Consumer Power

Antibiotics Are Losing Their Effectiveness. The Pork Industry Knows Why

Organic consumers - Fri, 2020-01-17 18:30
January 17, 2020Organic Consumers AssociationEnvironment & Climate, CAFOs vs. Free Range, Health Issues pigs_hogs_fence_black_cafo_1200x630.jpg

You probably don’t give antibiotics much thought—until you need them. But what happens if you need them, and they don’t work?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says antibiotic-resistant bacteria and fungi cause more than 2.8 million infections and 35,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. On average, someone in the U.S. gets an antibiotic-resistant infection every 11 seconds. And every 15 minutes someone dies.

One of the big reasons infections have grown resistant to antibiotics? Industrial factory farms—which use nearly 12 million pounds of medically important antibiotics every year to stave off diseases caused by filthy, crowded conditions, and (though they don’t like to admit it), to make animals grow faster.

Interviews conducted by CBS 60 Minutes reveal just how far the industrial pork industry, dominated by a handful of multinational corporations, will go to keep researchers and safety inspectors from learning the full extent to which the industry is jeopardizing public health—all while pretending to protect farmers.

The segment also revealed how every package of pork brought into a consumer’s kitchen contains antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Dr. Lance Price, a microbiologist at George Washington University and a leading expert in drug-resistant bacteria, told 60 Minutes:

“. . . these bacteria, we consume them with the meat. Those bacteria then get into our system and they cause infections. Then, the infections, because they're already resistant to antibiotics, the doctors don't have any antibiotics to treat those infections.”

Sure, you may be able to cook the pathogens out of the pork, Price said. But:

“The problem is that when you bring that package into your house you're bringing a package, a raw package of meat. When you open that up, you have now just potentially released bacteria pathogens, potentially drug-resistant pathogens, into your kitchen.”

Dont want antibiotic-resistant bugs in your meat or kitchen? Stick with organic pasture-raised pork from farmers who produce meat responsibly.

Read and watch: ‘Is Overuse of Antibiotics on Farms Worsening the Spread of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria?’

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress: Healthy Farm Animals Shouldn’t Get Antibiotics that Sick People Need

To keep up with news and alerts from Organic Consumers Association, sign up for our newsletter.

Ben & Jerry's Will Stop Claiming Their Products Are Made with Milk from 'Happy Cows'

Organic consumers - Fri, 2020-01-17 18:23
January 17, 2020Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulFood Safety bj_mural_1200x630.jpg

Ben & Jerry’s will no longer state on its packaging that the milk and cream used in its ice cream comes from “happy cows.”

That’s (a little) good news for consumers who have been misled for years into thinking that all of the milk and cream in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream comes from dairy farms where cows contentedly frolic outdoors. It doesn’t. In fact, Ben & Jerry's uses milk from conventional, industrial factory farm-style farms.

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream packaging will continue to use the brand’s cartoon image of a cow—depicted outdoors, on a green pasture, under a big blue sky. According to the lawyers representing Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Unilever, the cows “did not look happy to begin with.”

We’ll let you be the judge of whether or not Ben & Jerry’s cartoon cows look “happy.” But to be clear—no matter how much fun the media is having with this happy cow narrative—Ben & Jerry’s deceptive marketing tactics are serious business.

A little history: OCA sued Ben & Jerry’s in July 2018 for the deceptive labeling, marketing and sale of its ice cream. We alleged that, contrary to Ben & Jerry’s representations of humane sourcing and environmental responsibility, the ingredients are sourced from typical factory farms and some of the products contain traces of glyphosate, an environmentally harmful biocide and the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup® weedkiller.

In January 2019, the District of Columbia Superior Court rejected Ben & Jerry’s motion to dismiss OCA’s lawsuit, brought under the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA).

In October 2019, a class action lawsuit alleging similar claims was filed in the U.S. District Court in Vermont. 

Then, in a motion to dismiss the Vermont lawsuit, filed earlier this week, Ben & Jerry’s revealed publicly that it is removing the “happy cows” statement from its packaging.

That’s a pretty good indication that the ice cream maker can’t back up its “happy cows” claims. But, as we allege in our lawsuit, the company—long accused of making “sustainability” claims while contributing to Vermont’s massive water pollution problem—can’t back up a lot of other claims, either.

Why does it matter? We explained that back when we first sued the brand. And we’re committed to seeing this lawsuit through to a satisfactory end.

Read OCA’s press release

Read Vermont Public Radio’s coverage: ‘How Now Unhappy Cow? Ben & Jerry’s Drops Claims of Contented Bovines

Read Food Navigator’s coverage: ‘Ben & Jerry’s Hits Back at Lawsuit. We Never Said *All* of Our Milk Came from Happy Cows’

SIGN THE PETITION: Tell Ben & Jerry’s: Roundup Ready Ice Cream Isn’t Socially Responsible. Go Organic!

Make a tax-deductible contribution to our End Factory Farms campaign

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

Ben & Jerry's Stops Calling Cows 'Happy' After Being Sued for False Advertising

Organic consumers - Thu, 2020-01-16 18:41
All About OrganicsOrganic Consumers AssociationJanuary 16, 2020 bj_1200x630.jpg

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 16, 2020

CONTACT: Katherine Paul, Organic Consumers Association, (207) 653-3090, katherine@organicconsumers.org

FINLAND, Minn. – Organic Consumers Association (OCA) today issued the following statement upon learning that Ben & Jerry’s will no longer claim on product packaging that its ice cream comes from “happy cows”:

"The removal of misleading ‘happy cow’ claims is a victory for consumers and an indication that Ben & Jerry’s can’t back up those claims,” said OCA International Director Ronnie Cummins. “But this is just one small step toward more honest representation of the Ben & Jerry’s brand. OCA will continue, through our own ongoing litigation against Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company, Unilever, to push for Ben & Jerry’s either to live up to its remaining marketing claims, or to remove all claims that have no basis in fact.”

OCA sued Ben & Jerry’s in July 2018 for the deceptive labeling, marketing, and sale of its ice cream. OCA alleges that, contrary to Ben & Jerry’s representations of humane sourcing and environmental responsibility, the ingredients are sourced from typical factory farms and some of the products contain traces of glyphosate, an environmentally harmful biocide and the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup® weedkiller.

In January 2019, the District of Columbia Superior Court rejected Ben & Jerry’s motion to dismiss OCA’s lawsuit, brought under the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA). OCA is represented by Richman Law Group.

In October 2019, a class action lawsuit alleging similar claims was filed in the U.S. District Court in Vermont. In a motion to dismiss the Vermont lawsuit filed earlier this week, Ben & Jerry’s revealed publicly that it is removing the “happy cows” statement from its packaging.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit grassroots organization advocating on behalf of millions of consumers for safe, healthful food and a clean environment. Visit: https://www.organicconsumers.org/

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Save the Planet—by Destroying Farming?

Organic consumers - Thu, 2020-01-16 15:56
January 16, 2020Organic Consumers AssociationPat ThomasFarm Issues lab_grown_meat_petri_dish_1200x630.jpg

In a hall filled to the rafters with agroecological and regenerative farmers, a man approaches the podium.

Most already know what he’s going to say, but they’ve come to listen anyway—only half believing that what they’ve seen and heard about his assault on farming and farmers could be accurate.

George Monbiot is a journalist and author specializing in environmental issues. His work is read all over the world. You could be forgiven for thinking that he might be on the side of agroecological farming. But increasingly he isn’t. And if there was ever any doubt of this, Monbiot’s performance at the UK’s prestigious Oxford Real Farming Conference, following the debut of his TV documentary, “Apocalypse Cow,” was enough to remove any last shred of that doubt.

In his documentary, Monbiot claims livestock are killing the planet. Cows are simply “carbon-releasing machines” that take up far too much land that could otherwise be “rewilded” to conserve nature, promote carbon storage and become a home to long absent apex predators like wolves.

The prepublicity for his TV program promised a “radical takedown of food farming.”

It was more fantastical than radical. And it was certainly contentious.

In place of farm animals, Monbiot wants us to eat lab-grown meat and “vat-etarian” food powders produced by specialized bacteria brewed up in giant vats.

We can still have fruits and vegetables he says. They could even be organic. But he doesn’t really address the complex realities of scale, yield and market value in low-input/low- yielding systems versus high-input/high-yielding ones.

Nor does he take an ethical stand on high-input monocultures like cereals, which are the bigger staples of “plant-based” diets.

There wasn’t much mention of health, either. But that’s par for the course in the techno-food world.

Doing his ‘duty’ for the planet

But back to Oxford.

The farmers at the conference were respectful and reasonably attentive as Monbiot harangued them. They listened as he told them that they had all the foresight of typewriter manufacturers in the 1970s. They listened as he diminished the contribution of agroecological livestock farming to a more sustainable world.

Eventually a few boos broke out—and later still he was roundly criticized by the farming press.

The wonder was that he wasn’t chased down the street by an angry mob with pitchforks.

His fellow panelist, farmer Richard Young of the Sustainable Food Trust accused him cherry picking the evidence to support his case. In particular, said Young, Monbiot over-estimated the carbon impact of eating beef compared to flying, and underestimated the positive nutritional contribution of lamb. Young’s full arguments refuting Monbiot’s claims can be found here.

To thunderous applause, another fellow panelist, author and award-winning food writer Joanna Blythman, demanded Monbiot apologize to everyone in the room for implying that he was the only one who cared about climate change.

The next day he tweeted in a disingenuous way: “As expected I was booed to the rafters at the #ORFC2020 (Oxford Real Farming Conference). But I felt it was my duty to turn up and explain what I believe climate breakdown will do to farming and why #farmfree foods are likely to be essential.”

Destroying farming

I’ve been mostly supportive of Monbiot over the years. His provocateur style can be effective and his work on corporate control and dark money is usually revealing.

But in recent years, as he’s turned his attention to food and farming, he has, for me, become less convincing.

In truth, Monbiot has a history of grasping at techno solutions when the issues get complex. In 2011, he penned a comment entitled “Why Fukushima Made Me Stop Worrying and Love Nuclear Power” in which he announced his support for nuclear as a clean, green energy.

In 2016, he was still saying “Nuclear power – yes please.”  

Monbiot’s vegan journey has been a little less straightforward. In 2002, he claimed that veganism was the only ethical solution to the social injustice of not having enough food for all. But in 2010, after reading the excellent book, “Meat – A Benign Extravagance,” by Simon Fairlie, editor of the Land Magazine, he proclaimed “I was wrong about veganism.”

In 2016, he swung back the other way, explaining that he’d converted to veganism to reduce his personal impact on the world, a view he restated in 2018.

Now, in 2020, he wants us to know that lab-grown meat will save the planet by destroying farming.

Complex motives?

It all makes good copy, and Monbiot is a passionate writer and speaker. But how seriously should we take this?

On the one hand “Apocalypse Cow” was a very personal criticism of animal foods and animal agriculture. On the other it was a substantial promotion for the concept of rewilding—and it’s worth noting that Monbiot, in addition to being a vegan, is also involved with several rewilding projects in the UK.

Indeed at the end of the film Monbiot agrees to cull a deer in the interest of saving the biodiversity of the Scottish Highlands. He weeps copiously after the kill and then says he hopes that one day reintroduced wolves will do the job for him.

The UK’s Channel 4, which aired the program, also has an interest to promote. The company has recently made a seven-figure investment in a vegan brand called the Meatless Farm Company.

So was “Apocalypse Cow”—and the new reality series that preceded it, “Meat the Family” (where families are given farm animals as pets and then challenged to slaughter and eat them)—legitimate programming? Or advertising?

Food as software

Many have responded to Monbiot by trying to marshal a bunch of “killer” facts to prove him wrong. My advice is aim higher.

A more constructive activity would be to try and understand the landscape from which his claims have emerged, and who else is paying attention to them, and challenge that instead.

The bigger context is important here. We exist in world of aggressive tech start-ups and prophesying tech think-tanks like RethinkX, whose recent report, “Rethinking Food and Agriculture 2020-2030 – The Second Domestication of Plants and Animals, the Disruption of the Cow, and the Collapse of Industrial Livestock Farming,” suggests that new technology and a radical new business model that envisions “food-as-software” are driving the most consequential disruption of food and agriculture in 10,000 years.

By 2030, according to the report, the dairy and cattle industries will have collapsed. Meat and dairy will be replaced by the products of “precision fermentation” which will produce higher-quality protein cheaply and efficiently. The rest of the livestock industry, it said, will eventually suffer a similar fate.  

By increasing farming’s focus on efficiency and profitability, the farmer, as the least profitable part of the chain, could probably be cut out of the equation. Instead of farmers, modern food production will be overseen by “fermentation farmers, bioengineers, protein engineers, metabolic engineers, cell biologists, computer scientists, IT workers, food scientists and designers, nutritionists, and other similar professions”

The notions advanced by “Apocalypse Cow” build on this, suggesting that we can and should remove livestock from agriculture, disconnect food/meat production from the soil and even decouple food production from agriculture altogether.

This kind of food production is also sometimes called the “dark food chain” because it does not rely on sunlight/photosynthesis.

Food from thin air

Such ideas come straight out the playbook of a number of tech companies. They feature prominently, for example, in the promotional pitch for Solar, a Finnish tech company that wants us to be “free from agriculture,” and in the program, Monbiot travels to Finland to sample Solar’s as yet unlicensed novel food, Solein, for himself.

Solar is not the only “food from air” company. Air Protein is another. Calysta is yet another. Each uses the same basic technology to create a highly processed all-purpose high-protein powder. The starting material is a type of bacteria that feeds mostly off gases like hydrogen, methane and CO2 and then poops out a substance that contains fat, carbohydrates and protein intended for human and animal consumption.

Far from being “new,” the technology was first described by NASA in the 1960s—which prompts the question: if it works so well why hasn’t it been further developed before now?

Is there something in this technology? Maybe, maybe not. Important questions about lifecycle analyses are only just beginning to be asked because, as ever, vagueness about the process is key to a good story.

The massive energy use needed to split water into its hydrogen and oxygen components is rarely mentioned (in fact, at the moment most of the world’s hydrogen comes from fossil fuels). Many other questions about this process remain unanswered. What becomes of the (highly flammable) oxygen gas that is a by-product of the process? What about the use of water for making and processing the final product? And the crop-based feedstocks needed for the bacteria? And the issue of waste removal?

It’s not clear if the organisms being used by any of these companies are the products of synthetic biology, which is just another form of genetic engineering. But it is a fair bet that if it they aren’t now eventually they will be—in the name of improved efficiency. Novel genetically engineered bacteria could bring their own risks should they ever escape the confines of the factory.

In addition, there isn’t any realistic assessment of just how large these factories and their support systems need to be nor how many we would need to produce enough to “feed the world.”

Monbiot claims that the land-efficiency of food from air is 20,000 times greater than for livestock. But it turns out that figure only applies to the land needed for the factories. If the process were powered by solar farms, for example, it would be only 10 times more land efficient than farming soya.

It should be noted also that while very early experiments showed that rats did not seem to suffer from consuming bacterial proteins, humans did not react well. Gastrointestinal upsets, headaches, weakness and skin rash were linked to eating protein derived from hydrogen-munching Hydrogenomonas eutropha.

A more recent 28-day feeding study with rats using the same bacterial protein (now called Cupriavidus necator H16) suggested poor growth, kidney stones and changes in blood biochemistry. As with all novel foods, a month-long feeding trial is not enough to draw sensible conclusions but it is, arguably, enough to suggest more information is needed.

Living ecology vs sterile technology

The assumptions, the knowledge gaps, the “what if’s” and the “yes, buts” are endless and yet if agroecological farmers want to know what is stopping greater interest and investment in their own work they need look no further than the claims companies like these make.

Governments find it difficult to square their promises of vast economic growth with their promises of sustainability and new “green deals.” Techno-food is seen by many as a way to do both since it capitalizes on the international marketplace known as the “knowledge economy” while producing something approximating food at the end of the process.

We can look at these grim techno-visions and tell ourselves they aren’t real—they certainly have an aura of unreality about them. But these reductionist scenarios are attractive to citizens, businesses, politicians and policymakers who yearn for simple solutions. They have and are gaining some prominence, because the role of food and farming in a sustainable world is harder to pin down, more complex and less black and white than ever before.

A desire for easy answers is also being energized by a global panic about how much time we do or don’t have left to deal with climate collapse and declining finite resources.

Monbiot’s “vision” has been criticized as a 1% solution, great for businesses if they can pull it off, but less great for the majority who want food that comes from living ecology rather than sterile technology.

In reality, it’s unlikely that these food disrupters will be up and running and making a substantial contribution to sustainability and food security within the next 10 years—a timeframe that apocalypse boosters like Monbiot say is crucial for implementing change.

Contrast this with the principles of agroecological and regenerative farming which can be applied right now, and are being applied right now, to make a difference. These are the most practical and effective examples of low-carbon, environmentally friendly, soil-supporting, nutrition-boosting, health- and welfare-promoting farming we have.

Our priorities should be investing in and multiplying these options to feed the human population instead of feeding our too-often misguided neophilia.

Pat Thomas is a journalist, author and campaigner specializing in food, environment and health. See more on her website. To keep up with Organic Consumers Association (OCA) news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

Anticipation Builds For Settlement of Roundup Cancer Claims

Organic consumers - Wed, 2020-01-15 19:31
January 14, 2020U.S. Right to KnowCarey GillamGenetic Engineering, Health Issues rounduphd1200x630.png

Anticipation is building around the belief that there could soon be an announcement of at least a partial settlement of U.S. lawsuits pitting thousands of U.S. cancer patients against Monsanto Co. over allegations the company hid the health risks of its Roundup herbicides.

Investors in Bayer AG, the German company that bought Monsanto in 2018,  are keeping a close eye on the status of three trials currently still on the docket to get underway this month. Six trials were initially set to take place in January, but three have recently been “postponed.” Sources say the postponements are part of the process of obtaining an overall settlement with several plaintiffs’ attorneys who have large numbers of cases pending.

The three trials still on the docket for this month are as follows: Caballero v. Monsanto, set to start Jan. 17 in Contra Costa Superior Court in California; Wade v. Monsanto, set to start Jan. 21 in St. Louis City Circuit Court in Missouri; and Cotton v. Monsanto, scheduled for Jan. 24 in Riverside Superior Court in California.

A hearing scheduled for today in the Caballero case was called off, but another hearing is set for Thursday before the trial gets underway Friday, according to court filings. Possibly underscoring the fluidity of the situation, at least one of the key witnesses expected to testify in the case has been told he will not likely be needed, according to a source close to the litigation.

In St. Louis, Monsanto’s former hometown, the court calendar calls for the Wade trial to get underway in front of Judge Elizabeth Byrne Hogan a week from today, said court spokesman Thom Gross.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Mike Miller, who represents plaintiff Kathleen Caballero as well as multiple plaintiffs in the Wade trial, said he was looking forward to the trials for these “victims of Monsanto’s deceit.” Miller said rumors that his trials would be postponed are false and he fully intends for the trials to go forward.

Miller and other attorneys involved in the litigation have declined to answer questions about a potential settlement.

But analysts who follow Bayer say that settlement discussions are looking at a potential deal for $8 billion to settle current cases with $2 billion set aside for future needs.

After losing three out of three trials and facing thousands of claims by cancer victims who allege their diseases were caused by exposure to Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicides, Monsanto’s German owner Bayer AG has been working for months to avoid any additional trials. Bayer was successful in delaying several trials slated for late 2019 and the three that were planned for January before being postponed. Two of those cases involved children stricken with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and the third was brought by a woman suffering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

There are many complicating factors hindering resolution of the litigation, including the fact that plaintiffs’ attorneys with no connection to the plaintiffs’ leadership team continue to advertise for new clients to add to the pool, thus potentially thinning the payouts for plaintiffs who have been awaiting their day in court for years.

In working toward a settlement Bayer is hoping to appease investors unhappy with the mass tort liability Bayer took on in acquiring Monsanto, and hopes to avoid more publicity surrounding damning evidence that was introduced during the previous trials indicating that Monsanto knew of the cancer risks of its weed killing products but failed to warn consumers. The revelations have triggered outrage around the world and prompted moves to ban the glyphosate-based herbicides.

Earlier this month the town of Dennis, Massachusetts announced it will no longer allow use of the herbicide glyphosate on town-owned property. It is one of a number of communities in the Cape Cod area that have recently said they will restrict or ban glyphosate herbicides use. Numerous other cities and school districts around the United States have said they are looking at, or have already decided to,  ban or restrict the use of glyphosate-based herbicides.

Internationally, Vietnam and Austria have said they will ban glyphosate while Germany has said it will ban the chemical by 2023. French leaders also have said they are banning glyphosate-based herbicides.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sided with Monsanto and Bayer in saying there is no evidence to support claims that glyphosate-based herbicides can cause cancer.

Posted with permission from U.S. Right to Know.

IOWA: Join us for the Stop Factory Farms Lobby Day!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2020-01-15 16:58
January 15, 2020Organic Consumers AssociationPatrick KerriganEnvironment & Climate, CAFOs vs. Free Range pig_hog_cafo_cage_1200x630.jpg

What: 2020 Stop Factory Farms Lobby Day
When: Thursday, January 23, 2020, 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Where: Wallace Building Auditorium, 502 E. 9th Street, Des Moines (Across the street from the Iowa State Capitol - 1007 E. Grand Avenue, Des Moines) 

Factory farms are a threat to Iowans. We get the pollution, our farmers get the risk, and our quality of life takes a dive—all while corporate ag rakes in massive profits.

With an average of 500 additional factory farms being built in Iowa each year, we need to act fast to protect our environment, our communities and our climate.

TAKE ACTION: Join the Stop Factory Farms Lobby Day. RSVP here.

Learn more about the event, hosted by the Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture and view a detailed schedule of the day here.

Iowa’s status as the top pork producer—and the first state to vote in the presidential primaries— used to mean presidential candidates avoided saying anything that might offend pig farmers.

But not this election. 

With the latest survey showing that 63 percent of Iowans support a factory farm moratorium, Democratic presidential contenders, including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have signed the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement’s letter calling for a moratorium on new and expanded factory farms in Iowa.

State lawmakers listen when their constituents show up in numbers. Let’s turn out in force on January 23 to stand up for clean water, clean air, public health, and environmental justice. 

Hope to see you there!

TAKE ACTION: Join the Stop Factory Farms Lobby Day. RSVP here.

View the Facebook Event Here

Dirt Matters. Here's How to Help Spread the Word!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2020-01-14 14:55
January 14, 2020Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulEnvironment & Climate soil_hands_farmer_flannel_1200x630.jpg

Dirt matters. 

So says a growing body of scientific evidence pointing to the link between healthy soil, healthy humans and a healthy ecosystem.

According to a recent article in Force of Nature:

The complexity of the soil microbiome, and the way it affects the health of all other creatures in the ecosystem and the food chain, is simply stunning.

The authors of the article argue that though “the health of most of the planet’s soil is currently in dire straits,” there’s an obvious solution:

Only by changing our agricultural system, by reverting to a system in which all organisms in an ecosystem—a diversity of plants, animals, insects, and microorganisms—are recognized as crucial to the survival of the ecosystem, can we ensure that our soil, crops, animals, and even our digestive health, will thrive.

Want to be part of the growing movement to advocate for healthy soils? Sign up for this Kiss the Ground Soil Advocate Training. (Get a 20-percent discount when you use this code: REGEN2020).

We’ve partnered with Kiss the Ground to offer a 7-week training program to empower activists, students, farmers, business owners and concerned citizens to spread awareness about the potential of regenerative agriculture to rebuild soil, replenish water cycles, reverse global warming and improve human health worldwide.

The first training program starts Wednesday, January 22. Here’s what you’ll get:

• A 7-week program to jumpstart your advocacy for regenerative agriculture

• Ability to speak on healthy soil as a solution for global warming, flooding, drought, human health, food security, freshwater availability, farmer prosperity, and extinction/biodiversity loss.

• Increased ability to confidently speak and present in public

• A customizable slide deck to edit and organize for your talks long or short

• A community of like-minded and inspired activists from all over the world

• Monthly "All Advocate" webinars

• Never ending access to videos of your course's lectures + exercises + and links

• Never ending access to Kiss the Ground's Leadership Hub

As individuals, we sometimes think problems like industrial ag lobbying, climate change, the worldwide degradation of Earth’s soils are too big for one person to be able to have an impact.

But every successful movement starts with awareness. And awareness spreads from people like you advocating for a cause. 

Since January 2018, Kiss the Ground has trained more than 1,800 Soil Advocates, from 25 countries. These “good soil ambassadors” are now actively sharing and implementing the solution to some of the biggest problems facing our planet today, including global warming, droughts, flooding, food insecurity and the impact of nutrient-poor food on public health.

They’re making a difference. And so can you.

Sign up today for the Kiss the Ground Soil Advocate Training. (Get a 20-percent discount when you use this code: REGEN2020).

Healthy soils and regenerative agriculture rank at the top of the list of the most important solutions of our time. Please help us build a bigger movement!

St. Louis Monsanto Roundup Trial Postponed, Bayer Stock Climbs

Organic consumers - Wed, 2020-01-08 21:17
January 8, 2020U.S. Right to KnowCarey GillamGenetic Engineering roundup_bottles_mike_mozart_1200x630.jpg

A highly anticipated Roundup cancer trial set to start later this month in the St. Louis area has been pulled from the docket, a court official said on Wednesday.

The trial, which was to pit a woman named Sharlean Gordon against Roundup maker Monsanto Co., was to start Jan. 27 in St. Louis County and was to be broadcast to the public. Notably, Gordon’s lawyers planned to put former Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant on the stand. St. Louis was the home of Monsanto’s corporate headquarters until the company was purchased by Bayer AG of Germany in June of 2018.

In taking the trial off the calendar, the judge in the case has ordered that a status conference be set for a month from now, said St. Louis County Court spokeswoman Christine Bertelson.

The Gordon trial was already postponed once – it originally was scheduled for August. It is one of several trials that have been postponed in the last several months as Bayer attempts to find a settlement to the mass of claims filed against Monsanto by people stricken with non-Hodgkin lymphoma they claim was caused by exposure to Monsanto Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides. Bayer officials have said that Monsanto is facing more than 42,700 plaintiffs in the United States.

Gordon developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma after using Roundup herbicides for 25 years at her residence in South Pekin, Illinois, and has suffered extensive debilitation due to her disease. Gordon’s stepfather, who also used Roundup at the family home, died of cancer.  The case is actually derived from a larger case filed in July 2017 on behalf of more than 75 plaintiffs. Gordon was to be the first of that group to go to trial.

Monsanto and Bayer have denied that Monsanto’s herbicides can cause cancer, and assert the litigation is without merit but is being fueled by greedy plaintiffs’ attorneys.

According to sources close to the litigation, discussions are underway to postpone more Roundup cancer trials, possibly including one set to start January 21 in St. Louis City Court. Attorneys for Monsanto and for the plaintiffs in the upcoming January trials declined to comment.

Shares in Bayer hit a 52-week high and were up close to 3 percent Wednesday. Investors have been pushing the company to find a way to avoid future trials and to settle the litigation.

In the three Roundup cancer trials held so far, unanimous juries have found that exposure to Monsanto’s herbicides does cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma and that the company covered up the risks and failed to warn consumers. The three juries awarded a total of four plaintiffs more than $2 billion in damages, but the trial judges in each case have reduced the awards significantly.

No damages have yet been paid as Monsanto appeals the verdicts.

Bayer’s annual shareholders’ meeting is set for April 28 and analysts said investors would like to see either a settlement of the litigation by that time, or at least meaningful progress in containing the liability. Bayer’s stock took a dive, losing billions of dollars in value, after the first jury verdict in August 2018, and share prices remain depressed.

Posted with permission from U.S. Right to Know.

Take Action to Ban Factory Farms! Tell Congress to Pass the Farm System Reform Act of 2019.

Organic consumers - Wed, 2020-01-08 19:29
Belong to campaign: Cook Organic Not the PlanetCategory: Environment & Climate, CAFOs vs. Free RangeArea: USA

What do you think? Should meat come from animals raised on family farms by independent farmers who meet high standards for environmental sustainability, workers’ rights and animal welfare? 

Or on cruel and polluting factory farms controlled by multinational meat companies? 

TAKE ACTION to ban factory farms! Tell Congress to pass the Farm System Reform Act of 2019.Read more

Brave New World: What You Need to Know About Gene-Edited Farm Animals

Organic consumers - Wed, 2020-01-08 18:02
January 8, 2020Organic Consumers AssociationPat ThomasFarm Issues, Genetic Engineering hog_pig_farm_black_brown_1200x630.jpg

For decades, the biotech industry has spun a narrative around genetically engineered crops that could be summed up very simply as “jam tomorrow, instead of bread and butter today.”

Sustained—and financed—largely on the promise of spectacular success at some unidentified point in the future, the research and development of new types of GMO foods, made with a whole host of new genetic engineering technologies, has gathered pace in recent years.

These days, without most people being aware of it, genetic engineering is spreading from the crops in the field to the animals in the barn.

Using new genome editing (sometimes referred to as “gene editing”) techniques like CRISPR, biotech breeders are proposing to breed a brave new world of farm animals that don’t get sick, don’t feel pain and produce more meat, milk and eggs at a lower cost than ever before.

Not many NGOs are currently working on this issue and it can be hard to find good information to help make sense of it all. But two recent reports provide in-depth information on the mechanics as well as the ethical issues around gene-edited farm animals.

One, from Friends of the Earth, entitled “Genetically Engineered Animals: From Lab to Factory Farm,” is an extensively referenced report that provides key background information and highlights the urgent need for safety assessments of genome-edited animals.

The other, “Gene-edited Animals in Agriculture,” is a report from a day-long roundtable in June 2019, co-hosted by my organization, Beyond GM, and Compassion in World Farming in the UK. The roundtable involved individuals representing a wide range of perspectives. What emerged was a fascinating glimpse into not only the technology, but also the ethics and values systems that underpin that technology.

If you are new to the subject of genetically engineering farm animals for food, if it concerns you or if you just want to know more in order to be an informed consumer, these two reports provide an important starting point.

What are gene-edited animals?

Gene editing is a type of genetic engineering. It is used as an umbrella term for a suite of new technologies, of which CRISPR is the most well-known.

With gene editing, as with older genetic engineering techniques, the organism’s genetic material is changed directly and artificially, by humans using laboratory techniques. This means that gene editing, like other forms of genetic engineering, produces GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

Currently, research priorities for gene-edited animas focus largely on a few high-value animals. Pigs are the priority farm animal, followed by cattle and poultry. Genome-edited fish—particularly salmon and tilapia—are also being developed.

How is gene editing being used on farm animals?

Much of the current research and development is focused on health problems in farm animals raised in intensive, industrial systems. Genome editing has been proposed as a way to protect animals from disease by altering their immune response to diseases like PRRS (Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome) and ASFv (African Swine Fever) in pigs and ISA (Infectious Salmon Anemia, or “salmon flu”) in farmed salmon.

Researchers are also looking at creating animals with desirable commercial attributes, such as the ability to produce more muscle mass (meat) while consuming less feed.

They are also looking for ways to adapt animals to their environments, such as cattle with “slick” coats that protect them from extreme heat.

These problems targeted by the biotech industry are real. But most of them are also manmade—a consequence of the crowded factory farm conditions in which the animals are raised, and the spread of industrial livestock operations into geographical areas (e.g. tropical climates) not well suited to this kind of farming.

Poor health in animals often arises as a result of the systems in which they are kept. Gene editing should not be used to address diseases that primarily arise from keeping animals in stressful, crowded conditions. Such diseases can, and should be tackled by improving things like housing and hygiene, and lowering stocking densities, before turning to selective breeding – of any kind.

What advantages are claimed for gene-edited farm animals?

Genome editing has been proposed as a solution for sustainably feeding a growing world population. Producing animals that grow faster and eat less, argues the biotech industry, reduces input costs for the farmer and, on a global scale, helps reduce the amount of crops diverted to livestock as feed, and may also help to reduce the impact of industrial meat production on global warming.

Gene-editing could be used to control reproduction, for instance to produce more female dairy cows (thus more milk) or more female chickens (more eggs). “Gender skewing” in this way, say biotechnologists, has the added bonus of lowering the number of male cows and chickens culled shortly after birth.

There are also claims that genome editing could be used to “edit out” animals’ ability to feel pain and stress. This, it is argued, would reduce the animals’ suffering in factory farm conditions. Opponents argue, however that this is unethical, reduces the animals to little more than a machine and furthers the interests of those who support factory farming.

Another major argument for gene editing is that it can speed up the breeding process—producing in 2 years an animal that might take 10-15 years via traditional breeding.

This notion of speed, however, may be misleading. Although genome editing is promoted as a fast technology with limitless possibilities, no gene-edited animals have yet made it into farms or the food chain.

Most of the “innovations” you read about in the media are based on studies performed to show what might be theoretically, technically possible. These PR stories are often released by research institutions as a way of attracting the interest of funders that might be interested in financing further work.

But if gene editing can help relieve animals’ suffering, isn’t that a good thing?

Most researchers involved in this work (as opposed to the large biotech companies that eventually market the finished product) are concerned for animal welfare and believe that what they are doing will help animals.

It is worth remembering that those involved in conventional selective breeding believe that they, too, are doing “good.”

However, decades of evidence show that selective breeding for specific traits can have a negative impact on animal health, including skeletal and metabolic diseases, lameness, reproductive issues and mastitis.

The fact is, the more we breed animals to be little more than “production units” in industrial farms, the less likely it is to benefit the animal—whatever the method.

How successful have attempts at gene editing been so far?

Results in animals thus far are not as predictable or reliable as researchers had hoped.

For example, a recent Wall Street Journal investigation reported unintended effects including enlarged tongues and extra vertebrae.

Brazil’s plans to breed hornless dairy cattle, gene-edited with TALENs were recently abandoned when a study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed that one of the experimental animals contained a sequence of bacterial DNA that included a gene-conferring antibiotic resistance. In theory, this antibiotic-resistance gene could be taken up by any of the billions of bacteria present in a cow’s gut or body—and from there be spread beyond the farm.

Other recent research has shown that edited mouse genomes can acquire bovine or goat DNA. This was traced to the standard culture medium for mouse cells, which contains DNA from whichever animal species it may have been extracted from. This mix-and-match DNA is potentially a problem for other genome-edited animals, too. And it raises some urgent questions about authenticity and traceability.

Studies like these, which are appearing with ever-greater frequency, suggest that the science of genome editing in animals is a long way from providing watertight solutions to the problems associated with factory-farmed animals.

Are there any gene-edited animals on the market now?

Although it is promoted as a fast technology with limitless possibilities, genome-edited animals have yet to appear on farms or in the food chain.

The only genetically engineered animals currently on the market is the GMO salmon on sale in Canada and the U.S. This was produced using older style genetic engineering.

Can we achieve the same improvements in farm animals with traditional breeding?

Conventional breeding can also produce robust animals that are suited to their geographical locations. Both farmers and consumers are showing increasing interest in these kinds of “heritage breeds.” And supporting them also helps to protect the diversity of the animal gene pool.

Conventional breeding also has the advantage of not requiring complex regulation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently trying to “simplify” things by proposing that it, rather than the FDA, should have oversight on genome-edited animals and that these animals should be exempt from regulation.

Given the scientific uncertainty around genetically engineered animals, this kind of blinkered rubber-stamping should alarm consumers.

Surely, gene editing is just another tool in the toolbox. Is it right to discount it entirely if one day it might be a useful tool?

Most people agree that our food system is no longer functioning optimally, that it needs to change and is, in fact, changing. Genetic engineers believe that they have something that can help agriculture change. They often refer to gene editing as a “tool in the toolbox.”

This suggests that rather than being a universal panacea, genome editing may be a technology with useful but limited applications and several caveats—i.e. you don’t use a wrench when you need a hammer.

Arguably, more important than the “tool” is the “toolbox” itself, which is what we use to frame our questions, the points of reference we use and how we organize our thoughts.

All over the world, the “toolbox” is the intensive, industrial farming model—these days referred to as “sustainable intensification.” This model drives much of the thinking and decision-making around agriculture and agricultural policy.

In a world where agroecology and regenerative farming are the dominant systems, decisions around genome editing, about when—or indeed if—it is needed might look very different.

There is now a large body of opinion suggesting that, whichever yardstick is used—welfare, sustainability, environment, nutrition—the industrial farming system is damaging and outdated.

If we envisage the future of farming where the industrial model will continue to dominate, then genome editing may take on a more prominent role.  

However, if we envisage a future for farming as largely agroecological, and invest in and work conscientiously towards that kind of system change, then it is possible that gene editing won’t have a role to play.

In that future, instead of creating genetically engineered animals to fit into factory farms, we will develop sustainable and ecological animal agriculture systems that support animal welfare, preserve and restore biodiversity and protect public health.

Pat Thomas is a journalist, author and campaigner specializing in food, environment and health. See more on her website. To keep up with Organic Consumers Association (OCA) news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

Want Factory Farms Banned? Ask Congress to Support This Bill!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2020-01-07 15:38
January 7, 2020Organic Consumers AssociationAlexis Baden-MayerEnvironment & Climate, CAFOs vs. Free Range, Farm Issues cows_cattle_dairy_factory_farm_cafo_1200x630.jpg

According to a recent poll, at least half of U.S. consumers oppose industrial factory farming.

Now some federal legislators (and some presidential candidates) are catching up with voter sentiment. And some are stepping up with proposals to either severely restrict, or outright ban what Big Ag refers to as CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations).

The latest good news? A bill, introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), that could, among other things, lead to the end of industrial factory farms.

TAKE ACTION to ban factory farms! Tell Congress to pass the Farm System Reform Act of 2019.

The Farm System Reform Act would start with a moratorium on new CAFOs. It would also provide $100 billion over 10 years to help farmers quit factory farming.

After helping farmers transition out of factory farming, the bill would enforce a complete ban on large CAFOs by 2040.

Booker isn’t the only presidential candidate to come out against factory farming. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)  and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), and author Marianne Williamson have all signed a letter from Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement  calling for a moratorium on new and expanded factory farms in Iowa—one of the biggest factory farm states and host of the first Democratic presidential 2020 primary contest.

It’s great to see the ban factory farms movement finally gain some real traction, especially given the results of this poll:

• A majority of national respondents (57 percent) support greater oversight of existing industrial animal farms. In addition, 43 percent of those surveyed say they favor a national ban on the creation of new CAFOs, compared to only 38 percent who oppose such a ban.

• More than 8 out of 10 surveyed expressed concern about air and water pollution, worker safety and health problems caused by CAFOs.

• When informed of the widespread use of antibiotics on CAFOs, which contributes to growing antibiotic resistance in people, 85 percent were either very or somewhat concerned.

• Nearly 70 percent are troubled that these problems disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color.

• And 78 percent are concerned that CAFOs continue to receive billions in taxpayer subsidies.

As Kansas rancher Mike Callicrate said in statement issued by Booker’s office:

“Farmers and ranchers need a marketplace that compensates them fairly and Senator Booker's Farm System Reform Act is a big step in the right direction. Things like country of origin labeling on meat, updates to the Packers and Stockyards Act, and resources to get folks out of a system that is bankrupting them will make a big difference."

Please let your members of Congress know that you want them to support this bill!

TAKE ACTION to ban factory farms! Tell Congress to pass the Farm System Reform Act of 2019.

2020 Vision: A New Year’s Regeneration

Organic consumers - Wed, 2020-01-01 15:52
January 1, 2020Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsEnvironment & Climate, Politics & Globalization flowerhands_1200x630.png

“They say the darkest hour is right before the dawn.” – Bob Dylan, “Blood on the Tracks,” 1975

Beyond the media smog, the 24/7 fixation on the Trump cesspool and the endless distractions of the holiday season, I probably don’t have to remind you that the end of the modern era is at hand.

As most of us realize, even as we repress this thought in order to maintain our sanity, we are fast approaching “the point of no return,” whereby our 21st Century Climate Emergency and societal meltdown begin to morph into global catastrophe.

Even in the midst of enjoying a break over the holidays and celebrating with our family and friends, it’s hard to avoid thinking about the “Emergency”—and the climate criminals, indentured politicians and climate deniers who have dragged us to the precipice.

Our common house is “on fire” as Greta Thunberg reminds us. And as Arundhati Roy laments: “It is becoming more and more difficult to communicate the scale of the crisis even to ourselves. An accurate description runs the risk of sounding like hyperbole.”

But what I, and my allies in the global Regeneration Movement want to tell you, is that there is a practical, shovel-ready solution to our impasse, a Regenerative Green New Deal powered by a massive leap in grassroots consciousness, a youth-led climate movement and a 2020 ballot box- revolution.

The long-overdue transformation of our energy and agricultural systems, converting our greenhouse gas-intensive, fossil fuel economy to renewables, coupled with a massive organic and regenerative drawdown, revegetation, reforestation, re-carbonization and rehydration of our farmlands, rangelands and forests will dramatically reduce global emissions (by 50 percent or more) over the next decade, meanwhile sequestering the remaining emissions in our soils, forests and plants.

The Great Transition to renewable energy and radical energy conservation, in combination with the enhanced photosynthesis and carbon sequestration power of regenerative food, farming and land use will make it possible to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030, enabling the world to shift into net-negative emissions over the following decades, literally drawing down enough CO2 from the atmosphere to not only mitigate but to actually reverse global warming and thereby restore climate stability, soil fertility, rural livelihoods and public health.

An excess of gloom and doom has clouded our collective vision, reinforcing the walls and silos that divide us, and robbing us of the life-giving optimism and positive energy that we need to carry out a political revolution. From Main Street to the Middle East and beyond, drawing inspiration from the positive trends and best practices (alternative energy, organic and regenerative food and farming, ecosystem restoration, political insurgency and direct action) in our millions of cities, towns and rural communities across the globe, we have the power to put an end to business as usual.

We, the global grassroots, can move forward and solve the climate crisis and all the other interrelated crises that plague us: poverty, economic injustice, deteriorating public health, environmental destruction, societal conflict, endless war, the erosion of democracy and elite domination and control. The regenerative solutions we need are, in fact, manifesting themselves at this very moment, in every nation, in every region, pointing the way to transform every aspect of our lives.

The solutions we need are no farther away than the nearest solar panel, wind farm, retrofitted building, bicycle path, electric vehicle, community garden, farmers market, organic farm and holistically-managed ranch. The solutions we need lie at the end of our forks and knives, under the trees that shade us, the carbon-sequestering soil below our feet, the consumer dollars in our wallets and our nearest voting booth.

Regeneration and the global grassroots rising

Out on the road proselytizing for organics and regeneration, one of the most frequent questions I get goes something like this:

“Ronnie, given the current political atmosphere, and the state of the climate and the planet, why are you so optimistic?”

If we had the time and the space right now I’d be happy to give you a full book-length answer on why I’m so optimistic. In fact, I’ve just written such a book. It’s called Grassroots Rising: A Call to Action on Climate, Farming, Food, and a Green New Deal, by Chelsea Green Publishers. The book will go on sale February 11. (You can pre-order a copy here).

But in the interest of brevity, and so you and I can hopefully get back to our holiday cheer, here’s a summary of my 2020 Vision, four reasons why I’m optimistic that things are about to turn around:

(1) A radical, youth-led climate movement, the Sunrise Movement, the Extinction Rebellion, Fridays for the Future, and others have helped make the Climate Emergency a front-burner issue—not only in North America and Europe, but across the world.

(2) A radical, democratic socialist, Sen. Bernie Sanders, calling for political revolution and a fundamental transformation of the U.S. energy, socio-economic, political and food and farming system, under the banner of a Green New Deal, has a real chance to become the next president of the United States. With the whole world watching, a Bernie Sanders White House and a new balance of power in Congress, inspired by a Green New Deal, will galvanize the global grassroots.

(3) Regenerative food, farming, land use and ecosystem restoration have suddenly become the most important, exciting and talked-about topics in climate, food and farming circles. People are finally understanding that we need both a rapid transition to alternative energy and a rapid transition to organic/regenerative food and farming in order to reach net-zero emissions by 2030, as called for by world scientists, the Sunrise Movement, and the Green New Deal.

(4) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest member of Congress in history, and the most radical, charismatic leader in the U.S. since the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King in 1968, will turn 35 in October 2024, making her eligible to succeed Bernie Sanders (should he choose to serve only one term) as the first woman, and first woman of color, to become president of the U.S.

It’s true that our new world view and Movement for a Regenerative Green New Deal are still in the early stages of development. The majority of the people in the world have never heard the full story about the miraculous power of enhanced soil fertility, ecosystem restoration, holistic grazing and plant photosynthesis to draw down enough excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into our soils and biota to re-stabilize the climate, reverse global warming, raise the standard of living for small farmers and rural communities and produce enough high-quality food for the entire planet.

But the exciting thing is that when people, especially young people, women and rural and oppressed communities do hear about the amazing potential of regeneration, combined with alternative energy and environmental justice, to unite us all in a common campaign to turn things around, they are inspired. And they’re often ready to sign up, to get engaged with others—consumers, farmers, activists, progressive businesses and enlightened public officials—to move this revolution forward.

But, as this difficult and indeed frightening decade ends, to quote America’s Nobel Prize winning poet, Bob Dylan, “Let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.”

Join us today as we build a movement to change the world

Ronnie Cummins is a founding steering committee member of Regeneration International and co-founder and international director of the Organic Consumers Association. His new book, “Grassroots Rising: A Call to Action on Climate, Farming, Food and a Green New Deal,” will be out in February 2020. To keep up with Regeneration International, sign up for our newsletter.

Shocking on a Whole New Level

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-12-26 20:53
December 26, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsGenetic Engineering ban_stop_roundup_1200x630.png

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed consumers over and over again. We’re used to it.

But this latest news—that the EPA (along with the U.S. Dept. of Justice) has stepped in to help overrule jurors in a Monsanto Roundup weedkiller case—is shocking on a whole new level.

It’s also a stark reminder of how critical it is that we fight back against corporate and political corruption, and that we do everything in our power to support a new kind of food and farming.

OCA is committed to doubling down on our mission to protect your right to safe food and a healthy ecosystem. But we need your support today. Can you help keep us going strong in 2020?

Bayer, which bought Monsanto in 2018, has been struggling financially ever since three juries found in favor of defendants who alleged that Roundup weedkiller caused their cancer. The company now faces more than 43,000 similar lawsuits.

But Bayer is appealing the judgments against it, including the $25 million awarded to cancer victim Edwin Hardeman. 

And now, the EPA and the Justice Department have filed court papers supporting Bayer’s argument that Roundup doesn’t cause cancer, therefore the courts should reverse the Hardeman jury’s decision, and the $25-million award.

This is the world we live in. A world where the warnings of some of the best scientists in the world are ignored, a world where our government regulatory agencies go to bat for the right of corporations to poison our food and water.

But we also live in a world where millions of consumers are demanding a healthier future. And where a growing number of organic and regenerative farmers and ethical businesses are shining a light on food production practices that are better for consumers, better for farm animals and better for the environment.

It’s our job to support those consumers and farmers and businesses. But we will need your support more than ever in 2020.

If you make a tax-deductible donation between now and the midnight PST  December 31, the Mercola Natural Health Foundation will match your gift. You can donate online, by mail or by phone, detals here.

Truer Words Were Never Spoken

Organic consumers - Mon, 2019-12-23 16:22
December 23, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsAll About Organics, Environment & Climate greatest_wealth_is_health_1200x630.jpg

As another year winds down, I’m appealing to you with a greater sense of urgency than ever before.

The longer industrial agribusiness is allowed to destroy soil fertility, pollute waterways, bankrupt family farms, and monopolize our food distribution system for the purpose of profiting off the sale of nutrient-deficient, pesticide- and drug-contaminated food, the harder it will be to reverse course.

We can’t wait.

OCA is committed to doubling down on our mission to protect your right to safe food and a healthy ecosystem. But we need your support today. Can you help keep OCA going strong in 2020?

When the ancient poet, Virgil, declared that “The greatest wealth is health,” he was likely referring to human health.

Virgil’s words are as true today as they were in ancient times . . . the difference is that today, our health is under attack from all directions.

Virgil couldn’t have foreseen today’s attacks on everything that makes human health possible.

Virgil didn’t anticipate a corporate takeover of food and farming, and the devastating impact that would have on the quality of our food and the health of our soil and water.

Yet nutritious food, fertile soil, and clean water form the very foundation of human health.

Ages ago, Virgil wouldn’t have had reason to predict a total collapse of our ecosystem. The insect apocalypse. The “Silent Spring.” The droughts, rising seas, and raging storms brought on by climate instability.

Nor would a poet living in ancient times have been familiar with the latest science confirming this: The health of the soil microbiome is directly linked to the health of the human gut microbiome . . . destroy one, and you destroy the other.

Today, you live with all of these threats. But perhaps the greatest threat to your health is the disintegration of our political process.

Unless we fix the system that lets corporations undermine the foundations of human and environmental health by rigging the political game, we’ll remain stuck in a perpetual game of catch-up.

If you make a tax-deductible donation between now and midnight PST December 31, the Mercola Natural Health Foundation will match your gift.  You can donate online, by mail or by phone, detals here.

Corporations use their billions in ill-gotten profits to influence regulators and policymakers.

The policies they promote are good for them . . . but bad for you, bad for family farmers, and bad for the environment.

The New York Times recently reported that 85 environmental regulations have been rolled back under the current administration. 

Those rollbacks include rules that give factory farms a pass on everything from animal welfare standards, to toxic substances and water pollution.

They also put independent organic farmers at a disadvantage in the marketplace.

Our consumer education and marketplace pressure campaigns, in concert with our legal work, expose the corrupt influence of Big Food and Big Ag on Congress.

These campaigns also help grow the market for healthy, organic food.

But the future of food also depends on good farming policies that support good farmers and ranchers and build the local infrastructure they need for long-term success.

People sometimes tell me there’s no point trying to reform the policies that allow corporate interests to threaten our health. The situation in Washington is hopeless.

I disagree. Just because we’re up against unprecedented corruption in Congress now, doesn’t mean we should sit back and wait.

Now is the time to lay the groundwork for a better, healthier future.

That’s why this year, in partnership with Regeneration International and the Sunrise Movement, we launched the 20,000-member strong coalition of U.S. Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal.

When things turn around in Washington—and I believe they will—farmers must be ready to claim their rightful seats at the policymaking table.

This new farmer-led coalition is already hard at work, educating consumers, fellow farmers and ranchers, and state and federal lawmakers about what must be done to fix our food system.

The members of this coalition are knowledgeable, dedicated, and eager to get to work for all of us. We’re committed to supporting them. 

But we’ll need your help. Please use the enclosed reply card to make a year-end donation to OCA. Mail your donation by midnight, December 31, and your donation will be doubled.

There’s no one silver bullet that will wipe out all the threats to your health. The reform of our food, farming, and political systems is a long game.

We’re in it for the long haul. Your support makes it possible. 

Election years are tough for nonprofits like ours. We know you’re being bombarded with donation requests from good candidates, as well as from other good organizations.

We hope you’ll view a donation to OCA as a long-term investment in “your greatest wealth”—that is, your health.

Wishing you a healthy, regenerative new year!

The Latest Livestock Pandemic that Big Meat Doesn't Want You to Know About

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-12-18 19:51
December 18, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationMartha RosenbergEnvironment & Climate, CAFOs vs. Free Range pig_hog_pork_farm_1200x630.jpg

There’s a lot the industrial factory farm industry prefers to keep consumers in the dark about, including what happens when millions of confined, stressed out animals with weakened immune systems are exposed to disease.

What’s the latest food animal pandemic Big Meat has been trying to keep out of the news? African swine fever (ASF), caused by the African swine fever virus (ASFV), a disease that just this year has killed one-fourth of the world’s pigs, including half of all China’s factory farm pigs.

So far, mainstream media’s coverage of ASF has focused almost exclusively on economic issues, including the disease’s potential impact on global trade. Questions about the pandemic disease potentials of intensive animal agriculture are skirted.

ASF originated in East Africa and reached Eastern Europe in 2007, where it is has remained. Since ASF's outbreak in China last year, in which half of the country’s pigs died and another 1 million were culled, ASF has spread to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, North Korea, the Philippines, more of eastern Europe and even Belgium.

"It's not a question of whether ASF reaches American shores, but when," wrote Thomas Parsons, professor at the School of Veterinary Medicine, and Scott Michael Moore, China Program Director at the University of Pennsylvania, in the Hill.

"Should the virus enter the U.S., your future as a pork producer would radically change," warns Pork Business.

The ASF virus causes death in 1 - 8 days in acute cases. This allows the spread of the disease as animals and their meat are sold either deliberately or not.

This is not the first time that Big Meat has kept the facts about major animal pandemics away from consumers, who likely would be turned off to industrially produced meat if they knew the truth. The factory farm meat industry also suppressed the facts about porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) and avian flu.

By 2014, PEDv had killed 10 percent of pigs confined in factory farms in the U.S.—but Big Meat managed to prevent the public from seeing dumpsters full of dead pigs.

If more people had seen photos of the carnage, they might have started asking questions—including “why are so many animals sick and what drugs are they being given?” (Most consumers would be appalled if they knew the truth about the drugs pigs are given to prevent diseases).

The PEDv scourge was so devastating, a Kentucky farm fed dead pigs to other pigs in an attempt to induce "immunity" in survivors.

To combat PEDv the government gave $11.1 million of our tax dollars to private farmers who were "producers of infected herds."

Here's a cheaper idea: How about giving the animals fresh air, space to move and no drugs?

From 2014 through mid-2015, 48 million chickens and turkeys were killed in the U.S. to prevent the spread of bird flu, and to protect farmer profits. Yet despite the mass murder spree, the disease resurfaced in 2017.

Meanwhile, the industrial poultry industry managed to keep images of dead birds out of the public view.

It’s easy to see why. To prevent the spread of bird flu, in many cases, healthy, floor-reared turkeys and broiler chickens were herded into enclosed areas where they were administered propylene glycol foam to suffocate them.

In other cases, birds were killed by "Ventilation shutdown"––the term used when barn temperatures are raised to at least 104F for a minimum of three hours to kill the entire flock. As reported by Fortune, “round-the-clock incinerators and crews in hazmat suits" were commonly required for bird depopulation in 2015.

When farm animal disease pandemics hit in the U.S., Big Meat likes to control the mainstream media’s narrative by focusing the story on "the price of bacon," trade wars or farmer profits. With the ASF virus, mainstream media is naively portraying it as a disease of other countries.

For example, The New York Times attributes China's ASF to the country's "emphasis on government-driven, top-down solutions to major problems, sometimes at the expense of the practical." This analysis conveniently ignores the U.S.'s recent PEDv and bird flu epidemics.

The Times also indicts China's "small farms, often packed together in crowded agricultural areas," for the pandemic—again conveniently ignoring the U.S.'s much more crowded factory farms which are certainly at risk.

The real story of ASF is this: Factory farm animal prisons, with their pesticides, antibiotics and intense confinement, weaken the immune systems of animals, making them highly susceptible to pandemics. The model also causes egregious harm to workers, the environment and human consumers.

The African swine fever is just the latest example.

Martha Rosenberg is a freelance journalist and frequent contributor to Organic Consumers Assocation (OCA). To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

Tell Congress: Consumers Want the Right to Choose Raw Milk!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-12-18 17:20
Belong to campaign: Healthy Raw MilkCategory: Food SafetyArea: USA

It’s legal to drink raw milk in all 50 states. But it’s legal to sell it in only 28 states.

Congress has never passed a ban on raw milk. Yet the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has used its regulatory authority to raid farms and prosecute farmers for distributing raw milk.

It’s time to protect farmers from raw milk raids, and make it legal and easy for consumers to buy raw milk.

TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Member of Congress to support your right to choose raw milk by supporting H.R. 5410, the Interstate Milk Freedom ActRead more

Got Raw Milk? Ask Congress to Support This Bill!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-12-17 15:41
December 17, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAlexis Baden-MayerFood Safety cow_milk_pour_glass_farm_1200x630.jpg

This week, Representatives Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) introduced the Interstate Milk Freedom Act (H.R. 5410), a bill that prohibits federal interference with the interstate traffic of unpasteurized milk and milk products that are packaged for direct human consumption.

TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Member of Congress to support your right to choose raw milk by supporting H.R. 5410, the Interstate Milk Freedom Act. 

It’s legal to drink raw milk in 50 states. But only 28 states allow raw milk to be sold legally.

Congress has never passed a ban on raw milk. Yet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has used its regulatory authority to raid farms and prosecute farmers for distributing raw milk.

Reps. Massie and Pingree want to stop these raids. In a press release announcing the bipartisan bill, Massie said:

“Federal agencies, such as the FDA, that are part of the executive branch do not and should not have the power to shut down trade between peaceful farmers and willing consumers. It is Congress’s job to legislate. Our Interstate Milk Freedom Act would make it easier for families to buy milk of their choice by reversing the criminalization of specific dairy farmers.”

Rep. Pingree said:

“So many people across the country want to make sure their food is fresh and local—including fruits, vegetables, and even their milk. Raw milk is currently the only food banned for interstate commerce—an onerous regulation that hurts small farmers for selling milk straight from their cows to the consumer.”

Other members of Congress who support the bill weighed in, including Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), who said that the FDA has “no Congressional directive or safety regulation that justifies interfering in a decision between a consumer and dairy farmer.”

And Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.), who said this:

“Small family farms have been consuming and distributing raw milk safely for hundreds of years. This bill rightly gets the federal government out of the way and decriminalizes farmers and producers who choose to sell or take unpasteurized milk and other dairy products to willing customers throughout the nation.”

The Interstate Milk Freedom Act simply says that if two states have legalized the sale of unpasteurized milk, then no federal department, agency or court may take any action to prohibit or restrict the interstate traffic of milk between those two states.

The bill would prohibit the federal government from interfering with the interstate traffic of raw milk products between states where distribution or sale of such products is already legal.

Original cosponsors of H.R. 5410 include Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), Alex Mooney (R-W.V.), Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.), Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Justin Amash (I-Mcih.), Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), Chip Roy (R-Texas), and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).

If your Member of Congress is on this list, please call or email to thank them! If not?

TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Member of Congress to support your right to choose raw milk by supporting H.R. 5410, the Interstate Milk Freedom Act.

Letter from Santiago: Regeneration Now

Organic consumers - Mon, 2019-12-16 15:39
December 16, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsEnvironment & Climate, Fair Trade & Social Justice, Politics & Globalization now_120x630.png

Defying the machinations of discredited President Sebastian Pinera—who abruptly cancelled the Global Climate Summit in Santiago, Chile in reaction to the nationwide grassroots uprising that erupted here on October 18—an intrepid band of North and South American farmers, food activists and climate campaigners, under the banner of Regeneration International, came together in the Chilean capital of Santiago to share experiences and ideas, and to develop a common strategy for reversing global warming and resolving the other burning issues that are pressing down on us.

With global attention focused on Madrid, which hosted the December 2-13 official COP 25 Climate Summit after Chile pulled out, a number of us decided nevertheless to hold our own North and South America mini-summit here, expressing our solidarity with the Chilean people’s epic struggle, and, at the same time, giving some of the best practitioners and campaigners in the Regeneration Movement the opportunity to focus on what’s holding us back and how we can most quickly move forward.

More and more people in Madrid this week, and all over the world, are finally talking about how regenerative agriculture and ecosystem restoration can sequester large amounts of excess atmospheric carbon in soils, trees and plants, while providing other valuable ecological, public health, and economic benefits.

Yet overall progress is still too slow.  We need total system change, and a Regenerative Revolution—now—if we hope to turn things around in time.

Accelerating public awareness and movement-building

Public awareness of how photosynthesis works, of what agroecology and agroforestry mean, of how healthy plants and trees and properly grazed livestock draw down and sequester significant amounts of carbon in the soil, of how Big Food and Big Ag’s chemical and fossil fuel-intensive food system is a major factor driving global warming and poverty, is still in the early stages—as is public awareness of the multiple benefits of regenerative food, farming and land use.

Most climate activists are still focused narrowly on reducing fossil fuel use. They are still ignoring the fact that it will take both a rapid conversion to renewable energy and a massive drawdown of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (especially here in the Global South) if we are to achieve net zero emissions by 2030, (and net negative emissions from 2030-2050) as called for by the Sunrise Movement and Bernie Sanders in the U.S., and by various national and international coalitions for a Green New Deal.

But in order to gain critical mass, political power and sufficient resources—North and South—we have no choice but to move beyond single-issue campaigns and minor reforms to building a qualitatively stronger and more diverse Movement. To head off catastrophe and bring the world’s corporate criminals and fascist politicians to heel, we must unite all the different currents of our local-to-global resistance. We must create a world-changing synergy between our myriad demands and constituencies for economic justice, social equity and renewable energy and our demands for radical and regenerative transformations in our food, farming, forestry and land-use policies.

Gaining political power

Unfortunately, many organic and agro-ecological farmers, food and consumer organizations, and anti-GMO and anti-factory farm activists are still either apolitical, or afraid of being called “radical.”

For example, too many organic consumers and farmers in the U.S. are still questioning why they should support revolutionary change, such as a multi-trillion-dollar Green New Deal, or a radical presidential candidate like Bernie Sanders, who is calling for political revolution (eco-social justice, universal health care, and free public education), as well as renewable energy and a new food system based upon organic regenerative practices.

What many of our well-meaning but often naïve, timid or overly pessimistic compatriots fail to understand is that without a radical shift in political power and public policies, including finance policies—facilitating a massive infusion of public money and private investments—our growing organic and regeneration revolution will likely shrivel up and die on the vine. And of course such a dramatic cultural and political transformation will be possible only with the massive participation and leadership of youth, women, African-Americans, Latinos and workers, carrying out a Ballot Box Revolution that includes, but is not limited to, our life-or-death food, farming and climate imperatives.

Ten to 25 percent market share for organic and local food and grass-fed meat and animal products by 2030 is better than what we have now, but it’s not going to make much difference on a burnt planet. Our planetary house, as Greta Thunberg reminded us once again this week in Madrid, is on fire.

Without mass grassroots awareness and collective action, without a political revolution, as well as an energy and farming revolution and a massive influx of funds, public and private, the business-as-usual machinations of the billionaires, the multinational corporations (Bayer/Monsanto, Cargill, JBS, Wal-Mart, Amazon, Facebook, Google et al) and the one percent will drive us past the point of no return and destroy us all.

In order to replicate and scale up the game-changing, carbon-sequestering regenerative food, farming and ecosystem restoration practices that are finally taking root and spreading across the Americas and the planet—these include bio-intensive organic, agroecology, holistic grazing, agroforestry, permaculture, reforestation and biochar—we need all of the major drivers of regeneration to be operating in synergy and at full power.

As we affirmed in our Regeneration International General Assembly meeting on December 10 in Santiago:

Given the unprecedented and accelerating global-scale climate emergency that is upon us, global governments and civil society must rapidly prioritize, invest in, and scale up the following:

• Public education on climate and regeneration and a sharp focus on grassroots movement-building

• Rapid expansion of existing regenerative agriculture practices that promote ecosystem restoration, carbon-capture in soils, and food security

• Reorientation of public policies to support regenerative agricultural practices and ecosystem restoration

• Reorientation of economic priorities to facilitate a massive increase in public and private investment in regenerative practices…”


Despite the continuing bad news on the climate front, and the rise of authoritarian and fascist regimes in South America and across the world, our counterparts here in Santiago have been very happy to hear about some of the recent positive developments in North America, including the growing support for a Green New Deal and the campaign of Bernie Sanders for president, as well as the growth of radical, youth-led, direct action groups such as the Sunrise Movement, Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for the Future.

In the short span of 12 months, the Green New Deal Resolution in the U.S. has gained massive support from disenfranchised youth, minority communities, embattled working class constituencies, the food movement and climate activists. The resolution, according to a number of polls, now has the support of more than 60 percent of the population, despite increasingly frantic opposition by Trump, the corporate mass media and the neo-liberal wing of the Democratic Party, represented by Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and billionaires like Michael Bloomberg.

The growing understanding that we need “System Change,” i.e. a political revolution, in the U.S. if we are to stop climate change and resolve our other burning crises, is echoed in the call for a “Fourth Transformation” in Mexico, in the growing movement for the overthrow of the climate-denying, Amazon-burning, fascist Bolsonaro junta in Brazil (ditto Bolivia, Honduras, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, et al), and now the thunderous demand from all sectors of the population for a New Constitution and a democratic revolution in Chile.

Taking it to the streets

Marching and chanting with our Chilean brothers and sisters along riot-scarred streets in central Santiago, past an astonishing number of smashed-up billboards, burnt-out subway stations, battered storefronts, broken traffic lights, boarded-up banks, hotels and businesses, it’s clear that elite control and “business as usual,” at least here in Chile, is no longer tolerable. Along the major thoroughfares such as Avenida Providencia, neighborhood or family-owned businesses, “somos pyme” have generally been spared, while colonial monuments, government buildings, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Oxxo, Domino’s Pizza the Crown Plaza Hotel, and other symbols of multinational control and consumerism have been spray painted, smashed and vandalized.

Supposedly prosperous Chile—the Latin America “free market” jewel of U.S. foreign policy (where President Nixon, Kissinger, AT&T and the CIA overthrew the democratic socialist government of Salvador Allende in 1973)—today has the surreal feeling of a post-modern dystopia. Block after block, mile after mile, with anti-government youth directing traffic at many of the intersections, every wall of the central city is covered with messages of resistance and solidarity, including heartbreaking photos of young protesters (my son’s age) murdered, blinded (the Carbineri have reportedly been deliberately shooting rubber bullets into the eyes of protestors) and imprisoned.

Chile’s workers, indigenous Mapuches, farmers and the once-middle class, led by youth and students, are rising up against the one percent, despite tremendous repression.

Meanwhile the glaciers that supply much of Chile’s water and agriculture are melting. Record-breaking temperatures, forest fires and drought are spreading here and throughout Latin America. Last Sunday, just as thousands of young protestors on bicycles converged on President Pineda’s mansion calling for his resignation and a new Constitution, a massive wildfire broke out on one of the seriously deforested and parched mountains surrounding the city. The scene reminded me of what’s happening in California, and even now in the Boreal forests of Canada and Alaska.

Our collective house, our politics and our climate, are all on fire. As India activist Arundhati Roy said:

“It is becoming more and more difficult to communicate the scale of the crisis even to ourselves. An accurate description runs the risk of sounding like hyperbole…”

The hour is late. The crisis is dire. But as those of us in the Regeneration Movement understand, heart and mind, we’ve still got time to turn things around. But the time to act, to educate, to build stronger movements, to scale up our best practices, to gain political power, is now.

Ronnie Cummins is a founding steering committee member of Regeneration International and co-founder and international director of the Organic Consumers Association. His new book, “Grassroots Rising: A Call to Action on Climate, Farming, Food and a Green New Deal,” will be out in February 2020. To keep up with Regeneration International, sign up for our newsletter.

Former Monsanto CEO Ordered to Testify at Roundup Cancer Trial

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-12-10 21:51
December 10, 2019U.S. Right to KnowCarey GillamGenetic Engineering hughgrant_1200x630.png

Former Monsanto Chairman and CEO Hugh Grant will have to testify in person at a St. Louis-area trial set for January in litigation brought by a cancer-stricken woman who claims her disease was caused by exposure to the company’s Roundup herbicide and that Monsanto covered up the risks instead of warning consumers.

Grant, who led St. Louis-based Monsanto from 2003 until the company was sold to Bayer AG of Germany in June of 2018, and spent a total of 37 years working for Monsanto, was subpoenaed by lawyers for plaintiff Sharlean Gordon, to testify at a trial slated to begin Jan. 27 in St. Louis County Circuit Court.

The Gordon trial was originally scheduled for August of this year but was delayed as part of an effort to undertake settlement talks between Bayer and lawyers for tens of thousands of plaintiffs who are suing Monsanto with claims similar to Gordon’s.

Two other trials set for January, both in courts in California and both involving children diagnosed with cancer, were recently postponed due to continued settlement talks.

Bayer estimates that there are currently more than 42,000 plaintiffs alleging that exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides made by Monsanto caused them or their loved ones to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Grant did not have to testify live at the three Roundup cancer trials that have taken place so far because they were all held in California. But because Grant resides in St. Louis County, plaintiffs’ attorneys saw an opportunity to get him on the stand in person.

Attorneys for Grant have been fighting the subpoena, arguing that he is not a scientist or regulatory expert and he has already provided information in deposition testimony. Grant has also argued that he should not have to testify because he plans to be out of the country starting February 9.

But in a decision handed down Dec. 5, a special master appointed to the case sided with Gordon’s attorneys and ruled that Grant was not entitled to an order quashing the subpoena for trial testimony.

“Mr. Grant appeared for interviews on public radio representing that Roundup is not a carcinogen; in earnings calls for investors Mr. Grant personally responded that the classification of glyphosate as a probable carcinogen was ‘junk science;’ in 2016 Mr. Grant personally lobbied the EPA Administrator and the Agricultural Committee Chair of the topic of glyphosate,” the special master’s order states.

“Although Mr. Grant does not have scientific knowledge that doubtless will be a significant component to this lawsuit, he was CEO of Monsanto for 15 years and took part in presentations, discussions, interviews and other appearances for Monsanto as CEO in which the topics of Roundup and glyphosate were explained, discussed and defended,” Special Master Thomas Prebil said in his decision.

Gordon developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma after using Roundup herbicides for 25 years at her residence in South Pekin, Illinois, and has suffered extensive debilitation due to her disease. Gordon’s stepfather, who also used Roundup at the family home where Gordon lived into adulthood, died of cancer.  The case is actually derived from a larger case filed in July 2017 on behalf of more than 75 plaintiffs. Gordon is the first of that group to go to trial.

In the three previous trials, unanimous juries have found that exposure to Monsanto’s herbicides does cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma and that the company did cover up the risks and fail to warn consumers. The three juries awarded a total of four plaintiffs more than $2 billion in damages, but the three trial judges have reduced the awards significantly in each case.

All are being appealed and none of the winning plaintiffs have yet received any of the monetary awards the juries ordered.

JOHNSON APPEAL DELAYED

The first plaintiff to win against Monsanto is a California school groundskeeper from California. Dewayne “Lee” Johnson was awarded $289 million by a jury in August 2018. The trial judge later lowered the damages to $78 million. Monsanto appealed seeking to overturn the jury decision and Johnson cross-appealed seeking to reinstate the full award of $289 million.

The California Court of Appeal 1st Appellate District said it would act swiftly in ruling on the consolidated appeals and lawyers for both sides initially hoped to have a ruling by the end of this year. But the case has been delayed for several weeks as both sides awaited a date for oral arguments. On Dec. 3, Monsanto’s attorneys asked the court not to schedule oral arguments in January or February, as several new Roundup trials are set for those months.  Johnson’s attorneys opposed that request for further delay.

On Friday, the court issued an order stating that while it agreed with Johnson about the need to
“schedule oral argument as soon as practicable,” it was unlikely oral arguments could be held until March of April “given the number and length of all the briefs to be considered, the outstanding motions that the court must rule on when considering the merits of the appeal,” and other factors.

Posted with permission from U.S. Right to Know.

Three Steps for Building a Million-Person Food Citizen Force

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-12-10 21:41
December 12, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAnthony FlaccaventoEnvironment & Climate, Farm Issues red_barn_farm_field_1200x630.jpg

Editor’s note: This is the second of two articles commissioned by Organic Consumers Association on what the Green New Deal could mean for the local food movement. To read the first article, click here.

Americans cherish the “family farm.” Most are also happy to be able to buy local foods at farmers markets, grocers or their favorite restaurants.

In the marketplace, consumers are sending the message that they want more sustainable and organic food, sales of which exceeded $50 billion last year. And the vast majority of people in our nation believe that climate change is real, and that urgent action needs to be taken.

While there is some variability depending upon one’s political affiliation, Democrats and Republicans alike hold these views. If this is what we collectively believe, across party, then surely our politics and public policies support these priorities, right?

Well, not so much.

Consumer demand for healthy food at odds with federal farm policy priorities

While there has been real progress in supporting local and sustainable farming in the past few Farm Bills, the fact remains that the local and organic portion of our food system continues to reside on the margins of federal research, training and extension and financial investment.

There’s good news here, to be sure: The 2018 Farm Bill designated $40 million/year for research and extension to support organic farming. It also increased funds to help farmers making the transition to organic practices.

Support for local food infrastructure has also been increased somewhat, with a number of past programs now consolidated as LAMP, the Local Agriculture Marketing Program.

While this increased federal support for sustainable farming is indeed good news, it remains an extraordinarily small piece of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) pie. By comparison, payments to commodity growers, who are overwhelmingly large-scale, conventional farmers, have been averaging over $20 billion per year—that’s five hundred times as much as the organic farming research allocation. And nearly two-thirds of that $20 billion goes to the largest farmers, according to USDA data and an analysis by the American Enterprise Institute.

Even on a per-acre basis, the biggest 10 percent of farmers receive nearly two-and-a-half times the subsidy provided to mid-size farmers. With the current structure of the crop insurance and risk management programs, these big farmers are subsidized to get bigger still, including raising annual crops on ecologically vulnerable land.

Forty years after Earl Butz told farmers to “get big or get out,” almost everything about our system leads to exactly that.

Climate concerns beginning to influence policy, but slowly

Climate-change legislation, where it has materialized at all, has rarely considered the role that agriculture must play in slowing and mitigating its impacts. The encouraging exception here is recent state laws that incentivize and reward farmers for soil-building, carbon-sequestering practices. California and Maryland provide examples here, with Virginia and other states considering similar laws.

On the other hand, the Trump administration is ignoring critical climate-related research by its own staff at USDA, while marginalizing and cutting the funding to regional climate-resilience hubs launched just a few years ago.

And the current administration is all in on the “get big or get out” doctrine, with labor, safety and anti-trust enforcement accommodating the agribusiness giants, rather than protecting workers and family farmers.

Clearly, there’s an extreme disconnect between our public policy, on the one hand, and what would be good for consumers, family farmers and the ecosystem, on the other hand.

This battle has been waged for a few decades now, and though they’re remarkably persistent and effective, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and other healthy farming advocates are simply out-gunned by Big Ag’s lobbyists. As a result, farm and food policy takes baby steps in the right direction, but never addresses the fundamental imbalances and problems that dominate and distort the system.

What can we do to change this?

According to a 2016 survey by Market Research, about 12 percent of adults in the U.S. report that they shop at farmers markets. That translates to about 25 million people.

Other research, including a 2018 study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, indicates that on average, farmers market shoppers are younger, with more formal education and income than the population as a whole. While my own experience shows that people across the economic spectrum can and do buy groceries at farmers markets, it’s safe to say that the largest proportion of farmers market shoppers are educated about and committed to healthy eating.

What if we began to mobilize these “conscious consumers” for real change, as advocates for public policies that promote a healthy and sustainable food system?

What might happen if we were able to move a portion of them, say one out of every 20, from being responsible consumers to also becoming effective food citizens?

That would add up to more than 1 million knowledgeable advocates, taking their personal commitment to better eating to a bigger fight for a healthy, farmer- and climate-friendly food system.

Just imagine that.

Building a million-person food citizen force

I discuss this idea in some detail in my book, “Building a Healthy Economy from the Bottom Up,” but for our purposes here, let me suggest three specific steps to get this process going.

Step No. 1: First, we need to strike a balance between tackling the big, complex issues that must be addressed, and the need for manageable, winnable issues with which people can more readily engage.

To do that, we need a clear framework that connects the big and the small, the local and the global.  One framework might be this: Fighting the bad stuff while investing in the good stuff.

While a bit simplified, this frame pushes us to consider big problems that completely undermine a healthy food system, for example how corporate consolidation and the lack of anti-trust enforcement turn farmers into serfs, devastate the environment and suck the life out of rural communities. Another foundational problem is the extraordinary loss of black-owned farms, approaching 90 percent over the past century.

Public policy decisions helped make these things happen. Policy choices can reverse them as well.

If we don’t confront big problems such as these, our positive impacts will never be transformative, relegating our advocacy to support for small pockets of healthy food and farming.

But at the same time, those big fights need to be brought down to size by identifying the best opportunities to build and scale up the alternatives, for example serious investment in local food infrastructure, which would enable consumers to buy more local food and farmers to get a better price. Or providing incentives for small and mid-size farmers to build healthy soils that pull excess carbon out of the atmosphere.

If we really want to transform our food system, we’ve got to be willing to fight the bad stuff while investing in the good stuff. Having a million or so deeply invested food citizens to help wage this fight improves our odds considerably.

Step No. 2: Secondly, we need to develop education and training models for this broad new base of advocates, built around their own experiences as local food customers, but going far beyond that.

The “fight the bad, invest in the good” framework is the starting point for that. But It needs flesh on its bones, including a succinct but sufficiently comprehensive analysis of our current system, a diverse set of examples of emerging alternatives, and a toolkit that enables people to connect the two and become effective advocates.

Step No. 3: Finally, we need not just an alliance between city folks and country folks, between climate activists and family farm advocates, but one that puts farmers and rural people at the forefront, as experts and leaders alongside their urban allies.

The challenge of transforming our food and farm system cannot ignore the broader political context of urban-rural polarization. There are several reasons for this divide, both legitimate and concocted. But it’s real.

A farmer-, consumer- and climate-friendly food system requires that we work together—as equals—across this divide.

All of us want to eat well, and all of us need a livable climate. Only a few of us are willing to farm. Let’s get in the same room and together build this million-person force of food citizens to make this happen.

Anthony Flaccavento is an organic farmer, rural development consultant and author from Abingdon, Virginia in the heart of Appalachia. To keep up with Organic Consumers Association (OCA) news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.