Consumer Power

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what about the cows?

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

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

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

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

How sick are those cows? Colby writes:

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

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

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

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

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

What can consumers do?

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

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

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

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

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

Maseca Corn Flours Test Positive for Toxic Residues of Monsanto Weedkiller

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

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-10-09 16:01
October 9, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationClaudette BethuneEnvironment & Climate, Health Issues fish_1200x630.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can we act in time?

World hunger still on the rise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthy soil sequesters more carbon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthy farming means healthy profits for farmers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

False solution No. 1: fake meat 

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

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

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

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

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

Mercola says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The animals can save us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photosynthesis is key

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Immediate Release: September 25, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the complaint HERE.

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

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

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

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Fairness for Farmers—Consumers Hold the Key

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-09-25 15:14
September 25, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonFair Trade & Social Justice fruits produce colorful baskets cc 1200x630.jpg

Not all fair-trade certification labels are created equal, according to a new report by the Fair World Project (FWP). The report breaks down the various definitions of the most common fair-trade certifications, and the role verification programs play in the global fair trade movement.

“Fairness for Farmers: A Report Assessing the Fair Trade Movement and the Role of Certification,” identifies the fundamental differences between six fair trade product labels. It also emphasizes the importance of purchasing fair-trade certified products to ensure farmer fairness and to combat power imbalances often seen within global supply chains. The report states:

Small-scale farmers face many threats including land grabbing, unfair trade agreements, lack of government and technical support, low and volatile prices, uneven wealth distribution, corporate control of the food system, and climate change.

Global trade favors those already in power—businesses, governments, and the largest players at any stage of the supply chain whether large-scale farms, factory owners, or mega-corporations. In conventional supply chains, producers—the bottom of the chain—generally lack negotiating power and small-scale producers are further marginalized within the production sector since they are competing against bigger and better-resourced producers.

Fair trade, a concept that first began in the U.S. and dates back to the mid-1900s, aims to shift the balance of power in supply chains by empowering small-scale farmers and producers and connecting them to markets that support consumer demand for ethically produced products.

In an effort to learn more about how consumers can support small-scale farmers, we caught up with Anna Canning, the communications manager for FWP. She answered the following questions for us via email.

Why is it important for consumers to choose fair-trade certified products?

Fair trade supports small-scale farmers, empowering them, giving them the means to invest in their communities, and in their farms. For people who care about organic food, I’d say it’s extra important to choose fair trade. Fifty-six percent of fair trade farmers are also certified organic, and fair trade prices include an extra premium to support the additional work that goes into organic production.

You can think about fair trade as a way to make sure farmers are paid more to farm in a way that protects the environment. So many people think that fair trade is just a fair price for products. A fair price is important, but fair trade standards also include prohibitions against genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and guidelines for empowering women, preventing child labor and fostering democratic institutions.

Fair trade offers a model for companies who want to treat the people who grow, produce and process the food they sell as business partners.

What are the most important factors for consumers to consider when researching fair-trade certifications and standards?

I think it’s really important to look for certifications (and companies) that prioritize small-scale farmers. That means including them in defining and implementing what “fair” means for them—it’s a simple concept that we would want applied to our own work, but one that is too often forgotten in this context.

We know that around the world (and here in the U.S. too), small-scale farmers are often marginalized. They lack support. But small-scale farmers are the ones stewarding the land and using the kinds of regenerative, organic farming techniques that we know hold so much promise for the future of farming and feeding the world.

Fair World Project’s “Fairness for Farmers” report found major differences in the standards of the six fair-trade product labels. Can you tell us what some of those differences are and why they’re significant to consumers?

Some of the biggest differences we found include: 

- Requirements for democratic structures (including cooperatives and other farmer-led associations)

- Prioritization of most marginalized producers

- Policies to prevent “fairwashing,” such as use of the label by companies with active human rights abuses

- Involvement of intended beneficiaries in defining what constitutes “fair” and setting minimum prices—as well as what those prices are

These points might sound like academic distinctions, but they’re a big deal. This is the difference in who holds power in the food system—do we want a food system that’s run by and for corporate profits? Or do we want one where those of us who buy our food are choosing to act in solidarity with the people who grew it, even if they’re thousands of miles away?

What’s the single biggest take-away from the “Fairness for Farmers” report?

For me, the single biggest take-away from all that went into this report is this: We need to do more.

Seventy-two percent of coffee that’s grown by fair-trade certified farmers can’t find a fair trade buyer. For cocoa farmers, that’s 67 percent. Coffee and cocoa are two of the most widely available, well-known fair-trade products. That means there is plenty of supply available, and there are plenty of amazing, committed fair trade companies who sell those products.

So, for me, the takeaway is that we need to do more.

I would challenge consumers to tackle a few of these things:

- Buying fair trade wherever you can, of course, and encouraging your friends to do the same.

- Write a comment card if you’re at the grocery store and encourage them to drop unfair products and choose only fair trade.

- Look around at your school, workplace, church, etc., and see where you can get them to buy more fair trade.

- Support campaigns like the Campaign for Real Meals, which challenges some of the biggest food service companies to support fair trade and shift the balance of power in the food system.

Our fact sheet that goes with the report helps sum up why fair trade is so important, in a quick, digestible format that’s easy to share with all those new people that you might be telling about fair trade! Find it here.

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

Tell Congress: Stop Monsanto’s Toxic Tricks!

Organic consumers - Mon, 2018-09-24 15:44
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic EngineeringArea: USA

Would you like your local government to ban Monsanto’s carcinogenic Roundup herbicide?

Your local government has had that power since 1991, when the Supreme Court ruled that the Federal law regulating the manufacture, sale and use of pesticides permitted local governments to impose more stringent regulations of their own.

Ever since, Monsanto has been pressuring Congress to strip local governments of that right.

Monsanto wants Congress to strip your community of the right to ban toxic pesticides.

Only Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, Utah and Vermont still let local governments regulate pesticides. But that’s seven states too many for Monsanto. Plus, the Biotech Bully is worried that number could grow if more states were to pass laws restoring local control over pesticides.

That’s why getting Congress to include Monsanto’s toxic trick in the Farm Bill is so important to Monsanto.

We have to fight back!

Contact your Congress members. Let them know that legislation that takes away local rights to regulate pesticides is undemocratic and dangerous!

TAKE ACTION: Tell your U.S. Senators and Representative to get Monsanto’s toxic tricks out of the Farm Bill. Protect local rights to ban dangerous pesticides!Read more

'Yes, that's as nasty as it sounds.'

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-09-20 16:32
September 20, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsEnvironment & Climate, Genetic Engineering florence_2_1200x600.jpg

I’ve been following the news about Hurricane Florence, and its tragic consequences for the people of North Carolina—the destruction of their lives, homes and land.

If you’ve been tracking the situation, too, you’ve seen the gruesome photos and headlines about the millions of chickens, turkeys and hogs left to drown on North Carolina’s factory farms. 

You’ve also read reports of what it means when huge lagoons full of pig manure—disgusting enough when intact—overflow.

The word “Monsanto” probably wasn’t the first word to pop into your head as you read these grim headlines. 

But let’s not forget: Monsanto’s GMO crops and toxic weedkillers are the linchpin of our horrendous industrial factory farm system.

And that won’t change, unless we all work to make it change.

We are still short of our fall fundraising goal. Can you pitch in with a donation by midnight, September 22, to help us keep up the pressure on Monsanto and factory farms? You can donate online, by phone or by mail—details here.

Read More

Could Farms Like This Change the World?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a Facebook video Keith said:

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

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

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

— Avaaz (@Avaaz) September 6, 2018

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

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

— Oscar Soria (@OscarHSoria) September 6, 2018

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

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

— Jeanine DuBois (@jrd1776) September 7, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Have the Right to the Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And you have the right to the truth.

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

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

But our success will depend on what we do next.

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

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

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

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

We can do this. Please help us.

Read More

Raw Milk: It's Time for Congress to Act

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Help us write the ending to this story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The plan involves keeping up relentless pressure on Monsanto. 

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

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

It involves campaigns targeting school boards and city councils.

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

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

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

Thank you.

 

 

 

  Ronnie Cummins
  International Director


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OCA: How can people see your film?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Bayer the worst is yet to come.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some of the worst examples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#MonsantoTrial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Total desertion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ignorance and exploitation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big tobacco dominstes the industry

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

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

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

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

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

Poison is a recurrent word in Argentina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'They have the money and we have the illness'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A David vs. Goliath battle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cordoba, the realm of the transgenic soybean

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making progress

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biotech companies are gaining power by taking over the government

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

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

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

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

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

Don't be duped by industry shills!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We call it the “Myth of Natural.” 

This week, we settled a lawsuit with General Mills.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why pursue these lawsuits?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We offer this example: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No action has been taken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted with permission from Environmental Health News.

#MonsantoTrialSource Author 2: Nathan Donley

4 Must-See Videos on Huge Win in #MonsantoTrial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Judge Suzanne Ramos Bolanos reads the verdict

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

Watch here as Bolanos reads the verdict:

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

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

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

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

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

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

She explains that:

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

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

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

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

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

Kresge says:

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

Watch here:

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

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