Environment

Dangerous Liaisons: ChemChina's Bid for Syngenta

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-07-28 13:55
Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesMartha RosenbergRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationJuly 27, 2016 evil pears mean bad gmo fruit food produce 420x280.jpg

We all love to hate Monsanto. We also know that Monsanto isn’t the only poison-maker trying to pass itself off as a “farmer-friendly producer of food to feed the world.”

Monsanto belongs to an exclusive club of dominant pesticide makers. That club, which includes Dow, Dupont, Bayer, Syngenta and BASF, is about to get a lot smaller. And a lot more dangerous.

Bayer has been trying for months to buy Monsanto. Dow and Dupont are in talks to merge. And Switzerland-based Syngenta may soon be owned by ChemChina.

It’s bad enough that less than a dozen multinational corporations (including Monsanto, Dupont, Bayer and Syngenta) control nearly 70 percent of the global seed market. If these mergers and buyouts go through, that number will shrink even further.

The recent merger and acquisition in the seed and chemical (why are the words "seeds" and "chemicals" even uttered in the same breath?) signals trouble in the industry, a fact Bayer CEO Werner Baumann recently admitted. That’s probably a good sign. 

But giving more control to even fewer corporations will definitely have a downside. Martha Rosenberg and Ronnie Cummins take a look at the proposed buyout of Syngenta by ChemChina.

Who is Syngenta?

Switzerland-based Syngenta AG is best known for its top-selling herbicide, atrazine; for trying to fool the world into thinking the its genetically engineered Golden Rice will save the world; and for taking out pollinators with its neonicotinoid pesticides.

The global agro-toxics corporation, which produces agrochemicals, seeds and GMOs, was formed in 2000, through the merger of Novartis Agribusiness and Zeneca Agrochemicals. The merger made Syngenta the world’s largest crop chemical producer by 2014, and also a world market leader in seeds and biotechnology. 

Syngenta describes itself as an integrated “crop protection” business that sells herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and seed treatments (including bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides), and also a lawn and garden business that sells flowers, turf, landscape supplies and pesticides. 

Syngenta operates in 90 countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, North America, Latin America and in the Asia Pacific. In late 2015, Syngenta had a total market capitalization of $37 billion.

In 2014, Monsanto tried to acquire Syngenta, a clear rival, for a reported $40 billion. Syngenta rejected the offer, partly because Monsanto’s behavior has made the Biotech Bully from St. Louis one of the most hated corporations on the planet. Less than two years later, Syngenta said “yes” to a similar offer from China National Chemical (also called ChemChina,) a state-owned enterprise (SOE), which offered to buy the Swiss agrochemical company for $43 billion.

ChemChina is an amalgam of chemical, oil processing, agrochemicals and tire and rubber Chinese firms that are largely in government hands. 

The deal is one of three potential mega-mergers in recent months of chemical-seed-biotech giants. The others being Bayer-Monsanto and Dow Chemical-Dupont. As we recently noted about the proposed purchase of Monsanto by Bayer, the consolidations signal that the industry is not doing well.

“The crop chemicals industry is bound to consolidate because target companies are spending too much on research and development for new products,” admitted Monsanto’s Chief Operating Officer Brett Begemann during its bid for Syngenta last year. “Pressures on the industry” are causing declining profits said Begemann. In fact, times have been so rough, last year the New York Times reported that Monsanto, “has been diversifying, emphasizing more conventional breeding and moving into new businesses, such as using microbes to control pests and offering digital data to help farmers manage their fields.” 

In April, analysts were bearish about Syngenta stock because of “continuous weakening of crop protection business and insecticide sales.”

While food safety and sustainability advocates oppose such vertically integrated models of patented seeds, fertilizers and pesticides for obvious reasons—they lock in supply chains of harmful foods and chemicals that imperil the environment, humans and other animals—there proposed buyout of Syngenta by a Chinese government-owned corporation raises a whole set of addition questions.  Specifically, a ChemChina purchase of Syngenta would be the biggest overseas Chinese acquisition in history, making China a multinational powerhouse in global agriculture in a way it has never been before. ChemChina’s takeover of Syngenta dwarfs China’s 2013 purchase of the U.S. factory farm meat giant Smithfield Foods for “only” $5 billion. 

U.S. producers fear a China-owned Syngenta

U.S. agribusiness and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) view a China-owned Syngenta as an economic threat to current U.S. imports to China and commodity prices. “Inconsistency” and policies “not based on science” may move China to block imports of U.S. bio- engineered crops, said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack recently. “I have a watchful eye on all of this and continue to be extremely concerned about the way in which biotechnology and innovation is being treated and impeded,” he said.  

Vilsack is no doubt thinking of China’s recent rejection of MIR 162 corn that U.S. farmers grew with Syngenta seeds, despite assurances from Syngenta that the seeds were pre-approved for China sales. Many lawsuits brought by U.S. producers have followed. Because of China's rejection of two types of Syngenta GMO corn—Viptera and Duracade—“exports of U.S. corn were down some 85 percent since 2013," says a complaint filed by farmer Jon Dereadt in Illinois 2015. China also rejected crops grown by U.S. farmers from Monsanto seeds in 2013, provoking more lawsuits.

These multinational consolidations are also being criticized by many U.S. farmers. A pork producer in North Dakota wrote in a letter to the Grand Forks Herald, noting China’s takeover of Smithfield Foods,  that “Shanghai Penguin Group of China has tried to buy the Kidman Ranch,” and such consolidations are “good only for the one doing the consolidating, never for the consumer or for the family farms producing Herald readers' food.”

Ohio Farmers Union President Joe Logan agreed, asking, “Where are the Teddy Roosevelts and the trust busters of today?” to put a stop to such ag consolidations.  “Enough is enough,” he said.

Bad news for Syngenta’s flagship atrazine?

Most people associate Syngenta with its top-selling herbicide atrazine, a hormone-disrupting chemica, banned in Europe, but still the second most-used in U.S. agriculture, only behind Monsanto’s glyphosate (Roundup). Atrazine is consistently one of the most frequently detected toxic crop chemicals in drinking water because of its wide use on Midwestern corn fields.

In response to organic and food safety advocates exposing the obvious health and environmental risks of Atrazine, Syngenta conducted shameless disinformation and smear campaigns against scientists reporting the dangers. In fact, Syngenta’s PR team investigated the press and “spent millions to spin news coverage and public perceptions” about atrazine’s safety, reported the Center for Media and Democracy. Syngenta especially tried to block citizen lawsuits to make Syngenta pay for removal of atrazine from drinking water systems.

In addition to viciously attacking the credibility of Dr. Tyrone Hayes, professor of Integrative Biology at University of California, Berkeley, whose research identified how atrazine demasculinizes and feminizes male frogs,  Syngenta planted ghost-written “scientific” papers by its paid operatives to make atrazine look safe. The company also  published a book in 2011 called "Scared to Death: How Chemophobia Threatens Public Health," which attacked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and "harmful, unnecessary regulation."

Syngenta’s tactics didn’t work. In June, the EPA announced that the amount of  atrazine being released into the environment in the U.S.  is likely harming most species of plants and animals, including mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. 

“In the terrestrial environment, there are risk concerns for mammals, birds, reptiles, plants and plant communities across the country for many of the atrazine uses,” concluded the 518 page report from the EPA. While corn growers and Syngenta quickly tried to discredit the report, the EPA assessment will, we hope, finally lead to tighter regulatory limits on the product.

Golden rice scam

One of the most audacious Syngenta ventures was Golden Rice, genetically modified to make pro-vitamin A in the endosperm and aggressively billed in 2000, as a cure for widespread vitamin A deficiency in developing countries. 

Created by Ingo Potrykus at the Institute of Plant Sciences in the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and Peter Beyer at the University of Freiburg in 1999, the pair worked out a deal in which Syngenta could develop Golden Rice commercially, overseen by a “Humanitarian Board" which included Syngenta, the Rockefeller Foundation, USAID and public relations and marketing experts. 

Backers of the initiative to address world hunger with Golden Rice included the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the European Community Biotech Programme, the Swiss Federal Office for Education and Science, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Helen Keller International. 

Also helping Golden Rice was the International Rice Research Institute led by Gerald Barry, previously Director of Research at Monsanto.

Condemnation of the GMO rice product was swift and widespread. Critics pointed out that it was absurd to offer Golden Rice as the cure for vitamin A deficiency when there are plenty of alternative, infinitely cheaper sources of vitamin A or pro-Vitamin A, including green vegetables and unpolished colored rice, especially black and purple varieties which would also add essential vitamins and minerals. 

Golden Rice critics also cited scientific evidence that Vitamin A uptake depends on dietary fats or oils, often lacking in the diets of poor people—without those oil, GMO rice is useless as a source of Vitamin A.  And they pointed out that Golden Rice will exacerbate the industrial monocultures of the Green Revolution, which obliterate agricultural biodiversity and soil fertility, and result in ever-worsening mineral and micronutrient deficiencies in our food. These are the main causes of hunger and malnutrition in the Third World, said critics, along with poverty—and these problems can’t be solved with technology and GMOs.

The whole idea of GE seeds is to make money,” said Sarojeni V. Rengam, executive director of Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP). “We want to send out a strong message to all those supporting the promotion of Golden Rice, especially donor organizations, that their money and efforts would be better spent on restoring natural and agricultural biodiversity rather than destroying it by promoting monoculture plantations and genetically engineered (GE) food crops.”

"Vitamin A rice is a hoax, and will bring further dispute to plant genetic engineering where public relations exercises seem to have replaced science in promotion of untested, unproven and unnecessary technology," agreed Dr. Vandana Shiva. Since the daily average requirement of Vitamin A is 750 micrograms, and one serving contains 30g of rice “one family member would consume the entire family ration of 10 kg. from the PDS in 4 days to meet vitamin A needs through ‘Golden rice.’ This is a recipe for creating hunger and malnutrition, not solving it, Shiva said.
 
The website Food Freedom points out the similarities between Golden Rice to the “Sweet Potato Project,” launched by USAID and Monsanto in 2011, used as a Trojan horse to penetrate Kenyan markets. “Once in place, these regulations open the door for the biotech industry to bring in commercial, patented GE crops...[raising] serious equity concerns for both farmers and national governments as they become beholden to biotech giants and lose their rights to save and exchange seed,” according to the website.

Golden Rice could also be dangerous according to a number of scientists. The retinal it contains is reduced to retinol, or oxidized to retinoic acid which controls development of the nervous system, nerve differentiation and embryonic segmentation—making it a potential contributor to birth defects said David Schubert at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences La Jolla, California.

Sixteen years after its highly-publicized launch, even the scientific community has become skeptical of Golden Rice. “Heralded on the cover of Time magazine in 2000 as a genetically modified (GMO) crop with the potential to save millions of lives in the Third World, Golden Rice is still years away from field introduction and even then, may fall short of lofty health benefits still cited regularly by GMO advocates, suggests a new study,” according to Science Daily.

Syngenta’s other dangerous products

Sadly, for consumers and the environment, atrazine and Golden Rice are not the only controversial products sold by Syngenta. U.S. and European farmers have brought lawsuits claiming that toxicity from Syngenta’s GMO Bt 176 corn (which expresses an insecticidal Bt toxin derived from the bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis and a gene conferring resistance to glufosinate herbicide) has caused livestock deaths.

The charges originated with a German farmer who claimed his dairy cattle suffered mysterious illnesses and deaths after eating Bt 176. The farmer pointed to a feeding study allegedly commissioned by Syngenta that resulted in four cows dying in two days and abrupt discontinuation of the corn in dairy cow feed. Reports of similar deaths from Syngenta corn fed to livestock surfaced in the Philippines and India.

Like Bayer, Syngenta also makes neonicotinoid pesticides, a class of toxic chemicals responsible for the current bee genocide. Like Bayer, Syngenta is aggressively fighting regulation to phase out the dangerous chemicals. Syngenta’s application for a neonicotinoid pesticide was not approved in the UK 2014, a victory for environmental and bee activists. 

Will the ChemChina-Syngenta deal go through?

While the Global Capital website announced in June that ChemChina had procured its needed financing and the deal is “pretty much done,” other sources remain skeptical.  

According to the Diplomat website, the ChemChina offer to Syngenta “has sent government regulators in a tizzy, bringing into the limelight a little known American regulatory body called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). Operating under the auspices of the U.S. Treasury Department, the committee is authorized to investigate foreign capital transactions and assess their possible national security implications for the United States.” A dealer breaker, says the Diplomat, could be how close some planned Syngenta’s U.S. plants would be to military bases. 

In addition to CFIUS scrutiny, the deal must also be approved by the European Union’s own regulatory body, the Directorate-General for Competition (DG COMP) of the European Commission, which could be tougher. In previous decisions, consolidations have been nixed by the body because the decision-making powers of Chinese companies in question were not “sufficiently autonomous from the Chinese state.” ChemChina is state owned.

Still, questions about the ChemChina deal and Syngenta’s history of unsafe products have not stopped the Swiss giant’s new product lines or its U.S. approvals. In 2015, Syngenta rolled out its Acuron herbicide, Solatenol fungicide and Orondis fungicide and this year, California approved Syngenta insecticide Arilon.

The time has come for the Millions Against Monsanto movement and concerned consumers worldwide to state the obvious: Syngenta is just as bad as Monsanto. We need to boycott foods, seeds and garden supply products tainted with atrazine, neonics and GMOs whether or not Syngenta changes its name to ChemChina. Our health and the literal survival of our bees, butterflies and biodiversity depend upon consumers and farmers worldwide rejecting not only GMOs, but the entire degenerative system of industrial agriculture and factory farming.

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

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

Beyond Frankenfoods and the DARK Act: A Grassroots-Powered Revolution

Organic consumers - Wed, 2016-07-20 21:06
Environment & Climate, Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationJuly 18, 2016 green fist 750x500

Here’s your mid-summer culinary directive from Congress and the White House: Shut up and eat your Frankenfoods.

Don’t worry about mutant genes, pesticide residues, and a growing list of horrors in your food. Don’t worry about your health, your children’s health, global warming or the health of the environment.

Just put your trust in America’s industrial food system and in Monsanto’s minions—the indentured scientists, politicians, regulatory agencies and members of the mass media who all toe the line for the biotech industry.

In case some of us didn’t notice, given our mounting daily dose of insults and injustices, the federal government, aided and abetted by the Organic Trade Association (now known as the Organic Traitors Association), just slapped you and millions of other health and environmentally concerned consumers in the mouth. Ignoring the protests of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and the entire grassroots food movement, ignoring 22 years of consumer pressure, multiple state ballot initiatives and “Right-to-Know” legislative efforts, the infamous DARK Act (Deny Americans the Right to Know) is about to be enshrined in federal law by President O’Bummer.

On July 14, the House of Representatives voted 306-117 to kill Vermont’s popular mandatory GMO food labeling law, which had already begun to force major junk food and beverage giants (Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Nestlé, Campbell’s, Dannon, Smuckers, Starbucks) to label their GMO-tainted products nationwide. As soon as President Obama signs the DARK Act, (or simply lets it go into effect by not vetoing it) states will no longer have the right to mandate labeling of genetically engineered foods.

The 90 percent of consumers who want to know what they’re eating can now look forward, on a permanent basis, to what amounts to no labeling. What we will get, if anything, in a few years will be bogus Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) trade-marked QR smart codes or 1-800 numbers on processed food packages that will serve to keep consumers in the dark about Frankenfoods and their omnipresent toxins, while pretending to provide so-called “disclosure.”

Passage of the Roberts-Stabenow bill, popularly known as the DARK Act, confirms what most consumers knew or suspected all along: we live in an authoritarian state, ruled by the “1%”, the corporate elite. This is not a democracy. The overwhelming majority of elected public officials and bureaucrats don’t give a damn about what you think or want. Short-term profits and out-of-control campaign donations literally trump public health, environmental, justice and climate concerns. Congress and the White House, Republicans and Democrats alike, are little more than “yes men and women” for their big donors, in this case multi-billion-dollar food corporations, grocery and restaurant chains, Monsanto and the rest of corporate agribusiness.

Money trumps all. That’s why activists from the Organic Consumers Association last week threw several thousand dollars in small bills from the visitors’ balcony onto the U.S. Senate floor, just moments before the passage of the DARK Act. They shouted below to a room of startled Senators, “Here’s Monsanto’s money, come and get it.” After “money bombing” the U.S. Senate, OCA Political Director Alexis Baden-Mayer and three other activists were arrested by the Capitol police. A CSPAN live video camera caught much of the action.

The big question for the food movement, and in fact for all of global civil society, is: What’s next? If Congress is bought and sold, if we can’t change federal public policy, if states’ rights and local rights are being steadily preempted, then how can we change our toxic, out-of-control food system, not to mention our toxic suicide economy and the rotten political system as a whole?

The answer of course is to build grassroots power.

Millions of us must channel our anger into actions designed to take back control of our health and our food, and our society. We must hit the Establishment where it hurts, in the bottom line. Boycott contaminated foods and other consumer products, and give your support (“buycott”) to organic and grass-fed producers and brands. Stop buying or consuming junk foods, and all heavily processed, GMO, factory farmed and chemical foods.

Take action today and everyday. Put your wallet back in your pocket unless the grocery store label or the restaurant menu says “organic,” “grass-fed,” or “GMO-free.” Learn or re-learn how to cook at home from scratch. Invite your friends over and plan how everyone can become part of the Revolution, a Revolution that we desperately need if we are going to survive and thrive.

Food policies and politics go hand-in-hand. Conscious consumers need to both change our consumer buying habits and stop supporting corrupt politicians. The U.S. currently is led, or rather misled, by a corporate-dominated corps of 500,000 elected and appointed public officials at the federal, state and local levels. Ninety percent of these so-called “public officials” are looking out for their cushy jobs and careers, by looking after the profits of corporations and special interests, instead of working for the public good. These handmaidens of the Elite need to be thrown out of office.

The Food Revolution will never really happen, unless we join forces with the U.S. (and global) grassroots as part of a larger Political Revolution.

It’s time to drive GMOs and the toxic pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, and growth hormones, off the market, for good.

It’s time to take down not just GMOs, but the entire out-of-control system of factory farms, industrial agriculture and junk food.

It’s time to mobilize public consciousness and market pressure so we can transform our entire degenerate chemical- and energy-intensive industrial food and farming system, which is pumping out billions of tons of climate-disruptive greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and destroying soils, biodiversity and the climate, into a regenerative and organic system that can restore biodiversity and revitalize public health, animal health the environment, rural communities and the body politic, while drawing down billions of tons of excess CO2 from the atmosphere and safely sequestering this carbon in the soil and forests, where it belongs.

What we’ve accomplished so far

Congratulations to the USA food movement for slowly but surely winning consumers’ hearts and minds.

Congratulations for standing up to Monsanto, Big Food and corporate agribusiness, and for exposing their minions in Congress, the corporate mass media, and the sell-outs in academia.

Before we move forward, let’s take stock of what our food movement has accomplished so far, against all odds, by working together.

• We’ve educated a critical mass of American consumers about the health and environmental hazards of Genetically Modified Organisms and the toxic chemicals that accompany them. When we started this battle, public awareness of genetically engineered food and crops, and the damage they inflict on the environment and human health, was marginal at best. Today “GMO” and “glyphosate” are household words.

• We’ve doubled demand for organic and grass-fed food in the U.S. over the past six years. Organic food and grass-fed meat and animal products are now a $50-billion-a-year powerhouse, the fastest-growing segment of the food market. The market for non-GMO labeled products has grown to $25 billion. Organic, grass-fed and non-GMO foods now constitute approximately 10 percent of all grocery store sales, and represent a growing segment of restaurant sales as well.

• We’ve forced multi-billion-dollar junk food conglomerates, including General Mills, Kellogg’s, Campbell’s, Mars, Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Con-Agra, Dannon, and others to start labeling their products as GMO, or else remove GMO ingredients, at least temporarily. Even after the passage of the DARK Act, companies that started and then stopped labeling their GMO-tainted brands will face a public relations disaster. Consumers will understand that the QR codes on thousands of non-organic processed food products are the “Mark of Monsanto,” the “skull and crossbones” prompting us to boycott them.

• We’ve alerted millions of consumers that they can’t trust the mass media, Congress, regulatory agencies, or the scientific establishment. If consumers or farmers want truthful information about food and farming they need to tune in to the alternative and social media. This alternative media includes the mass circulation newsletters, websites and Facebook pages of groups like Mercola.com, the Organic Consumers Association, Center for Food Safety, Food Democracy Now, Friends of the Earth, Pesticide Action Network, Moms Across America, Regeneration International, Seed Freedom, and hundreds of others that refuse to regurgitate industry propaganda.

Ten steps toward the Food Revolution

The food movement has made huge strides in the past few years. But now is not the time to sit back and settle for what we’ve accomplished. We must build on our success, and ride our momentum to a future where organic and regenerative food and farming are the norm, not just the alternative.

Here’s what we need to do next:

• Boycott every food product that displays a QR code. Since Congress has stabbed us in the back and replaced Vermont’s mandatory GMO labels with QR Codes and 1-800 numbers, these QR Codes must become a veritable “skull and crossbones” symbol on food and beverage containers, helping us launch the largest boycott in modern history.

• Boycott factory-farmed meat, dairy and poultry, i.e. everything that isn’t labeled or marketed as organic or 100% grass-fed or pastured. Factory farms are the lynchpin of industrial agriculture and fast-food restaurants. The U.S. factory farm meat, dairy and poultry cartel is an out-of-control, trillion-dollar industry based on cruel, filthy, disease-ridden and environmentally destructive animal prisons (euphemistically called Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs). These animal prisons run on GMO- and pesticide-tainted animal feeds; labor exploitation; false advertising; corporate corruption of government; and the use of massive amounts of dangerous pesticides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones, and growth promoters.

Factory farm products—meat, dairy, poultry and fish—are the number one cause of water pollution, soil degradation, greenhouse gas emissions and human diet-related diseases such as cancer, heart disease,   diabetes, and obesity. We will literally never get rid of GMOs, chemical-intensive mono-crops, antibiotic resistance, animal cruelty and agriculturally derived greenhouse gas emissions until we eliminate factory farms, which now imprison 95 percent of farm animals in the U.S., and 70 percent of all farm animals in the world.

Right now, the overwhelming majority of U.S. farmland is utilized to raise factory farm-destined animals before they are sent to the feedlots, or to grow GMO- and chemical-intensive grains to feed them. We need to stop feeding herbivores (cattle, sheep, goats) GMO- and pesticide-contaminated grain, and instead put the world’s billions of farm animals back onto the pastures, rangelands and agro-forestry paddocks, where they belong.

• Make organic, grass-fed and regenerative food and farming the dominant force in the market by 2025. We need to educate consumers and change public policy so as to make organic and regenerative food at least 50 percent of the market by 2025, just as France and other nations are starting to do. In order to do this, we will need to eliminate the multi-billion-dollar taxpayer subsidies for industrial agriculture and GMOs that make chemical food seem “cheap,” compared to organic and grass-fed food, despite industrial food’s massive and costly damage to the environment, public health and the climate.

• Pressure investors and pension funds to divest from industrial agriculture and reinvest in regenerative agriculture, in order to reach our goal of 50 percent organic and regenerative by 2025.

• Ban patents on living organisms and eliminate monopoly control of seeds.

• Boycott foods, body care products and animal feeds derived from tropical deforestation.

• Stop subsidizing non-sustainable biofuels (corn, soy, palm oil).

• Cancel or defeat so-called Free Trade (NAFTA, WTO, TPP, TTIP) agreements that favor corporate-controlled industrialized agriculture and foster unfair labor practices. Instead, we must support fair trade and justice throughout the food and farm chain, including a $15 dollar-an-hour minimum wage in the U.S.

• Force governments and industry to move to zero fossil fuel emissions and mobilize grassroots support for the International 4/1000 Initiative to sequester as much carbon in our soils and forests through regenerative farming, grazing and land use as humans are currently emitting.

• Move beyond single-issue, "silo" thinking (“my issue is more important than your issue”) and start “connecting the dots” between food and farming and all the burning issues: health, justice, climate, environment, peace, and democracy.

If passage of the DARK Act has taught us anything, it’s that we must commit to working together to build a Movement of Movements powerful enough to bring about a political revolution, not just a food revolution.

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

OCA Mexico Defends Maya Beekeepers from Monsanto

Organic consumers - Wed, 2016-07-20 16:58
July 19, 2016Organic Consumers AssociationErcilia SahoresFair Trade & Social Justice, Genetic Engineering cencos press conference 420x280.jpg

Press conference. In the picture: María Colin Greenpeace Mexico, Rodrigo Llanes, Colegio de Antropólogos de Yucatán, Valeria Enríquez, OCA Mexico and Edmundo del Pozo, Fundar.

The art of beekeeping in Maya communities can be traced back centuries. Beekeepers pass the skill down from one generation to the next.

For these indigenous communities in Mexico’s Campeche and Yucatán regions, beekeeping isn’t just a tradition or a hobby. For many, it’s a livelihood. 

And that livelihood is now being threatened by Monsanto.

On July 13, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) Mexico, Greenpeace Mexico, the Colegio de Antropólogos de Yucatán (School of Anthropology of Yucatán)  and Fundar Research Center held a press conference to expose the ongoing collusion between Monsanto and Mexican government authorities to deprive indigenous communities in Mexico’s Campeche and Yucatán regions of their right to participate in the process, known as consultation, for granting Monsanto permits to grow GMO soy crops.

During the press conference, the Civil Observation Mission, a project formed last year to help document specific violations of the consultation process, presented a report detailing the violations of the right to free, prior and informed consultation in two of the municipalities selected, Holpechén and Tenabo. 

At stake in this fight is the livelihood, the health, the legacy and the dignity of these Maya communities and their biodiversity. OCA Mexico, through our participation in the Civil Observation Mission, is working with these communities to create avenues where they can voice their concerns, express their decisions, and expose the damage that is being done to their local environments, their health and their livelihoods. communities. What is at stake, ultimately, is our dignity as human beings, and the imperative of ensuring that human rights prevail over corporate rights.

Background

As we reported last April, over the past decade, the Mexican government has granted Monsanto permits to develop over 253,000 hectares for the experimental planting of GM soy in nearly seven states. The government did this without formally consulting the surrounding indigenous communities, whose livelihoods depend on a rich tradition of organic honey production. 

When Maya authorities and beekeepers from Campeche and the Yucatán saw the impact soy was having on their highly prized organic honey production, they joined scientists and activists in a lawsuit against Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA), the government agencies responsible for granting the GM soy permits. The lawsuit accused the government of failing to follow the proper process for permitting, for destroying the livelihoods of Maya beekeepers and for violating the rights of indigenous communities through the excessive use of herbicides and related deforestation.

The courts ruled in favor of the Maya authorities in March 2014. The ruling was finalized in November 2015, when the federal government temporarily banned GM soy in Mexico and mandated that indigenous communities be consulted before any GMO soy permits could be granted. 

But Monsanto, which has a long history of violating Mexico’s laws, continues to flaunt the court ruling. And government officials have allowed it. This has resulted in the granting of permits to plant experimental GMO soy crops in Holpechén and Tenabo, despite the fact that the court-ordered rules for consulting with these communities were ignored. 

Shedding light on the violations

As noted above, during the July 13 press conference, the Civil Observation Mission presented a report detailing the violations of the right to free, prior and informed consultation in Holpechén and Tenabo. 

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 169, article 7(1):

The peoples concerned shall have the right to decide their own priorities for the process of development as it affects their lives, beliefs, institutions and spiritual well-being and the lands they occupy or otherwise use, and to exercise control, to the extent possible, over their own economic, social and cultural development’. 

But in the case of this consultation in Mexico, this rule of law is not being followed. 

During the press conference, Valeria Enríquez, advocacy director for OCA Mexico, highlighted the “importance of raising awareness about the irregularities in the consultation process and the importance of identifying and making public those failures.”

María Colin, legal analyst at Greenpeace Mexico said that the planting of GM soy “violates the right to work and the right to a healthy environment of the Maya communities.”

The Civil Observation Mission used the press conference to publicize the following flaws in the current consultation process:

• When representatives of the National Commission for the Development of the Indigenous People (CDI), the Intersecretariat Commission on Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms (CIBIOGEM) and the National Service of Health Innocuity and Agro-alimentary Quality (SENASICA) first presented the consultation process to the participating communities, they spent more time providing information about the characteristics of GM soy rather than explaining the consultation process. 

• There was a notable lack of community representatives during the meetings. Community members informed the Civil Observation Mission that they had been invited to attend the meeting the night before it took place. 

• Even with the presence of translators and interpreters, the materials provided at the meetings failed to ensure that the communities fully comprehended the purpose, scope and rules of the consultation process. A significant portion of the communities’ populations cannot read in Spanish or in Mayan. Ignoring this fact, the materials provided by the authorities were not designed to be didactic and to facilitate comprehension by the affected communities, thus reinforcing decades of stigmatization of Maya communities.

•One of the crucial violations highlighted during the conference and one of the key issues to observe in the following meetings is that members of non-participating communities infiltrated the meeting in order to persuade the Holpechén and Tenabo communities about the benefits of GM soy.

Fighting back

Beekeeping in Maya communities is an activity that has been passed on through generations and can be traced back centuries. But beekeepers are now being threatened by the environmental damage caused by GM crops in their communities, damage that includes deforestation, use of herbicides, contamination of their honey, death of pollinators, and the impact on human health.
 
To draw more international attention to this very important case, representatives of the Maya beekeeping communities affected by the Monsanto planting of GM soy and corn will present their testimonies during the Monsanto Tribunal in October in The Hague.

In the meantime, these communities will not remain silent about the potential threat posed by Monsanto’s GMO soy crops, or the failure of Monsanto and government officials to follow the legal process for granting permits for these crops.

Learn more:

https://www.organicconsumers.org/blog/oca-helps-mayan-communities-fight-back-against-monsanto

https://twitter.com/ConsumidoresOrg

https://www.facebook.com/Asociaci%C3%B3n-de-Consumidores-Org%C3%A1nicos-1610162275885716/?fref=ts

http://ejfood.blogspot.mx/?view=classic

http://www.contralinea.com.mx/archivo-revista/index.php/2016/07/13/denuncian-irregularidades-en-consulta-a-indigenas-mayas-sobre-siembra-de-transgenicos/ (in Spanish)

http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2016/07/14/sociedad/039n1soc (in Spanish)

http://consultaindigenamaya.org/tercer-reporte/?platform=hootsuite (in Spanish)

Ercilia Sahores is Latin American political director for Regeneration International, a project of the Organic Consumers Association. 

No Good Reason

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-07-14 18:03
July 12, 2016Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulGenetic Engineering, Politics & Globalization Obama, veto dark act, 420 x 280

Today, Congress rammed through a bill that is anti-consumer and anti-states’ rights.

And President Obama is expected to sign it very soon.

Please help us flood the White House with calls today (202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414) asking Obama to veto S. 764. If you’re in the D.C. area, please join our rally at the White House, Friday, July 15, at 1 p.m. in Lafayette Park.

It’s also not too late to sign these two petitions asking Obama to veto the DARK Act. Please sign here and here. We will deliver the petitions tomorrow, Friday July 15.

Why would President Obama sign the DARK Act, a bill that will preempt Vermont’s GMO labeling law and is clearly intended to hide information from consumers?

We can’t think of a single good reason.

This is the President who on the campaign trail promised to label GMOs.

This is the President who soon after he was sworn in, issued an executive order advising Congress not to preempt state laws. The DARK Act would unnecessarily preempt more than 100 state laws, some of which have been in place for decades.

And yet, according to news reports, Obama plans to sign this bill that denies the 90 percent of Americans the right to know what’s in their food by hiding that information behind confusing QR codes that require expensive smartphones, reliable internet service—and a whole lot of extra time on their hands.

Here’s what Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) has to say about the DARK Act:

One-in-five Americans in the U.S. does not have smartphones. That includes 50 percent of Americans who are low-income and living in rural areas, and over 65 percent of elderly Americans. If we end up going down the route of a QR code, all of these people will be prevented from accessing the information that this bill is supposed to make available to all consumers. And even if someone has a smartphone, they will have to scan every single item they purchase in order to obtain the desired information, and this is assuming they will have access to the internet in the grocery store. That’s anything but a quick response.
 
It is a bad idea. It is a bad idea. It is an intentional measure to deny consumers information. 

Even House Ag Committee Chair Mike Conaway said in a statement the bill is "riddled with ambiguity." And then he voted for it anyway. Because Conaway answers to Monsanto and Big Food, not his constituents.

TAKE ACTION: Tell President Obama to veto the DARK Act! Sign here and here.

Tweet Obama: @POTUS. 90% of Americans want GMO labels. Veto the DARK Act which allows confusing QR codes instead of labels.

Call the White House 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414 to leave your comment! The comment line is open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday.

Join the anti-DARK Act rally at the White House, Friday, July 15, 1 p.m., 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. (Lafayette Park)

We Can Still STOP the DARK Act!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2016-07-12 15:22
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

Monsanto scored a major victory on July 7, when the Senate passed S.764, the bill known as the DARK Act (because it would Deny Americans the Right to Know about GMOs).

But, this fight is far from over. The bill still must be passed by the House before it can go to the President.

Now that Vermont’s law has taken effect, we have proof that GMO labels have no impact on food prices. Most of the major U.S. food companies are labeling their GMO foods as “produced with genetic engineering” and not one has said that this imposes a significant cost.

TAKE ACTION: Call your U.S. Representative at 888-754-9091 to tell him or her to vote against the DARK Act (S.764). Read more

International Monsanto Tribunal Names Panel of Distinguished International Judges

Organic consumers - Tue, 2016-07-12 13:53
Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesOrganic Consumers AssociationJuly 11, 2016 Monsanto tribunal logo

Two Eminent International Lawyers Also Agree to Serve on the Tribunal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 12, 2016

Contact:
Netherlands: Tjerk Dalhuisen,, tjerk@monsanto-tribunal.org, +31614699126
U.S.: Katherine Paul, katherine@organicconsumers.org, 207-653-3090
Mexico, Latin America: Ercilia Sahores, ercilia@regenerationinternational.org, 52 55 6257 7901  

THE HAGUE, Netherlands—The organizers of the International Monsanto Tribunal today announced the installation of three international judges who will co-chair the citizens’ tribunal, scheduled for October 15-16 in The Hague, Netherlands. The three judges are: Ms. Dior Fall Sow, Senegal, a former advocate general at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; Ms. Francoise Tulkens, Belgium, a former vice-president at the European Court of Human Rights; and Mr. Upendra Baxi, India, former president of the Indian Society of International Law.

The Tribunal organizers also announced two of the lawyers who will participate in the Tribunal.  Dr. Jackson Nyamuya Maogoto, UK, will prepare the case against Monsanto on the question of whether Monsanto is complicit in war crimes as defined in Article 8(2) of the International Criminal Court.

Maogoto said, “The potential for businesses to be perpetrators of international crimes was legally recognized by the Nuremberg Tribunal which held private German industrialists criminally liable for their support of the German war effort. This important Nuremberg legacy has quietly been subsumed over decades by the military-industry complex. It is time that the complicity and liability of corporations is reactivated. The International Monsanto Tribunal will serve to resurrect the Nuremberg legacy, ‘remind’ and re-energize the international law framework— business actors can be involved in international crimes.”

Dr Gwynn MacCarrick will serve as amicus curiae (or friend of the Tribunal) on the issue of ecocide. She is a lawyer and legal academic who will prepare the legal submissions in relation to the question of whether the past and present activities of Monsanto constitute a crime of ecocide, understood as causing serious damage or destroying the environment, so as to significantly and durably alter the global commons or ecosystem services upon which certain human groups rely.

MacCarrick said, “The work of the International Monsanto Tribunal will undoubtedly contribute to the progressive development of international law, by clarifying the content of the human rights responsibilities of companies, and by informing the international debate as to whether international criminal law should evolve to include the crime of ecocide."

Background on the judges

Dior Fall Sow, Senegal, is a consultant to the International Criminal Court, a former Advocate General at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and founding member and honorary chairwoman of the Senegalese Lawyers Association (AJS). The first woman appointed public prosecutor in Senegal, Sow also has served as officer and knight of the Order National du Mérite (Senegal). She has participated in many conferences and seminars around the topics of human rights, peace and security, humanitarian international law, and international criminal justice in many countries, including Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, Italy and the U.S. She is also the author of many research papers on legal issues. Past posts also include: national director of Juvenile Correctional Education and Social Welfare;  director in charge of legal affairs in SONATEL; advocate general in the office of the Prosecutor for the ICTR; and main advocate general for the ICTR Appelate Division.

Françoise Tulkens, Belgium, has a Doctorate in Law, a Master’s degree in Criminology and a higher education teaching certificate (agrégation de l’enseignement supérieur) in Law. She was a Professor at the University of Louvain (Belgium) and has taught, in Belgium and abroad, as a visiting professor at the Universities of Geneva, Leuven, Ottawa, Paris I, Rennes, Strasbourg and Louisiana State University, in the fields of general criminal law, comparative and European criminal law, juvenile justice and human rights protection systems. From November 1998 to September 2012, she was a Judge in the European Court of Human Rights, serving as section president from January 2007 and as vice-president of the court,from February 2011. She has been an associate member of the Belgian Royal Academy since 2011. From 2011 to 2015 she chaired the Board of Governors of the King Baudouin Foundation. In September 2012, she was appointed to the United Nations Human Rights Advisory Panel for Kosovo. Since June 2013 she is a member of the Scientific Committee of the European Union Fundamental Rights’ Agency (FRA), of which she is currently the vice-chair. Tulkens is the author of many publications in the areas of human rights and criminal law and also co-author of reference books. She holds honorary doctorates from the Universities of Geneva, Limoges, Ottawa, Ghent, Liège and Brighton.

Upendra Baxi, India, is a legal scholar, and professor of law in development at the University of Warwick, United Kingdom. He has been the vice chancellor of University of Delhi and of the University of South Gujarat, Surat, India. He taught law at Faculty of Law, University of Delhi, where he also served as dean and vice chancellor. He has taught various courses at Universities of Sydney, Duke University, the American University, the New York University Law School Global Law Program, and the University of Toronto. He has also served as the honorary director (research) at the Indian Law Institute and the president of the Indian Society of International Law. Baxi's areas of special expertise in teaching and research include comparative constitutionalism, social theory of human rights, human rights responsibilities in corporate governance and business conduct, and materiality of globalization. In 2011, Baxi was awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India, by the Government of India. He is the author of many scholarly articles, including "The Struggle for Human Rights", Rethinking Human Rights. Edited by S Kothari and H Sethi. Bombay: Tripathy, 1989.

Background on lawyers

Dr. Gwynn MacCarrick, Australia, was former legal officer at the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and former defense counsel for a militia commander charged with 23 counts of crimes against humanity before the United Nations Special Panel for Serious Crimes in Dili, East Timor.

Jackson Nyamuya Maogoto, UK is a senior lecturer in international Law at the University of Manchester (UK). His international law interests encompass the fields of international criminal law, international humanitarian and human rights law, use of force and peacekeeping and private military corporations in the execution of war. Jackson’sprofessional affiliations include: Australian Institute of International Affairs, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, American Society of International Law, Australia & New Zealand Society of International Law, Newcastle Law Society, International Law Association, International Institute of Space Law, International Society for Military Law & the Law of War, Law Reform Association (Australia), Royal Institute of International Affairs and The Nuclear Age Foundation. He is the author of seven books, two dozen book chapters and more than three dozen refereed articles in general and specialist Australian, American, European and African journals. He has participated and delivered numerous conference papers in domestic, regional and international fora.

Background on the International Monsanto Tribunal here and here. 

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

###

 

President Obama: Pledge to Veto the DARK Act!

Organic consumers - Mon, 2016-07-11 21:25
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

Please veto any bill that comes out of the Congress that would preempt Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law, which was enacted on July 1.

The Senate has produced a “compromise” federal labeling law that is being misrepresented as a “uniform, mandatory labeling solution.” House members have indicated they will support this bill.

TAKE Action: Ask President Obama to veto the DARK Act! Read more

Monsanto Wins 1st Senate Vote on Roberts-Stabenow DARK Act!

Organic consumers - Fri, 2016-07-08 17:55
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

Eager to do Monsanto’s bidding, the U.S. Senate yesterday voted 65-32 to limit debate on the Roberts-Stabenow bill, a federal GMO labeling bill that is unenforceable, full of loopholes and exemptions, and allows companies to hide information about GMOs behind QR codes that are inaccessible to at least a third of Americans who don’t own smartphones.

The Senate is expected to hold a final vote tonight (July 7, 2106) to pass the bill, which would send it back to the House (which passed its own version last July), and ultimately to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law.

TAKE ACTION: Call your Senators at 888-897-0174 to tell them what you think of their votes!

 Read more

Organic Traitors Team Up with Monsanto and GMA on DARK Act

Organic consumers - Fri, 2016-07-08 11:58
Genetic EngineeringRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationJune 28, 2016 organic_traitors_website.png

Editor's note: This article was written and first appeared before the Senate voted on July 7 to pass the Roberts-Stabenow GMO labeling bill. 

"You (Gary Hirsberg from Stonyfield Farm and Just Label It) and the other Organic Traitors (Organic Trade Association, UNFI, Whole Foods, Environmental Working Group, Organic Valley) need to issue a joint press statement denouncing the anti-consumer, anti-states’ rights Roberts/Stabenow bill and telling Congress to step back and let the Vermont law do its work, forcing companies, including your bosses at Danone, to label or reformulate their GMO and pesticide-tainted foods." - Email from Ronnie Cummins to Gary Hirshberg and the Organic Elite on June 30, 2016

Organic brands owned by large corporations who are members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the Organic Trade Association (OTA), Whole Foods Market (WFM), UNFI, and a cabal of sell-out non-profit organizations have surrendered to Monsanto and corporate agribusiness by embracing the latest version of the DARK Act (the Robert-Stabenow Senate Bill) that if passed, will nullify the Vermont law requiring mandatory GMO labeling.

Despite the fact that GMO- and pesticide-contaminated foods are dangerous, despite the fact that at least 90 percent of American consumers want to know whether or not their food is genetically engineered, despite the fact that the now-enacted Vermont GMO labeling law is already forcing major food corporations (General Mills, Campbell’s, Kellogg’s, Danone, ConAgra, Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola, Mars, Hershey’s, Wonder Bread, Starbucks, and others) to either disclose GMO contamination in their products, or reformulate and remove GMOs, a self-selected group of so-called “organic leaders” and Clinton Democrats in the Senate have gone over to the DARK side.

The growing list of Organic Traitors includes the head of Whole Foods Market, Walter Robb; Gary Hirschberg, the CEO of Stonyfield Farm and the pseudo-pro GMO labeling group Just Label It; the Environmental Working Group, represented by Scott Faber, former head lobbyist for the pro-biotech Grocery Manufacturers Association; UNFI, the largest wholesaler of natural and organic foods; and the OTA, led by “natural” brands such as Smuckers and White Wave, and represented by their Board Chair Melissa Hughes from Organic Valley.

These self-selected “Good Food” and “Organic” leaders have been telling Congress behind closed doors—and now publicly—that they and the organic community will accept an industry-crafted DARK Act “compromise"—the Stabenow/Roberts bill— that eliminates mandatory GMO labeling and preempts the Vermont law with a convoluted and deceptive federal regime for QR codes and 1-800 numbers that is completely voluntary, with no firm guidelines for implementation, and no provisions whatsoever for enforcement. Perhaps even more outrageous, the legal definition of “bioengineered” foods under the new DARK Act means that 95 percent of the current GMO-tainted foods on the market, including foods made from Roundup-resistant and BT-spliced corn and soy, would never have to be identified.

Several of the Organic Traitors are now trying to avoid the ire of the organic community by pretending that they are not fully in favor of preempting the Vermont law with the Roberts/Stabenow DARK Act. Anger and resentment are mounting, with calls for companies to pull out of the OTA and renewed calls for boycotts of the Traitor Brands, who are also members of the GMA.

As the Center for Food Safety pointed out earlier today:

… by our calculation the OTA has brought along a minimum of 7-10 Senators against us that were with us before. That is their margin of victory. There is no way to sugar coat this. Should we be defeated a major force that changed from our March victory to this uphill battle is the OTA backroom deal.

In lobbying for the DARK Act, the OTA has employed the notorious Podesta Group (the same PR firm hired by Hilary Clinton and the Biotechnology Industry Association) to convince Senators to stab consumers in the back.

As Food Democracy Now wrote on June 29:

The American GMO labeling movement has been rocked by the most outrageous betrayal imaginable. While you and your friends have been fighting for mandatory GMO labeling, the giant corporate organic companies that are owned by parent companies have just climbed into bed with Monsanto and stuck a knife in the back of every American who’s ever fought for GMO labeling.

According to a Politico story that came out June 28, Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb joined his friends at Stonyfield, Smucker’s, and Organic Valley in selling out the American food movement.

Interviewed while on vacation, Walter Robb is now peddling this monstrous sell-out that protects Monsanto’s and Whole Foods profits, to the national media. Robb was quoted in Politica (as reported here) as saying:

It’s “An incredible thing” that the senators came together and compromised during a dysfunctional time. He said he hopes that lawmakers can soon move on to other things.  Incredulously, he went on to claim that we need to…talk about much bigger issues.

Stonyfield Yogurt and Just Label founder Gary Hirshberg Exposes Real Agenda

In an even more outrageous lie, Stonyfield Yogurt chairman Gary Hirshberg, who is also founder of the bogus corporate organic front group, Just Label It, an organization that worked behind the scenes with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, former biotech Governor of the Year, is now telling the press:

We are pleased this proposal will finally create a national, mandatory GMO disclosure system, protects organic labels, and will cover more food than Vermont’s groundbreaking GMO labeling law.

Food Democracy Now goes on to say:

After years of using Just Label It as a corporate front group to undermine real grassroots campaigns and GMO labeling ballot initiatives and people like you, Gary Hirshberg and Just Label It are finally showing their true colors and working publicly to make it easier for corrupt Senators to vote for this toxic backroom deal that will undermine every American mother's basic right to know what's in the food they're feeding their children, like mothers in 64 other countries around the world already possess.

The bottom line is that the junk food “parent” companies of leading organic brands such as General Mills, Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Danone, Smuckers, ConAgra, do not want GMO labeling, so they’ve instructed their underlings in the OTA to tell Congress (Republicans and Clinton Democrats alike) that it’s OK to kill the popular Vermont bill. Among the outrageous lies of the Organic Traitors is the claim that “25,000 more products” will be “labeled” under the DARK Act, when in fact, as even the FDA was forced to admit this week, almost no foods will have to be identified by a QR smart code or a 1-800 number, five years or so down the road, when the DARK Act finally gets implemented.

In other words, business as usual will prevail. Shut up and eat your Frankenfoods.

This is not just a battle over our right to know what’s in grocery store foods. Consumers want labels so that we can avoid buying GMO and pesticide-tainted foods. Period. We need labels, like the European Union, so we can put an end to our suicidal “business-as-usual” industrial food system and regenerate public health, soil health and climate stability.

Millions of health-minded Americans, especially parents of young children, now understand that cheap, non-organic, genetically engineered, industrial food is hazardous. Not only does chemical- and energy-intensive industrial ag/factory farming destroy the environment, destabilize the climate, impoverish rural communities, exploit farm workers, inflict unnecessary cruelty on farm animals, and contaminate the water supply, but the end product itself is inevitably contaminated.

Routinely contained in every bite or swallow of non-organic industrial food are genetically engineered ingredients, pesticides, antibiotics and other animal drug residues, pathogens, feces, hormone-disrupting chemicals, toxic sludge, slaughterhouse waste, chemical additives and preservatives, irradiation-derived radiolytic chemical by-products, and a host of other hazardous allergens and toxins.

There can be no such thing as “coexistence” with a reckless GMO-driven food and farming system that undermines public health, destroys biodiversity, damages the environment, tortures and poisons animals, destabilizes the climate, and economically devastates the world’s two billion seed-saving small farmers.

We need mandatory labels so that we can drive Frankenfoods, chemical agriculture, and factory farm products off the market. And if Congress and the Organic Elite take away our right to know, they will leave us no choice but to boycott 90 percent of the foods on grocery store shelves—in other words, everything, unless it’s labeled organic, grass-fed, or non-GMO. If the DARK Act becomes law, QR codes and 1-800 numbers will become the “skull and crossbones” label alerting consumers to boycott this product.

For the past two decades, Organic Consumers and our allies in the Natural Health Movement have taken on some of the most the powerful companies on Earth—Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, Cargill, Archer Daniels, Kraft, Unilever, Nestlé’s, General Mills, Coke and Pepsi—the same companies that are responsible for releasing billions of tons of climate-disrupting greenhouse gas pollution, as well as the pesticides and junk foods that harm you and your family's health.

Now is the time to stand up against Monsanto and the Organic Traitors. Call the OCA toll free line 888-897-0174 and send a message to your U.S. Senators: Stop the Dark Act and let the Vermont GMO labeling law stand. And while you’re at, you might want to go to the Facebook pages of the Organic Traitors and give them a piece of your mind.

If the DARK Act passes in spite of all our best efforts, the sell-out Democrats and Republicans in the Congress and Organic Traitors might want to keep this in mind: we will never forgive nor forget.

Venceremos. We shall overcome.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association.

Damn the Torpedoes! Full Speed Ahead on GMO Labeling.

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-07-07 16:38
Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationKatherine PaulOrganic Consumers AssociationJuly 6, 2016 Damn the torpedoes 420x280

Eager to do Monsanto’s bidding, the U.S. Senate yesterday voted 65-32 to limit debate on the Roberts-Stabenow bill, a federal GMO labeling bill that is unenforceable, full of loopholes and exemptions, and allows companies to hide information about GMOs behind QR codes that are inaccessible to at least a third of Americans who don’t own smartphones.

The Senate is expected to hold a final vote tonight to pass the bill, which would send it back to the House (which passed its own version last July), and ultimately to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law.

TAKE ACTION: Call your Senators at 888-897-0174 to tell them what you think of their votes! Calls are the fastest, and most effective way to get your message through to Congress.

The Senate needed 60 votes yesterday in order to limit debate on the Senate version of DARK Act. But the bill now needs only 51 votes to pass the Senate and move on to the House.

Both the Senate and House versions are intended to overturn Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law which took effect July 1.

We’d be lying if we said the chances of stopping this bill are good—they aren’t. But that shouldn’t stop us from going full throttle to try to win over more Senators, and even call on Obama to veto this bill if it gets that far.

At the very least, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said yesterday in a speech on the Senate floor that the measure hasn't been fully vetted, the Roberts-Stabenow bill deserves a full debate:

"It's not fair to get an important piece of legislation and not have the opportunity to have hearings on the measure and offer amendments. We must not stand for the Republican leader jamming this bill through the Senate."

TAKE ACTION: Call your Senators at 888-897-0174 to tell them what you think of their votes! Calls are the fastest, and most effective way to get your message through to Congress.

Scroll down to see how your Senators voted. If they voted against this awful bill, please thank them! If they voted for it, please let them know that QR codes are not labels, and a bill that exempts most of the common GMO ingredients isn’t acceptable.

Yesterday, OCA and many of our allies in the movement worked up until the last minute to convince more Senators to reject this latest version of the DARK Act. We made calls, we visited Senate home district and Washington offices.

We even staged a protest on the Senate floor, dropping 2,000 $1 bills to show our anger over how Monsanto’s money has corrupted the democratic process.

Some of our efforts paid off. Maine Senators Collins and King, who voted for the bill in a “test” vote on June 29, voted against the bill this time, after hearing from hundreds of their constituents who don’t want Maine’s GMO labeling bill overturned. If you live in Maine, please call today to thank Sens. Collins and King and ask them to vote NO again on the final vote.

Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) also saw the light, and voted against the DARK Act yesterday—if you live in Florida or Nebraska, please show these Senators some love today!

But we also had some disappointing “flippers” yesterday, including Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine (Va.) and Bob Menendez (N.J.) who opposed the Roberts-Stabenow bill on June 29, but yesterday supported Monsanto, not consumers. If you live in Virginia or New Jersey, please call today and urge your Senators to support your right to know!

To reach any of these Senators, call 888-897-0174 and you will be connected to your Senator.

For everyone else, please scroll down for the vote count. There were 65 “yeas” and 32 “nays”. We’ve also included the amount of money each Senator has received from agribusiness over the course of their years in the Senate. The average agribusiness contribution for “yes” voters ($877,403) is more than twice as much as the average for "no" voters ($440,765).

TAKE ACTION: Call your Senators TODAY! Thank your Senators who voted “No”. “Spank” your Senators who voted “Yes”. Call 888-897-0174.

Here are some talking points you can use when you call:

I don’t want to have to pull out a phone and scan a QR code in order to know what I’m buying. The Roberts-Stabenow GMO labeling bill would kill the Vermont law that labels GMO foods as “produced with genetic engineering.” Vermont's law is working. GMOs are being labeled. Food prices are staying the same. The labels are being used nationwide. It exempts nearly all GMOs from labeling. It would take at least two years to take effect. And, it’s essentially voluntary because there would be no enforcement for non-compliance. At the very least, this bill deserves a full debate.

Tally for July 6, 2016 cloture vote

NO Votes (the "good guys"):

Blumenthal D-CTNO$43,033Booker D-NJ

NO

$215,250Boxer D-CANO$517,498Cantwell D-WANO$273,246Cardin D-MDNO$230,103Collins R-MENO$596,291Durbin D-ILNO$951,130  Gillibrand D-NYNO$627,514Heinrich D-NMNO$128,927Hirono D-HINO$108,150King I-MENO $74,515Leahy D-VTNO$356,995Markey D-MANO$118,144Merkley D-ORNO$222,442Mikulski D-MDNO$255,439Murkowski R-AKNO$463,144Murphy D-CTNO$132,650Murray D-WANO$667,307Nelson D-FLNO$873,540 Paul R-KYNO$416,761Reed D-RINO$110,550Reid D-NVNO$691,398Sanders I-VTNO$750,242Sasse R-NENO $329,935 Schatz D-HINO$88,750Schumer D-NYNO$814,930Sullivan R-AKNO$157,541Tester D-MTNO$476,153Udall D-NMNO$338,055Warren D-MANO$91,243Whitehouse D-RINO$98,408Wyden D-ORNO

$992,967

Total donations from agribusiness to Senators who voted NO: $12,212,251; Average donation: $440,765

YES Votes (the "bad guys"):

Alexander R-TNYES$980,283Ayotte R-NHYES$235,956Baldwin D-WIYES$160,709Barrasso R-WYYES$207,250Bennet D-COYES$473,397Blunt R-MOYES$2,069,365Boozman R-ARYES $646,471Burr R-NCYES$1,933,705Capito R-WVYES$456,720 Carper D-DEYES $203,662Casey D-PAYES$405,550Cassidy R-LAYES$504,933Coats R-INYES$527,927Cochran R-MSYES$2,333,394Coons D-DEYES $86,858Corker R-TNYES $664,527 Cornyn R-TXYES$1,688,149Cotton R-ARYES$508,940Crapo R-IDYES$1,170,466Cruz R-TXYES$1,647,662Daines R-MTYES$596,781Donnelly D-INYES $363,199  Enzi R-WYYES$350,502 Ernst R-IAYES $256,998 Feinstein D-CAYES $1,645,599 Fischer R-NEYES$536,262Flake R-AZYES$535,102  Franken D-MNYES $286,547 Gardner R-COYES  $946,349 Grassley R-IAYES$1,929,489 Hatch R-UTYES$725,633Heitkamp D-NDYES$236,975  Heller R-NVYES $258,140 Hoeven R-NDYES$405,020Inhofe R-OKYES$938,853Isakson R-GAYES $1,227,649Johnson R-WIYES$489,435Kaine D-VAYES$140,825Kirk R-ILYES$718,270 Klobuchar D-MNYES$720,592Lankford R-OKYES$226,040Manchin D-WVYES$196,850McCain R-AZ  YES $4,496,004 McCaskill D-MOYES $383,024  McConnell R-KYYES$3,373,204Menendez D-NJYES$647,774Moran R-KSYES$2,284,551   Perdue R-GAYES $489,830  Peters D-MI YES $238,147 Portman R-OHYES$1,011,940Risch R-IDYES $367,154  Roberts R-KSYES$2,808,111Rounds R-SDYES$258,600Rubio R-FLYES$1,141,265   Scott R-SCYES$403,300Sessions R-ALYES$927,652Shaheen D-NHYES$167,474Shelby R-ALYES$843,957Stabenow D-MIYES$1,565,978Thune R-SDYES$1,900,160Tillis R-NCYES$437,750Toomey R-PAYES$682,904  Vitter R-LAYES$657,365Warner D-VAYES

$518,317

Wicker R-MSYES$789,690  

Total donations from agribusiness to Senators who voted YES: $57,031,185;  Average donation: $877,403.

Not voting:

Brown D-OHNOT$379,952Graham R-SCNOT$1,131,590   Lee R-UTNOT$77,950 

(Senators and their votes, listed by state instead of alphabetically, here).

TAKE ACTION: Call your Senators at 888-897-0174 to tell them what you think of their votes! Ask them to vote NO on the Roberts-Stabenow GMO labeling bill!

Organic Traitors Team Up with Monsanto and GMA on DARK Act

Organic consumers - Fri, 2016-07-01 09:06
June 29, 2016Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie Cummins organic_traitors_website.png

"You (Gary Hirsberg from Stonyfield Farm and Just Label It) and the other Organic Traitors (Organic Trade Association, UNFI, Whole Foods, Environmental Working Group, Organic Valley) need to issue a joint press statement denouncing the anti-consumer, anti-states’ rights Roberts/Stabenow bill and telling Congress to step back and let the Vermont law do its work, forcing companies, including your bosses at Danone, to label or reformulate their GMO and pesticide-tainted foods." - Email from Ronnie Cummins to Gary Hirshberg and the Organic Elite on June 30, 2016

Organic brands owned by large corporations who are members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the Organic Trade Association (OTA), Whole Foods Market (WFM), UNFI, and a cabal of sell-out non-profit organizations have surrendered to Monsanto and corporate agribusiness by embracing the latest version of the DARK Act (the Robert-Stabenow Senate Bill) that if passed, will nullify the Vermont law requiring mandatory GMO labeling.

Despite the fact that GMO- and pesticide-contaminated foods are dangerous, despite the fact that at least 90 percent of American consumers want to know whether or not their food is genetically engineered, despite the fact that the now-enacted Vermont GMO labeling law is already forcing major food corporations (General Mills, Campbell’s, Kellogg’s, Danone, ConAgra, Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola, Mars, Hershey’s, Wonder Bread, Starbucks, and others) to either disclose GMO contamination in their products, or reformulate and remove GMOs, a self-selected group of so-called “organic leaders” and Clinton Democrats in the Senate have gone over to the DARK side.

The growing list of Organic Traitors includes the head of Whole Foods Market, Walter Robb; Gary Hirschberg, the CEO of Stonyfield Farm and the pseudo-pro GMO labeling group Just Label It; the Environmental Working Group, represented by Scott Faber, former head lobbyist for the pro-biotech Grocery Manufacturers Association; UNFI, the largest wholesaler of natural and organic foods; and the OTA, led by “natural” brands such as Smuckers and White Wave, and represented by their Board Chair Melissa Hughes from Organic Valley.

These self-selected “Good Food” and “Organic” leaders have been telling Congress behind closed doors—and now publicly—that they and the organic community will accept an industry-crafted DARK Act “compromise"—the Stabenow/Roberts bill— that eliminates mandatory GMO labeling and preempts the Vermont law with a convoluted and deceptive federal regime for QR codes and 1-800 numbers that is completely voluntary, with no firm guidelines for implementation, and no provisions whatsoever for enforcement. Perhaps even more outrageous, the legal definition of “bioengineered” foods under the new DARK Act means that 95 percent of the current GMO-tainted foods on the market, including foods made from Roundup-resistant and BT-spliced corn and soy, would never have to be identified.

Several of the Organic Traitors are now trying to avoid the ire of the organic community by pretending that they are not fully in favor of preempting the Vermont law with the Roberts/Stabenow DARK Act. Anger and resentment are mounting, with calls for companies to pull out of the OTA and renewed calls for boycotts of the Traitor Brands, who are also members of the GMA.

As the Center for Food Safety pointed out earlier today:

… by our calculation the OTA has brought along a minimum of 7-10 Senators against us that were with us before. That is their margin of victory. There is no way to sugar coat this. Should we be defeated a major force that changed from our March victory to this uphill battle is the OTA backroom deal.

In lobbying for the DARK Act, the OTA has employed the notorious Podesta Group (the same PR firm hired by Hilary Clinton and the Biotechnology Industry Association) to convince Senators to stab consumers in the back.

As Food Democracy Now wrote on June 29:

The American GMO labeling movement has been rocked by the most outrageous betrayal imaginable. While you and your friends have been fighting for mandatory GMO labeling, the giant corporate organic companies that are owned by parent companies have just climbed into bed with Monsanto and stuck a knife in the back of every American who’s ever fought for GMO labeling.

According to a Politico story that came out June 28, Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb joined his friends at Stonyfield, Smucker’s, and Organic Valley in selling out the American food movement.

Interviewed while on vacation, Walter Robb is now peddling this monstrous sell-out that protects Monsanto’s and Whole Foods profits, to the national media. Robb was quoted in Politica (as reported here) as saying:

It’s “An incredible thing” that the senators came together and compromised during a dysfunctional time. He said he hopes that lawmakers can soon move on to other things.  Incredulously, he went on to claim that we need to…talk about much bigger issues.

Stonyfield Yogurt and Just Label founder Gary Hirshberg Exposes Real Agenda

In an even more outrageous lie, Stonyfield Yogurt chairman Gary Hirshberg, who is also founder of the bogus corporate organic front group, Just Label It, an organization that worked behind the scenes with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, former biotech Governor of the Year, is now telling the press:

We are pleased this proposal will finally create a national, mandatory GMO disclosure system, protects organic labels, and will cover more food than Vermont’s groundbreaking GMO labeling law.

Food Democracy Now goes on to say:

After years of using Just Label It as a corporate front group to undermine real grassroots campaigns and GMO labeling ballot initiatives and people like you, Gary Hirshberg and Just Label It are finally showing their true colors and working publicly to make it easier for corrupt Senators to vote for this toxic backroom deal that will undermine every American mother's basic right to know what's in the food they're feeding their children, like mothers in 64 other countries around the world already possess.

The bottom line is that the junk food “parent” companies of leading organic brands such as General Mills, Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Danone, Smuckers, ConAgra, do not want GMO labeling, so they’ve instructed their underlings in the OTA to tell Congress (Republicans and Clinton Democrats alike) that it’s OK to kill the popular Vermont bill. Among the outrageous lies of the Organic Traitors is the claim that “25,000 more products” will be “labeled” under the DARK Act, when in fact, as even the FDA was forced to admit this week, almost no foods will have to be identified by a QR smart code or a 1-800 number, five years or so down the road, when the DARK Act finally gets implemented.

In other words, business as usual will prevail. Shut up and eat your Frankenfoods.

This is not just a battle over our right to know what’s in grocery store foods. Consumers want labels so that we can avoid buying GMO and pesticide-tainted foods. Period. We need labels, like the European Union, so we can put an end to our suicidal “business-as-usual” industrial food system and regenerate public health, soil health and climate stability.

Millions of health-minded Americans, especially parents of young children, now understand that cheap, non-organic, genetically engineered, industrial food is hazardous. Not only does chemical- and energy-intensive industrial ag/factory farming destroy the environment, destabilize the climate, impoverish rural communities, exploit farm workers, inflict unnecessary cruelty on farm animals, and contaminate the water supply, but the end product itself is inevitably contaminated.

Routinely contained in every bite or swallow of non-organic industrial food are genetically engineered ingredients, pesticides, antibiotics and other animal drug residues, pathogens, feces, hormone-disrupting chemicals, toxic sludge, slaughterhouse waste, chemical additives and preservatives, irradiation-derived radiolytic chemical by-products, and a host of other hazardous allergens and toxins.

There can be no such thing as “coexistence” with a reckless GMO-driven food and farming system that undermines public health, destroys biodiversity, damages the environment, tortures and poisons animals, destabilizes the climate, and economically devastates the world’s two billion seed-saving small farmers.

We need mandatory labels so that we can drive Frankenfoods, chemical agriculture, and factory farm products off the market. And if Congress and the Organic Elite take away our right to know, they will leave us no choice but to boycott 90 percent of the foods on grocery store shelves—in other words, everything, unless it’s labeled organic, grass-fed, or non-GMO. If the DARK Act becomes law, QR codes and 1-800 numbers will become the “skull and crossbones” label alerting consumers to boycott this product.

For the past two decades, Organic Consumers and our allies in the Natural Health Movement have taken on some of the most the powerful companies on Earth—Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, Cargill, Archer Daniels, Kraft, Unilever, Nestlé’s, General Mills, Coke and Pepsi—the same companies that are responsible for releasing billions of tons of climate-disrupting greenhouse gas pollution, as well as the pesticides and junk foods that harm you and your family's health.

Now is the time to stand up against Monsanto and the Organic Traitors. Call the OCA toll free line 888-897-0174 and send a message to your U.S. Senators: Stop the Dark Act and let the Vermont GMO labeling law stand. And while you’re at, you might want to go to the Facebook pages of the Organic Traitors and give them a piece of your mind.

If the DARK Act passes in spite of all our best efforts, the sell-out Democrats and Republicans in the Congress and Organic Traitors might want to keep this in mind: we will never forgive nor forget.

Venceremos. We shall overcome.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association.

Monsanto Wins 1st Senate Vote on Roberts-Stabenow DARK Act!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-06-30 23:21
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

On June 29, Monsanto scored a preliminary victory, winning a Senate “test vote” on a bill known as the DARK Act that Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) introduced to Deny Americans the Right to Know about GMOs.

There were 68 “yeas” and 29 “nays”. The average agribusiness contribution for “yes” voters ($867,518) is two-and-a-half times more than the average for "no" voters ($350,877).

Thank your Senators who voted “No”. “Spank” your Senators who voted “Yes”.

TAKE ACTION: Call your Senators at 888-897-0174 to tell them what you think of their votes!Read more

Don't let Monsanto & Corrupt Corporate Organic Kill GMO Labeling

Organic consumers - Wed, 2016-06-29 17:58
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic EngineeringArea: USA

Right now we’re being betrayed in Washington D.C. by a group of donation-hungry Senators and a handful of corrupt corporate organic companies that have just brokered an outrageous deal behind our backs in an effort to kill mandatory GMO labeling.

Just days before Vermont’s historic first-in-the-nation bill that's scheduled to go into effect this Friday, July 1st, an unholy alliance for corporate interests has crafted an outrageous corporate sellout by Monsanto, Just Label It, the Organic Trade Association, Stonyfield, Smucker's, Organic Valley and Whole Foods who are desperately trying to trample our basic democratic rights to protect their corporate profits.Read more

Sold Out. Again.

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-06-23 19:44
June 22, 2016Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulGenetic Engineering, Politics & Globalization Frown Face 750x500

It’s hard to know which is worse. The corporations that profit from poisoning your food and water. Or the politicians who will happily sell you down the river for a few campaign contributions.
 
Today, our “leaders” in the U.S. Senate proudly announced that they’ve “reached a deal” on a federal GMO labeling bill. No matter how they spin it—and they will spin it—this “compromise” is nothing more than a handout to Monsanto, an industry-brokered deal intended to legally sanction the right of corporations to deceive you, the consumer.
 
Today, the U.S. Senate unveiled a bill that, if passed, will overturn Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law, and replace it with an anti-consumer bill that allows food corporations to hide GMOs behind QR barcodes and toll-free phone numbers—and gives them another two years before they even have to pretend they are labeling.
 
What does this news mean for Vermont’s mandatory labeling law? Vermont's law will still take effect on July 1, because Congress has run out of time to get the bill passed by both the House and Senate, and plop it down on President Obama’s desk.
 
But once Congress returns after the July 4 recess, you can bet your life that Monsanto’s minions in Congress will make it their highest priority to seal the deal on an industry-friendly, anti-consumer, anti-states' rights federal law that will overturn Vermont's law and leave U.S. consumers in the dark.
 
With your help, we will once again throw ourselves into the battle to save Vermont’s law. To demand the right to truth and transparency in labeling. To remind our members of Congress that they were elected to serve us, not their corporate masters.
 
We will work to keep the Senate from getting the 60 votes it needs to pass the bill. We will recruit pro-labeling Senators to filibuster, if we have to. We will take our—your—fight to the oval office, and if necessary, we will launch a massive boycott of any food product that isn't labeled organic, grass-fed or non-GMO.
 
Last week we kicked off our summer online fundraising campaign.

Now, more than ever, we need your help to raise $200,000 by midnight June 30. Thank you for bringing us this far--let's fight to the end.

Donate to the Organic Consumers Association (tax-deductible, helps support our work on behalf of organic standards, fair trade and public education)

Donate to the Organic Consumers Fund (non-tax-deductible, but necessary for our GMO labeling legislative efforts)

Organic Consumers Sues Maker of Shredded Wheat Cereal for False ‘Natural’ Claims

Organic consumers - Wed, 2016-06-22 20:31
Health IssuesOrganic Consumers AssociationJune 21, 2016 Shredded Wheat No Thanks 420

Testing Reveals Post Cereal Contains Monsanto’s Glyphosate
 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 23, 2016

CONTACT: Organic Consumers Association: Katherine Paul, katherine@organicconsumers.org, 207.653.3090; Kim Richman, krichman@richmanlawgroup.com, 212-687-82911

FINLAND, Minn. –  The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) today filed suit against Post Holdings, Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiary, Post Foods, LLC, for falsely claiming one of its brands, Shredded Wheat, is “natural” even though it tests positive for the herbicide glyphosate.

The suit, filed on behalf of the general public of Washington, D.C., claims Post is violating the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act (“DC CPPA”), D.C. Code § 28-3901, et seq. Similar actions were filed in federal court in California and New York.

“On the back of its cereal box, Post says Shredded Wheat is made of ‘100% Whole Grain Wheat’ and that the product is ‘made with nothing but goodness,’” said OCA’s international director, Ronnie Cummins. “But tests prove Shredded Wheat contains glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. Glyphosate is not only very unnatural, it is a known toxin, linked to a long list of potential and serious health problems.”

Kim Richman of The Richman Law Group, which represents OCA in the suit, noted that “Consumers don’t expect a product labeled ‘natural’ to contain a chemical that has been classified by the World Health Organization as a ‘probable’ human carcinogen. Post advertises Shredded Wheat as ‘100 Percent Natural,’ and glyphosate in any amount is not natural,” Richman said.

Shredded Wheat samples were tested by an independent lab in California, using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, a commonly used technique in medical and chemical labs. The testing found glyphosate at a level of 0.18 parts per million in the sample, a level below that which is allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in cereal grains. 

"Even at low levels, including levels below those approved by regulatory agencies, studies show that glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor,” Richman said.

Endocrine disruption may result in cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, and birth defects. These effects are thought to result from very low doses over a long period of exposure or from exposures in critical windows of development, such as fetal development.

According to a 2014 Consumer Reports® survey, 66 percent of respondents said that a “natural” label on packaged and processed foods means that “no toxic pesticides were used.”

Read the full complaint

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

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

Eyes of the Future

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-06-16 16:28
Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesRonnie CumminsOrganic ConsumersJune 13, 2016 child eyes, 420 x 280

The Eyes of the Future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. – Terry Tempest Williams

Dear Friend,

On Thursday last week, Monsanto’s minions in the U.S. Senate claimed they were "just inches away" from snagging the 60 votes they need to snuff out Vermont’s mandatory labeling law.

Now, they have until Friday, June 24, to pass a bill, get the House on board, take it to a full vote in Congress and get it to President Obama in time to keep Vermont's law from going into effect July 1. 

That means we have until Friday, June 24 to stop them. 

We are in the middle of our summer online fundraising campaign. Please help us raise $200,000 by midnight June 30, so we can take the GMO labeling battle to the next level.  You can donate online, or by U.S. mail or by phone, details here.

Win or lose the GMO labeling battle, we have our work cut out for us.

Win or lose, labels or no labels, Monsanto’s Roundup will still be poisoning us. And factory farms will still be polluting our drinking water, killing the oceans, and contributing to a public health crisis with their reckless use of antibiotics. 

So far, you’ve helped us keep Congress from preempting Vermont’s law. We couldn’t have come this far without you. Thank you.

Still, we haven't crossed the finish line yet. Sens. Pat Roberts and Debbie Stabenow will burn the midnight oil this week as they work toward a last-ditch compromise bill to preempt Vermont..

Just so you know, we will burn the midnight oil right along with them. We're mobilizing teams of labeling advocates. Writing letters. Making phone calls. Knocking on Senate office doors.

But we’re also looking to the future. 

And what we see out there is a food and farming system, labels or no labels, that is dominated by greedy, ruthless corporations whose singular focus on shareholder profits blinds them to the devastating consequences of their bad behavior.

For example: About 250 million pounds of Monsanto’s glyphosate are sprayed on food crops, lawns and parks in this country, every year.

Glyphosate—classified as a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization. 

Glyphosate—present in 93 percent of people who sent urine samples for testing . . . and in 100 percent of European Parliament members who were tested.

Glyphosate—250 million pounds of it—linked to everything from allergies to birth defects to kidney failure to cancer.

"It is going to be incomprehensible to future generations how our generation could have let glyphosate poison the earth's ecosystems, cause multiple species die-offs, and destroy global human health for over four decades, while standing by and doing nothing to stop the devastation.” - Stephanie Seneff, senior research scientist at MIT.

You have become the greatest threat to Monsanto and Big Food. Win or lose the GMO labeling battle, we need you to help double the size of this movement, so we can take on the factory farms, the junk food giants and the Biotech Bullies..

We need you to help create a future where our food will be real food. Nutrient-dense food. Toxin-free food. Food grown using methods that heal, not harm, the earth.

Food that doesn't need to be labeled because it's just . . . food.

Please help us raise $200,000 by midnight June 30, so we can take the GMO labeling battle to the next level.  You can donate online, or by U.S. mail or by phone, details here.

The “Eyes of the Future” are looking back at us. 

In solidarity,

Ronnie Cummins
International Director

P.S. We can't wait for corporations or politicians to do the right thing. The food movement was built from the ground up. It's success depends on grassroots support. We rely on individual donors like yourself for nearly 80 percent of our budget. Every donation counts. Please know that every donation, no matter how small, is critical to this fight. Donate online here.

Next Five Days Could Determine the Fate of GMO Labeling in the U.S.

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-06-09 12:05
Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationKatherine PaulRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationJune 7, 2016 grocery_shopping_cart_cooler_aisle_420x280.jpg

For all their posturing, for all their proclamations that Vermont’s law must be preempted or “chaos will ensue,” key Senate proponents of a federal bill to preempt Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling bill have yet to produce a viable version of the bill, much less pass such a bill.

Now, they’re down to five days. The anti-labeling brigade has just five working days (incluing today, June 16, 2016) to preempt Vermont’s law before it takes effect July 1.

Five working days, before the House adjourns for the July 4 holiday recess on June 24. (Any bill passed by the Senate would have to go back to the House, before it goes to a full vote in Congress, so it doesn’t matter if the Senate is in session for 15 days. Without the House, the Senate’s hands are tied). 

That leaves five days to produce a new Senate version of the bill, to secure enough votes to pass the new version in the Senate, to reconcile the Senate version with the House version (passed in July 2015), and to hold a full vote by both House and Senate.

Five days. And counting.

That means we have five days to defend Vermont’s labeling law. We need to make a record-breaking number of phone calls in the next 5 days. 

TAKE ACTION: Please scroll down to see what you can do in the next five days to stop Congress from stomping out Vermont’s GMO labeling law.

There’s reason to be optimistic, thanks to a number of factors working in our favor.

First, some companies that previously opposed labeling are already printing “produced with genetic engineering” on their packaging. Not just in Vermont, but nationally—and the sky has not fallen.  

Second, Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), key architects of the Senate version that failed in March, have been struggling since then to find a compromise that will get them the 60 votes they need to preempt Vermont. Three months after the Senate sunk Roberts’ bill, they haven’t yet struck a deal. (See how your Senator voted on the DARK Act).

And then there’s the political climate, which is no more stable right now than the planet’s climate. It’s an election year, and a particularly volatile one at that. Politicians facing re-election are going to have a tough time explaining to voters why they sided with Monsanto, not the 90 percent of voters who want GMO labeling laws. They’ll have an equally tough time telling their agribusiness funders that they couldn’t get the job done—but at least maybe they’ll still have jobs if they side with voters, not Monsanto.

Of all the “compromises” put forth so far, the smartphone technology “solution” seemed to have the most traction, at least for a while. But a fancy high-tech substitute for labels makes for a sticky situation for those Congress members who represent largely rural areas. Allowing companies to use a QR code (readable only by a smartphone) to direct consumers to a corporate website to find out whether or not a product contains GMO ingredients clearly discriminates against consumers who live in rural areas where internet access is sketchy, at best.

And that’s something consumers (and voters) who live in rural areas need to remind their Congress members of—over and over—during the next 10 days. Especially as the latest Frankenfood—the GMO apple—will soon appear on grocery shelves. 

Optimism or no, we can’t afford to under estimate our opponents. So, here’s the plan—we need everyone on board. Eight more days. We can do this!

1. Hold on to the ‘no’ votes—what to do if you live in one of these states

Eight Republican Senators voted against Roberts’ preemption bill in March. If Roberts and Stabenow introduce a compromise bill, we need these eight Senators to stick with us. If your Senator is listed below, please call today. Say “thank you” for supporting consumer and states’ rights in March—please don’t change your vote if a compromise is proposed.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) (202)-224-6665
Sen. Daniel Sullivan (R-Alaska) (202) 224-3004
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (202) 224-2541
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) (202) 224-4343
Sen. Susan M. Collins (R-Maine) (202) 224-2523
Sen. Angus S. King Jr.  (I-Maine) (202) 224-5344
Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) (202) 224-6244
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) (202) 224-5444

2. Remind these lawmakers that you’re watching their votes—what to do if you live in one of these states

One Democrat, and several Republicans who are up for re-election are especially vulnerable right now. So now would be the time to tell these politicians that a vote against labeling will cost them your vote in the next election.

Michael Bennett (D-Colo.) - (202) 224-5852
Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) - (202) 224-2854
Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) - (202) 224-3324
Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) - (202) 224-5323
Rob Portman (R-Ohio) - (202) 224-3353
Richard Burr (R-N.C.) - (202) 224-3154
Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) - (202) 224-3744

3. Tell these lawmakers that rural consumers want labels, too—what to do no matter where you live

Four Senators we need on our side hail from states where more than 50 percent of the population lives in rural communities. Even if you don’t live in one of these four states, please call these Senators and tell them that they must reject any compromise involving smartphone technology and/or QR codes because those technologies are discriminatory.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) (202) 224-2523
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (202) 224-2541
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) : 202-224-3744
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) (202) 224-3324

4. More Senators who represent rural constituents—what to do if you live in one of these states

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) (202) 224-2551
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) (202) 224-2321
Sen. James Lankford (R-Ok.) (202) 224-5754
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) (202) 224-4343
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)  (202) 224-4822
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)  202-228-2186
Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) (202) 224-4814

We’ve come too far to let this victory slip away during the next 10 days. Please call your Senators today. And tomorrow. And the next day. 

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association. 

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association. 

Six Questions for Monsanto

Organic consumers - Thu, 2016-06-02 12:01
May 31, 2016Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulGenetic Engineering Monsanto Tribunal 420x280

Monsanto may not be the largest company in the world. Or the worst. But the St. Louis, Mo. biotech giant has become the poster child for all that’s wrong with our industrial food and farming system.

With 21,000 employees in 66 countries and $15 billion in revenue, Monsanto is a biotech industry heavyweight. The St. Louis, Mo.-based monopolizer of seeds is the poster child for an industry that is the source of at least one-third of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and is largely responsible for the depletion of soil, water and biodiversity. Not to mention the company’s marginalization—and sometimes terrorization—of millions of small farmers.  

Since the early 20th century, Monsanto has marketed highly toxic products that have contaminated the environment and permanently sickened or killed thousands of people around the world. The most toxic of its products include:

PCBs: one of the 12 persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which affect human and animal fertility

2,4,5 T (2,4-D): a component of Agent Orange containing dioxin which was used by the US military during the Vietnam war and continues to be a major cause of birth defects and cancers

Lasso: an herbicide now banned in Europe

Roundup: the most widely used herbicide in the world, cause of one of the biggest health and environmental tragedies in modern history. This highly toxic weed killer, sprayed on GMO crops including soybeans, corn and rapeseed for animal feed or for the production of biofuels, was recently classified as a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization.

In a rare exception, Monsanto was recently ordered to pay $46.5 million to compensate victims of its PCB poisoning. Sometimes the company settles out of court, to avoid having to admit to any “wrongdoing.”

But for the most part, thanks to the multinational’s powerful influence over U.S. politicians, Monsanto has been able to poison with impunity.

It’s time for the citizens of the world to fight back. On October 15-16, in The Hague, Netherlands—the International City of Peace and Justice—a panel of distinguished international judges will hear testimony from witnesses, represented by legitimate lawyers, who have been harmed by Monsanto.

In their preparation for the citizens’ tribunal, and during witness testimony, the judges will consider six questions that are relevant not just in relation to Monsanto, but to all companies involved in shaping the future of agriculture. The six questions are:

1. Right to a healthy environment: Did the firm Monsanto violate, by its activities, the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, as recognized in international human rights law (Res. 25/21 of the Human Rights Council, of 15 April 2014), taking into account the responsibilities imposed on corporations by the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, as endorsed by the Human Rights Council in Resolution 17/4 of 16 June 2011?

2. Right to food: Did the firm Monsanto violate, by its activities, the right to food, as recognized in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in Articles 24.2(c) and (e) and 27.3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and in Articles 25(f) and 28.1 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, taking into account the responsibilities imposed on corporations by the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, as endorsed by the Human Rights Council in Resolution 17/4 of 16 June 2011?

3. Right to health: Did the firm Monsanto violate, by its activities, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, as recognized in Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, or the right of child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, as recognized by Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, taking into account the responsibilities imposed on corporations by the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, as endorsed by the Human Rights Council in Resolution 17/4 of 16 June 201

4. Freedom of expression and academic research: Did the firm Monsanto violate the freedom indispensable for scientific research, as guaranteed by Article 15(3) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as the freedoms of thought and expression guaranteed in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, taking into account the responsibilities imposed on corporations by the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, as endorsed by the Human Rights Council in Resolution 17/4 of 16 June 2011?

5. Complicity in war crimes: Is the firm Monsanto complicit in the commission of a war crime, as defined in Article 8(2) of the International Criminal Court, by providing materials to the United States Army in the context of operation "Ranch Hand" launched in Viet Nam in 1962?

6. Ecocide: Could the past and present activities of Monsanto constitute a crime of ecocide, understood as causing serious damage or destroying the environment, so as to significantly and durably alter the global commons or ecosystem services upon which certain human groups rely?

The citizens’ tribunal judges will not have the power to adopt binding decisions. But they will issue opinions which will provide victims and their legal counsel the arguments and legal grounds for further lawsuits against Monsanto within their national jurisdictions.

Throughout history, citizens’ tribunals have been an effective tool for highlighting the need to change international law so that victims of transnational companies have a means to legal redress. They are most successful when they are able to attract media attention, and are endorsed and supported by millions of citizens, throughout the world.

If you would like to endorse the International Monsanto Tribunal and follow its progress, sign on here. (Organizations can also sign on, here.) 

To submit witness testimony, email claims (at) Monsanto-tribunal.org. You can also support the tribunal financially.

More on the International Monsanto Tribunal.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association. 

DEADLINE Midnight June 13: Tell the NOP: Bare Dirt and Concrete Aren't Organic!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2016-06-01 20:37
Belong to campaign: Safeguard Organic StandardsCategory: All About OrganicsArea: USA

Picture the farm where your organic eggs, chicken and turkey come from. See birds chasing insects in green pastures, scratching in the dirt to dust bathe and hunt for worms, and roosting in trees? That’s how most small-scale organic farmers raise their birds.

Unfortunately, most of the “organic” eggs and poultry produced in the U.S. come from large-scale factory farms, where the birds are cooped up indoors. These operations are breaking the rule that requires outdoor access for all organic animals.

The good news is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP) is finally cracking down on the organic industry’s rotten eggs. The bad news is the NOP is proposing that “outdoors” can be as little as two square feet per bird of bare dirt and concrete.

TAKE ACTION: DEADLINE Midnight June 13: Tell the NOP: Bare Dirt and Concrete Aren't Organic! Read more

Big Food and Big Pharma's Campaigns to Sell Fear of Thinning Bones—And Dangerous Products

Organic consumers - Sat, 2016-05-28 00:37
Health IssuesMartha RosenbergOrganic Consumers AssociationMay 26, 2016 day of the dead skulls, 420 x 280

If you’re worried about thinning bones, or bone fractures, you probably have Big Food and Big Pharma to thank for keeping you up at night.

For decades, these two industries have used scare tactics to convince the general population that they’re bones are at risk—and that they, and they alone, have the answers to your thinning bone problems. 

But the healthy bone “solutions” peddled by Big Food and Big Pharma have in most cases proven healthier for corporate profits, than for consumers’ bones. And some of those “solutions” have actually contributed to thinning bones.

‘Milking’ consumer fear

Almost 20 years ago, the dairy industry announced a fictitious “calcium crisis” caused by too many young people drinking beverages other than milk. In addition to rolling out new bottles that made milk drinking seem “fun,” the dairy industry launched its “Milk: It Does a Body Good” campaign that told teens and tweens they should drink milk now to prevent osteoporosis in later life. 

There were two obvious problems with the “Milk: It Does a Body Good” campaign. First, 12-year-olds don’t worry about the condition their bones will be when they are 58 years old. And second, milk is neither the best or only source of calcium. 

But the marketing geniuses behind the campaign didn’t let a few inconvenient facts get in the way. They forged ahead, undaunted. 

Meanwhile, even though milk sales were falling, cows were being “culled” to keep prices up, and the government was buying up the milk surplus no one wanted, Monsanto in the 1990s was busy at work developing recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH)  which let dairy operations get seven to 14 additional pounds  of milk daily out of a single cow.

It wasn’t long before questions arose about the fate of an rBGH by-product called Insulin-like growth factor 1 or IGF-1 in the human body. As reported  in the New York Times, male rats developed cysts on their thyroid glands and abnormalities on their prostates. But that didn’t stop Donna Shalala, then-secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, from refusing a request by Senators to investigate whether or not the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) had overlooked rBGH safety evidence. 

Shalala even went so far as to help kick off the National Dairy Council and the National Osteoporosis Foundation's national "milk mobile" which toured 100 cities, offering free bone density screenings and a chance to be in a milk mustache ad. Shalala herself posed in a milk mustache ad.

Bone drugs a ‘bone-anza’ for Big Pharma

Big Pharma has done an even better job of instilling, in women especially, a fear of bone loss in order to sell pharmaceutical products. 

When hormone replacement therapy (HRT) proved to be a 40-year scam  (causing the very same symptoms it was supposed to prevent), Big Pharma rolled out a “thinning bones” campaign to retain the same women customers. Watch out, the drug companies told women—your bones are probably thinning and soon you will have fractures, a stooped posture and worst of all, you’ll “look old.”

Soon, just as model Lauren Hutton had sold HRT, Meredith Vieira from the Today show, former Charlie’s Angel Cheryl Ladd and actress Sally Field were selling bone drugs.

But it was the bisphosphonate class of drugs—Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel and Reclast—that proved to be the real “bone-anza” for Big Pharma. By stopping the body’s natural process of bone remodeling—in which mature bone tissue is removed from the skeleton through resorption and new bone tissue is formed—these drugs appeared to prevent osteoporosis or thinning bones. The operative word being “appeared.”

Soon after their approval, bisphosphonates were linked to serious side effects, including heart problems, intractable pain, jawbone death, esophageal cancer and the very fractures they were supposed to prevent. Many wondered why the drugs were approved. For example, if patients did not sit upright  after taking a bisphosphonate, they could end up in the ER with esophageal damage. And the disfiguring side effect of jawbone death sometimes  required a tracheostomy (an incision in the windpipe), bone grafts and even jaw removal. 

So much for staying young and pretty.

Drug companies knew, but didn’t tell

Court documents show that Merck, who made the popular bisphosphonate Fosamax, knew about jawbone death since the 1970s but marketed the drug anyway. In fact, it was dentists, not the FDA or Big Pharma who first reported the problem. In 2013, Merck agreed to pay $27.7 million for multiple Fosamax lawsuits.

In 2013, I interviewed Dr. William Banks Hinshaw,  a gynecologist and chemist in North Carolina about the emerging side effects of the popular bone drugs.  He told me:

“One hundred and fifty years ago, people who worked around white phosphorus in factories where matches were made in the U.S. and  Europe sometimes developed "phossy jaw" (osteonecrosis) and thigh bone fragility similar to bisphosphonate effects we see today. The chemical culprit is likely to have been a substance in the white phosphorus smoke that inhibits an enzyme involved in the process of bone remodeling and bisphosphonates happen to have been innocently developed as synthetic versions of that substance. I have researched this extensively, including U.S. Army reports about white phosphorus smoke which was shown to include large amounts of the same substance.”

In addition to knowing about the side effect of jawbone death for years, Big Pharma must have known about the likelihood of fractures in people taking the bone drugs too because they were well reported in medical journals. “We report atypical skeletal fragility in three subjects after long-term, combined anti-remodeling therapy,” said the authors of a 2008 Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism study.  “An Emerging Pattern Of Subtrochanteric Stress Fractures: A Long-Term Complication Of Alendronate [Fosamax] Therapy?” read the headline of an article  that appeared in Injury the same year.  And this from the Journal of Orthopedic Trauma: “Low-Energy Femoral Shaft Fractures Associated With Alendronate Use.”

How could such drugs with clear and expected dangers become bestsellers I asked Dr. Hinshaw. “The enthusiastic industrial support of the clinical trials has created a cadre of dedicated bisphosphonate supporters, convinced that the presumed benefits outweigh any possible risk,” he told me.

The "industrial supporters" were no doubt also helped by a sneaky scheme concocted by Fosamax-maker Merck. It hired the consulting firm of former drug researcher Jeremy Allen to whip up fears of osteopenia—the risk of getting osteoporosis—by placing bone density–measuring machines, machines that had barely existed until then, in medical offices across the country.

According to National Public Radio, Allen also created the faux “Bone Measurement Institute” to establish “osteopenia” as a health epidemic. He even pushed through the Bone Mass Measurement Act which transferred the cost of bone scans to onto Medicare. 

Yes, taxpayers ended up paying for scans for a largely made-up condition. All for the enrichment of Big Pharma.

Along comes an ‘unBisphosphonate’ just as bad as its predecessor 

As many Pharma watchers know, genetically engineered biologic drugs that are liquids not pills (think Humira, Remicide and Xolair) are the new pharmaceutical profit center. So when an injectable drug to treat thinning bones, the biologic Prolia, was approved in 2010, Wall Street and Pharma had high hopes.

Not only do biologics bring in as much as $20,000 per patient per year, it was hoped that Prolia would lack the serious side effects of bisphosphonates.

But two years after its approval, Prolia’s maker Amgen issued a warning that included bisphosphonates' risks and more. Prolia could cause "hypocalcemia, serious infections, suppression of bone turnover, including osteonecrosis of the jaw” as well as “atypical femoral fracture” and “dermatologic adverse events," warned Amgen. 

Clearly Prolia was the same old wine in a different "syringe."

As with bisphosphates, Prolia’s action could easily have been predicted. According to transcripts  from FDA hearings, monkeys developed tooth and jaw abscesses on the drug, and human subjects developed cervical, ovarian, pancreatic, gastric and thyroid cancers. During trials, 10 people were hospitalized with the skin infection cellulitis, and one died. 

Breast cancer, according to the transcripts, was the "most common adverse event that led to discontinuation" in trials. Breast cancer a mere “adverse event?” Tell that to the women who endured chemotherapy—and the families of those who died.

Like most of Pharma’s new biologics, Prolia compromised the immune system and invited opportunistic infections. But though FDA clinical reviewer Adrienne Rothstein, M.D. stated during hearings that Prolia "has the potential to affect multiple layers of the immune system" and that "three subjects required hospitalization for pneumonia after a single dose,” the FDA approved Prolia two months earlier than expected. 

Amgen deployed 1,000 reps to sell the drug which is still being marketed.

Ask your doctor . . . 

As anyone who follows pharmaceutical marketing knows, direct-to-consumer advertising has created blockbuster drugs through selling and redefining diseases so that more patients take more drugs for a longer time.

For example, depression was once a self-limiting condition not a ailment that requires life-long drugs and add-on drugs as it is portrayed now. And Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD, while it does exist, has been whipped up by Big Pharma as a common ailment in order to sell expensive drugs called Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) like Prilosec, Prevacid, Nexium and Protonix. Usually what passes for “GERD” is just heartburn that can be treated with TUMS or Maalox, or something as simple as eating less. 

Convincing people they have depression or GERD is not just a question of marketing expensive drugs they may not need. Both of the drugs prescribed for these conditions are highly linked to bone thinning!

“Patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) receive long-term therapy with proton pump inhibitor (PPI) agents. Several studies have recently been published suggesting that treatment with PPI may cause bone fractures,” according to a 2013 article in Rheumatology International. The FDA agreed. A review of several epidemiological studies found an “increased risk of fractures of the hip, wrist, and spine with proton pump inhibitor use,” the agency said in 2011.

The aggressively marketed antidepressants called SSRIs, including Celexa, Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft, are also linked to fractures say journal articles. SSRIs “may increase the risk of bone fractures, according to new research, reported  Medical News Today, citing an article in BMJ Injury Prevention. WebMD agreed. "SSRIs appear to increase fracture risk among middle aged women," it wrote, citing research  in the journal Injury Prevention that appeared last year.

Keeping bones strong

While osteoporosis and related bone conditions certainly exist and do sometimes require treatment, fear of “thinning bones” and “osteopenia” is largely an industry concoction to sell products. 

Evidence strongly suggests that bisphosphonates and Prolia can make bones weaker (as can GERD and depression meds)—but so can the high-saturated fat, low-fiber Western diet that Big Food pushes.  In fact, people in poorer countries where milk is not consumed often have lower fracture rates than the U.S. notes T. Colin Campbell, PhD, in The China Study, debunking the idea of "milk deficiencies."

According to an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “Elderly women with a high dietary ratio of animal to vegetable protein intake have more rapid femoral neck bone loss and a greater risk of hip fracture than do those with a low ratio.” 

The best way to avoid thinning bones, says   Consumer Reports, is to follow the advice doctors and nutritionists gave long before “milk deficiencies” were identified and bisphosphonates existed. Get busy with weight-bearing aerobic activities like walking, dancing and yoga. And eat a nutritious diet. In some cases, it may make sense to take calcium supplements, but beware—not all calcium supplements are created equal and careful attention should be paid to taking calcium and vitamin supplements in the right combination, as noted in this article on Mercola.com. More here on how calicium taken with Vitamins D and K2 provide the best balance of bone health-supporting nutrients.

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