this. But only if we marshall the courage and the human and financial resources required to take on some of the most destructive—and most powerful—corporations in the world.

You can help revolutionize how farmlands are managed and how food is produced, and preserved for your children and grandchildren. Please pitch in today so we can take on the corporations that are destroying our food and health. Donate online, by mail or by phone, details here.

New Study: Climate Concerns Affect Kids' Mental, Physical Health

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-03-14 12:49
March 14, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAlison Rose LevyEnvironment & Climate, Health Issues child_lost_sad_wall_sepia_1200x630.jpg

Parents may think their kids are too involved with school, friends and activities to pay much attention to climate change. But many kids actually are worried about climate change, according to an article on the Green Living website. The article cited reports of children as young as 7 years old losing sleep over climate concerns.

Now, a new study published in Current Psychiatry Reports says concerns about global warming are putting children “at risk of mental health consequences including PTSD, depression, anxiety, phobias, sleep disorders, attachment disorders and substance abuse.”

Dr. Susie Burke, co-author of “The Psychological Effects of Climate Change on Children,” told us in a recent interview:

“Children feel fear, anxiety, stress, and grief, as do many adults. Some believe that the world may end in their lifetimes. They will be living in a climate-altered world for longer than most adults. They are more dependent and vulnerable, and their views can be dismissed. They are not yet able to make laws that impact their future. That is why we see them stepping up and talking in front of the nation.”

Burke, along with colleagues, Ann V. Sanson and Judith Van Hoorn, reviewed the scientific literature in the U.S., U.K. and Australia. Their research revealed that the most immediate symptoms associated with climate anxiety sometimes produce longer-term effects, such as “problems with emotion regulation, cognition, learning, behavior, language development, and academic performance. Together, these create predispositions to adverse adult mental health outcomes,” the researchers said.

Burke said that her research shows that adults are not very good at protecting children:

“And as they see the ongoing adult failure to address climate change, children have begun to realize that we are not protecting them as what were once defined as future threats come closer and closer.”

Youth activists on the move

In September 2018, teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg traveled to the Davos World Economic Forum to confront the power elite gathered at an annual meeting. Thunberg told the world leaders:

"Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to make unimaginable amounts of money, and I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”

In the U.S., the Sunrise Movement has taken the lead in expressing the concerns that many young people feel. Young adults, teenagers and even children are demanding climate action and calling for the Green New Deal. Youth are carrying the climate message right into the offices of national leaders, like Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

How kids and parents cope

Many adults are just as concerned about climate change as their kids, though they may bring a different perspective. In the U.S., U.K. and Australia, research has found that only 5 to 7 percent of adults actually deny climate change. But “many more don’t have it in the front of their minds as an urgent issue,” Burke said.

“We do know adults have high levels of stress and awareness of climate change—but there are mechanisms that cause us to turn away. Because adults have enjoyed the lovely world that fossil fuels have created around us, food from anywhere in the world, whenever we should so desire it, adults put up a lot of resistance to change. Resistance to give up luxuries. From a child’s perspective, when they become aware of that, it is completely unacceptable to them.”

Getting to know the more—or less—effective coping strategies can help people respond. Swedish researcher Maria Ojala has identified three basic coping styles that people adopt to manage their own stress and to act as decision-makers and consumers.

• Problem-focused coping:  In this approach, both kids and adults find concrete things to do to try to address the cause of the problem, for example, taking public transport or riding bikes to school.

According to Burke, research shows that problem-focused coping, such as trying to reduce one’s own carbon footprint (or the carbon footprint of their own community) is associated with high environmental engagement but also linked to high levels of anxious and depressive feelings.

That may be because “the scale of the problem is large, and individual actions can’t ever address it at scale. And this can lead to overwhelm and despair,” Burke said. “Some can become fixated on incremental solutions—that are tokenistic— to make themselves feel better that they are doing something.”

• Emotion-focused coping:  People use this strategy, not to solve the problem, but to manage their own distress. Both adults and children might distract themselves, minimize the problem, tell themselves it’s not such a big problem, deny it or not think about it. “People withdraw and believe that they are maintaining their own energy, through not participating,” Burke said. “They do this to manage their emotions.” Some people respond by becoming hedonistic, Burke said, while others become resigned, hopeless and helpless, passive.

• Meaning-focused coping: In this strategy, both children and adults face up to the problem while finding a perspective that can both reassure themselves and galvanize them into action.

Burke offers the examples of taking comfort in the fact that millions around the world are paying attention, and hoping that will prompt the needed change. Or trusting in other agents, organizations and individuals to take action on climate: She told us:

“That’s where having climate heroes is a source of solace and inspiration. So is an outpouring of hundreds of thousands of adults saying ‘We support and believe you and are trying to make these changes as well.’” 

All of this supports meaning-focused coping and help young people generate optimism, even in the face of inaction on the part of leaders. For example, the Green New Deal activates meaning-focused coping because the resolution looks comprehensively at the full scale of the problem. In contrast to problem-focused coping, which can lead to disillusion and overwhelm because individual efforts don’t match the scale of the problem, people stay committed because “they know it’s the right thing to do and nothing else makes as much sense,” Burke said. “They continue to fight whether or not success is guaranteed.” That behavior is anchored by what psychologists call “grounded or authentic hope.” Not surprisingly, Ojala's research found that meaning-focused coping is related to high levels of environmental engagement and efficacy.

Whatever strategy adults or children choose, Burke warns that we have no choice but to persist on efforts to address climate change:

“We are all connected with children and the young whether we have our own children or not. Humans have always been able to face dreadful threats and get to the other side. There’s nothing that makes as much sense as continuing to engage and try to change the course of history.”

Alison Rose Levy writes for the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

Judge in Second Roundup Cancer Trial Worked for Firm that Defended Monsanto

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-03-13 16:06
March 13, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonGenetic Engineering roundup_bottles_mike_mozart_1200x630.jpg

On March 12, both sides in the Edwin Hardeman vs. Monsanto case delivered their closing arguments in San Francisco Federal Court. Hardeman sued Monsanto (now owned by Bayer), alleging that his longtime use of Roundup weedkiller caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer.

The jury could return its verdict any day now. The six-juror panel must return a unanimous decision, or a mistrial will be called. A new trial would likely take place in May. If the jury returns a guilty verdict, the case will enter the second phase, where Monsanto’s liability will be determined and damages may be awarded to the plaintiff.

This week’s closing  arguments followed a recent favorable ruling for the plaintiff—this despite new revelations about Chhabria’s past ties to Monsanto.

A surprising ruling in favor of the plaintiff

In a boost for the plaintiff, Chhabria last week dismissed Monsanto’s latest move to end the trial, citing evidence that glyphosate herbicides (including Roundup) could have caused Hardeman’s cancer. He ruled:

The plaintiffs have presented a great deal of evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of its product.

In his ruling, Chhabria also wrote:

. . . there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue.

Judge once worked for law firm that represented Monsanto

Chhabria’s ruling in favor of the plaintiff came as a surprise to some, given the his overall handling of the Hardeman case, which ultimately sparked inquiry into whether Chhabria was biased in favor of the defense. The inquiry led to the revelation that Chhabria once worked for a law firm that’s a “well-known defender of a variety of corporate interests, including Monsanto,” according to reporting by Carey Gillam of U.S. Right to Know.

Chhabria was appointed by then-President Obama in 2013, for the seat he currently holds in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. But prior to that, he worked as an associate, from 2002-2004, at Covington & Burling LLP, a firm that helped Monsanto defend itself over the controversial recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), marketed under the brand name Posilac.

The judge worked for the firm when Monsanto was engulfed in an all-out legal battle over rBGH, a genetically engineered drug developed by Monsanto. The drug, which is injected into cows to boost milk production, increases levels of another hormone, IGF-1 which has been linked to breast, prostate, colon, lung and other cancers in humans.

Not only is rBGH dangerous to humans, but its use is considered inhumane as it causes a string of health problems in cows—painful udder infections, hoof problems and birth defects. To counter these health issues, dairy farmers use antibiotics, which in turn contributes to the rising threat of antibiotic resistance, as explained in a report by Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) Oregon Chapter.

The synthetic growth hormone, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1993, is banned in Europe and Canada.

Chhabria’s time at Covington & Burling was short-lived. And while there’s no solid evidence he represented Monsanto directly, the judge is “also no stranger to the world of corporate power and influence,” notes Gillam.

Early on in the trial, Judge Chhabria threatened to “shut down” Hardeman’s lead attorney Aimee Wagstaff for violating the judge’s ban on presenting the jury with evidence that Monsanto attempted to manipulate regulators, including by ghostwriting safety reviews of its flagship herbicide.

Judge is ripping into Aimee Wagstaff again saying he wants to sanction her $1,000 and maybe the whole plaintiff’s legal team as well. Calling her actions “incredibly dumb” -

— carey gillam (@careygillam) February 25, 2019

Holy Sh—. Judge now dismisses jury for break and then RIPS into plaintiff’s attorney - says she has “crossed the line” and is “totally inappropriate” in her opening statements. Says this is her “final warning.”  Never a dull moment at the @Bayer Monsanto Roundup cancer trial.

— carey gillam (@careygillam) February 25, 2019

Chhabria also threatened to dismiss the case entirely and made repeated comments about the plaintiff’s “shaky” evidence.

The judge interrupted Wagstaff on numerous occasions during her opening statements, including when she tried to introduce Hardeman’s wife and began to tell the story of their life and what it was like when Hardeman first discovered the lump in his neck.

Plaintiff’s attorney  Aimee Wagstaff opens by introducing wife of plaintiff, and starts to tell story of their life and Hardeman finding lump in his neck; Judge Chhabria interrupts to tell Aimee to stick to comments dealing with causation only.

— carey gillam (@careygillam) February 25, 2019

Chhabria ultimately ordered Wagstaff to pay a $500 fine for angering him.

Sanctions bite. Plaintiff’s attorney in Monsanto Roundup cancer trial pays for angering judge in her opening statement. pic.twitter.com/M60GnpYHda

— carey gillam (@careygillam) March 5, 2019

The sanction sparked a wave of anger and frustration from people around the world following the trial. In fact, it triggered “a flood of emails from lawyers and other individuals offering support and expressing outrage at the judge’s action,” Gillam reported.

Judge's decision last week to sanction plaintiff's lead attorney Aimee Wagstaff in @Bayer Monsanto Roundup cancer trial reportedly triggered flood of emails to Wagstaff from lawyers and others offering support and expressing outrage at the judge's action. https://t.co/54Omst0gvW

— carey gillam (@careygillam) March 4, 2019

Third Roundup cancer trial set for March 25

Hardeman vs. Monsanto is the second trial involving Monsanto’s cancer-causing Roundup weedkiller. Hardeman, 70, alleges that Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) cancer.

For nearly three decades, Hardeman said he used Roundup to kill weeds on his various California properties. He said he stopped using the weedkiller in 2012 and was diagnosed with NHL in 2016.

The Guardian reported on March 5 that Hardeman’s case is “high-stakes” as it’s considered a “bellwether” trial for the more than 9,000 similar lawsuits currently pending in the U.S. This means the verdict in Hardmen’s case could affect future litigation and possible settlements.

The third Monsanto trial is scheduled to begin March 25, in Oakland, California. Monsanto-Bayer is facing more than 9,000 similar lawsuits. Meanwhile, on March 8, a Florida cancer victim filed a $1-billion lawsuit against Bayer.

To keep up with the latest on the Hardeman vs. Monsanto trial, check out our #MonsantoTrial page and follow us on Twitter.

Watch this video for a Monsanto trial update from Gillam.

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


You Don't Have to Be Young to Join In!

Organic consumers - Mon, 2019-03-11 19:35
March 11, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationEnvironment & Climate climate_march_protest_signs_1200x630.jpg

“The house is on fire.”

That’s what 16-year-old Greta Thunberg told world leaders at the Davos World Economic Forum on January 25. It's also why she went on strike—to let the adults of the world know that young people are tired of waiting for action on climate change.

Want to show solidarity with Greta and other youth climate activists around the world? 

Join the March 15 international #YouthClimateStrike being promoted in the U.S. by our allies at the Sunrise Movement. Find tips on how to participate here.

In August 2015, Greta launched a one-person climate strike. At first, she was alone. Then other young students joined in. Greta now stays out of school every Friday to protest what she sees as the failure of adults to address the climate crisis.

Are you, your family, kids, friends and neighbors inspired by Greta? Then why not ditch school or work on March 15, to join striking youth—from elementary school kids to university students—in 50 countries, including Brazil, Chile, Iran, India and Japan? (Read the student strikers letter to world leaders).

Some nuts and bolts questions and answers

What happens if your children want to skip school on March 15 to join the strike?

Sunrise Movement leaders say that in most schools, striking students will be marked “absent” with no other repercussions. But just to be safe, if you’re a parent you may want to check with your local school's teachers and administrators to confirm your school’s policy.

Of course, your child could just call in sick for the day.

To connect with the ClimateStrike events in your area consult this map.

Adults are welcome to participate by:

• Supporting children who want to join the #YouthClimateStrike 

• Attending your local Sunrise rally or events with family and friends

• Telling your friends and neighbors about the Sunrise Movement, GND and upcoming #YouthClimateStrike

• Wearing green (or a green armband) on March 15th.

Sunrise: leading the way to a healthy and viable future for all

Here in the U.S., the Sunrise Movement’s outcry on the climate emergency has gained more national attention than any other social movement in recent U.S. history.

In just the last six months, U.S. Sunrise Movement activists, ranging in age from seven to 25, have staged protests on the Hill, inspired the creation of the GND and defended it. They’ve also confronted equivocating elected officials and requested their support for future GND legislation.

As a Sunrise partner, the OCA supports Sunrise and the GND as a vehicle for transitioning from a degenerative, extractive industrial food and farming system to a system based on regenerative agriculture practices that draw down and sequester carbon, produce nutrient-rich pesticide-free food, provide a fair living for farmers and ranchers and that leave the soil healthier, and our air and water cleaner.

As Greta recently said:

“United we will rise on 15 March and many times after until we see climate justice. We demand the world’s decision makers take responsibility and solve this crisis. You have failed us in the past. [But] the youth of this world has started to move and we will not rest again.”

Let’s show some solidarity with Greta, and all of the world’s youth on March 15!

Should Your Members of Congress Learn More About Organic?

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-03-05 15:17
March 5, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAlexis Baden-MayerAll About Organics, Politics & Globalization organic.png

You know that switching to organic and pasture-based agriculture is what we need to do to feed the world and cool the planet—because healthy soil can both provide abundant food, and also draw down and sequester carbon.

But do your members of Congress know this?

And if they do, are they doing anything to level the playing field for farmers who grow nutrient-rich food in ways that protect, not harm, the environment? So that those farmers stand a chance of making a decent living in a market dominated by industrial food producers?

Take Action: Invite your Congresspersons to the 'Farm and Food Policy for a Changing World' Briefing

We’re teaming up with GMO Free Pennsylvania to present a briefing on Capitol Hill to educate Senators and members of Congress about regenerative agriculture’s capacity to address some of our most pressing problems, including:

• Skyrocketing rates of diet-related diseases

• Rapidly vanishing natural resources, especially water

• Dangerous concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere

These problems have one thing in common: Their solution lies beneath our feet, in the soil. We might take dirt for granted, but we can't do much without it. As an anonymous wit observed:

Humankind, despite its artistic abilities, sophistication and accomplishments, owes its existence to a six-inch layer of farmable soil—and the fact that it rains!

TAKE ACTION: Click here to invite your Senators and Members of Congress to attend our March 8 briefing on how caring for the soil can help feed the world and cool the planet.

If you’re in the D.C. area, you’re welcome to attend in person, too!

The 2018 elections gave us many new members of Congress. Let’s get them engaged in working on a plan to transition to a regenerative organic food and farming system.

John E. Peck and Tiffany Finck-Hayne: Toxic Legacy Remains After Monsanto's Merger With Bayer

Organic consumers - Fri, 2019-03-01 16:52
Genetic EngineeringJohn E. PeckThe Cap TimesFebruary 28, 2019https://madison.com/ct/opinion/column/john-e-peck-and-tiffany-finck-hayne-toxic-legacy-remains/article_4141756c-f19c-517c-975d-b0ef04b0c954.html bayer-roundup.png

The Department of Justice just announced its formal go-ahead for the Bayer-Monsanto merger, disregarding overwhelming opposition from farmers and other Americans across the country. The agency received more than a million public comments urging the agency to block the merger, but put its final rubber stamp on the deal at the end of January.

Now that Bayer and Monsanto have merged into the world’s largest biotech seed and pesticide corporation, it’s important to realize the true threat this massive conglomerate means for our entire food/farm system. Monsanto’s name may go into hiding, but its harmful legacy remains intact — emboldened, in fact, by Bayer’s acquisition.

In a politically convenient disappearing act, Bayer did sell off a handful of holdings to appease Justice Department concerns that it was gaining too much monopoly influence. By choosing to acquire Monsanto, Bayer also gained a rather infamous reputation — and potential future liability — now cascading throughout its entire product line.

Source Author 2: Tiffany Finck-Hayne

Rounding Up the Latest on the Monsanto Roundup Trial and Other Related News

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-02-28 14:30
February 28, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulGenetic Engineering, Politics & Globalization monsanto_black_white_tiles_letters_1200x630.jpg

While much of the nation was tuned into the Michael Cohen drama in Washington, D.C. this week, another drama was playing out in a San Francisco courtroom.

On February 25, a jury in San Francisco Federal Court began hearing the case of Edwin Hardeman vs. Monsanto. Hardeman alleges that Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer.

Hardeman’s is the second case involving someone who developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma after using Roundup. His case follows the August 10, 2018, $289-million judgment (later reduced to $78 million) awarded to DeWayne “Lee” Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who also sued Monsanto for causing his non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Monsanto’s appeal of the $78-million judgment is still pending.

There are more than 9,000 claims pending against Monsanto in state courts, about 620 awaiting trial in federal court. Reuters reported in November that Hardeman’s case was selected as “a so-called bellwether, or test trial, frequently used in U.S. product liability mass litigation to help both sides gauge the range of damages and define settlement options.”

Off to a rocky start

This week’s trial was barely underway before Judge Vince Chhabria threatened to “shut down” Hardeman’s attorney for violating the judge’s ban on presenting the jury with evidence that Monsanto attempted to manipulate regulators, including by ghostwriting safety reviews of its flagship herbicide.

According to reporting by U.S. Right to Know’s Carey Gillam, the judge was “ripping into” Hardeman’s attorney, Aimee Wagstaff, threatening to “sanction her $1,000 and maybe the whole plaintiff’s legal team as well. Calling her actions “incredibly dumb.”

A report in GM Watch outlined how even before the trial started, during jury selection. “Chhabria appeared to act in an overtly partisan way,” and had several prospective jurors “removed from the jury pool based on their written questionnaires, which indicated they had negative perceptions of Monsanto.”

According to GM Watch, Chhabria was biased from the start:

But although Chhabria agreed with Monsanto’s request to strike these people from the jury pool, he refused a request from the plaintiff’s attorneys to remove a prospective juror who said he felt “they (Monsanto) typically are very honest and helpful to society”, and that he believed Monsanto’s Roundup was safe. Negative perceptions of Monsanto, it seems, are problematic, but not positive ones.

On day three of the trial (Wednesday, February 26), another juror was dismissed, leaving one man and six women. As Gillam reports, a total of six jurors are required and all must be unanimous in their verdict. On the same day, Chhabria followed through on his threat to sanction ($500) Wagstaff.

Meanwhile, on the glyphosate front . . .

Even as jurors in San Francisco were listening to testimony on the science behind glyphosate and its link to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, glyphosate, the key active ingredient in Roundup, was making headlines elsewhere.

• Lymphoma News Today published an article on February 25 titled, “Exposure to Glyphosate in Herbicides Increases Risk of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Study Says.” The article referred to a recent meta-analysis of the studies on glyphosate and non-Hodgkin which concluded that exposure to glyphosate increases a person’s risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma by 41%.

• On February 22, Forbes magazine pulled an article by Geoffrey Kabat attacking the new meta-analysis confirming a link between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. As GM Watch reported, Kabat has plenty of conflicts of interest when it comes to Monsanto. He also wrongly claimed that Gillam, who reported on the meta-analysis, had previously been fired by Reuters.

• On February 14, Return to Now reported that Bill Gates donated $15 Million to a campaign pushing GMOs on small farmers around the world. This, despite mounting evidence of the health risks of GMO foods themselves, and the pesticides used to grow GMO crops. Not to mention the impact on water quality and soil health.

To keep up with the latest on the Hardeman vs. Monsanto trial, check out our #MonsantoTrial page.

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


Keeping It Real: Maine Regenerative Dairy Farmers Lose Contract, Not Hope

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-02-28 14:07
February 28, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulAll About Organics, Farm Issues milkhouse_dairy_and_creamery_1200x630.jpg

For four years, Milkhouse Dairy Farm and Creamery in Monmouth, Maine, supplied grass-fed organic milk to Horizon.

That was until Horizon told the farm’s owners, Caitlin Frame and Andy Smith, their contract would end in six months. Horizon said it was because Milkhouse was selling some of its milk direct to consumers and retail stores, and also using some of it to make and sell yogurt.

Horizon (owned by international food conglomerate, Danone) said it didn’t like that the farm was “diverting” some of its supply, instead of selling exclusively to Horizon.

In a video about Milkhouse Farm, produced by the Real Organic Project, Caitlin said that all-or-nothing policies like the one Horizon insists on takes the “independent” out of independently owned farms. Farmers lose their sense of ownership over their own farm and what they produce. For instance, a farmer can’t decide to sell 50 - 100 gallons of their milk to a local cheesemaker without fear of losing a big contract.

Caitlin and Andy were fortunate, in that they have their own on-farm milk processing. But the other five or six small Maine dairy farms dumped around the same time by Horizon didn’t. Andy told us that he suspects the real reason Horizon dropped their farm, and the others, is that the Horizon just didn’t want to deal with smaller milk suppliers.

In recent years, the organic dairy industry has been adopting the “bigger is better” model of non-organic dairy—a model that’s better for Big Brands, but not for smaller family-owned dairies. (They’re dropping like flies).

That model isn’t good for consumers, either. As the Washington Post reported last year, consolidation in the organic dairy industry has created a situation where consumers can no longer trust that milk advertised as organic even meets USDA organic standards, much less matches the quality of milk produced on farms like Milkhouse, which follow and/or exceed organic standards.

Smith told us in an interview that there’s no way a dairy farm with 5,000 - 10,000 cows is following the USDA Organic access to pasture rules which require animals to have a minimum of 120 days on pasture. They’re also not following the rules for transitioning calves to organic milk production. (For more on these rules and how they’re being skirted by large milk producers, read this article in the latest issue of “Organic Insider”).

By gaming the system, big organic milk brands can sell their products for less. Brands like Aurora and Horizon also supply the milk for store brands, such as those sold in Walmart, Costco and major retail chains. For a list of organic brands sold locally and regionally by authentic organic producers, check out the Cornucopia Organic Dairy Scorecard.

As with other agricultural sectors, smaller organic regenerative producers suffer under agricultural policies written by corporate agribusiness lobbyists who make sure the deck is stacked in their favor. The Green New Deal could help farms like Milkhouse, if it includes policies that reward farmers who use practices that lead to carbon drawdown and sequestration.

In the meantime, farmers like Caitlin and Andy are at a competitive disadvantage. With a farm their size, “We have no economy of scale,” Andy said. “Our products always end up costing more on the shelf.”

New England farmers don’t have access to the large tracts of land that exist in western states. But even if they did, Andy said they aren’t interested in scaling up. Fortunately, they are set up for on-farm processing. But that’s not feasible for most small farms, according to Andy, because of the cost, and because managing a milk processing operation requires a specific skill set that isn’t easy to come by.

“Lack of infrastructure is a huge problem, a huge bottleneck” for small dairy farms in Maine, Andy said. He said he and other small dairy farmers are working on several projects, including trying to create a shared brand, and trying to get an in-state milk processor. Right now, he said, most small organic dairies are limited to shipping their milk to Stonyfield, in New Hampshire, or Horizon, in western New York.

Milkhouse also raises pasture-based laying hens and pigs. The farm practices rotational grazing. In the video, Caitlin says pasture is the key “We grow grass, the cows make milk out of that grass and the milk feeds people. It’s magic making.”

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

Tell Congress: Consumers Want Labels on GMO Salmon!

Organic consumers - Mon, 2019-02-18 19:59
February 18, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAlison Rose LevyGenetic Engineering salmon_fish_underwater_1200x630.jpg

We think the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) was wrong to approve GMO salmon. But it did.

The least the FDA can do now is require clear labels on a genetically engineered food product that some scientists agree poses risks to human health and the environment.

TAKE ACTION: Tell your members of Congress to support the Genetically Engineered Salmon Labeling Act (H.R. 1104)!

In November 2015, the FDA approved genetically engineered salmon for sale in the U.S., despite our best efforts to stop them.

So far, GMO salmon hasn’t been sold in the U.S. because Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) managed to get the FDA to ban the import and sale of “frankenfish” until the agency agreed to establish labeling guidelines for it.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) meanwhile is working on finalizing GMO labeling rules since the passage of what became known as the "DARK Act." Those rules are shaping up just as we expected: as nothing more than a weak scheme involving QR codes and telephone numbers--and little or no useful labels for consumers.

Murkowski says that’s not good enough. So she’s reintroduced a bill to require clear labels on GMO salmon.

Murkowski has tried multiple times, without luck, to advance similar legislation. It’s only a matter of time before GMO salmon show up in U.S. stores and restaurants. Please take action today!

TAKE ACTION: Tell your members of Congress to support the Genetically Engineered Salmon Labeling Act (H.R. 1104)!

Arsenic in Your Fruit Juice? Tests Say Yes.

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-02-13 17:49
February 13, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonFood Safety juice_fruit_pour_glass_bottle_1200x630.jpg

Are there heavy metals lurking in your fruit juice?

Yes, according to a recent analysis by Consumer Reports (CR). CR tested 45 fruit juices in four popular flavors—apple, grape, pear and fruit blends—sold in the U.S. and found “elevated levels” of arsenic, cadmium and lead.

The levels were “concerning,” according to CR. Even more worrisome? Toxic heavy metals were found in nearly half of the juices tested.

The testing analyzed 24 national, store and private-label brands. Results included potentially harmful levels of cadmium, inorganic arsenic (the type most harmful to health) and/or lead in 47 percent of juices tested.

Out of all the flavors, grape juice and juice blends had the highest average of heavy metal levels.

Toxic heavy metals are known for their silent but deadly effects. Humans are exposed to heavy metals in a variety of ways including pesticides in food, contaminated drinking water, personal care products and amalgam dental fillings.

The toxins are the most dangerous when the effects are cumulative. In other words, the more you are exposed to heavy metals, the greater the risk. According to chemist, Tunde Akinleye, who led the testing:

“In the course of a lifetime, the average person will come into contact with these metals [cadmium, inorganic arsenic, lead and mercury] many times, from many sources. We’re exposed to these metals so frequently during our lives that it’s vital to limit exposures early on.”

CR’s test results are particularly alarming for a couple of reasons. For one, fruit juices are often marketed to children, who may be seriously harmed by heavy metal exposure even at low levels. Children who suffer chronic heavy metal exposure may experience lowered IQ, cancer, type 2 diabetes and behavioral problems, among other health issues.

Secondly, these heavy metals wouldn’t be showing up in our food and drink had our regulators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) taken the issue more seriously.

In 2013, the FDA proposed setting a threshold of 10 parts per billion (ppb) of inorganic arsenic in apple juice, the federal standard for arsenic in drinking water. The move followed earlier testing by Dr. Oz and CR in 2011, which found arsenic in apple juice. About 10 percent of the samples exceeded the U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s limit for arsenic in drinking water.

Regulators promised to lower the allowable limit by the end of 2018. But the FDA failed to act and the limit currently remains the same. Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at CR, told CR magazine:

“We encourage the FDA to finalize the limit as soon as possible. And we have pushed the agency to establish an even lower threshold for inorganic arsenic in apple juice at 3 ppb. We also believe more juices should be covered, not just apple.”

The FDA does have a set limit for lead in juice. But it’s 50 ppb, a limit CR warns is far too high. The standard for lead in bottled water is 10 times lower, at 5 ppb.

As for cadmium, the FDA has no set limit for the heavy metal in juice. That oversight is disturbing considering exposure to cadmium is linked to kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis.

Unfortunately, heavy metals are not the only threat lurking in fruit juice.

Recent testing by Moms Across America found glyphosate, the key active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller, in six top-selling orange juice brands: Florida’s Natural, Tropicana, Minute Maid, Starter Bros, Signature Farms and Kirkland.

Most noteworthy about this testing is that glyphosate—an herbicide linked to cancer by the World Health Organization—is turning up in products labeled “natural.”

Consumers seek out products that are labeled “natural,” because they believe those products are pesticide-free. And companies like Florida’s Natural use the word “natural” because they know consumers look for it—and will pay a premium for it.

If you expect products labeled “natural” to be free from unnatural ingredients—including agrochemicals linked to cancer—let Florida’s Natural know.

Click here to tell Florida’s Natural: Orange juice with Roundup weedkiller isn’t “natural!”

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

Why the Green New Deal Needs to Include Fair Prices for Farmers

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-02-12 18:45
February 12, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAlison Rose LevyEnvironment & Climate, Politics & Globalization woman_farmer_tomatoes_harvest_1200x630.jpg

The Green New Deal (GND) twin resolutions, introduced February 7, 2019, call for all Americans to have access to healthy food, clean water and clean air. The GND also proposes to provide “economic security,” jobs and good wages to all who want to participate in the new green economy.


For consumers, healthy food (and clean water and clean air, for that matter) mean transitioning away from an industrial agriculture model that poisons our food and pollutes our environment.


For farmers, any promise of “economic security” must include the return to an economic agriculture model based on providing farmers a fair price for the products they produce—or as the agriculture industry calls it, “parity pricing.” Only then, will the GND fulfill its promise to clean up our food system, clean up our environment and provide a “fair and just transition for all communities and workers.”


How farm economics used to work


The three most basic priorities of any food system should be to:


• Grow health-promoting food for people

• Grow food through consistent, ecologically sound methods that use (and renew) limited earthly resources wisely, rather than squandering or depleting them

• Fairly compensate food growers and producers to assure their financial sustainability so they can continue to grow food and care for the land.


Our food and farming system used to be built around these priorities. New York organic farmer and food activist, Elizabeth Henderson explains the original economic model for food production this way:


Farmers received fair prices for their crops, production was controlled to prevent costly surpluses, and consumer prices remained low and stable. At the same time, the number of new farmers increased, soil and water conservation practices expanded dramatically, and overall farm debt declined. What is even more important is that this parity program was not a burden to the taxpayers…by charging interest on its storable commodity loans, made nearly $13 million between 1933 and 1952.


Under this model, it was possible for farmers to:


• Calculate the costs of growing, for example, five bushels of wheat

• Extrapolate with slight margins for contingencies (like weather) how much wheat would be grown and required

• Determine a fair baseline price

• Manage surpluses and shortfalls


This was a better way to compensate farmers for excess production or shortfalls. Farmers could deposit into and manage stored surpluses during times of excess production, and the public could withdraw from those surpluses in times of scarcity.  There is no real rationale for paying farmers less for shelf-stable foods simply because that food was grown during a period of high yields.


The long unwinding of the parity model


Unfortunately, beginning nearly 70 years ago, the agro-industry started disrupting this economic model. It began in the early 1950s, with a corporate takeover of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that resulted in government policies that promoted the use of toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers in agriculture, and the corporations that sell them. Over time, policy changes led to increased industry consolidation and the concentration of power—and profits—in the hands of a shrinking number of dominant corporations.


This shifting economic model creates an uneven playing field for many of today’s farmers who come from multi-generational farming families that passed down their farmlands to successive generations. Some of these descendants—people the public knows as “organic farmers”—carried forward the centuries-old farming traditions that the policy takeover of the 1950s sought to displace. Their long-established cultivation practices (along with many new regenerative practices innovated over the last 40 years) have a dual purpose: to raise the food and to tend the land.


Organic regenerative farming practices accord with both nature and common sense—because if you grow food without tending the land, you will ultimately degrade the land until it can no longer grow food. It only makes sense, then, that organic farmers should receive a fair price for the goods—and ecosystem services—they provide.  Charles Walters, founder of Acres USA sums it up this way:


Bring back parity and farm organically—that’s the double recipe for bringing prosperity back to the farm.


For more on the history of parity price, read this article by organic dairy farmer Kevin Engelbert, or this interview with George Naylor, family farm advocate and past president of the National Family Farm Coalition.


How today’s system fails farmers


How exactly does the economic model of today’s industrial agriculture system predictably fail to deliver on the three baseline priorities of a healthy food system?  


One of the most basic tenets of a sound business model is to cover costs and provide adequate returns. Investing returns back into a business produces steady and sustainable growth. Failure to cover costs and reinvest leads to corner cutting, products of lesser quality, diminishing returns and debt.


Instead of giving those who supply one of humankind’s most baseline needs—food—a fair and stable price for what they grow, based on the actual costs (supplies, equipment, labor, land acquisition and management, processing, shipping, taxes, and more) the industrial agricultural system takes an undue share of the profits and entraps growers into working harder and harder, and growing more and more for less and less.


Here’s what happens: If farmers grow too little wheat, wheat prices go up. If they grow too much, prices go down. Instead of basing prices on the costs of production, under today’s agriculture economic model, costs are pegged to output levels. In other words, farmers are punished for producing too much food, and rewarded for producing too little.


If the goal of farming is to feed people, and provide a decent living for food producers, this makes no sense.


Today’s agricultural economic model not only fails farmers, it fails consumers and the environment.


Today’s model a disaster for consumers and the environment, too


Today’s USDA policies keep healthy food less affordable than junk food. Despite exhortations to consume more fruits and vegetables, food deserts and higher costs force many people to subsist on nutrient-poor packaged junk foods, such as chips, canned food and soda.


The disparity and injustice of our two-tiered food system allows those of means to consume healthy fruits, vegetables and grass-fed meat, while those of lesser income must survive on repurposed corn and GMO soy products, and “cheap” meat produced on industrial factory farms, or Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), where animals are treated inhumanely, and fed GMO feed laced with antibiotics, growth hormones and other drugs, including some that have been banned from animal production.


In order to compete under today’s model, many farmers find themselves forced into the commodity system, growing monoculture crops like corn and soy which require the use of expensive and toxic pesticides and herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers—all of which pollute waterways, deplete soil organic matter and fertility, degrade the land’s ability to absorb and hold water, kill off biodiversity and contribute to global warming and desertification.


Green New Deal has potential to fix our broken farming system


A major feature of the proposed Green New Deal is the creation of a new energy economy, with new jobs. But the GND also promises the opportunity to shift to a new food and farming economy that would:


• Help farmers caught up in the existing system to transition to regenerative methods

• Facilitate the entrée of new, younger and more diverse populations into a more economically fair and rewarding model for food farming with mentorship from veteran farmers

• Scale up climate mitigation to meaningful levels more successfully than possible through any other means

• Increase the availability of healthy foods for all


By giving farmers a fair price through the GND, farmers will be recruited to the frontlines of the climate emergency—reinvesting in the land, rebuilding the soil, increasing biodiversity and growing varied types of crops, such as fruits and vegetables, and not merely commodity crops like corn and soy.


This is why numerous environmental, food and climate organizations support the inclusion of regenerative agriculture in the GND.


The GND outlines ambitious and much-needed climate goals. Those goals are attainable—but only if the final plan includes policies and programs that will promote a transition from our dominant degenerative industrial agriculture system toward an organic regenerative alternative that provides access to healthy food for all, while at the same ending farming-related soil, air and water pollution, and moving us toward net zero emissions by drawing down and sequestering carbon in healthy soil.


Above all, the GND’s promise of “economic security” for all must include fair prices for farmers who farm in ways that produce healthy food, heal the earth and cool the planet.


Alison Rose Levy writes for the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

URGENT: Support Needed for Bill to Ban Pesticide that Harms Children!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-02-12 17:52
February 12, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulEnvironment & Climate, Genetic Engineering pesticide_spray_field_farmer_crop_row_1200x630.jpg

Chlorpyrifos, manufactured by DowDuPont, is a neurotoxic organophosphate pesticide that’s been linked to severe birth defects, brain damage and mental disorders in children.

Yet despite these known risks, and despite new evidence suggesting that Dow knew for decades how toxic chlorpyrifos is to children, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) still allows chlorpyrifos to be sprayed on more than 50 fruits, vegetables and nuts, including strawberries, almonds, oranges, broccoli and apples.

If the EPA won’t do its job, it’s time for Congress to act.

TAKE ACTION: Ask your member of Congress to cosponsor the Ban Toxic Pesticides Act of 2019 ( H.R.230), a bill to ban chlorpyrifos.

We thought we’d finally won the battle against this pesticide when toward the end of the Obama administration, the EPA finally proposed a ban on chlorpyrifos.

But Trump’s EPA director, Scott Pruitt (who since resigned after multiple scandals), overturned the ban.

Then, in August 2018, a federal appeals court ordered the EPA to prohibit the use of chlorpyrifos within 60 days.

You’d think that would have been the end of it. But on September 24, in an effort to stall once again, the EPA asked the court to rehear the case.

While the EPA does nothing to stop the use of a pesticide the agency itself has determined is unsafe for children and farmworkers, chlorpyrifos continues to be used widely on dozens of crops.

It’s time for Congress to ban this dangerous pesticide. But that won’t happen unless we get enough cosponsors for the Ban Toxic Pesticides Act.

TAKE ACTION: Ask your member of Congress to cosponsor the Ban Toxic Pesticides Act of 2019 ( H.R.230), a bill to ban chlorpyrifos.

I'm emailing you today because . . .

Organic consumers - Fri, 2019-02-08 15:22
February 8, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsPolitics & Globalization gnd_blitz_map_1200x630.jpeg

Thank you for asking your members of Congress to support the Green New Deal (GND) resolutions introduced in the U.S. House and Senate.

Could you take the next step, and join others at a meeting at your Congress members’ offices? Please use this map to find and sign up for a meeting in your district. Then download this Fact Sheet and hand it to your Congress member (or their staff person) and other meeting attendees.

The GND twin resolutions were unveiled yesterday. Already, some lawmakers and media outlets are calling the GND  “unrealistic” and “unaffordable,” despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Powerful corporations—especially the fossil fuel, agribusiness, chemical and pharmaceutical industries—want to kill the GND before it can get off the ground.

The only way the GND will fly, is if we build a powerful social movement to lift it up.

There’s another reason I’m asking you to attend a meeting with your member of Congress—to help us get the message out that only by using the power of organic regenerative agriculture and land restoration, can we actually achieve the GND’s ambitious goal of net zero emissions by 2030-2050.

So far criticism of the GND has focused not on whether we need a GND to head off our climate crisis, but whether it’s possible to do what global scientists agree we must do to avoid catastrophe: reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 45-percent within 12 years, and by 100-percent by 2050. Some critics say we can't do it.

Those critics are right—if all we focus on is reducing emissions.

That’s why it’s critical, especially in this early stage, to get the word out that in addition to reducing emissions, we must draw down and sequester the carbon already in the atmosphere.

For the GND to accomplish its climate goals, it must spur two large-scale transitions: the transition away from fossil fuel use toward renewable energy, and the transition away from industrial agriculture toward organic regenerative practices that draw down and sequester carbon.

For more than two decades, I’ve led OCA’s efforts to pass laws that stop factory farms (and the GMO crops that supply their feed) from polluting our air and water, and igniting a global health and global antibiotic-resistance crisis.

We’ve worked on Farm Bills to divert taxpayer-funded subsidies away from industrial agriculture, and provide more support for farmers whose practices heal soil and produce healthy food.

We’ve lobbied for state laws to ban dangerous pesticides that end up on our food and water.

Not in my lifetime, have I seen a plan that has the potential to do all of this, while at the same time providing better incomes for all workers, reviving local communities and economies, and pulling us back from the brink of a climate disaster.

I so appreciate your support so far for this transformational resolution. Please consider taking the next step, by joining a meeting in your Congressional district. And don’t forget to distribute this Fact Sheet to everyone there.

Thank you!



Ronnie Cummins

International Director

The Green New Deal Is Here. And It's Great for Food & Farming!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-02-07 15:48
February 7, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAlexis Baden-MayerEnvironment & Climate gnd_green_grass_blue_sky_clouds_1200x630.jpeg

The Green New Deal (GND) has arrived! You can read the inspiring resolution here.

The GND is so good it speaks for itself. Among the several goals and projects deemed necessary to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, the GND includes:

(J) removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and reducing pollution, including by restoring natural ecosystems through proven low-tech solutions that increase soil carbon storage, such as preservation and afforestation

Now that we’ve passed the dangerous tipping point of 350 parts per million (ppm) carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (we’re at 410 ppm), we have to figure out a way to draw down that CO2—or we will continue to suffer the cascading impacts of global warming even after we’ve eliminated greenhouse gas emissions.

The safest and most effective way we have of doing this is to increase the carbon content of our soils in farmland, pasture land, forests, wetlands and coastal marine ecosystems. This can be done on working lands through regenerative organic agriculture techniques that increase fertility and control pests by replacing chemicals with management practices. These include holistic planned grazing, composting, no-till, cover cropping, diverse crop mixes and rotations, and the incorporation of crops that return nutrients and organic matter to the soil.

This is the piece of the puzzle that most climate activists and legislators are unaware of. That’s why it’s so important that this is included in the GND, and why we need to get Congress to support it!

But wait—there’s more! The GND also calls for:

(G) working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible, including—
(i) by supporting family farming;
(ii) by investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health; and
(iii) by building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food

This is a plan for food and farming that could solve the economic crisis facing family farmers, the diet-driven health crisis, and the climate crisis—while also addressing the pollution and soil loss caused by industrial agriculture! 

‘Supporting family farming’

We’re encouraged that “supporting family farming” is at the center of the GND’s plan to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. 

With farm prices where they are now, family farms lose money with every bite of food we take. Thousands of farms are lost each year, and the situation is probably worse than reported. 

As long as our country’s struggling family farmers teeter on the edge of foreclosure and bankruptcy, it’s going to be very difficult to prevent them from selling their land to developers or factory farms, or to get them to adopt climate-beneficial farming practices.

Any future legislation that attempts to implement the GND must begin with a program to end the loss of family farms by guaranteeing farmers fair prices from their buyers. As the National Farmers Union describes it, a fair price is “a return of the cost of production plus an opportunity for reasonable profit.” (For more on what “supporting family farming” could mean, read Elizabeth Henderson’s “Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal.”)

In addition to the sections of the resolution that are specific to agriculture and land use, the GND contains a number of mechanisms that would be useful in the transition from greenhouse gas- polluting industrial agriculture to climate-beneficial regenerative organic food and farming.

‘Millions of jobs’

The GND aims “to create millions of good, high-wage jobs and ensure prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States.”

How many of these jobs will be in agriculture? Eliminating pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture means farming without fossil fuels on smaller farms that send food shorter distances. It means replacing off-farm inputs (pesticides, synthetic fertilizers) with management-intensive practices for fertility and pest-control. It means replacing patented seeds from companies like Monsanto with locally adapted seeds from local breeders. It means getting animals out of factory farms and onto pasture. It means trading massive gas-guzzling tractors for vehicles powered by on-farm electricity and biofuels. 

Each of these shifts will require more hands and, more importantly, more brains. Richard Heinberg estimates the shift might require as many as 50 million U.S. farmers.

Jobs, unionization & employment rights for all workers

The GND calls for treating workers right, including all workers in the food chain, by:

(H) guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States;
(I) strengthening and protecting the right of all workers to organize, unionize, and collectively bargain free of coercion, intimidation, and harassment;
(J) strengthening and enforcing labor, workplace health and safety, anti-discrimination, and wage and hour standards across all employers, industries, and sectors

It’s easy to see how this would make a difference for farm workers who are left out of many important labor protections enjoyed by most other workers in this country.

Did you know that the food system is our country’s largest—and worst—employer? According to the Food Chain Workers Alliance 2016 report:  

The U.S. food system has grown by 1.5 million more workers in the past five years and continues to be the largest employer in the country–employing a total of 21.5 million workers. That’s 14 percent, or 1 out of every 7 workers, of the nation’s workforce. At the same time, the U.S. food system is the worst employer in the country in terms of wages and working conditions, paying the lowest hourly median wage of $10. This leads to a higher rate of food insecurity for food workers compared to workers in all other industries. In fact, food workers use food stamps (SNAP benefits) at over the double the rate of all other US workers.

While most food system workers are U.S. born, a substantial number are immigrants, some of whom lack legal status. As Farm Aid reports:

Farmworker Justice estimates that 70-80 percent of farmworkers are immigrants (between half and three-quarters of whom are undocumented). The USDA however, has a slightly lower number, citing that about 60 percent of all agriculture workers are foreign born. These discrepancies speak to the veiled nature of the work, number of undocumented workers, and power inequities embedded in the industry. Crop production employs the most immigrants, as 85% of fruits and vegetables are harvested by hand.

Repairing ‘historic oppression’

The GND aims to: 

(E) to promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous communities, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth (referred to in this resolution as ‘‘frontline and vulnerable communities’’)

The “historic oppression” caused by the U.S. food system is well known. It begins with the Europeans’ theft of Western Hemisphere lands from Indigenous Nations and their enslavement of African Americans. As the Union of Concerned Scientists recently pointed out:  

The Europeans who colonized North America stole land from a tremendous diversity of peoples and communities, each with their own sophisticated understanding of how to grow food and manage landscapes that, with few exceptions, allowed them to provide for their needs without degrading the soils, rivers, and forests on which they depended.

Beginning in the 1600s, [destructive European-style agriculture] was powered by forced labor: first with indentured servants from Europe, then increasingly with the labor of enslaved African people. … Following the abolition of slavery in 1865, sharecropping kept profits flowing while prolonging the servitude of many formerly enslaved people. At the same time, the footprint of colonial agriculture spread west along with a flood of settlers, enabled by the violent displacement of indigenous people, and extending the footprint of destructive agricultural practices.

The U.S. has never compensated Native Americans or African Americans for these crimes, and the impact has only been exacerbated. As Leah Penniman writes in “Farming While Black” (you can read a free excerpt here):

About 24 million Americans live under food apartheid, in which it’s difficult to impossible to access affordable, healthy food. This trend is not race-neutral. White neighborhoods have an average of four times as many supermarkets as predominantly Black communities. This lack of access to nutritious food has dire consequences for our communities. Incidences of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease are on the rise in all populations, but the greatest increases have occurred among people of color, especially African Americans and Native Americans. 

Brutal racism—maiming, lynching, burning, deportation, economic violence, legal violence— ensured that our roots would not spread deeply and securely. In 1910, at the height of Black land ownership, 16 million acres of farmland—14 percent of the total—was owned and cultivated by Black families. Now less than 1 percent of farms are Black-owned.

Our Black ancestors were forced, tricked, and scared off land until 6.5 million of them migrated to the urban North in the largest migration in US history. This was no accident. Just as the US government sanctioned the slaughter of buffalo to drive Native Americans off their land, so did the United States Department of Agriculture and the Federal Housing Administration deny access to farm credit and other resources to any Black person who joined the NAACP, registered to vote, or signed any petition pertaining to civil rights. When Carver’s methods helped Black farmers be successful enough to pay off their debts, their white landlords responded by beating them almost to death, burning down their houses, and driving them off their land.

In her book, Penniman lists a number of policies the Northeast Farmers of Color Network has proposed to end racism in the food system. The policies serve five goals: 1) Real Food for Our People; 2) Dignity for Farm Workers; 3) Community-Based Farmer Training; 4) Economic Viability for Farmers; and 5) Reparations for Stolen Land and Wealth.

The GND resolution lays out a plan that has the potential to accomplish all of the these goals. But it’s success ultimately depends on us. Without a social movement to give it power and direction, the GND will fail. Please check out these actions you can take to help garner support for the GND.

Alexis Baden-Mayer is political director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

Organic Consumers Association and Food & Water Watch Sue Pilgrim's Pride for Deceptive Advertising

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-02-07 13:17
Environment & Climate, Fair Trade & Social JusticeOrganic Consumers AssociationFebruary 7, 2019 chick_chicken_close_up_beak_1200x630.jpg

Nonprofits allege poultry producer’s factory farm practices are inhumane and environmentally irresponsible


Darcey Rakestraw, (202) 683-2467], drakestraw@fwwatch.org
Katherine Paul, (207) 653-3090, katherine@organicconsumers.org
Sarah Pickering, (424) 305-0165 sarahp@animalequality.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. - February 7, 2019 - Food & Water Watch and Organic Consumers Association (OCA) have sued Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. for deceptive marketing and advertising of Pilgrim’s Pride chicken products. The suit was brought in D.C. Superior Court, under the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act.

Nonprofits Food & Water Watch and OCA, represented by Richman Law Group and Animal Equality, allege that Pilgrim’s falsely claims that the birds used in its products are fed “only natural ingredients,” “treated humanely” and produced in an environmentally responsible way, when in fact Pilgrim’s systematically raises, transports and slaughters chickens in inhumane factory-farm conditions that include the routine use of antibiotics, synthetic chemical disinfectants, genetically modified crops growth-promoting drugs, and other unnatural substances.

“Pilgrim’s Pride is using slick marketing tactics to deceive consumers,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “There is nothing natural, humane or environmentally responsible about its operations. Pilgrim’s Pride looks after its profits—not the planet.”

Ronnie Cummins, OCA international director, said: “When consumers read that Pilgrim's chickens are fed 'only natural ingredients' they don't expect those ingredients to include antibiotics, genetically modified grains or growth-promoting drugs. Consumers also don't expect a 'humanely raised' bird to have lived its life crammed into a disease-ridden warehouse with no access to the outdoors. It's time for Pilgrim's to clean up its act, or come clean on its marketing claims."

The groups also accuse Pilgrim’s of  the abuse of chickens by Pilgrim’s Pride contractors and employees, the use of toxic chemicals and the emission of large amounts of pollutants, and the use of artificially selected fast-growing, breast-heavy chicken breeds that have chronic and debilitating health conditions.

Complaint available on request.

Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.

Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a grassroots nonprofit consumer advocacy organization representing a network of more than 1 million consumers. Visit www.organicconsumers.org.

Push to Facebook Instant Articles: 

Running Dry: New Strategies for Conserving Water on the Colorado

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-02-06 20:08
Environment & ClimateJim RobbinsYale Environment 360January 31, 2019https://e360.yale.edu/features/running-dry-new-strategies-for-conserving-water-on-the-colorado colorado_river_water_canyon_landscape_12000x630.jpg

From the air, the Grand Valley Water Users Association canal — 10 feet wide and 8 feet deep — tracks a serpentine 55-mile-long path across the mountain-ringed landscape of Mesa County, Colorado. It’s a line that separates parched, hard-baked desert and an agricultural nirvana of vast peach and apple orchards and swaying fields of alfalfa.

The future of this thin brown line that keeps the badlands of the Colorado desert at bay, however, is growing more uncertain by the day.

Since 2000, the snow that blankets the Colorado Rockies each winter — the source of most of the river’s water — has tapered off considerably. Last year it was less than half of normal. So far, the farmers here have gotten their share of water, but this year could bring the first emergency declaration by water administrators. That would mean that some “junior” water users — those whose allocations came later — may have to forego their share in favor of senior users.

A New Generation of Carbon Farmers: Organic, Grass-Fed Ranch Connects Young Women to Agriculture

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-02-06 16:40
February 6, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonEnvironment & Climate woman_farm_ranch_cows_field_ag_1200x630.jpg

For millennia, women have played a central role in farming and ranching communities. Today, a new generation of women are taking on new roles of carbon farmers and ranchers managers.


In the U.S., there are more than 900,000 women farmers, according to data collected in 2012 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  That means women constitute 31 percent of the agricultural sector, and contribute upwards of $12 billion to America’s economy.


Historically, men have been considered a better fit for work in the agriculture field, work often characterized as rugged and ruthless. But as regenerative agriculture becomes more popular, women are bringing unique strengths to the field.


At San Juan Ranch in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, a woman’s kindness and affinity for animals is viewed as a key component in producing humanely raised livestock. The 4,000-acre ranch, owned and operated by Julie Sullivan and George Whitten, is a certified organic, 100-percent grass-fed beef ranch that doubles as a teaching center. Sullivan told the Colorado Springs Gazette:


“I think a deep relationship (with the land and animals) really appeals to the young women who want to go into agriculture, or at least the young women that come here. I think that they’re looking for a way for their life to have meaning, for a way to feel their strength and their capacity inside the context of a relationship.”


For more than a decade, Sullivan and Whitten have hired interns or apprentices through the Quivira Coalition’s New Agrarian Program. The interns work full time on the ranch for one year, learning about holistic management, animal husbandry, planned grazing, herding, ranch infrastructure maintenance, soil health, cover cropping, low-stress livestock handling, organic certification and the process for finishing grass-fed cattle. According to Quivira’s website:


Apprentices emerge from the program with tangible skills, both technical and interpersonal, that are essential for successful employment in sustainable agriculture, and for eventual ownership and management of their own operation.


The majority of interns hired to work at San Juan Ranch thus far have been women. In the beginning, Whitten was hesitant to hire women because he was unsure of their willingness to tackle some of the grittier parts of ranching. Again, from the Colorado Springs Gazette:


“Ranching communities have always had really strong women outside doing ranch work, but often those were people that either their husband had died or there were no sons in the family. George just didn’t think that young women would want to be covered in blood and puss and do branding and do castrating and want to lay underneath the truck and get oil in their face. It just hadn’t been his personal experience that women would want to do sort of some of that dirty messy part of ranching.”


Whitten, however, changed his mind—and his view of the role women play on the ranch—after their first female hire.


Among the women apprentices at San Juan Ranch is 25-year-old Morgan Atkinson, an Idaho native whose love for the great outdoors led to an interest in western land management and ranching and grazing practices. Growing up, Atkinson spent summers working at her family’s local grocery store. It was through this experience, as well as her education in environmental science, that Atkinson developed an interest in the way landscapes are used to produce food. She realized that maintaining a healthy ecosystem is key to producing healthy food, healthy soil and healthy animals. Atkinson says:


“Being raised in a small community taught me the necessity of supporting the local farmer we knew rather than blindly buying food unaware of where it was coming from. Because we are a local and independent grocery store, we rely on the same kind of local support and reciprocity. When I became independently interested in agriculture, I recognized that these ideas were already ingrained in my values."


By connecting young women to ranching and organic regenerative agriculture, San Juan Ranch is helping to build a new generation of carbon farmers with an emphasis on animal welfare. The cows at the ranch are 100-percent grass-fed, and when finished, are mainly sold wholesale through Sweet Grass Cooperative, a co-op co-founded by Sullivan and Whitten that’s comprised of small, sustainable ranchers.


With more than 30 years of experience in holistic management, Whitten understands the symbiotic relationship between purposeful cattle grazing and the carbon-sequestering potential of healthy grasslands. Through cover cropping and holistic grazing, the land at San Juan Ranch remains productive despite enduring severe droughts and other unpredictable climate change-driven weather patterns.


The ranch also partners with organic farmers who raise green cover crops as grazing forage. Grazing cattle on these fields allows ranchers to increase soil carbon and improve soil structure, while also finishing the cattle on high-quality forage.


Want to help increase the number of livestock farmers in your area raising grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork and poultry? Ask your representatives in Congress to be original cosponsors of the New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act and the Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption (PRIME) Act. Click here to learn more.


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

Neonic Pesticide May Become More Toxic in Tap Water

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-02-05 19:17
Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesJennifer SassNational Resource Defense CouncilFebruary 4, 2019https://www.nrdc.org/experts/jennifer-sass/neonic-pesticide-may-become-more-toxic-tap-water tap_water_faucet_bathroom_1200x630.jpg

Yet again, our government scientists—the oft neglected but so important brain trust of our Nation—bring the public some very important new data. Pesticide water monitoring experts at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) paired up with scientists from the University of Iowa in a federally-funded collaboration to track neonicotinoid pesticides or “neonics” in tap water, including the potential to form chlorinated disinfection byproducts (DBPs) from the pesticides and their metabolites that may be more toxic than the original compounds. And, the news isn’t good.

Following up on previous research finding neonicotinoids in tap water (Klarich et al 2017), the scientists now explore whether the neonic compounds or their metabolites that are generated in the environment are transformed into disinfection byproducts during common, important drinking water treatment processes used to protect public health, such as chlorination (Klarich Wong et al 2019). This paper is the first report of two known metabolites of imidacloprid in tap water; desnitro-imidacloprid and imidacloprid-urea. This is especially concerning because desnitro-imidacloprid is about 319 times more toxic to mammals than imidacloprid, so even much lower levels could be harmful.

In addition to discovering the presence of the two metabolites in tap water, the authors demonstrate the likelihood that these metabolites are further transformed to a new form of neonic-derived chlorinated disinfection byproduct during routine water treatment processes. The scientists simulated the conditions that would occur during realistic drinking water conditions, to show under laboratory conditions that chlorinated chemicals are produced.

These new chlorinated contaminants are untested, untracked, and potentially harmful. In other words, their potential impacts on human health could be a big deal! Other types of disinfection byproducts in drinking water are highly toxic, linked to a risk of cancer and birth defects.

Those potential harms could also be a big deal risk-wise because neonics are the most widely used insecticides on the market. EPA and other regulatory agencies have disregarding the potential for neonics to harm vertebrates, because their mechanism of toxicity was thought to be insect-selective. Unfortunately, this caused a regulatory blind-spot in the harm they do to beneficial insects like bees, and aquatic invertebrate species that provide a critical food source for amphibians, fish and other aquatic vertebrates. The reason the metabolites (for example, desnitro-imidacloprid) raise a red flag is that science now demonstrates that the insect-selective toxicity is altered, causing them to be more toxic to vertebrates including people and other mammals.

See USGS Pesticide Use Maps for the most current information, but note USGS's disclaimer that beginning in 2015 the data reports no longer include seed treatment uses of pesticides; for the neonics this represents somewhere around 90% of total pounds of neonic pesticides used in agriculture—a very serious under-reporting. See below for imidacloprid (note the drop-off since 2015 due to failure to include seed treatments)

The study report authors note that although the chlorinated disinfection byproducts derived from neonics have an unknown toxicity profile, it is possible that they may be more toxic than the parent compound. Thus, the authors recommend in the article that the “greater potential toxicity and frequent presence in these water samples of neonicotinoid metabolites demonstrates the need to consider their fate and persistence in drinking water treatment systems (ex. during chlorination and other treatment processes) and their potential effects on human health” (p. 7). NRDC agrees! That’s why we are asking EPA to include all the neonic metabolites and chlorinated products in its human health risk assessment of the neonic pesticides, due later this year.

In addition to surface water and drinking water contamination, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found neonics inside fruits and vegetables, where they can’t be simply be washed off due to their systemic nature. And, emerging science suggests a link with neonic exposure and potential disorders including neurobehavioral impairments in animal studies, and Autism-like effects in prenatally exposed children (see my blog for details).

In addition to including all relevant neonic metabolites in its risk assessment, EPA should also assess the cumulative risks from all the neonic pesticides and their toxic metabolites together. It is alarming that EPA seems to have no plan for conducting a cumulative risk assessment for this toxic and persistent class of pesticides.

The scientific evidence of harm is piling up—EPA must pay attention!

Posted with permission from National Resource Defense Council.