Consumer Power

Did Dow Chemical Fake Safety Studies on Brain-Damaging Chlorpyrifos?

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-12-06 03:47
December 5, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonEnvironment & Climate, Genetic Engineering, Health Issues tractor_pesticides_1200x630.jpg

We’ve known for a while that Monsanto buried the truth about Roundup weedkiller by ignoring concerns by its own scientists. Now it seems Dow Chemical Co. has been using the same playbook.

Dow (renamed DowDuPont after its 2017 merger with DuPont) likely knew for decades that its widely used chlorpyrifos insecticide is harmful to humans—especially children and developing fetuses. But the company hid that information from regulators, both in the U.S. and EU, according to a new study, published in the journal Environmental Health.

The revelation comes as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is duking it out in the legal system over an August 2018 court ruling requiring the agency to finalize a the ban on chlorpyrifos that was originally proposed under the Obama administration, but overturned after Trump took office. 

On September 24, the EPA—the agency charged with protecting us from environmental contaminants—asked the courts to rehear the case. The move means that chlorpyrifos is still being used while the request for a rehearing plays out in the courts. Organic Consumers Association is collecting signatures on a petition to the EPA, asking the agency to rescind its request for a rehearing, and ban chlorpyrifos now.

In California alone, 800,000 acres and dozens of crops continue to be doused with a pesticide that Beyond Pesticides describes this way:

A neurological toxicant, chlorpyrifos damages the brains of young children: impacts of exposure, even at very low levels, include decreased cognitive function, lowered IQ, attention deficit disorder,and developmental and learning delays.

Dow Chemical study produced ‘misleading’ results

The scientists who conducted the new study used public information requests to expose the raw data behind safety studies Dow submitted to European regulators in the late 1990s. 

The data is of particular importance as it was used in the EU’s decision to approve chlorpyrifos in 2006. The same studies were also submitted to officials at the EPA.

The study’s authors attempted to replicate the findings in Dow’s original study. But they discovered serious flaws, even omissions, in the company’s analysis. The industry study found “no selective effects on neurodevelopment” in rats, even at high levels of exposure to chlorpyrifos. This contradicts mounting evidence linking chlorpyrifos to neurodevelopmental problems in developing fetuses and young children—even at very low levels. 

The scientists found “treatment-related changes in a brain dimension measure for chlorpyrifos at all dose levels tested.” These findings went unreported in Dow’s original analysis. In other words, Dow’s own data showed that chlorpyrifos hurt rats, but company didn’t communicate that fact to regulators. According to the study authors:

We further found issues which inappropriately decrease the ability of the studies to reveal true effects, including a dosage regimen that resulted in too low exposure of the nursing pups for chlorpyrifos and possibly for chlorpyrifos-methyl, and a failure to detect any neurobehavioral effects of lead nitrate used as positive control in the chlorpyrifos study. 

Our observations thus suggest that conclusions in test reports submitted by the producer may be misleading. This discrepancy affects the ability of regulatory authorities to perform a valid and safe evaluation of these pesticides. The difference between raw data and conclusions in the test reports indicates a potential existence of bias that would require regulatory attention and possible resolution.

Chlorpyrifos applied to 50 different crops

Chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate pesticide (OP) widely used in agriculture, is approved for use in 100 countries. The insecticide is used on an upwards of 50 crops including almonds, cotton, citrus fruits, grapes, corn, broccoli, sugar beets, peaches and nectarines. 

Despite being allowed on all these foods, chlorpyrifos was banned for indoor home use in 2001.

Chlorpyrifos and other OPs are highly controversial due to the damaging effects they have on the human nervous system. The class of pesticides works by blocking an enzyme needed by the brain to regulate communication between nerve cells. 

As a result, exposure to chlorpyrifos, including at low levels, has been shown to cause neurodevelopmental effects such as decreased cognitive function, lowered IQ, attention deficit disorder and developmental and learning delays in young children. Chlorpyrifos also has been linked to a loss of memory in farmworkers.

Given the evidence of harm caused by chlorpyrifos in humans, and especially children, any push to keep the chemical on the market is nothing short of unconscionable.

"What type of society poisons its children?” said Andre Leu, author of “The Myths of Safe Pesticides,” in an email to the Organic Consumers Association. “This shows the corruption of the Poison Cartels and how they are damaging the developing brains of children—they must be stopped!"

Several U.S. states have moved to restrict or ban chlorpyrifos, including California, Hawaii, Maryland and New Jersey. In June 2018, Hawaii became the first state to ban it.

California, which applies chlorpyrifos to more than 800,000 acres and on dozens of crops, has proposed several restrictions on the use of the insecticide. Through its Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), the state is pushing to ban all aerial application of chlorpyrifos, as well as discontinue its use on most crops. 

DPR is also recommending a quarter-mile buffer zone during all allowed applications of the pesticide and for 24 hours afterward, and a 150-foot setback from houses, businesses and schools. 

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

Groovy Tuesday

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-12-04 16:45
December 4, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationAll About Organics thank_you_1200x630.png

Not to sound like a broken record, but . . . without you, we simply wouldn’t exist.

Thank you for investing in Organic Consumers Association on  #GivingTuesday.

Thank you for sharing our vision for—and our commitment to—a safe, healthful and just food and farming system.

And thank you for inspiring us to work harder and smarter, even on those days when the deck seems stacked against us.

If this was your first donation, welcome! We look forward to partnering with you on future projects and campaigns.

If you are a long-time supporter and repeat donor, thank you for being there for us, once again.

#GivingTuesday marked the launch of our critical year-end fundraising campaign. From now until midnight December 31, all donations will be matched, dollar for dollar.

Thank you for being there with us in 2018, and for making our #GivingTuesday so successful.

We look forward to working together in 2019, as we continue to expose the corporations that pollute our food and environment, and push for the transition to an organic, regenerative food and farming system.

Monsanto Lost Its Most Important Case Yet. Soon More Victims Will Get Their Day in Court.

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-11-29 15:37
November 29, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulGenetic Engineering gavel_law_roundup_shelf_1200x630.jpg

Dewayne Johnson never wanted to be a celebrity acting out his life on an international stage. He’d much rather be a healthy man, going to work, taking care of his family, making a modest-but-steady living.

In a recent interview with Time magazine, the former school groundskeeper said:

“I’ve never really been a fan of attention or fanfare. And now it seems like that’s taken over my life. I get requests for media interviews from all over the world, and people ask me to come to their events and speak, and I’ve had people telling me they want to buy my 'life rights' to try to get movie deals . . . It’s crazy.”

Crazy, maybe. But Johnson, who recently won a $289-million judgment (later reduced to $78 million) against Monsanto (now Bayer) for manufacturing a product he says (and the jury agreed) caused his terminal cancer—and for hiding evidence of that product’s lethal toxicity—has perhaps done more than any one single person to shine a spotlight on how bad Roundup weedkiller is. And how deceitful Monsanto is.

There are more than 8,000 claims pending against Monsanto in state courts, about 620 awaiting trial in federal court, as more victims come forward to tell their stories of how they believed Monsanto’s public claims of safety, only to become deathly ill from exposure to Roundup.

Next up is the case of Edward Hardeman, whose trial is set to begin on February, 25, 2019, in a San Francisco federal court. Reuters reports that Hardeman’s case was selected as “a so-called bellwether, or test trial, frequently used in U.S. product liability mass litigation to help both sides gauge the range of damages and define settlement options.”

Bayer CEO Werner Baumann says the lawsuits are just "nuisances." Maybe. But the Germany-based chemical giant’s shareholders aren’t happy about them. Feeling the pressure, Baumann recently announced the company will sell a number of businesses and cut 12,000 jobs, after Bayer's stock dropped 35 percent.

Two different cases, two different messages

In some way, Hardeman’s case may resonate more with the average person who may at one time have bought Roundup, for home use, believing Monsanto's claims that it was safe. According to Reuters:

Hardeman began using the Roundup brand herbicide with glyphosate in the 1980s to control poison oak and weeds on his property and sprayed “large volumes” of the chemical for many years on a regular basis, according to court documents. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system, in February 2015 and filed his lawsuit a year later.

Hardeman could be you, or your neighbor or family member, who heads over to Costco or Walmart or your local hardware store several times every summer, to buy bottles of Roundup to to kill weeds on your own property.

We haven’t been able to nail down what portion of the more than $4 billion in Roundup sales are direct sales to consumers. But it’s significant enough that U.S. retailers are “sticking by” the product, despite the public’s growing awareness of its potential harm.

Organic Consumers Association and Beyond Pesticides jointly filed a lawsuit against Monsanto for intentionally misleading the public by labeling its popular weedkiller Roundup, and its active ingredient, glyphosate, as “target[ing] an enzyme found in plants but not in people or pets.”

In fact, according to scientists:

. . . although humans and other mammals themselves do not have a shikimate pathway, the shikimate pathway is present in bacteria, including beneficial bacteria that inhabit the mammalian gut and are essential to overall health. EPSP is therefore “found in . . . people [and] pets.” Just like it inhibits EPSP synthase in weeds, the active ingredient in Roundup inhibits EPSP synthase in these human and pet gut bacteria, and just like it targets weeds, the active ingredient in Roundup targets the human and pet gut bacteria the enzyme targeted by Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is found in the gut bacteria of people and pets.

Johnson case draws attention to use of Roundup where kids play

Johnson’s case is different. He used commercially sold Roundup on a regular basis, on the multiple school properties he managed. He wasn’t your average homeowner, buying Roundup at Walmart, to keep his yard tidy.

But his case shouldn’t resonate any less with the public—especially parents of schoolchildren. He told the Time interviewer he “had to be at work by sun up to make sure we had time to spray before the kids got to school.” He also insisted that his staff wear protective gear.

Kids don’t wear protective gear to school. Nor should they have to, most parents would agree.

Now that Johnson knows how toxic Roundup is, and how Monsanto works hard to keep that information from the public, he said he’s on a mission. Despite how overwhelmed he is with his new “celebrity” status, not to mention his terminal illness, Johnson said he wants “to see all these schools stop using glyphosate, first California, then the rest of the country.”

We couldn’t agree more. That’s why we’re working with other organizations and parent activists to get Roundup out of schools. If you’d like to help, sign our petition to the National School Boards Association. And take this flyer to your school board members, and your next PTA meeting.

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

Tell Congress: It’s Time for a Green New Deal!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-11-29 15:19
Belong to campaign: Regenerative AgricultureCategory: Environment & Climate, Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

On Congress’s the first day back to work after the November 2018 election, hundreds of young people with the Sunrise Movement  lined up outside the office of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

They were there to demand a Green New Deal. 

The protesters carried envelopes stuffed full of thousands of letters from other young people. One by one, they filed into Pelosi’s office. Some gave short speeches as they delivered their demands. The 51 of them who sat down in Pelosi’s office and refused to leave were arrested.

When it was her turn to speak, Sophia Zaia from Philadelphia said:

“Back in Nancy Pelosi’s home state, 42 people were just burned alive by wildfires, that are described as fire tsunamis, that we literally do not know how to fight. And she’s come to that crisis with a water gun, saying that she’s going to revive a committee to talk about evidence of climate change? That maybe would have been helpful back in 1968, when Exxon first learned about climate change. But that, today, is so, so far from what we need.”

TAKE ACTION: Ask your members of Congress to support the Sunrise Movement’s Green New Deal!Read more

'Final Countdown:' Are Your Food Choices Pushing Wildlife to Extinction?

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-11-29 04:18
November 28, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonEnvironment & Climate palm_oil_plantation_1200x630.jpg

Photo: Nanang Sujana/CIFOR, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

An ingredient found in many everyday products is pushing wildlife towards the brink of extinction. It’s  also displacing smallholder farmers and moving us closer to a climate catastrophe.

The rising demand for palm oil is contributing to deforestation worldwide, as forests are destroyed and cleared to build industrial-size palm oil plantations.

A new investigation found that the world’s biggest brands, including Unilever, Nestlé, Colgate-Palmolive and Mondelez, are responsible for destroying an area of rainforest almost twice the size of Singapore in less than three years. Why? Because they use palm oil in a variety of food and personal care products, including frozen pizzas, ice cream, cookies, chocolates, soaps, candles, makeup and detergents.

“Final Countdown,” published by Greenpeace International, found that since 2015, about two dozen palm oil groups cleared more than 130,000 hectares of rainforest. About 40 percent of the deforestation was concentrated in Papua, Indonesia.

Indonesia is one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. But that biodiversity is being threatened, because the country is also the world’s largest producer of palm oil.

Big Box brands are destroying vast stretches of rainforest for palm oil

Deforestation for palm oil plantations is pushing mankind’s closest living relative, the orangutan, to the brink of extinction. One of the biggest culprits is the Illinois-based snack food giant, Mondelez.

Mondelez is accused of sourcing palm oil from suppliers that have destroyed 70,000 hectares of rainforest—an area larger than the size of Chicago—since 2016. The snack food giant uses palm oil in its Ritz crackers, Cadbury chocolate and Oreo biscuits, to name a few.

In less than two decades, Bornean orangutan populations have been cut in half due to loss of habitat. Other species, including the Sumatran elephant, Sumatran rhino and the Sumatran tiger, are also being threatened as forest are cleared to plant more palm-oil trees.

Environmentalists warn that time is running out to save Indonesia’s critically endangered orangutans, which are being killed at a rate of 25 a day as their habitat is destroyed to build palm-oil plantations.

Watch this video for more on how palm oil is threatening orangutans.

Sixty-percent of palm oil is used for biofuel

Native to Africa, oil-palm trees look similar to coconut-palm trees. They can grow to more than 60 feet tall. They flourish on the peaty wetland soil found in lowland tropics. About twice a month, oil-palm trees produce a 50-pound bunch of walnut-size fruit that contains an oil more versatile than nearly any other plant-based oil of its kind.

Although used widely in various consumer products, a big percentage of palm oil is used for biodiesel fuel. About 40 percent of palm oil is used in food, animal feed and chemical products while 60 percent is used for energy including biofuel, power and heat, according to the Rain Forest Action Network (RAN).

The impact of deforestation stretches far and wide. Not only does it threaten wildlife, but it also displaces smallholder farmers and indigenous communities (who are often brutally driven from their land). And deforestation is a primary driver of climate change, because it releases large amounts of carbon stored in trees and soil. According to The New York Times:

Forests hold as much as 45 percent of the planet’s carbon stored on land, and old-growth trees in particular hold a great deal of that carbon, typically far more than any of the crops that replace them. When the trees are cut down, most of that carbon is released.

The rainforests in Indonesia store vast amounts of carbon. Researchers from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration say the accelerated destruction of rainforests in Borneo, Indonesia contributed to the single-largest global increase in carbon emissions in two millenniuma. According to RAN’s website:

Indonesia—the world’s largest producer of palm oil—temporarily surpassed the United States in terms of greenhouse gas emissions in 2015. With their CO2 and methane emissions, palm oil-based biofuels actually have three times the climate impact of traditional fossil fuels.

How you can make a difference

Investigations such as Greenpeace’s “Final Countdown” are important as they offer consumers a glimpse into the health and environmental effects of supply chains for commodities such as palm oil. They also highlight the importance of how making good choices regarding your food affects wildlife and the livelihoods of people on the other side of the globe.

Fortunately, there’s power in spreading awareness and in how consumers spend their dollars. 

If you want to opt out of the harm caused by palm oil, prepare more homecooked meals made of local, organicand regenerativeingredients. Shop at your local farmer’s market where you can purchase not only locally produced food, but also soaps, candles and other everyday products that are less likely to contain palm oil.

Consumers can also reach out to retailers and manufacturers and ask for palm-oil free products. Most companies don’t want to give their products a bad name, which means they’re often open to hearing about the wants and concerns of their customers.

For more information on palm oil, check out Greenpeace International’s full report, available here.

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

Celebrate #GivingTuesday: Help Us Build a Just Food and Farming System

Organic consumers - Mon, 2018-11-26 20:51
November 26, 2018Organic Consumers Association giving_tuesday_letter_2.jpg

Neuroscientists tell us that the neurochemical drivers of happiness are dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin—and that any activity that increases production of these “happiness trifecta” chemicals will boost your mood.

Guess what sits at the top of the list of things you can do recharge these brain chemicals?


There are many ways to give, everyday. You can take chicken soup to a sick friend. Rake your neighbor’s leaves. Fix someone’s flat tire.

And of course, you can support our work to fix the food system.

About 80 percent of our support comes from individual donors like you. Can you make a donation on #GivingTuesday to help us fix our food system?

Maybe the people who thought up #GivingTuesday weren’t thinking about neuroscience and the “happiness trifecta.”

But they were thinking about this: There’s power in giving. And power in numbers. And great power in great numbers of people giving.

Power for what? For “doing good” in the world.

On this #GivingTuesday, we hope you’ll make a donation to support the good work we are doing, to build a healthier, more just food and farming system.

Because a healthier food system is good for everyone.

But we also recognize that there are many ways to give, and many good organizations worthy of your support.

So, please join us in celebrating #GivingTuesday by following this piece of wise advice: Whatever is good for your soul. Do that.

Thank you, from all of us at OCA.

P.S. There are so many good organizations working to make the world better. We appreciate that you choose to support our work. Thank you!

How Facebook Users Are Making #GivingTuesday a Huge Success

Organic consumers - Mon, 2018-11-26 17:07
November 26, 2018Organic Consumers Association gt_fb.jpg

You know what they say. If you can’t beat ‘em, you may as well join ‘em.

Tomorrow is #GivingTuesday. If you’re a person who cares about making the world better, your inbox will probably fill up fast tomorrow, with emails from organizations asking you to support them.

Rather than get annoyed by all these emails, why not join in the fun? By becoming a fundraiser yourself tomorrow?

It’s easy to set up your own fundraiser, and start raising money for your favorite nonprofit. Just go here and follow the step-by-step instructions.

This year on #GivingTuesday, Facebook is partnering with PayPal to match a total of up to $7 million donations, made on Facebook, to nonprofits like Organic Consumers Association.

We realize that you’ll have many opportunities tomorrow to participate in #GivingTuesday. Thank you in advance for considering a donation to OCA.

Happy Giving!

The OCA social media team

P.S. If you want to get a head start on #GivingTuesday by making a donation to OCA today, please click here for details. Thank you!

This #GivingTuesday Help Us Keep Up the Pressure on Corporations

Organic consumers - Mon, 2018-11-26 16:27
November 26, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie Cummins giving_tuesday_letter_one.jpg

For decades, we’ve been shouting from the rooftops to anyone who would listen—and some who wouldn’t—that using poison to grow food is a terrible and dangerous idea.

With your help, we’ve published thousands of articles, organized hundreds of protests, sued numerous poison-spewing corporations, funneled hundreds of thousands of emails and letters and phone calls to Congress.

Why do we persist, in the face of so much corporate lobbying power intent on drowning out our voices?

Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, the now-famous (reluctantly, he’s quick to say) victim of Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller, said it best in an interview with Time magazine this week:

It is important for people to know this stuff, to know about what they’re being exposed to. If people have the information they can make choices, they can be informed and protect themselves.

Help us get poisons out of food. Please consider making a generous donation today, so that together, we can build a better food and farming system. Donate online, by phone or by mail, details here.

We couldn’t have said it better than Mr. Johnson.

Johnson’s message is clear: You can choose to avoid GMOs and pesticide residues, and you can choose to boycott food companies that sell them—but only if you know.

We think everyone needs to know.

And we love that once you know, you have the power to spread the word, too.

Alone, we can’t reach the critical mass of educated consumers it will take to transform our food and farming system, from one that wrecks our health and our common home to one that nourishes us, and regenerates the environment.

But together, we can. And we will.

Singer, songwriter and activist Joan Baez is famous for reminding us: “Action is the antidote to despair.”

There are many ways to take action. Financial support is just one of those ways—but it’s a critical one.

This #GivingTuesday, please consider making a generous donation to help us keep up the pressure on corporations and policymakers. So that one day, Roundup and other poisons will be banned forever.

Thank you!

P.S. There are so many good organizations working to make the world better. We appreciate that you choose to support our work. Thank you!

The Most Inspiring—and Regenerative—Wins of the 2018 Elections

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-11-21 14:54
November 21, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationAlexis Baden-MayerEnvironment & Climate, Politics & Globalization ballot_box_votes_voting_sunrise_1200x630.png

The regenerative food and farming movement didn’t get everything we wanted out of the 2018 elections—either in terms of candidates or, as Greg Palast documented, in terms of fair elections. Clearly, our democracy is far from perfect.

But thankfully, that hasn’t stopped the movement for health, justice and regeneration.

On November 6, the country elected several inspiring new leaders, some of whom are already getting to work at the local, state and federal level. On the ballot initiative front, voters in Portland, Oregon, passed a progressive initiative that will, among other things, direct funds to regenerative agriculture projects that sequester greenhouse gases and support local food production.

Maryland district sends anti-Monsanto delegate to the statehouse

We begin by congratulating Vaughn Stewart, the only candidate in the country we’re aware of who publicly called out Monsanto during his campaign—and with good reason.

At a public forum before the elections, Stewart said:

“This issue is very personal to me. I beat cancer last year for the second time in my life. I had salivary gland cancer when I was 18 and lymphoma last year. I can’t prove it, but I’m very certain that the reason is that Monsanto used my hometown in Alabama as a dumping ground for PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls) for decades.”

Vaughn won! He’ll join the Maryland House of Delegates representing District 19.

Colorado, Connecticut and Hawaii elect regenerative food and farming champions

We also had a few big wins for regeneration statewide in Colorado, Connecticut and Hawaii.

Coloradans tapped Jared Polis as their next governor. Polis leaves Congress with a great voting record on health, justice and regenerative organic food and farming.

Polis has been a champion for the climate, for labels on foods produced with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), for industrial hemp and raw milk, for animal welfare, for organic food & farming, for pollinators, for integrative health and wellness, and for the regulation of agricultural chemicals.

The new governor of Connecticut will be Ned Lamont. We endorsed Lamont because of his strong plan for protecting the environment, a plan that includes a pledge to protect clean air, water and soil. Lamont has also pledged to ban insecticides that harm bees. He made a promise to:

Protect our farmers and landowners by reviewing commercially available herbicides and pesticides used in the state and determine which ones are significantly harmful, and enacting changes if necessary. For instance, I will look to ban neonicotinoids and save our bees, which are critical to pollination of our crops, orchards and native vegetation across the state.

Dr. Josh Green is Hawaii’s Lieutenant-Governor-Elect. In “Dr. Josh Green's Prescription for a Better Future,” Green’s top-10 list of policies designed to strengthen and support Hawaii families, he includes "stronger pesticide restrictions and GMO labeling."

Could Congress be headed for a #GreenNewDeal?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won New York’s 14th district House seat after a primary victory over the incumbent Congressman, Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley. Crowley was an opponent of consumers’ right to know where food comes from and how it is produced. The Cornucopia Institute gave him a “D” grade for failing to support labels on foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs.)

Based in part on what she told Bon Appétit, we have reason to believe Congresswoman-Elect Ocasio-Cortez will be much better than the average Congress member on food and farming issues:

For Ocasio-Cortez, food is political, and the most tangible indicator of our social inequities. Sure, as living beings we all must eat to survive—and there’s unity in that—but what we eat and how much and where it comes from and what we must do to get it varies widely. “The food industry is the nexus of almost all of the major forces in our politics today,” she says. “It’s super closely linked with climate change and ethics. It’s the nexus of minimum wage fights, of immigration law, of criminal justice reform, of health care debates, of education. You’d be hard-pressed to find a political issue that doesn’t have food implications.”

Ocasio-Cortez is pushing for a #GreenNewDeal that would decarbonize manufacturing, agriculture and other industries, and fund a massive investment in the drawdown of greenhouse gases. Read her proposal for a Select Committee on a Green New Deal. Then, call your Congress members and ask them to endorse this proposal.

In Minnesota, Ilhan Omar won the District 5 House seat vacated by Congressman Keith Ellison who was elected Attorney General. Congresswoman-Elect Omar wants to join the House Agriculture Committee. Representing an urban district, she sees the committee as an opportunity to promote food security for poor communities. Omar was endorsed by Our Revolution Twin Cities, which confirmed through a candidate questionnaire that she would work to:

• Pass legislation that protects Minnesota's pollinators.

• Break up agribusiness.

• Support organic and sustainable agriculture and horticultural practices.

• Eliminate factory farming of livestock.

• Support small-scale farming.

• Increase funding for urban farming.

• Promote good energy and natural resource conservation practices.

• Require composting to be a component of all public and commercial waste disposal

Meanwhile, in New York, Antonio Delgado flipped New York House District 19. Delgado has a great farming and agriculture platform that includes promises to:

• Protect our small and medium-sized farms and the farming industry while also building out the necessary regional infrastructure to ensure that our farmers are able to have access to the $6 billion dollars of unmet demand for local and organically grown food in New York City.

• Conserve and protect our environment, provide access to credit and business training for small rural farms, invest in preparing the next generation of farmers in our community, and fund programs like SNAP and those incentivizing purchases at local farmers markets.

Those are just a few of the CRL-endorsed candidates who won their races. To see all of the 2018 general election candidates we endorsed, and find out how they did in the November elections, please check out Citizen Regeneration Lobby’s candidates page.

Portland, Oregon ballot initiative will raise funds for regenerative ag

Our favorite ballot initiative win happened in Portland, Oregon, where voters approved the Portland Clean Energy Initiative. Portland’s vote proves that localities can take meaningful action to decrease carbon emissions and realize the economic, social and environmental benefits of transitioning away from fossil fuels.

What’s so promising about this initiative (Measure 26-201)? In addition to creating a fund to support clean energy, it also provides funding for “[r]egenerative agriculture and green infrastructure projects that result in the sequestration of greenhouse gases and support sustainable local food production.”

The Portland Clean Energy Initiative makes wealthy corporations pay their fair share for a just transition to clean energy and regenerative agriculture. The measure language states:

Large retail businesses are a significant contributor to carbon emissions. They encourage consumption of heavily packaged and non-recyclable products, have carbon intensive shipping, manufacturing, and supply chain practices, and share responsibility for generating a substantial portion of the City’s overall greenhouse gas emissions when customer traffic and facility operations are considered. These businesses have an inherent responsibility and the financial capacity to support the goals of this Measure, and an incentive to remain in the City to engage in retail activities here.”

As Fast Company put it, “Portland could make big businesses pay to protect communities of color from climate change.” And, it did! Measure 26-201 is the first environmental initiative in history created and led by communities of color, including Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, Coalition of Communities of Color, NAACP Portland Branch 1120, Native American Youth & Family Center, OPAL/Environmental Justice Oregon, and Verde.

In 2017, Portland pledged to transition to 100-percent clean energy by 2050 (electricity from renewable sources by 2035, and all remaining energy from renewables by 2050).

So far, 80 U.S. cities have made similar pledges. That sounds impressive, but as the Institute for Local Self-Reliance reminded us, none of those cities have the “funding sources that will help them reach these goals.”

That changed on November 6, when voters passed the Portland Clean Energy Initiative. The initiative creates a 1-percent business license surcharge on large retail operations with more than $1 billion in previous annual national sales and $500,000 in annual sales within the city of Portland.

The initiative will raise over $30 million annually. According to news reports, a portion of the money would be used for regenerative agriculture projects that sequester greenhouse gases and support local food production.

A significant chunk of the money generated by the Portland Clean Energy Initiative will also be used for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, with a focus on projects that benefit low-income people and communities of color.

To see all of the 2018 candidates and ballot initiatives we endorsed, and find out how they did, check out Citizen Regeneration Lobby’s 2018 elections page.

Were you inspired by any winning candidates or initiatives in the November 2018 elections? Let us know by emailing

Alexis Baden-Mayer is political director for the Organic Consumers Association and its 501(c)(4) lobbying arm, Citizens Regeneration Lobby. Keep up with news on food, agriculture and environment issues by subscribing to OCA’s online newsletter.

What Turkey Producers Don't Want You to Know

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-11-15 13:51
November 15, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationMartha RosenbergEnvironment & Climate, CAFOs vs. Free Range, Food Safety turkeys_brown_black_grass_farm_1200x630.jpg

As Turkey Day approaches, animal lovers cringe, food safety advocates become vigilant and industrial turkey producers hope you aren’t reading the news.

Specifically, the purveyors of factory farm turkeys hope you haven’t heard about the latest turkey salmonella outbreak in 35 states, causing 63 hospitalizations and at least one death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

The outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading has been identified in various raw turkey products, including ground turkey and turkey patties. The outbreak strain has also been found in raw turkey pet food and live turkeys, indicating it might be widespread in the turkey industry."

Factory farm turkey producers also hope you’ve forgotten that avian flu and its prevention killed so many turkeys in 2015—at least 7.5 million—that turkey giant Jennie-O laid off 233 workers.

They hope you’ve forgotten that scientists at the Bloomberg School’s Center for a Livable Future and Arizona State’s Biodesign Institute found Tylenol, Benadryl, caffeine, statins and Prozac in feather meal samples that included U.S. turkeys—“a surprisingly broad spectrum of prescription and over-the-counter drugs,” said study co-author Rolf Halden of Arizona State University.

And finally, Butterball hopes you’ve forgotten that several of its employees were convicted of sickening animal cruelty and that veterinarian Dr. Sarah Mason admits tipping off Butterball about an imminent raid by Hoke County detectives to investigate the abuse.

Can consumers rely on labels to make good buying decisions? Not really.

Many consumers rely on labels to help them avoid serving a sick, contaminated or abused bird on Thanksgiving Day. Unfortunately, navigating the maze of labels and marketing claims is at best time consuming, and at worst, a waste of time. For example, "cage free" and "hormone free” are meaningless since cages and hormones aren’t used (or at least, aren’t supposed to be used) in turkey production anyway.

Nor does "young” mean anything—all turkeys are young at the time of slaughter. They live only a matter of weeks or a few months.

And don’t even get us started on turkey labeled “natural,” “all natural” or “100% natural.” As Organic Consumers Association and other food safety and animal welfare groups wrote in a letter last year to Cargill:

We are concerned about the production and marketing of Cargill’s turkey products. In particular, we believe that Cargill is misleading consumers about (1) its systematic overuse of antibiotics and other contaminants, which can pose a threat to public health; (2) whether its turkey products, and animal husbandry practices, are “natural;” (3) whether its turkey products emanate from facilities that employ inhumane agro-industrial practices; and (4) whether its turkey production practices are “environmentally conscious.”

Here’s a long list of facts you’ll never see listed on the major turkey brands in your grocery store.

1) Ractopamine is still in use

Hormones may not be used in turkey production but ractopamine, the asthma-like growth enhancer used to quickly add muscle weight to factory farm turkeys is. Banned in 160 countries and widely viewed as dangerous to animals and humans, ractopamine was approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for use in turkey in 2009, under the brand name Topmax. It has never been labeled.

How dangerous is Topmax? This is what its label says: “NOT FOR HUMAN USE. Warning. The active ingredient in Topmax, ractopamine hydrochloride, is a beta-adrenergic agonist. Individuals with cardiovascular disease should exercise special caution to avoid exposure. Not for use in humans. Keep out of the reach of children... When mixing and handling Topmax, use protective clothing, impervious gloves, protective eye wear, and a NIOSH-approved dust mask. Operators should wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling.” There’s even an 800 number for emergencies.

Monkeys fed ractopamine in a Canadian study "developed daily tachycardia" (rapid heartbeat). Rats fed ractopamine developed a constellation of birth defects like cleft palate, protruding tongue, short limbs, missing digits, open eyelids and enlarged hearts.

In its new drug application (no longer on the FDA website), Elanco, ractopamine’s manufacturer, admitted that ractopamine produced “alterations” in turkey meat such as a “mononuclear cell infiltrate and myofiber degeneration,”  “an increase in the incidence of cysts” and differences, some “significant,” in the weight of organs like hearts, kidneys and livers.

2) Antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant bacteria are found in turkey

Antibiotics are widely used in turkey production to produce weight gain with less feed, and to stop disease outbreaks from crowded conditions. In fact, when the FDA tried to ban the use of one class of antibiotic—cephalosporins—in 2008, Michael Rybolt, the National Turkey Federation’s director of scientific and regulatory affairs, said, "To raise turkeys without antibiotics would increase the incidence of illness in turkey flocks."

Referring to 227-acre turkey operations as "small family farms," Rybolt said antibiotics were actually green because the use of antibiotics means less land is required to grow feed, less land is required to house turkeys—and less turkey feed means there is less manure.

Not all antibiotics used in U.S. industrial turkey operations are legal, suggests research by scientists at the Bloomberg School’s Center for a Livable Future and Arizona State’s Biodesign Institute. They found fluoroquinolones in eight of 12 samples of feather meal in a multi-state study. Fluoroquinolones are antibiotics used to treat serious bacterial infections in humans, especially infections that have become resistant to other antibiotic. Fluoroquinolones have been banned for livestock use since 2005.

Why do the government and all leading medical groups condemn routine, daily use of antibiotics in livestock? Because it encourages the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria which cause potentially lethal infections in people.

Almost half of turkey samples purchased at U.S. grocery stores harbored antibiotic resistant-infections, according to a 2011 report in the Los Angeles Times. A serious strain of antibiotic-resistant salmonella called Salmonella Heidelberg and Salmonella Hadar forced recalls of turkey products from Jennie-O Turkey. The resistant salmonella strains were so deadly, officials warned that the meat should be disposed in sealed garbage cans to protect wild animals. Even wildlife is threatened by the factory farm-created scourges.

More recently, Consumer Reports issued a lengthy report on the widespread presence of antibiotics and drugs, some banned for use in livestock production, in meat, poultry (including turkey) and pork.

3) Drugs used to treat turkey diseases pose threats to human health

Industrially produced turkeys are at risk of many diseases for which both medicines and vaccines are administered. Until 2015, an arsenic-containing drug called Nitarsone was FDA-approved for the "first six weeks of a turkey’s 20-week life span." Three other arsenic products were rescinded by the FDA in 2012.

It’s shocking that arsenic has been allowed in U.S. poultry production for almost 50 years, given that increasing evidence supports that chronic low-to-moderate exposure results in numerous non-cancerous health effects, including cardiovascular, kidney and respiratory disease, diabetes and cognitive and reproductive defects,” according to a scientific paper published in 2016, in Environmental Health Perspectives. Inorganic arsenic is an established human carcinogen, known to cause cancers of the lung, skin and bladder and possibly cancers of the liver and kidney.

Turkeys can suffer from Aspergillosis (Brooder Pneumonia), Avian Influenza, Avian Leucosis, Histomoniasis, Coccidiosis, Coronavirus, Erysipelas, Typhoid, TB, Fowl Cholera, Mites, Lice, Herpes, Clostridial dermatitis, Cellulitis and much more—and the treatments are often as scary as the conditions. Consider, for example, the anti-coccidial drug halofuginone which the Federal Register says "is toxic to fish and aquatic life" and "an irritant to eyes and skin.” Users should take care to "Keep [it] out of lakes, ponds, and streams" says the Register. A few years ago, scientists even found the endocrine disrupter Bisphenol A (BPA) in fresh turkey.

4) Animal cruelty abounds in industrial turkey production

Even before 2015 bird flu outbreak that resulted in turkeys being euthanized by suffocation in a way even producers called cruel, industrially produced turkeys had tragic lives.

Unable to mate because of the huge chests they are bred to have (many barely able to walk), producers use a cruel artificial insemination technique, which involves “milking” the males and forcing the semen into the hens. Veterinary journals admit that using chemicals to make turkeys grow abnormally fast puts the birds at risk for "sudden death from cardiac problems and aortic rupture," (diagnosed by the presence of large clots of blood around the turkey's lungs) hypertensive angiopathy and pulmonary edema. Growth drugs in turkeys may also "result in leg weakness or paralysis," says the Federal Code.

Because turkeys are drugged and bred to grow so quickly, their legs can't support their own weight and many arrive with broken and dislocated limbs, a “live hanger” who worked undercover at House of Raeford Farms in Raeford, N.C., the seventh-largest turkey producer in the U.S. , told me a few years ago. When you try to remove them from their crates, their legs twist completely around, offering no resistance he told me. "The turkeys must be in a lot of pain but they don't cry out. The only sound you hear as you hang them is trucks being washed out to go back and get a new load."

And then there’s this: The kill conveyer belt at the slaughterhouse moves so fast, turkeys miss the “stunner” that is supposed to render them insensate, resulting thousands of birds being boiled alive.

While some food safety and animal rights activists have sought to find turkey producers who do not commit such practices, others warn that so-called ethical producers may be disingenuous.

"Our birds live in harmony with the environment and we allow them plenty of room to roam," says a Diestel Turkey Ranch brochure, displayed at Whole Foods meat counters. But Slate reported in 2015 that a visit to Diestel’s Jamestown facility, conducted by Direct Action investigators, "revealed horrific conditions, even by the standards of industrial agriculture." Turkeys were jammed into overcrowded barns, trapped in piles of feces, had swollen eyes and open sores and "dead turkeys [were] strewn across the barn floor."

Clearly there is a lot that turkey producers, even the so-called "humane" ones—don’t want you to know.

Want to avoid factory farm turkeys this holiday season? Here are a few tips.

Martha Rosenberg a freelance journalist and frequent contributor to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). Katherine Paul, associate director, contributed to this article. To keep up with OCA’s news and alerts, sign up here.

Tell Whole Foods to Stop Selling Toxic GMO Potatoes!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-11-13 16:51
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: All About Organics, Food Safety, Genetic EngineeringArea: USA

Remember when Whole Foods promised consumers that by the end of 2018, all of its U.S. and Canada stores would require labels on any foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs)?

About midway through 2018, Whole Foods reneged on that promise.

Now, the retailer once known as a mecca for organic food shoppers is selling GMO potatoes—and those potatoes aren’t labeled.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Whole Foods to stop selling toxic GMO potatoes!Read more

Pesticides Are in So Many Many Foods. Did You Know They May Also Be in Your Home?

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-11-07 18:27
November 7, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonGenetic Engineering, Health Issues homes_1200x630.jpg

By now, most everyone knows that the pesticides used by industrial farming operations pollute the air, linger in the soil and turn up on many foods—including Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Now, a new study suggests those pesticides could also be in your home.

A team of researchers from Cornell University conducted pesticide analyses as part of a larger effort to study pollutants in homes and childcare facilities. Scientists sampled 350 rural homes in six New York state counties, looking for more than a dozen potentially toxic pesticides commonly used in conventional farming operations.

According to their analysis, published in September in JSM Health Education & Primary Health Care, 100 percent of the homes tested contained agricultural pesticide residues.

Joseph Laquatra, one of the researchers and a professor of design and environmental analysis at the College of Human Ecology, told the Cornell Chronicle that his team found that “pesticide residues are ubiquitous in rural homes in New York state.

Laquatra told the Chronicle why the public should be concerned, especially when it comes to babies and small children:

“Numerous health problems occur from exposure to pesticides, such as cancer, birth defects, leukemia and ocular [vision-related] toxicity, among a number of other health issues. Households with crawling toddlers should be concerned, as toddlers will accumulate pesticide residues on their hands and then ingest them due to hand-to-mouth behaviors.”

Despite the proven health risks, data shows that Americans use over a billion pounds of pesticides per year. Worldwide, that number is closer to 5.6 billion pounds.

Natural remedies for fighting pests

Pesticides applied in the home to kill pests, or on lawns and gardens, often up end accumulating in household dust. Pesticides applied outdoors may be tracked into your home on shoes, clothing and even animal fur. Once inside, these chemicals can persist much longer than they do outdoors, where sun and rain degrade them more quickly.

Fortunately, there are ways to reduce exposure to pesticide pollution in your home. For starters, ditch your chemical pest control. There are many non-toxic options when it comes to dealing with pests in your home. 

Integrated pest management, for example, focuses on preventing infestations before they start, and uses chemicals only as a last resort. This strategy includes repairing ripped window and door screens and using silicone caulk to seal off any cracks in the exterior of your home.

The next step is to keep a clean home. It sounds cliché, we know. But pests love floors and countertops riddled with food, so be sure to clean up spills and vacuum and dust regularly. 

Already have a pest problem? Try sweeping up individual bugs and nests. Or trap them in an airtight vacuum bag. Mousetraps, flytraps and jar traps are another effective way to kill persistent pests without having to spray your entire home with chemicals.

You may also dust cracks and crevices with boric acid powder or food-grade Diatomaceous Earth, which is non-toxic to humans but can effectively kill any insect with an exoskeleton.

Integrated pest management is “a low-cost, environmentally friendly solution that has been proven in studies to slash pest-removal costs by one-third—and pest complaints by 90 percent,” states the Natural Resources Defense Council. Click here to learn more about natural, chemical-free methods for dealing with pests.

Mounting research links pesticide exposure to serious harm in children, unborn babies

The research linking pesticide exposure to serious health hazards in children and in developing fetuses is strong.

A class of pesticides known as organophosphates (OPs) are believed to be so dangerous that an expert panel of toxicologists recently called for an outright ban on the chemicals. Exposure to OP pesticides has been shown to increase the risk of autism and lower IQs in prenatal children, causing memory and attention deficits, research shows.

Irva Hertz-Picciotto, director of the UC Davis Environmental Health Sciences Center, recently told UC Davis environmental health sciences center the Guardian:

“We have compelling evidence from dozens of human studies that exposures of pregnant women to very low levels of organophosphate pesticides put children and fetuses at risk for developmental problems that may last a lifetime.”

Also proven dangerous to children and developing fetuses is an insecticide known as chlorpyrifos, an OP pesticide that’s widely used in agriculture and is linked to brain damage and numerous other health problems.

Manufactured by Dow Chemical, chlorpyrifos are widely used by municipalities, golf courses and in agriculture where it’s applied to many commonly eaten foods including apples, oranges, strawberries, corn and broccoli.

The Obama administration moved to ban chlorpyrifos in 2015, but the Trump administration has since reversed that decision. However, in August 2018 a federal court ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ban chlorpyrifos within 60 days based. on compelling evidence linking the chemical to brain damage in children. The Trump administration is currently appealing that ruling.

In addition to ditching chemical pesticides and keeping a clean home, eating organic is another surefire way to protect you and your family from the harm caused by pesticides.

A recent study out of France found that eating an organic diet may help protect against cancer. The study followed 70,000 adults (most of them women) for five years and observed a 25-percent reduction in cancer diagnoses (especially in lymphoma and breast cancer) among those who ate an organic diet, including organic produce, dairy and meat.

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

Tell Florida's Natural: Orange Juice with Roundup Weedkiller Isn't 'Natural'

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-11-07 17:48
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoThe Myth of NaturalCategory: Food Safety, Genetic EngineeringArea: USA

When you buy food labeled “natural,” you probably assume it doesn’t contain “unnatural” ingredients—like agrochemicals known to cause cancer.

But as we’ve found with some other so-called “natural” products, that’s not always true. 

The latest “natural” product to test positive for Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller? Florida’s Natural orange juice.
TAKE ACTION: Tell Florida’s Natural: Orange Juice with Roundup Weedkiller Isn’t ‘Natural’Read more

Bayer CEO: Roundup Weedkiller Cancer Victims Are 'Nuisances'

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-11-07 17:35
November 7, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonGenetic Engineering, Health Issues bayer_1200x630.jpg

There are about 8,700 lawsuits pending against Monsanto, by people who allege that exposure to Roundup weedkiller is responsible for their cancer. Most of the people behind these lawsuits have stories not unlike the one told by Dewayne Johnson, during his landmark jury trial which resulted in a unanimous decision against Monsanto.

Like Johnson, many of these people have non-Hodgkin lymphoma—or they have family members who have already died from the disease. They face long, grueling trials as they go up against the biotech behemoth.

To Werner Baumann, CEO of Bayer (which acquired Monsanto last year for $63 billion), these people are just “nuisances.”

According to a recent Reuters report, Baumann told reporters:

“If we can settle nuisances at some point where the defense costs in preparing cases are higher than potential settlement amounts, we will of course consider it from an economic standpoint.” 

No wonder. After all, Bayer could end up on the hook for $800 billion in liability—a possibility that has made shareholders of the German company very unhappy.

But whatever Bayer decides—go to trial or settle—Baumann told reporters he’s clear on one thing:

“We will resolutely and with all means defend ourselves in this (glyphosate) litigation.”

Defending the indefensible

On an August conference call following the verdict in the Johnson trial, Baumann promised investors the agrochemical company would defend glyphosate, and in the meantime, continue business as usual.

“Nothing has changed concerning our strategy. We want to make sure that glyphosate will continue to be available to our key stakeholders as an excellent, safe and very important tool for modern agriculture.”

In other words, Bayer intends to do everything in its power to keep glyphosate on the market—despite a U.S. court’s determination that the weedkiller causes cancer. For Bayer, “business as usual” means profits before human health.

In the meantime, Bayer wants the rest of the world to think that the company is focused on sustainable farming practices that benefit farmers, consumers and the planet.

Bayer tweeted last month about hosting an international group of food bloggers at one of its Forward Farms in Abbenes, North Holland, where the topic of discussion was reported to be “sustainability.”

Vandaag is er een internationale groep food bloggers en vloggers te gast op de Forward Farm in Abbenes, @HinseBoonstra @JorisRoskam  geven uitleg over duurzame landbouw #FutureFarming dialoog

— Bayer Nederland (@BayerNederland) September 20, 2018

The farm is one of several around the world that make up Bayer’s ForwardFarming network, a project designed to bolster the idea that Bayer cares about the environment. Bayer currently has Forward Farms in the U.S., Latin America and in various parts of Europe including Italy, France, Belgium and Berlin. 

Precision pesticide-spraying—‘holistic’ and ‘sustainable’?

Bayer describes its ForwardFarming project as “an initiative that works with independent farms around the world to help advance sustainable agriculture.”

So, what is it exactly that Bayer is doing that’s sustainable? Promoting GPS technology that helps farmers spray pesticides with precision, glyphosate included. According to Bayer’s website, “digital farming techniques, such as GPS informed precision spraying . . . are all demonstrated on the fam.” These tools allow farmers “to take a holistic approach to sustainable farming.”

Holistic approach? Don’t be fooled by Bayer’s feelgood choice of words, as the agrochemical giant’s definition of “holistic” simply means more glyphosate. Bayer even goes as so far to say that without glyphosate, soil organic matter would suffer, and climate change would actually get worse.

Those claims contradict the latest research, which shows that over time, over time, the application of crop chemicals, such as glyphosate, destroy beneficial bacteria in the soil, which reduces soil fertility and causes soil carbon to escape into the atmosphere where it contributes to a warming planet.

The real future of farming—organic and regenerative

Organic agriculture, on the other hand, prohibits the use of toxic crop chemicals and is repeatedly proven to boost soil health, increase yields and fight climate change, all while supporting farmer livelihood.

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

Both time and research have shown that industrial, chemical-intensive agriculture is not the solution to feeding the world, and is in fact moving us backwards in terms of being able to solve world hunger, while at the same time reversing global warming.

If the prospect of billions of dollars in settlements from Roundup cancer lawsuits isn’t enough to scare Bayer off of glyphosate, we’re not sure what will. But one thing is for sure—increasing consumer demand for clean, healthy and pesticide-free food is driving the world’s food system away from toxic chemicals and toward a system that promotes healthy humans, healthy animals and healthy soil. No matter what Bayer says.

If you’d like to honor Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who is now terminally ill with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, help OCA and other organizations get Roundup out of schools.

Julie Wilson is communications associate for the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). Katherine Paul, associate director, contributed to this article. To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

Decision to Uphold Verdict Against Monsanto Sends Bayer Stock into Tailspin

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-10-25 12:53
October 25, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulGenetic Engineering holger_zschaepitz_tweet_1200x630.jpg

When the judge in the Monsanto Roundup trial signaled she might overturn the jury’s verdict, we expected the worst.

In the end, Judge Suzanne Bolanos slashed the amount of money the jury said Monsanto should pay its victim, Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, from $289 million to $78 million.

That may not sound like much of a win, but there was good news in her decision: The jury’s verdict in favor of Johnson, and against Monsanto, was upheld..

What Monsanto really wanted was for Bolanos to throw out the jury’s unanimous decision that Monsanto’s wildly profitable flagship weedkiller caused Johnson’s cancer, and that Monsanto knew all along that Roundup is a carcinogen.

That didn’t happen. That was good news for everyone who’s ever fought to get Roundup off the market, and for everyone who’s ever wanted Monsanto to be held accountable for its crimes.

It was not great news for Johnson, but better news than those of us rooting for him expected.

Who, besides Monsanto’s lawyers, didn’t think the decision handed down by Bolanos on Monday, October 22 was good news? Monsanto’s new owner, Bayer.

Let’s do the math. There are thousands of lawsuits, similar to Johnson’s, alleging Roundup causes cancer. News reports put the number at between 8,000 - 9,000 such lawsuits currently pending in U.S. courts.

Bayer shareholders quickly did the math.  According to one report:

Ian Hilliker, an analyst at Jefferies LLC in London, estimated in a note to clients that based on a class action lawsuit involving 8,700 plaintiffs believed to have cancer as a result of glyphosate exposure, Monsanto’s liability could reach $800 billion dollars. To put this in perspective, the original Bayer-Monsanto buyout offer was $57 billion dollars. Clearly, this no longer looks like an "asset" to Bayer and its stockholders.

Indeed. One German analyst tweeted that Bayer’s acquisition may have precipitated the “largest destruction of market capitalization in German stock market history.” The analyst estimated that Bayer’s losses so far stand at about 57.7 billion Euros ($65.8 billion in U.S. dollars) so far.

Biggest destruction of capital in German stock market history? #Bayer has lost €57.7bn in market cap mainly driven by its acquisition of #Monsanto.

— Holger Zschaepitz (@Schuldensuehner) October 23, 2018

In the end, no verdict, no amount of money, will make Dewayne Johnson’s terminal non-Hodgkin lymphoma go away.

But the verdict, even in its diminished form, provides hope that with continued pressure, with more trials, with more financial losses for Monsanto-Bayer, truth and science may one day prevail.

OCA, along with many other good organizations, is calling on schools throughout the country to ban Roundup, in honor of Johnson, a former school groundskeeper, who bravely stood up to Monsanto. Some schools have already stepped up to the plate, including California’s Benicia Unified School District, where Johnson worked before he was diagnosed with cancer.

We’ll have more soon on our campaign to get Roundup out of schools, and how you can help. For now, please take the following actions:

SIGN THE PETITION: Tell the National School Boards Association: Get Monsanto’s Roundup out of schools!

Help us identify schools that use Roundup and other pesticides

Print this flyer and share with you school board, PTA and other parents

Make a tax-deductible donation to OCA’s Millions Against Monsanto campaign

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


Tell Maseca: Consumers Don’t Want Pesticide-Contaminated GMO Flour!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2018-10-24 13:23
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoThe Myth of NaturalCategory: Food Safety, Genetic EngineeringArea: USA

On October 9, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) reported that samples of Maseca white and yellow corn flour tested positive for concerning levels of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller.

OCA’s testing, organized through its Mexico-based sister organization, also revealed that the some Maseca flour samples tested as high as 94.15 percent for the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMO). That’s a startling finding, given that Maseca flour GMO crops are not allowed to be grown commercially in Mexico.

Those findings can mean only one thing—Mexico-based Gruma, which owns the Maseca brand, is importing GMO corn from the U.S. to produce its flour, sold all over the world, including in Mexico and the U.S.

TAKE ACTION! Tell Maseca: Consumers Don’t Want Pesticide-Contaminated GMO Flour!Read more

Vermont Negligent on Monitoring Dairy Use of Antibiotics

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-10-23 15:14
October 23, 2018VT DiggerMichael ColbyAll About Organics, Health Issues antibioticcow.png

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Michael Colby, of Walden, the president of Regeneration Vermont.

Despite calls from health professionals worldwide to curb the use of farm-animal antibiotics, Vermont’s conventional dairy industry — dominated by concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) – continues to use the antimicrobial drugs extensively, including non-therapeutic uses to prevent diseases caused by the animal confinement and concentration. After numerous records requests and analysis, including eight years of antibiotic violation data obtained from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, we found a rising trend with on-farm antibiotic violations, a lax regulatory environment, and no plan – or even goal – to address the problem.

Vermont’s nonorganic dairy industry is all but ignoring the dire warnings from the World Health Organization to reduce overall antibiotic use in food production, a leading cause of antibiotic resistance, which makes the drugs less effective when necessary to combat human illnesses. While the WHO has called for a complete halt to using antibiotics as a prophylactic in food production– preventing rather than treating animal diseases — Vermont’s dairy industry, with the support of VAAFM regulators, continues to allow healthy cows to be routinely treated between lactations.

While all milk is tested for antibiotic residues, as each farm must provide a sample at the time of the pickup, the tests are based on tolerances, or allowable levels. It is understood that, given the widespread use of antibiotics on CAFO-style dairy farms, that some level of residues exist in the milk. The milk containing antibiotic residues above limits set by the Food & Drug Administration is considered adulterated and is required to be dumped. If it’s below the limits, the milk is legal and processed.

In 2017, there were 18 reported violations of antibiotic residue limits in Vermont, each triggering a site visit and warning from the VAAFM. This was up from 10 such violations reported in 2014, but down from the highest year, 2010, when 32 violations were documented. While these are a fraction of the total milk loads shipped, that doesn’t correlate to low antibiotic usage. It simply means that dairy farmers understand the rules for use and detection, thus keeping within the allowable residue levels.

Included in these violations are what the VAAFM calls “routine” antibiotic test failures, in which above-the-limit, residue-contaminated milk from one farm gets diluted with milk from other farms along the same route, thus comingled into the same milk tanker. The blended milk will fall within legal residue limits, thus processed and introduced into the food supply.

The milk samples collected at each farm are not tested immediately unless the entire tanker tests positive before unloading at the milk buyer’s facility. The samples are all tested later within the buyer’s laboratory, primarily for butterfat and other milk components but also for drug residues. When illegal levels of residues are detected in the lab, the violation is categorized as a “routine positive” by VAAFM, and the farm in violation won’t be flagged and cited until well after the load has been processed.

In 2017, there were three “routine” positive loads of antibiotic-infected milk that were processed by St. Albans Cooperative Creamery, the exclusive supplier for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Agri-Mark, the owners and suppliers of Cabot Creamery’s dairy supply, processed at least one load in 2017 that contained violative levels of antibiotics from a farm.

These “routine” antibiotic test failures in Vermont’s dairy supply only prove what has been suspected all along: antibiotic residues are getting into the food supply. It’s not a matter of whether nonorganic dairy products like those produced by Ben & Jerry’s and Cabot Creamery contain antibiotic residues, but rather at what level.

The WHO, Centers for Disease Control, FDA and every other major health regulator has called the overuse of agricultural antibiotics among the most serious threats to human health facing the world. The CDC estimates that “drug-resistant bacteria cause two million illnesses and approximately 23,000 deaths each year in the United States alone.” As a result, there is a unanimous call among health professionals demanding action, beginning with immediate and substantial reductions in the use of farm-animal antibiotics, which accounts for 80 percent of the total antibiotic usage in the U.S. In the words of the WHO, the human health threat from antimicrobial resistance caused by antibiotic overuse in the agricultural sector is “an increasingly serious threat to global public health that requires action across all government sectors and society.”

In Vermont, the government regulator on the frontlines of agricultural antibiotics use and regulation is the office of VAAFM’s state veterinarian, Dr. Kristin Haas. Oddly enough, she also carries the title of “Director of Food Safety & Consumer Protection,” and it’s Haas’ office that oversees the rules, regulations and enforcement of all agricultural antibiotics. If Vermont’s agricultural sector were to do its part in responding to the dire warnings from health advocates to substantially reduce antibiotic use on the state’s dairy farms, it would be Dr. Haas who would lead such efforts.

Alarmingly, when asked in an official public records request submitted by Regeneration Vermont seeking information about the VAAFM’s efforts and programs to answer the urgent calls to reduce antibiotic use, Dr. Haas responded with the following: “There is not a program in place with the goal of reducing antibiotic use on dairy farms.”

Furthermore, when Regeneration Vermont asked Dr. Haas for records on overall antibiotic usage and trends in the state, she responded – in writing – with this: “The Agency does not monitor antibiotic purchases and sales or maintain records that quantify this data. As such, we do not have records responsive to this request.”

While the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, calls for an all-hands-on-deck approach to reducing agricultural use of antibiotics, Vermont’s chief regulator of such matters seemingly shrugs it all off by declaring that “the reduction of farm animal antibiotics is not a goal of the Agency.”

It’s yet another example of the conflicted, dual roles of the VAAFM, as both promoter and police of the CAFO-dominated dairy industry. On one hand they’re a cheerleader for all things dairy, turning a blind eye to so many of its health and environmental problems, and on the other hand they’re supposed to be the watchdog and enforcer of farm rules and regulations. Having the state veterinarian in charge of food safety and consumer protection should set off all kinds of bells and whistles.

A review of the VAAFM’s antibiotic violations data indicates that most of the infractions are a result of the preventative — or routine – uses of antibiotics on dairy farms, as opposed to treating a sick cow. This prophylactic practice is a primary target of health advocates looking to curb the threat of drug-resistance issues that impacts millions of U.S. medical patients annually, killing tens of thousands. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that over 90 percent of CAFO-style dairy farms administer antibiotics to cows entering a nonlactating, or dry, period, sick or not. This is seen as “necessary” largely because of the concentrated and confined nature of these CAFO farms, which breeds and spreads pathogens and infections.

These “dry cows” being infused with preventative antibiotics between lactations are the cause for most of the antibiotic violations reported in Vermont. If not properly segregated from the milking herd, these cows slip back into the production line, contaminating the farm’s bulk tank.

Regeneration Vermont obtained the “Drug Residue Follow-up Inspection Reports” for each of the more than 150 violations since 2010. These reports are required to be filed by a VAAFM inspector and include an attempt to identify a “probable cause” for the violation. But many simply report “don’t know” or “not sure,” and literally leave it at that, highlighting the agency’s “look away” nature to it all. The reports also included these “causes” for the violations: “producers son thinks Mexicans mistakenly milked a treated cow,” “Mexicans realized she had been milked by mistake but never said anything to producer,” and “had a treated cow and she was tagged but tag was covered with manure.”

One thing is clear after analyzing the state’s programs and data, Vermont is contributing to – not addressing or solving – the very serious antibiotic resistance problem. The residues are ending up in our dairy supply, meat supply (nearly a quarter of the meat supply is currently dairy-cow derived), and spread via the manure on our cropland, the gateways to our water resources. It’s only made worse by a conflicted regulatory framework within the VAAFM that routinely allows its dairy promotional role to supersede and otherwise impair its enforcement and public protection responsibilities.

But it’s time for Vermont to get serious about its contributions to the antibiotic residue problem. Because while Vermont has no plan or goal, health organizations like the WHO, CDC, American Medical Association, American Public Health Association, and the Infectious Disease Society of America are declaring an emergency, calling for immediate and significant reductions in the use of antibiotics for animal food production.

Posted with permision from VT Digger.

Monsanto Trial: Judge Upholds Verdict Saying Weed Killer Caused Worker's Cancer

Organic consumers - Tue, 2018-10-23 00:27
Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesSam LevinThe GuardianOctober 22, 2018 dj_1200x630.png

Dewayne Johnson originally won $289m after finding Roundup weedkiller caused illness, but judge reduces financial award

A California judge has rejected Monsanto’s appeal to overturn a landmark jury verdict which found that its popular herbicide causes cancer.

The judge’s ruling on Monday largely sided with Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a father of three and former school groundskeeper, who won a $289m award over the summer after alleging that his exposure to Roundup weedkiller gave him cancer. During the trial, the first of its kind, the 46-year-old also alleged that Monsanto had failed to warn him of the risks of using its product.

Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, the German pharmaceutical company, filed an appeal of the verdict, which said the company was responsible for “negligent failure”, knew or should have known that its product was “dangerous”, and had “acted with malice or oppression”.


Glyphosate and GMO Testing of Maseca Flours: Results and Relevancy

Organic consumers - Fri, 2018-10-19 15:58
October 19, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationMariana OrtegaGenetic Engineering mcorny_1200x630.jpg

Editor's note: Read this article in Spanish here.

On October 9, 2018, Organic Consumers Association (OCA) reported the presence of the chemical glyphosate and AMPA, its main metabolite, in Maseca-brand white and yellow corn flour samples purchased in different regions of Mexico. Some flour samples tested as high as 94.15 percent for the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMO).

Testing was conducted by Health Research Institute (HRI) in Fairfield, Iowa (U.S.), on behalf of Organic Consumers Association Mexico (ACO). HRI  specializes in detecting and quantifying substances in food, water, soils and even the human body. Tests are performed using accredited standards, rigorous quality assurance processes and advanced technologies.

Testing methodology

HRI used the following methodology to test samples of Maseca corn flour:

• HRI TM #8 "Glyphosate and AMPA Detection by LC-MS/MS"

• Sample preparation employed a modification of the method described in Chamkasem, Narong, Cynthia Morris, and Tiffany Harmon. 2016. “Direct Determination of Glyphosate, Glufosinate, and AMPA in Milk by Liquid Chromatography/tandem Mass Spectrometry.” Journal of Regulatory Science 3 (2): 20–26.

• LC-MS/MS analysis employed a modification of the method described in Jensen, Pamela K., Chad E. Wujcik, Michelle K. McGuire, and Mark A. McGuire. 2016. “Validation of Reliable and Selective Methods for Direct Determination of Glyphosate and Aminomethylphosphonic Acid in Milk and Urine Using LC-MS/MS.” Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part B 51 (4): 254–59. doi:10.1080/03601234.2015.1120619.

• Limit of Quantitation (LOQ) and Limit of Detection (LOD) are sub-part per billion for this method and are determined for each sample.

• Effective Glyphosate Level was calculated according to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) method where total glyphosate residue is the sum of the weight of glyphosate + 1.5 × the weight of its metabolite AMPA.

• HRI TM #30 "GMO Detection by PCR"

• Analysis quantitates total of all GMO corn varieties available since 1997. LOQ is 0.01%

Maseca flour test results

HRI analyzed nine products chosen from different regions of Mexico and four products from the U.S. The brands, products and origin, as well as the results reported by the laboratory are the following:

ND- non detectable

Table 1. Results


Understanding the results

A clear correlation was observed between the presence of GMOs and glyphosate. The higher the concentration [%] of GMO, the higher the concentration of glyphosate.

In the case of the Maseca flours purchased in Mexico, three of the nine products tested contained high concentrations of GMO and glyphosate. The remaining samples showed very low or no detectable values. This is worrisome for consumers, who have no way of knowing which batches of flour are contaminated.

The concentrations of GMOs detected in the samples are so high that, for example, in Europe these products would have to be labeled as genetically modified foods (the threshold value is 1 percent).

Concerning the presence of glyphosate, the concentrations found are below the threshold proposed by U.S. and EU government regulatory agencies. However, this does not mean that they are safe. In fact, some claim there cannot be safe levels for glyphosate consumption because diseases such as cancer are multifactorial, depending on sensitivity, predisposition and other individual and environmental characteristics that can make a person ill. The problem is that even official “safe” thresholds levels are too high.

The following table presents reference thresholds for the presence of glyphosate in foods.

Table 2. Reference thresholds on the presence of glyphosate in food


As can be seen on Table 2, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is safe for a person who weighs 154 lb. to consume 122.5 mg/glyphosate per day. The EU is more conservative. The EU’s chronic reference dose for a 154-lb. person is 21 mg glyphosate per day. California is more conservative yet, setting a “No Significant Risk Level” of 1.1 mg/day for a person weighing 154 lb.

The Environmental Working Group recently conducted an analysis of the safety question and concluded that a level that is protective to children, who are more vulnerable, would be 0.01 mg per day for a 154-lb. person.

The thresholds proposed by these organizations range from 0.01 to 122.5 mg of glyphosate consumption in one day for a 154-lb person. The range between the extremes is very large and could be larger if the most recent studies on the toxicity of glyphosate are considered.

A study published in 2017 by Mesnage et al. found that a dose of only 700 ng/day would trigger early stages of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in a 154-lb. person. This, assuming people would respond to glyphosate at doses similar to rats.

A relevant question is what is the basis of government decisions to set such high “safety” thresholds for glyphosate. Two arguments for explaining this can be made:

Related to crop production. The threshold values established by U.S. and EU agencies were initially much lower than the current ones. In some cases, regulators have been influenced more by the needs of agrochemical companies to sell their products than by the need to protect the health of the public.

For instance, a paper by Bohn, et al. (2014) states the following: “The legally acceptable level of glyphosate contamination in food and feed, i.e. the maximum residue level (MRL) has been increased by authorities in countries where Roundup-Ready GM crops are produced, or where such commodities are imported. In Brazil, the MRL in soybean was increased from 0.2 mg/kg to 10 mg/kg in 2004—a 50-fold increase—but only for GM-soy. The MRL for glyphosate in soybeans has been increased also in the U.S. and Europe. In Europe, it was raised from 0.1 mg/kg to 20 mg/kg (a 200-fold increase) in 1999, and the same MRL of 20 mg/kg was adopted by the U.S. In all of these cases, MRL values appear to have been adjusted, not based on new scientific evidence, but pragmatically in response to actual observed increases in the content of residues in glyphosate-tolerant GM soybeans.”

Related to crop consumption. Threshold levels have been based on outmoded models of toxicology and biochemistry that failed to take into account the properties of endocrine/hormone disruptors such as glyphosate, which can have health damaging effects at even the very low levels. Safety studies are also likely to be underestimating glyphosate toxicity because these studies usually examine the effects of glyphosate alone, while in practice it is always used in combination with surfactants that significantly increase toxicity (Annett et al 2014, Moore et al 2012). Another factor to consider is that most safety testing examines a single endpoint, most commonly cancer. There are many other disease states that are highly debilitating, such as NAFLD, that could easily be missed all-together in current safety assessment protocols.

Taking all of these considerations together, we can conclude that the “safety” thresholds set by governments around the world, even well-intentioned governments like that of California and organizations like the Environmental Working Group, grossly underestimate the toxicity of glyphosate. Further, more conservative thresholds such as the level reported to trigger NAFLD should be used as the threshold for what could be considered safe exposure to this chemical.


In the case of glyphosate concentrations found in Maseca flours and, having as background the previous discussion on safety thresholds, we can conclude that the Maseca products OCA and HRI analyzed are potentially hazardous to human health.

OCA tested a total of 13 masa flour and tortilla samples, finding as much as 30 ng glyphosate per gram in some masa flour samples. The average content was 5.0 ng/g.

A typical tortilla weighs about 30g. Thus, on average a tortilla will contain 30 x 5.0 = 150 ng glyphosate. A typical diet might include at least six tortillas per day, containing a total of 912 ng glyphosate. Thus, through tortilla consumption alone, a person could potentially consume 132% per day of the glyphosate needed to trigger Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.

Additional research is needed to assess this more fully, but current evidence points to a clear health hazard associated with the consumption of Maseca corn flour. this. The levels of glyphosate designated as safe by the U.S. EPA, the EU and even the California authorities are unrealistically high. The safety assurances associated with these thresholds do not serve the public, but create a false sense of security and thus create a hazard to the public for the benefit of agrochemical companies.

There is growing evidence that regulators both in the U.S. and Europe have been unduly influenced by Monsanto and more broadly by the chemical and ag-biotech industry (Baum Hedlund, 2018). This financial benefit for agro-chemical companies is gained at the expense of the public’s health.

There is another core issue, in addition to health and safety: It is of great concern that glyphosate is present at any level in masa flour. It was found in five out of the 13 samples tested. The widespread presence of agrochemicals in masa flour indicates that this brand is not using “natural” methods, but is using instead industrial / chemical farming methods with all of their associated social, environmental and health impacts.

As consumers, we must demand the differentiation of the flour, masa and tortilla in terms of the corn with which it is made: with or without GMO and glyphosate.

“Yo quiero mi tortilla 100% nixtamalizada” — “I want my tortilla 100% nixtamalized”

ACO’s  campaign for healthy, high-quality tortillas was launched in 2017. Through the campaign we expect to:

• Contribute to the protection of the nixtamalized tortilla and the recognition and inclusion of the communities that produce the nixtamalized tortilla.

• Advocate for of the exercise of the full Right to Food (in Mexican law) through the consumption of nixtamalized tortilla.

• Provide enough information for consumers to make decisions in benefit of their health while being aware about the characteristics of low quality corn flour industrialized tortilla.

As a result of the in-depth study of the corn-tortilla system, it became clear that we had to discuss other essential quality criteria in tortillas, in addition to nixtamalization. Thus, the campaign also promotes tortillas made from Mexican, criollo, pesticide-free corn. This is why we performed tests on Maseca, the leading brand worldwide selling industrialized corn flour and tortillas.

For suggestions on how to avoid Maseca and other contaminated corn flours, read this.


Annett, R., Habibi, H. R. and Hontela, A. 2014. Impact of glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides on the freshwater environment. – Journal of Applied Toxicology DOI 10.1002/jat.2997.

Bøhn, T., Cuhra, M., Traavik, T., Sanden, M., Fagan,, J., Primicerio, R.: Compositional differences in soybeans on the market: Glyphosate accumulates in Roundup Ready GM soybeans. Food Chemistry 153: 207–215, 2014.

Mesnage R, et al, “Multiomics reveal non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in rats following chronic exposure to an ultra-low dose of Roundup herbicide.” Scientific Reports (a Nature publication). doi:10.1038/srep39328, Jan. 2017.

Moore, L. J., Fuentes, L., Rodgers, J. H., Bowerman, W. W., Yarrow, G. K., Chao, W. Y. and Bridges, W. C. 2012. Relative toxicity of the components of the original formulation of Roundup (R) to five North American anurans. – Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 78: 128-133.

Baum Hedlund, 2018. Monsanto Papers. Consulted: September 2018.

Mariana Ortega is campaign director for Organic Consumers Association Mexico (ACO), a project of US-based Organic Consumers Association (OCA). OCA is a US-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit consumer advocacy organization focused on food, agriculture and environmental issues. To keep up with this campaign and other consumer news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

Maseca Flours Test Positive for Weedkiller and GMOs. What Should Consumers Do?

Organic consumers - Thu, 2018-10-18 13:37
October 18, 2018Organic Consumers AssociationMariana OrtegaFood Safety, Genetic Engineering maseca_flour_sign_building_1200x630.jpg

Photo: flickr/AndyCastro, cc by-nc 2.0

Editor's note: Read this article in Spanish here.

Are those tortillas you’ve been making with Maseca flour toxic?

On October 9, the Organic Consumers Association reported that samples of Maseca white and yellow corn flour tested positive for concerning levels of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller.

Testing also revealed that some Maseca flour samples tested as high as 94.15 percent for the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMO). That’s a startling finding, given that GMO crops are not allowed to be grown commercially in Mexico.

Those findings can mean only one thing—Mexico-based Gruma, which owns the Maseca brand, is importing GMO corn from the U.S. to produce its flour, sold all over the world, including in Mexico and the U.S.

Since we revealed our test results, concerned consumers from the U.S., Mexico and Canada have reached out asking what they should do. So we’ve researched some alternative corn flour brands that aren’t contaminated with glyphosate and aren’t made from GMO corn.

Maseca flour, masa and traditional Mexican cuisine

Many consumers use Maseca flour to make tortillas, tacos, tamales and many other Mexican dishes, by mixing the flour with water to make corn masa, a paste or dough. But traditionally, corn masa wasn’t made from flour. It was made using a process called nixtamalization, invented in Mexico more than 1,000 years ago, that turned corn into masa without ever using corn flour.

Nixtamalization follows four general steps: cooking corn in an alkaline solution, letting it rest overnight, draining it and grinding it to produce the masa. It’s a time consuming process, but it also creates a much more nutritious product than if the maize weren´t cooked in alkali. Nixtamalization makes the vitamins in the corn more bioavailable. It also fortifies the corn’s calcium and helps it maintain its fiber content. This is why traditional tortillas are a highly nutritious staple food for Mexicans.

The nixtamalization process stayed true to its origins until the 1950s, when industrialization took over. According to a study by Pilcher (1998):

Agricultural and industrial modernization served not to replace the tortilla but, rather, to commodify it, transforming corn from a subsistence crop to a market commodity.

The brand Maseca, meaning masa seca or dried masa, was launched in 1949. It is now the world’s leading brand of commercial masa flour and tortillas. The debut of Maseca coincided with the Green Revolution, increasing use of agrochemicals, hybrid seeds and “improved” productivity. It is not surprising that residues in Maseca’s flours have been found.

Alternative organic, non-GMO tortilla and flour brands

Eating is a political act. Boycotting Maseca’s products is one way to vote against companies whose production practices harm human health and the ecosystem.

Fortunately, there are many available alternatives to risky and suspicious masa flours and tortillas. As part of the “Yo quiero mi tortilla 100% nixtamalizada” (I want my tortilla 100% nixtamalized) campaign, OCA Mexico is mapping consumer sources for tortillas, masa and native corn. This is a collaborative, continuously updated map. Consumers can send a pinpoint location to OCA whenever they identify a place that sells good quality tortillas. Check out the map and fill in your recommended tortilla or masa brand or store.

Our map features a couple of farmer’s markets in the U.S., several tortillerías in Mexico and some sources in Europe. Here’s a list of places you can buy organic tortillas and tortilla chips:

• Three Sisters Nixtamal, in Portland, Oregon, sells regionally. This company has produced a series of very nice short videos on the nixtamalization process.

• Ricardo's Tortilla Factory, in Canton, Massachusetts, sells nationally.

• Mi Tierra Tortillas, in Springfield, Massachusetts, sells regionally.

• Mitla Tortilleria, in Charleston, South Carolina, sells regionally.

• Bueno Foods, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, sells nationally.

• Cadia, sells tortilla chips.

• All Souls Tortilleria, in Warren, Vermont,, sells regionally.

• La Tortilla factory, in Santa Rosa, California, sells nationally.

• Mi Rancho, from San Leandro, California, sells nationally.

• R.W. Garcia Tortilla chips, in Scotts Valley, California, sells nationally.

• One Degree Organic Foods

• Que Pasa Foods, in Richmond, British Columbia, is available in Canada

• 365 Everyday Value/WholeFoodsMarket, sells nationally.

• Masienda, also found at Whole Foods Market nationally.

• Whole Grain Milling, in Welcome, Minnesota, sells regionally

You can also buy organic corn flours and corn grain from this producers and retailers:

• Gold Mine Natural Foods  

• Organic Matters foods

• To Your Health. Sprouted Flour Co

• Grain Millers

• Golden Organics

• Paul’s Grains

• Gluten Free Essentials

• Something Better Natural Foods

• Earth’s Harvest Farms

• Whole Grain Milling

You can also check out the following directories on organic and natural foods retailers, food cooperatives and healthy food grocery stores organized by state:

• Green People Directory from OCA

• Independent Natural Food Retailers Association

• Cooperative Grocer Network

• Co-Op Directory Service Listing

• Co-Op Stronger Together

Also interesting, you can listen to the radio station YoSoyMaíz in Los Angeles and stay tuned to follow up on the news concerning corn and tortilla.

In Mexico, you can get nixtamalized tortillas made from native corns here:

• Vía Orgánica, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato

• Ichuskuta Tortilla Artesanal, Morelia, Michoacán

• Las Tortillas de Mi Abuelita, Iguala de la Independencia, Guerrero

• Tortillas Pipitillas, Cuernavaca, Morelos

• Cal&Maíz, Mexico City

• Cintli Tortillería y Antojería, Mexico City

• L’Artesana Tortillas, Mexico City

• Maizajo Molino y Tortillería, Mexico city

• Molino y Tortillería El Pujol, Mexico City

• Tortillería Corazón de Milpa, Cholula, Puebla

• Matí Tlaolle, Tenancingo, Tlaxcala

• Itanoní Restaurant, Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca

• El Rayito de Sol, Mérida, Yucatán

• Pro-Orgánico, a tortilla brand available in some supermarkets. You can read their story here. It gives a fair understanding of the maize-tortilla system in Mexico.

These are examples, but not a complete list. Here is a directory with places where you can find healthy food in Mexico—most do sell tortillas.

Do-it-yourself masa and nixtamalization

Most tortillerías have a mill where you can take your own nixtamalized native corn to be ground, and make your own masa from scratch. If you’re preparing a small quantity, you can even grind it yourself in a small manual grinder or a food processor.

Find a local corn farmer or a reliable seller and try nixtamalization. In Mexico, you can look into TAMOA, an organization building a native corn farmer´s network and commercializing their produce. In the U.S., you could contact a farm or retailer from the listings mentioned above.

Nixtamalization is a fairly simple process. Begin by boiling water. For each kg of corn (2.2 pounds) you plan to add to the water, you’ll need 2L (34 oz.) of water. Next, add 10g (0.36 oz.) of food-grade lime. Once the water-lime solution is boiling, add the corn and leave the heat on for 5 more minutes. Then, turn it off and cover the pot it with a lid. Preferably, use stainless steel utensils.

Leave the corn in the alkaline solution to rest for 8 hours until it has cooled down. Then drain the liquid, which is called nejayote. Now you’re ready to make the masa. Begin by rinsing the nixtamal with clean water (optional, but recommended).

Next, grind the nixtamal until the texture resembles a paste or dough. You can use either a manual nixtamal grinder (which you will most probably have to buy in Mexico) or a metate (the original Mesoamerican grinder, also available in Mexico). Food processors could work as well, but only for small quantities.

That’s it! Now you’re ready to turn the masa into one of many Mexican dishes: tortillas, sopes, tamales or atole. You can mix masa with any vegetable and give it different flavors and colors.

Best of all, as long as you start with organic ingredients, you’ll know exactly what you’re eating—masa with no chemical additives!

Join the movement for healthy masa and tortillas

Follow OCA and take part in its Yo quiero mi tortilla 100% nixtamalizada campaign. Let us know about reliable masa and tortilla brands and where to buy them so we can pin the locations to the collaborative map.

Help us raise the voice by supporting political campaigns and lobbying work. Become a member of the Alianza por Nuestra Tortilla, a Mexico initiative working for  traditional high quality tortilla for all.

Mariana Ortega is campaign director for Organic Consumers Association Mexico (ACO), a project of US-based Organic Consumers Association (OCA). OCA is a US-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit consumer advocacy organization focused on food, agriculture and environmental issues.To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.