Consumer Power

How to Ban Monsanto's Roundup

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-06-19 16:30
June 19, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAlexis Baden-MayerGenetic Engineering roundup_shelf_silver_gold_black_1200x630.jpg

We’re still trying to raise the money we need to storm the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Washington, D.C., and stand with Roundup-exposed cancer victims in St. Louis, Missouri.

But we want to make sure you know that there’s one thing you can do today to help get Roundup banned.

Before midnight July 5, please submit your comment directly to the EPA on the agency’s Glyphosate Proposed Interim Registration Review Decision.

Then please also sign our petition, so we can deliver signatures in person.

We know it’s quick and easy to add your signature to our petition. But we hope you won’t stop there.

Your personal story about glyphosate is much more powerful than a mere signature, especially if you or someone you know has cancer or another illness due to exposure to Monsanto-Bayer’s glyphosate-based herbicides. You can even attach photos to your submission.

It’s hard to imagine Trump’s EPA will do the right thing when it comes to Monsanto and glyphosate. After all, White House policy advisers have already said, “We have Monsanto’s back on pesticides regulation.”

But your comments are still very important. Why?

Because given how slow the EPA has been to issue a final decision on glyphosate—the chemical came up for its 15-year review in December 2015—the agency may not get around to a final decision before the next presidential election, in 2020.

That means a new EPA administrator, and a new president, may get the final word on glyphosate. This is your chance to influence them.

Need a little inspiration? A scientific review of the latest data on farmers’ glyphosate exposure and health outcomes found that those with heavy exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup were 41 percent more likely to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

If you want more information to include in your EPA comments, you’ll find all the latest glyphosate news here.

In the meantime, what else can you do about Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller?

• Help get Roundup out of your town! At least 100 localities from Los Angeles to Chicago to Miami have taken action to stop the use of glyphosate.

• Help get Roundup out of schools!

• Check out our entire Resist Roundup toolkit here, and spread the word among your friends and family members.

For now, before midnight July 5, please submit your comment to the EPA on the Glyphosate Proposed Interim Registration Review Decision!

Beware of False Knowledge

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-06-18 14:03
June 18, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsGenetic Engineering farmer_tractor_spray_herbicide_crop_field_farm_1200x630.jpg

Long before “fake news” was a household word, playwright and political activist George Bernard Shaw warned:

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”

For decades, Monsanto has manufactured and disseminated “false knowledge” about its top-selling weedkiller.

And our U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been right there by Monsanto’s side. Ignoring the truth. Protecting Monsanto’s profits.

Please donate today to help us raise hell as the EPA plans to approve Monsanto’s toxic glyphosate for another 15 years! You can donate online, by mail or by phone, details here.

There may be little we can do to stop a corrupt EPA from approving Roundup weedkiller for another 15 years.

But that won’t stop us from doing everything in our power to keep the heat on Monsanto and the EPA until Roundup is banned. Forever.

Reporters will soon gather in St. Louis, Missouri, to hear the story of yet another victim of Monsanto’s poison.

They, and a jury, will weigh evidence, again, of how Monsanto knew all along that Roundup can cause cancer, and yet went to great lengths—and expense—to hide that fact from the public.

We’ll be there, too. With top-level scientists, armed with the latest facts, ready to share their knowledge with the media, the public—anyone interested in learning the truth.

We’re also mobilizing activists for a public rally, in Monsanto’s backyard, to coincide with the St. Louis-based trials.

And we have our own lawsuit against Monsanto, filed on behalf of millions of consumers like you. A lawsuit to force Monsanto to stop spreading its “false knowledge” via labels on Roundup weedkiller that lie about the potentially harmful impact of Roundup on human health.

We may lose another round with the EPA, long-ago corrupted by Monsanto and now, more than ever, hell bent on protecting corporate interests over public health.

But sooner or later, the truth will win out. The EPA will no longer be able to run from an angry public, fed up with collusion and corruption.

Sooner or later, Monsanto will go down. If we make it happen.

Please donate today to help us raise hell as the EPA plans to approve Monsanto’s toxic glyphosate for another 15 years! You can donate online, by mail or by phone, details here.

The Climate Emergency: Regenerate or Perish

Organic consumers - Mon, 2019-06-17 19:00
June 17, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAndre Leu, Regeneration InternationalEnvironment & Climate seedling_soil_sprout_1200x630.jpg

May 2019 was a turning point for climate change. The world reached a record of 415.3 parts per million of carbon dioxide (ppm CO2) in the atmosphere—the most in over 3 million years. The UK Parliament declared an environmental and climate emergency on May 1. Pope Francis followed this by declaring a climate emergency on June 14.

A study published in May shows that if we don’t succeed in radically reducing emissions, civilization could collapse by 2050. The authors of the report showed that we are on track to "… a world of 'outright chaos' on a path to the end of human civilization and modern society as we have known it…"

The good news is that we can turn this around by scaling up regenerative agriculture.

Why Regenerative Agriculture?

Regenerative agriculture is based on a range of food and farming systems that use the photosynthesis of plants to capture CO2 and store it in the soil. The soil holds more than double the amount of carbon than the atmosphere and biomass (forests and plants) combined.

Why is it so important to dramatically reduce the current rate of CO2 emissions?

If emissions are not reduced soon, we will be going into catastrophic climate change, that we may not be able to reverse. This is because it will take centuries to get the heat out of our oceans. Ocean heat is a significant driver of our weather. The oceans and the atmosphere are already around 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) warmer than during the industrial revolution.

The energy needed to heat the atmosphere and the ocean by 1.8 degrees is equivalent to billions of atomic bombs. I am using this violent metaphor so that people can understand how much energy is being released into our atmosphere and oceans and why we will get more extreme weather events wreaking havoc on our communities and environment.This extra energy is already violently fueling and disrupting our weather systems. It causing weather events to be far more intense. Winter storms are becoming colder and can be pushed further south and north than normal due to this energy, bringing damaging snowstorms and intense floods. Similarly, summer storms, especially hurricanes, tornadoes, tropical lows etc. are far more frequent and intense with deluging destructive rainfall and floods. Droughts and heat waves are more common and are resulting in more crop failures. They are also fueling damaging forest and grass fires that are burning out whole communities and changing regional ecologies due to not allowing time for recovery before the next fires.

The frequency and intensity of these types of events will only get exponentially worse when the world warms to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) which is the upper limit of the Paris climate agreement. And we are on track to shoot past this goal.

Managing climate change is a major issue that we have to deal with now

Atmospheric CO2 levels have been increasing at 2 parts per million (ppm) per year. The level of CO2 reached a new record of 400 ppm in May 2016. However, despite all the commitments countries made in Paris in December 2015, the levels of CO2 increased by 3.3 ppm in 2016 creating a record. It increased by 3.3 ppm from 2018 to set a new record of 415.3 ppm in May 2019. This is a massive 60 percent increase in emissions per year since Paris and shows the reality is that most countries are not even close to meeting their Paris reduction commitments and many must be cheating on or ignoring their obligations.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, "Geological records show that the current levels of CO2 correspond to an 'equilibrium' climate last observed in the mid-Pliocene (3–5 million years ago), a climate that was 2–3 °C (3.6 - 5.4 F) warmer, where the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets melted and even some of the East Antarctic ice was lost, leading to sea levels that were 10–20 m (30 to 60ft) higher than those today."

Global sea levels rises will cause the atoll island countries, large parts of Bangladesh, Netherlands, coastal USA, New York, New Orleans, Miami, London, Manila, Bangkok, Jakarta, Shanghai, Singapore, Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Dar es Salam and other low lying areas to go under water.

Even if the world transitioned to 100 percent renewable energy tomorrow, this will not stop the temperature and sea level rises because it will take more than 100 years for the CO2 levels to drop. According to latest report, sea level rises, droughts and floods will cause a huge refugee crisis for over a billion people by 2050 and throw our civilization into chaos. The world cannot cope with 2 million refugees from Syria. How do we cope hundreds of millions of climate change refugees? There will be wars over food, water, land.

The fact is we have to speed up the transition to renewable energy and we have to make a great effort to drawdown CO2 in the atmosphere.

Reversing climate change

Four hundred and fifteen ppm is way past the Paris objective of limiting the temperature increase to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius). The levels need to be well below 350 ppm. The excess CO2 must be drawn down from the atmosphere to stop damaging climate change.

In order to stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels, regenerative agricultural systems would have to drawdown the current emissions of 3.3 ppm of CO2 per year. Using the accepted formula that 1 ppm CO2 = 7.76 Gt CO2 means that 25.61 gigatons (Gt) of CO2 per year needs to be drawn down from the atmosphere.

Potential of best practice regenerative agriculture

BEAM (Biologically Enhanced Agricultural Management), developed by Dr. David Johnson of New Mexico State University, produces compost with a high diversity of soil microorganisms. Multiple crops grown with BEAM have achieved very high levels of sequestration. Peer-reviewed research published by Dr. Johnson and colleagues show. “… a 4.5 year agricultural field study promoted annual average capture and storage of 10.27 metric tons soil C ha-1 year -1 while increasing soil macro-, meso- and micro-nutrient availability offering a robust, cost effective carbon sequestration mechanism within a more productive and long-term sustainable agriculture management approach.” These results have since been replicated in other trials.

These figures mean that BEAM can sequester 37,700 kilos of CO2 per hectare per year which is approximately 37,000 pounds of CO2 per acre.

BEAM can be used in all soil based food production systems including annual crops, permanent crops and grazing systems. If BEAM was extrapolated globally across agricultural lands it would sequester 185 Gt of CO2 per year.

Potential of regenerative grazing

The Savory Institute and many others have been scaling up holistic managed grazing systems on every arable continent. There is now a considerable body of published science and evidence based practices showing that these systems regenerate degraded lands, improve productivity, water holding capacity and soil carbon levels.

Around 70 percent of the world’s agricultural lands are used for grazing. The published evidence shows that correctly managed pastures can build up soil carbon faster than many other agricultural systems and this is stored deeper in the soil.

Research by published Machmuller et al. 2015: “In a region of extensive soil degradation in the southeastern United States, we evaluated soil C accumulation for 3 years across a 7-year chronosequence of three farms converted to management-intensive grazing. Here we show that these farms accumulated C at 8.0 Mg ha−1 yr−1, increasing cation exchange and water holding capacity by 95% and 34%, respectively.”

The means that they have sequestered 29,360 kilos of CO2 per hectare per year. This is approximately 29,000 pounds of CO2 per acre. If these regenerative grazing practices were implemented on the world’s grazing lands they would sequester 98.6 Gt of CO2 per year.

Ending the climate emergency

Transitioning a small proportion of global agricultural production to these two peer-reviewed, evidence based, best practice, regenerative systems will sequester enough CO2 to reverse climate change and restore the global climate.

Ten percent of agricultural lands under BEAM could sequester 18.5 Gt of CO2 per year.

And a further 10 percent of grasslands under regenerative grazing could sequester 10 Gt of CO2 per year.

This would result in 28.5 Gt of CO2 per year being sequestered into the soil which is more than the amount of sequestration needed to drawdown the 25.61 Gt of CO2 that is currently being emitted.

These back-of-the envelope calculations are designed to show the considerable potential of scaling up proven high-performing regenerative systems. The examples are "shovel ready" solutions as they are based on existing practices. There is no need to invest in expensive, potentially dangerous and unproven technologies such as carbon capture and storage or geo-engineering.

We are in a climate change emergency and we need every tool in the tool box to fix this problem. We don’t have the luxury of wasting precious time on intellectual arguments about whether this is possible or to convince skeptics and land managers unwilling to change.

It is time to get on with drawing down the excess CO2 by scaling up existing regenerative agriculture practices. This is very doable and achievable. It would require minimal financial costs to fund existing institutions, training organizations and relevant NGOs to run courses and workshops.

The widespread adoption of best practice regenerative agriculture systems should be the highest priority for farmers, ranchers, governments, international organizations, elected representatives, industry, training organizations, educational institutions and climate change organizations. We owe this to future generations and to all the rich biodiversity on our precious living planet.


Johnson D, Ellington J and Eaton W, (2015)  Development of soil microbial communities for promoting sustainability in agriculture and a global carbon fix, PeerJ PrePrints | | CC-BY 4.0 Open Access | rec: 13 Jan 2015, publ: 13 Jan 2015

Lal R (2008). Sequestration of atmospheric CO2 in global carbon pools. Energy and Environmental Science, 1: 86–100.

McCosker, T. 2000. “Cell Grazing – The First 10 Years in Australia,” Tropical Grasslands. 34:  207-218.

Machmuller MB, Kramer MG, Cyle TK, Hill N, Hancock D & Thompson A (2014). Emerging land use practices rapidly increase soil organic matter, Nature Communications 6, Article number: 6995 doi:10.1038/ncomms7995, Received 21 June 2014 Accepted 20 March 2015 Published 30 April 2015

NOAS (2017). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (US), Accessed Jan 30 2017

Spratt D and Dunlop I, 2019, Existential climate-related security risk: A scenario approach,  

Breakthrough - National Centre for Climate Restoration, Melbourne, Australia, May 2019 Updated 11 June 2019

Tong W, Teague W R, Park C S and Bevers S, 2015, GHG Mitigation Potential of Different Grazing Strategies in the United States Southern Great Plains, Sustainability 2015, 7, 13500-13521; doi:10.3390/su71013500, ISSN 2071-1050,

United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), FAOSTAT data on land use, retrieved December 4, 2015

The total amount of land used to produce food is 4,911,622,700 Hectares (18,963,881 square miles).

This is divided into:    

Arable/Crop land: 1,396,374,300 Hectares (5,391,431 square miles)

Permanent pastures: 3,358,567,600 Hectares (12,967,502 square miles)

Permanent crops: 153,733,800 square kilometers (593,570 square miles)

BEAM Calculations

A basic calculation shows the potential of scaling up this simple technology across the global agricultural lands. Soil Organic Carbon x 3.67 = CO2 which means that 10.27 metric tons soil carbon = 37.7 metric tons of CO2 per hectare per year (t CO2/ha/yr). This means BEAM can sequester 37.7 tons of CO2 per hectare which is approximately 38,000 pounds of CO2 per acre.

If BEAM was extrapolated globally across agricultural lands it would sequester 185 Gt of CO2/yr.

(37.7 t CO2/ha/yr X 4,911,622,700 ha = 185,168,175,790t CO2/ha/yr)

Regenerative grazing calculations

To explain the significance of Machmuller’s figures: 8.0 Mg ha−1 yr−1 = 8,000 kgs of carbon being stored in the soil per hectare per year. Soil Organic Carbon x 3.67 = CO2, which means that these grazing systems have sequestered 29,360 kgs (29.36 metric tons) of CO2/ha/yr. This is approximately 30,000 pounds of CO2 per acre.

If these regenerative grazing practices were implemented on the world’s grazing lands they would sequester 98.6 Gt CO2/yr.

(29.36t CO2/ha/yr X 3,358,567,600 ha = 98,607,544,736t CO2/ha/yr)

Life After Glyphosate—Let’s Make It a Reality

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-06-12 15:52
June 12, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationPat ThomasGenetic Engineering roundup_bottles_shelves_1200x630.jpg

Glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide, was once hailed as a kind of miracle solution to the problem of weeds.

Today, glyphosate-based weedkillers like Monsanto’s Roundup are a disgraced product, associated with a shocking and increasing number of health and environmental problems.

Glyphosate has long been promoted as a fast-acting weedkiller, as effective in small gardens and lawns as it was in industrial corn and soy fields. Its use on farms dramatically increased with the introduction of herbicide-tolerant GMO crops. But glyphosate is also regularly sprayed on non-GMO crops—‘healthy’ foods such wheat, oats, maize and barley but also soya, rapeseed, sunflower seeds and chick peas—as a desiccant, used to dry out the crops in a uniform fashion, so they can be harvested all at once.

Glyphosate-based herbicides are also used to control weeds in parks, on city streets, roadsides, sidewalks and in playgrounds.

At one time pundits claimed that glyphosate was less toxic than coffee and table salt. This wasn’t merely an outrageous mangling of the science of toxicity—it was an out-and-out lie.

We now know that glyphosate has a dirty secret—one that is being very publicly and forensically exposed in a string of recent court cases involving people who have developed an otherwise rare cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, as a result of regularly using glyphosate. 

These cases may be just the tip of the iceberg. 

A trail of devastation

Glyphosate was classified in March 2015, as probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). A separate formal review of glyphosate by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), published in May 2019, backs this up. The review found statistically significant links to certain cancers, such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

According to a recent international study, glyphosate increases antibiotic resistance. The study found that along with two other toxic herbicides, 2,4-D and dicamba, glyphosate changed the way bacteria responded to a number of antibiotics including ampicillin, ciprofloxacin and tetracycline, which are widely used to treat a range of serious, and sometimes deadly, diseases.

In February 2016, a group of international scientists published a consensus statement drawing attention to the risks posed by increasing exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs). The health concerns highlighted included endocrine system-mediated and developmental impacts. The letter called for better monitoring of GBH residues in water, food and humans.

Indeed most “monitoring” of this kind is still being done by citizen scientists and NGOs. These analyses have shown worryingly high levels in the breastmilk and urine of American mothers, as detailed by Moms Across America, and in drinking water (traces have also been found in the in the urine of European citizens).

In a 2018 survey, glyphosate residues were present in all but two of the 45 oat-derived products sampled by the Environmental Working Group. GMO Free USA found that glyphosate residues are pervasive in foods served by major restaurant and fast food chains in the United States. Laboratory tests conducted by the Organic Consumers Association in 2017, both in the U.S. and in the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands, found glyphosate in multiple flavors of the popular ice cream brand, Ben & Jerry's.

The list goes on. The big question is: Where is the government oversight in all this?

A moment of possibility

As the bad news about glyphosate builds, many places in the U.S. are declaring themselves glyphosate-free zones.

In addition, a large number of EU citizens want the herbicide banned—a recent European Citizens Initiative petition gathered more than 1.3 million signatures.

All these activities present us with a moment of possibility. A moment when we can take a cold, hard look at the way we farm, and at the way we manage our environments, and ask ourselves how we might do it better. They give us an opportunity to ask ourselves what has gone so wildly wrong in our world that we need to use increasingly toxic chemicals to manage our food system and our lives.

These discoveries and actions also give us an opportunity to recognize how fragile are industry claims of “magic bullets,” and to examine the all-too-familiar “natural history” of toxic chemical use which follows a predictable pattern of rising from obscurity to peak concern and eventual decline—a process which that typically takes about take 30 years. This far-to-slow response, hindered by industry lobbyists, means many more people are exposed to toxic chemicals than should be.

This may well be a moment when we can change things—yet you wouldn’t know that from reading either the mainstream media or the farming press. Even as the toxicity of glyphosate is being splashed all over the news, so-called experts and agricultural and scientific commentators are asking what herbicide can we use next. or what machinery can we press into service to spray “precision” doses of herbicide on crops.

Farmers in a bind

There’s no question that the withdrawal of glyphosate would leave many farmers in a bind. The way we farm now—monocultures, GMO crops, heavy applications of synthetic fertilisers—has made conventional farmers, unfamiliar with regenerative, dependent on pesticides. 

Yet all of these components of modern agriculture scream short-termism. They put our farmers on a chemical treadmill with a horizon that stretches only as far as the next planting. They obscure the wider and longer-term context of why we have become so chemically dependent and how we might be able to break free of that addiction.

We need to stop lying to ourselves about pesticides being “safe” and “environmentally friendly.” All but the most short-sighted people recognise this.

Fortunately, an increasing number of experts throughout the world are calling for change.

In 2013, the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) published a report entitled Wake Up Before It’s Too Late. It was a powerful call for a return to sustainable farming practices. 

In 2018, the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES) published a series of case studies of agroecological transition which illustrated how the chemical treadmill—what the authors called the “lock-ins” of industrial food systems—can be overcome, where the key leverage points for transition are, and how transition towards sustainable food and farming systems can be best supported.

A way forward

Today according to the latest annual analysis of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data by the health advocacy group Environmental Working Group, 70 percent of U.S. produce contains pesticide residues

Additionally, up to 50 million Americans could be drinkingfrom pesticide-contaminated water sources, according to a 2000 study by the USDA. 

Well-meaning advice in the media suggests that consumers can protect themselves by washing their produce. Never mind the fact that they are potentially washing their produce in contaminated water, most pesticides simply don’t wash off.

The consumer action that is really needed has nothing to do with kitchen hygiene and everything to do with demanding a better food and farming system.

A recent analysis by German think tank IDDRI found that if the process of agroecological farming began today, Europe could feed itself, pesticide free, in 10 years. A single decade is all it would take to phase out pesticides, reduce its impacts on climate and biodiversity, while ensuring a healthy and secure food system for Europeans. 

If it can happen in Europe, it can happen in the U.S.

In fact studies into regenerative farming show that a “paradigm shift” in agriculture can build soil health and with it, more resilient crops. More resilient crops means a better yield of more nutritious food. Better yields maintain and improve profits for farmers. Agroecology also emphasizes crop diversity which means dietary diversity and biodiversity. 

Regenerative agriculture is also a win in the fight for climate change. According to the Rodale Institute, recent data from farming systems and pasture trials around the globe show that we could sequester more than 100 percent of current annual CO2 emissions by switching to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices, which we term “regenerative organic agriculture.” These practices work to maximize carbon fixation while minimizing the loss of that carbon once returned to the soil, reversing the greenhouse effect. 

Finding the next toxic pesticide is not a solution.

The use of glyphosate, introduced to the world by Monsanto and still being defended by Bayer, is no longer tenable. It’s a product that’s on its way out—though not fast enough. We should be grateful to the independent scientists who risked their jobs to expose its toxicity, and to the legal experts and citizens who have gathered together by the thousands to make its manufacturers pay for the widespread and undeniable chronic ill health and fatal diseases that its use has caused.

Let’s move forward now. Let’s not waste another moment in asking what new poison we can spray on the planet.

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

There's No Reassuring Way to Say This

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-06-11 15:27
June 11, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsGenetic Engineering farm_spray_blue_tractor_1200x630.jpg

There’s no reassuring way to say this: You’re being poisoned against your will.

Sure, you can take steps to minimize your exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller.

But given its widespread and reckless use in this country, you’d have to live in a bubble to protect yourself from a chemical so toxic it’s been banned or severely restricted in 17 other countries.

Please donate today to help us push back against the EPA’s plan to approve Monsanto’s toxic glyphosate for another 15 years!

More than 300 million pounds of glyphosate are sprayed every year in the U.S. alone. That’s according to EPA estimates, which don’t include all uses.

You could be eating glyphosate. Tests show contamination in hundreds of common foods, including fresh produce, popular juices, tea, ice cream, cereals, breads—not just GMO corn, soy or beets.

You could be drinking glyphosate. One study said 70 percent of U.S. drinking water contains glyphosate.

You and your kids and your pets could be playing in glyphosate. Just this week, the Guardian reported that in 2017, New York City workers sprayed more than 500 gallons of glyphosate, including in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, which receives 8 million visitors a year.

The fact is, all of us are exposed to glyphosate. Against our will.

That means all of us need to keep the pressure on Congress and the EPA to ban Roundup and other glyphosate-based weedkillers.

Please donate today to help us push back against the EPA’s plan to approve Monsanto’s toxic glyphosate for another 15 years!

Every 15 years, the EPA is supposed to review the latest research on glyphosate and decide whether or not to re-approve it.

The last deadline was December 2015. But that deadline came and went with no word—probably because in March 2015, the World Health Organization inconveniently announced that glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen.”

Three-and-a-half years later, the agency that’s supposed to protect the public came out with its “no risk to public health” statement.

The EPA is seeking “public comment” on its review until July 5.

We think “comments” aren’t enough.

That’s why we’re collaborating with our allies to storm the EPA and demand the agency do what it should have done decades ago: Ban glyphosate!

Please help us raise another $75,000 by midnight June 30 so we can raise hell with the EPA before it approves Monsanto’s toxic glyphosate for another 15 years!

We Can't Afford Another 15 Years of This

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-06-06 13:02
June 6, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie Cummins plane_spray_crops_1200x630.jpg

On April 23, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally got around to issuing its latest (phony) review of glyphosate.

What did the EPA decide? That the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller “poses no public health risk.”

Please donate today to help us push back against the EPA’s plan to approve Monsanto’s toxic glyphosate for another 15 years!

Every 15 years, the EPA is supposed to review the latest science on glyphosate, then issue a determination on whether this toxic chemical should be re-approved for another 15 years.

The last deadline for a new review of glyphosate was December 2015. But that deadline came and went with no word—probably because in March 2015, the World Health Organization inconveniently announced that glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen.”

Three-and-a-half years past the 2015 deadline, the agency that’s supposed to protect your health came out with its bold “no risk to public health” claim.

Now the public has until July 5 to comment on the EPA's so-called scientific review of this deadly herbicide.

We think “comments” aren’t enough.

That’s why we’re collaborating with our allies to storm the EPA and demand the agency do what it should have done decades ago: Ban glyphosate!

Please donate today to help us push back against the EPA’s plan to approve Monsanto’s toxic glyphosate for another 15 years!

The EPA’s loyalty to Monsanto (now owned by Bayer) is mind-blowing.

You’ve probably been following the trials of people who used Roundup and later developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a potentially fatal cancer that was once rare, but is now much more common.

So you probably know that so far, three separate juries (thousands more lawsuits are still to come) have weighed the evidence against Monsanto—and sided with the victims.

Evidence uncovered during these early trials reveals that Monsanto has always known about Roundup’s cancer-causing potential.

That’s bad enough. This is even worse: Internal memos suggest that some EPA officials actually colluded with Monsanto to hide the truth about Roundup and cancer from consumers and farmers.

The EPA has chosen to ignore the evidence presented at these trials.

The EPA, which is supposed to work for you, has chosen to reject nearly two decades’ worth of newer independent, peer-reviewed studies linking glyphosate to a long list of health and environmental issues.

And all you’re allowed to do is “comment?” While your water is polluted, your food is contaminated and the soil we all depend on is degraded beyond repair?

Please donate today to help us push back against the EPA’s plan to approve Monsanto’s toxic glyphosate for another 15 years!

Hardly a day goes by that I’m not reminded of the words of Jane Goodall:

“Someday we shall look back on this dark era of agriculture and shake our heads. How could we have ever believed that it was a good idea to grow our food with poisons?”

I keep waiting for that day. The day when our regulatory agencies come to their senses and banish forever the poisons from our food system.

In the meantime, with your help, we'll keep fighting back.

Want to Help Your Local Food System Thrive? Do This.

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-06-04 15:42
June 4, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulFarm Issues girl_farmers_market_1200x630.jpg

You depend on your local farmers for the healthy food you buy at your community’s natural food store and farmers’ market.

Unfortunately, many small family farms struggle to succeed financially. That’s because farm policies favor big farms and multinational agribusiness corporations, not your local farmers.

It’s time to change that. And the best way to do it is to unite farmers from all over the country around efforts to rewrite U.S. food and farming policies.

Can you reach out to your local farmers and ask them to join a national coalition of Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal?

Politics aside, the Green New Deal offers an unprecedented opportunity for large-scale reform of U.S. food and farming policies.

That’s why we’re working with our sister organization, Regeneration International, to build a coalition of farmers and ranchers who will work together to ensure that the Green New Deal includes policies that help them succeed.

For the first time ever, U.S. presidential candidates are talking about the need to help family farmers succeed—instead of supporting policies that make multinational agribusiness corporations rich, and force small farmers out of business.

But federal lawmakers need to hear from organic regenerative farmers, in large numbers, about what they need.

Can you reach out to your farmers and invite them to join this important national coalition? Click here for more information and downloadable materials. Or fill out this form and we’ll mail materials to you.

Bernie Joins the Regeneration Revolution

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-05-30 13:41
May 30, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsEnvironment & Climate, Politics & Globalization bernie_sanders-gage_skidmore_1200x630.jpg

Photo: Gage Skidmore, (CC BY-SA 2.0)

“We need to incentivize farming systems that help farmers both mitigate climate change and build resilience to its impacts. Pass comprehensive legislation to address climate change that includes a transition to regenerative, independent family farming practices.” – Sen. Bernie Sanders, “Revitalizing Rural America” May 15, 2019

Amidst all the bad news, scandals and neo-fascist machinations in Washington, there is some good news on the political front: A number of leading Democratic Party candidates for president, including U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), emboldened by a wave of grassroots action on the part of the youth-powered Sunrise Movement and Student Strike for the Climate, and bolstered by a group of recently elected members of Congress led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), are putting forth bold proposals that could actually solve the climate crisis.

These relatively new grassroots movements are demanding, in the words of Bernie Sanders, a “Political Revolution”—a new system, based on ecological and egalitarian principles, offering solutions to the intertwined crises of urban and rural America: pollution, environmental destruction, deteriorating public health, economic injustice, political corruption, corporate crime, monopoly control and unending wars.

In the last presidential election cycle in 2016 there was little or no discussion of what has now metasticized into a climate emergency. Nor was there any serious discussion of the industrial, corporate-controlled food, farming and land-use practices that are major drivers of global warming, deteriorating public health, environmental destruction, species extinction and increasingly toxic air and water.

Fortunately, the conversation is evolving. The climate crisis now ranks as a leading concern among registered voters. And it has the attention of most of the two dozen contenders for the Democratic Party nomination for president in 2020. Several of these candidates have offered up detailed proposals to not only slash fossil fuel emissions, but also to repair our broken food and farming system.

The 2016 Presidential election provided a perfect example of contemporary political degeneration. Two highly unpopular politicians, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, both backed by wealthy corporations and donors (including the fossil fuel industry and corporate agribusiness), squared off against one another in a billion-dollar mudslinging contest for the White House—with little or no mention of climate change, food and farming or environmental issues like species extinction and land degradation.

Clinton managed to get 65 million votes. Trump got 62 million and the majority of the Electoral College. But the largest segment of the electorate—92 million people—were so disillusioned or disgusted by “politics as usual” that they didn’t bother to vote at all.

Once in office, scandal-plagued President Trump appointed fossil fuel-apologists and climate change-deniers to high offices and announced that the U.S. was pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement by 2020. His choice for Secretary of Agriculture was Sonny Perdue, a pro-factory farm, pro-Monsanto, pro-Big Meat cheerleader from Georgia.

But things are changing, and changing rapidly. Millions of Americans and more than 100 members of Congress, including leading Democratic Party contenders for president in 2020, are calling for a system-wide transformation called the Green New Deal (GND), a 21st century version of the New Deal of the 1930s.

The GND calls for a World War II-scale transition away from fossil fuels and chemical-intensive agriculture, a green renewable energy economy by 2030, a rebuilding of the nation’s infrastructure and retrofitting of all buildings. The GND also calls for green jobs for all who are willing to work, $15/hour minimum wage, universal health care, abolishing student debt and free public education for all.

Similar system change is now slowly unfolding south of the border, in Mexico, where the ruling MORENA party, (the National Regeneration Movement) has begun implementing what President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador calls the “Fourth Transformation,” a radical populist program to fix the nation’s economic, political, environmental, agricultural, organized crime and climate crises.

Similar movements for reversing climate change through a GND are now spreading across borders and continents, most recently supercharged by mass street protests organized by the Extinction Rebellion movement and the global student strike for the climate. Calls are growing louder from political activists in Canada, the UK and other European nations to drop neo-liberal business-as-usual policies and put forth a Green New Deal.

A look at the food, farming and climate platforms of the Green New Deal, and the campaign platforms of Sanders, Warren and Booker among others, show us just how far we’ve come in the space of three years.

The Green New Deal Resolution, supported by Democratic presidential candidates Sanders, Warren, Booker, Gov. Jay Inslee, Sen. Kamala Harris (D- Calif.) and others,  introduced on February 7, in the House by Ocasio-Cortez and in the Senate by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), explicitly calls for:

. . . working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector… supporting family farming… investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health… building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food… removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and reducing pollution, including by restoring natural ecosystems through proven low-tech solutions that increase soil carbon storage, such as preservation and afforestation… restoring and protecting threatened, endangered, and fragile ecosystems through locally appropriate and science-based projects that enhance biodiversity and support climate resiliency… providing all people of the United States with access to clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and nature.

Sanders’ “Revitalizing Rural America” proposal, issued on May 15, 2019, doesnt mince words. It states:

Agriculture today is not working for the majority of Americans. It is not working economically for farmers, it is not working for rural communities, and it is not working for the environment. But it is working for big agribusiness corporations that are extracting our rural resources for profit… Fundamental change in America’s agricultural and rural policies is no longer just an option; it’s an absolute necessity. Farmers, foresters, and ranchers steward rural landscapes, which benefit all Americans. They provide us with essential resources such as food, fiber, building materials, renewable energy, clean water, and habitat for biodiversity. They also have an enormous potential to address climate change. With the right support and policies, we can have rural communities that are thriving economically and ecologically.

After laying out how we must break the stranglehold of the agribusiness monopolies such as Bayer-Monsanto, and create a level playing field for family farmers through anti-trust action, fair prices for farmers and supply management, Sanders goes on to explicitly point out how sustainable, organic and regenerative farming practices can play a major role in solving our climate Emergency:  

We need to incentivize farming systems that help farmers both mitigate climate change and build resilience to its impacts. [We need to] Pass comprehensive legislation to address climate change that includes a transition to regenerative, independent family farming practices. Help farms of all sizes transition to sustainable agricultural practices that rebuild rural communities, protect the climate, and strengthen the environment. Provide grants, technical assistance, and debt relief to farmers to support their transition to more sustainable farming practices. Support a transition to more sustainable management of livestock systems that are ecologically sound, improve soil health, and sequester carbon in soil. Create financial mechanisms that compensate farmers for improving ecosystems.

Despite all our efforts in terms of public education and mobilization, corrupt government officials, regulatory agencies and international trade bureaucrats have allowed Monsanto-Bayer, Syngenta-ChemChina, Dow-DuPont and a cabal of multinational agribusiness, chemical, seed and GMO corporations, aided and abetted by Madison Avenue, Wall Street and the mass media, to hijack our food and farming system and slowly but surely undermine our health, degrade the soil, pollute the environment and destabilize the climate.

Although the fossil fuel giants, Big Food, the Gene Giants and Corporate America, with the help of the White House and a servile Congress, have managed to derail our efforts so far to stabilize the climate, repair the environment and ban GMOs, toxic chemicals and factory farms, people in the U.S. and around the world are waking up.

For the first time in decades we will have the opportunity in 2020 to elect a president and a Congress that support family farms and organic, regenerative climate-friendly food and farm practices. For the first time ever we can elect a majority, at all levels of government—local, state, and federal—who recognize that we must stop and reverse global warming before our Climate Emergency morphs into climate catastrophe. The situation is dire, but there is still time to turn things around. Help us put pressure on all the politicians running for office in 2019-2020. If you’re a farmer sign here in support of a Green New Deal. If you’re an activist or a green consumer sign here.  

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). To keep up with OCA’s news and alerts, sign up here.

Tell Congress: Support the "Keep Fin Fish Free Act" to Ban Industrial Ocean Fish Farms!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-05-29 18:15
Category: Environment & Climate, CAFOs vs. Free Range, Farm IssuesArea: USA

Industrial ocean fish farms endanger both human and environmental health—yet the Trump administration is pushing for aggressive expansion of this dirty industry.

Raising non-native and/or genetically modified fish in ocean water fish farms can disrupt natural ecosystems when the facilities spread disease to wild fish and release toxic, untreated fish waste and pharmaceutical drugs into the marine environment.

Farmed fish also have more toxins, including pesticides and antibiotics, and contain fewer nutrients than wild caught fish.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress: Support the “Keep Fin Fish Free Act” to Ban Industrial Ocean Fish Farms!Read more

Your Support Needed to Help End Industrial Fish Farms

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-05-29 16:11
May 29, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonEnvironment & Climate, CAFOs vs. Free Range salmon_factory_fish_farm_1200x630.jpg

When you hear “factory farm” you probably think cows and pigs and chickens.

But there’s another type of factory farm, one that pollutes our oceans and produces one of the most toxic foods in the world: industrial ocean fish farms.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress: Support the “Keep Fin Fish Free Act” to Ban Industrial Ocean Fish Farms

Industrial fish farms endanger human health and the environment. Yet their numbers are growing, to meet the growing demand for salmon, in both grocery stores and restaurants.

But here’s the irony: Consumers want more salmon because we’ve been told that it’s a healthy choice. It is—but only if the salmon (and this holds true for other fish) is “wild caught,” meaning it was fished from its natural habitat, where it fed on natural organisms.

That’s not the case with farmed fish, which is raised on a diet of processed, high-fat, high-protein feed that can include everything from GMO soybeans and pesticides, to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins, to antibiotics.

One study found 13 persistent organic pollutants in farmed salmon, and PCB levels on average eight times higher in farmed salmon compared with wild salmon.

In addition to producing a toxic food product, industrial fish farms also pose a host of threats to the environment. As Friends of the Earth reports:

Factory fish farming allows for the free discharge of excess feed, feces, antibiotics, and chemicals into the water, which causes algal blooms and dead zones. The massive amount of fish in one space can attract and harm wildlife, which get entangled in farm nets, harassed by acoustic deterrents, or hunted by larger species.

Despite the human and environmental health hazards associated with industrial fish farms, the Trump administration is pushing for aggressive expansion of this dirty industry.

Fortunately, Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) has introduced the “Keep Fin Fish Free Act,” a bill that would place a moratorium on granting commercial permits for industrial fish farms in federally controlled ocean waters.

Please ask your U.S. Representatives to support H.R. 2467, the “Keep Fin Fish Free Act.”

Trial in Monsanto's Hometown Set for August after $2 Billion Roundup Cancer Verdict

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-05-22 19:41
May 22, 2019US Right to KnowCarey GillamGenetic Engineering roundup_bottles_mike_mozart_1200x630.jpg

After three stunning courtroom losses in California, the legal battle over the safety of Monsanto's top-selling Roundup herbicide is headed for the company's hometown, where corporate officials can be forced to appear on the witness stand, and legal precedence shows a history of anti-corporate judgments.

Sharlean Gordon, a cancer-stricken woman in her 50s, is the next plaintiff currently set for trial. Gordon v. Monsanto starts Aug. 19 in St. Louis County Circuit Court, located just a few miles from the St. Louis, Missouri-area campus that was the company's longtime world headquarters until Bayer bought Monsanto last June. The case was filed in July 2017 on behalf of more than 75 plaintiffs and Gordon is the first of that group to go to trial.

According to the complaint, Gordon purchased and used Roundup for at least 15 continuous years through approximately 2017 and was diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2006. Gordon has gone through two stem cell transplants and spent a year in a nursing home at one point in her treatment. 

She is so debilitated that it is difficult for her to be mobile. 

Her case, like that of the thousands of others filed around the United States, alleges use of Monsanto's glyphosate-based herbicides caused her to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma. 

"She's been through hell," St. Louis attorney Eric Holland, one of the legal team members representing Gordon, told EHN. "She's horribly injured. The human toll here is tremendous. I think Sharlean is really going to put a face on what Monsanto's done to people." 

Gordon said the hardest part about preparing for trial is determining what evidence to present to the jury within the three-week time span that the judge has set for the trial. 

"This evidence against them, their conduct, is the most outrageous I've seen in my 30 years of doing this," Holland said. "The things that have gone on here, I want St. Louis juries to hear this stuff."

That Gordon trial will be followed by a September 9 trial also in St. Louis County in a case brought by plaintiffs Maurice Cohen and Burrell Lamb. 

Monsanto's deep roots in the community, including a large employment base and generous charitable donations throughout the area, could favor its chances with local jurors. 

But on the flip side, St. Louis is regarded in legal circles as one the most favorable places for plaintiffs to bring lawsuits against corporations and there is a long history of large verdicts against major companies. St. Louis City Court is generally considered the most favorable but St. Louis County is also desired by plaintiffs' attorneys.

The approach of the August and September trials comes on the heels of a stunning $2 billion verdict issued against Monsanto May 13. In that case, a jury in Oakland, California, awarded married couple Alva and Alberta Pilliod, who both suffer from cancer, $55 million in compensatory damages and $1 billion each in punitive damages. 

The jury found that Monsanto has spent years covering up evidence that its herbicide causes cancer. 

That verdict came only a little more than a month after a San Francisco jury ordered Monsanto to pay $80 million in damages to Edwin Hardeman, who also developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma after using Roundup. And last summer, a jury ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million to groundskeeper Dewayne "Lee" Johnson who received a terminal cancer diagnosis after using Monsanto herbicides in his job.

Aimee Wagstaff, who was co-lead counsel for Hardeman, is set to try the Gordon case in St. Louis with Holland. Wagstaff said she plans to subpoena several Monsanto scientists to appear on the witness stand to answer questions directly in front of a jury. 

She and the other attorneys trying the California cases were not able to force Monsanto employees to testify live because of the distance. The law provides that witnesses cannot be compelled to travel more than 100 miles or out of state from where they live or work.

Mediation meeting

The trial losses have left Monsanto and its German owner Bayer AG under siege. Angry investors have pushed share prices to the lowest levels in roughly seven years, erasing more than 40 percent of Bayer's market value. 

And some investors are calling for Bayer CEO Werner Baumann to be ousted for championing the Monsanto acquisition, which closed in June of last year just as the first trial was getting underway.

Bayer maintains that there is no valid evidence of cancer causation associated with Monsanto's herbicides, and says it believes it will win on appeal. But U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria has ordered Bayer to begin mediation talks aimed at potentially settling the sprawling mass of lawsuits that includes roughly 13,400 plaintiffs in the United States alone. 

All the plaintiffs are cancer victims or their family members and all allege Monsanto engaged in a range of deceptive tactics to hide the risks of its herbicides, including manipulating the scientific record with ghostwritten studies, colluding with regulators, and using outside individuals and organizations to promote the safety of its products while making sure they falsely appeared to be acting independently of the company. 

A May 22 hearing is being held in part to define details of the mediation process. Bayer has indicated that it will comply with the order, but may not yet be ready to consider settling the litigation despite the courtroom losses. 

Meanwhile, the litigation that originated in the United States has crossed the border into Canada where a Saskatchewan farmer is leading a class action lawsuit against Bayer and Monsanto making allegations that mirror those in the U.S. lawsuits.

"The Queen of Roundup"

Elaine Stevick of Petaluma, California was supposed to be the next in line to take on Monsanto at trial. 

But in his order of mediation, Judge Chhabria also vacated her May 20 trial date. A new trial date is to be discussed at the hearing on Wednesday.

Stevick and her husband Christopher Stevick sued Monsanto in April of 2016 and said in an interview that they are eager to get their chance to confront the company over the devastating damage they say Elaine's use of Roundup has done to her health. 

She was diagnosed in December 2014 at the age of 63 with multiple brain tumors due to a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma called central nervous system lymphoma (CNSL). Alberta Pilliod, who just won the most recent trial, also had a CNSL brain tumor.

The couple purchased an old Victorian home and overgrown property in 1990 and while Christopher worked on renovating the interior of the house, Elaine's job was to spray weed killer over the weeds and wild onions that the couple said took over a good portion of the property. 

She sprayed multiple times a year until she was diagnosed with cancer. She never wore gloves or other protective clothing because believed it to be as safe as advertised, she said.

Stevick is currently in remission but nearly died at one point in her treatment, Christopher Stevick said.

"I called her the 'queen of Roundup' because she was always walking around spraying the stuff," he told EHN.

The couple attended parts of both the Pilliod and Hardeman trials, and said they are grateful the truth about Monsanto's actions to hide the risks are coming into the public spotlight. And they want to see Bayer and Monsanto start warning users about the cancer risks of Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides.

"We want the companies to take responsibility for warning people—even if there is a chance that something would be harmful or hazardous for them, people should be warned," Elaine Stevick told EHN.

Carey Gillam is a journalist and author, and a public interest researcher for US Right to Know, a not-for-profit food industry research group. You can follow her on Twitter @careygillam.

Reposted with permission from US Right to Know.


Regeneration 2019: State of the Movement

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-05-22 18:17
May 22, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsEnvironment & Climate farm_sunrise_landscape_1200x630.jpg

Regenerate: Formed or created again; spiritually reborn or converted; restored to a better, higher, or more worthy state. -Webster


“Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis of democracy.” - Vandana Shiva, Regeneration International Co-Founder


Five years ago, at the massive People’s Climate March in New York City, a small but determined band of food, farm, natural health and climate activists held a press conference at the Rodale Institute in Manhattan, where we announced the formation of a new global network: Regeneration International (RI).


Vandana Shiva, Andre Leu, Richard Teague, Ryan Zinn, Kris Nichols and myself, among others, put forth the bold, but then little-known proposition that regenerative food, farming and land-use practices, scaled up internationally, and in conjunction with a global transition to renewable energy, could not only substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow down global warming, but could actually draw down enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to reverse climate change.


We pointed out that a Regeneration Revolution could also dramatically improve the environment, soil fertility, food quality, public health, biodiversity and rural economies, while revitalizing the body politic.


Unfortunately, we didn’t get a lot of media to attend our first RI press conference. But 400,000 people marching in the streets of New York did generate massive world media coverage of the impending Climate Emergency.


Five years later . . .


Five years later, our growing Regeneration Movement has come a long way. Regenerative Agriculture is rapidly becoming the most talked about new concept in food, farming and climate circles. Media coverage, both mainstream and alternative, has increased exponentially.


Leading politicians in the U.S., including Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are now talking about how the combination of regenerative agriculture, natural carbon sequestration in soils, forests, and wetlands, and reducing the massive greenhouse gas emissions of industrial agriculture and factory farms can help us reach “net-zero” emissions by 2030.


The concept of regenerative food and farming was featured in the Green New Deal (GND) Resolution introduced in the U.S. House and Senate February 7. The GND has now been endorsed by more than 100 members of Congress, leading Democratic Party contenders and, according to several polls, the majority of the U.S. body politic.


The GND calls for sweeping economic reforms (jobs for all, free public education, higher wages, universal health care) as well as a transformation of our energy, infrastructure and agricultural systems, including:


. . . working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible, including—by supporting family farming… investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health… and by building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food… removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and reducing pollution, including by restoring natural ecosystems through proven low-tech solutions that increase soil carbon storage, such as preservation and afforestation… restoring and protecting threatened, endangered, and fragile ecosystems through locally appropriate and science-based projects that enhance biodiversity and support climate resiliency… providing all people of the United States with access to clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and nature.


As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently stated in a social media post (April 7, 2019):


Because of the Green New Deal, entirely new thinkers are now at the policy table instead of just Big Ag and Monsanto writing our public policy for us—from regenerative agriculture experts and family farmers, to indigenous leaders with intergenerational knowledge.


Media waking up to game-changing solutions


On the scientific and public education fronts, a flood of articles, videos and books are highlighting the fact that regenerative farming and ecosystem restoration practices dramatically increase soil fertility and carbon sequestration.


A recent article in Scientific American, features the work of RI member Dr. David Johnson. Johnson’s lab and field research on regenerative compost shows that high-fungal, biologically rich, semi-anaerobic compost and compost extracts produce unusually high crop yields, along with massive carbon sequestration of over four tons of carbon (15 tons of CO2e) per acre per year.


The Scientific American article points out the game-changing implications of Johnson’s compost practices, if scaled-up on the world’s four billion acres of croplands:


Johnson asserts that if his approach were used across agriculture internationally, the entire world’s carbon output from 2016 could be stored on just 22 percent of the globe’s arable land.


Johnson’s “bio-reactor” compost also eliminates the need for synthetic fertilizers—inoculated soils enriched with cover crops naturally accumulate enough nitrogen for massive plant growth. Dr. Johnson’s BEAM (Biologically Enhanced Agricultural Management) practices mirror traditional and indigenous compost and agroecological farming practices used in India and other regions.


Potential of regenerative grazing gaining notice

The Savory Institute, Will Harris (co-chair of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers for a Green New Deal coalition), Gabe Brown, the American Grassfed Association, and many others have been demonstrating the efficacy of holistic livestock management practices on every continent.


As RI International Director Andre Leu writes:


There is now a considerable body of published science and evidence-based practices showing that these (livestock) systems regenerate degraded lands, and improve productivity, water holding capacity and soil carbon levels. Nearly 70 percent of the world’s agricultural lands (eight billion acres) are used for grazing. The published evidence is showing that correctly managed pastures can build up SOC (Soil Organic Carbon) faster than many other agricultural systems and that the carbon is stored deeper in the soil.


Leu cites a 2015 study conducted in a region with highly degraded soil and pastures in the southeastern U.S. showing that regenerative, holistically managed grazing was able to sequester 3.24 tons of carbon per acre per year (29.36 metric tons of CO2e/hectare/year).


If these regenerative grazing practices were implemented on all of the world’s grazing lands they would sequester 26 billion tons of carbon per year—that’s two-and-a-half times as much carbon as is currently being emitted by all human activities.  Even if only 10 percent of the world’s ranchers and farmers adopted regenerative practices, we could sequester more than a quarter of all current emissions.


New incentives for reforestation and ecosystem restoration


The Earth’s forests once flourished with an estimated six trillion trees growing, storing water below ground, anchoring top soil, maintaining a healthy, predictable system of rainfall and hydrological balance, sequestering vast amounts of atmospheric carbon in tree trunks, limbs, roots, and soil.


Besides these essential ecosystem services, forests also provided food and habitat for much of the world’s population, especially in the global south.


Now, after several centuries of deforestation, we’ve lost half of our trees and forest cover. And many of our remaining forests are weakened and susceptible to forest fires and pest infestations. We’re now down to an estimated total tree population of three trillion trees on 10 billion acres.


But according to a new United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), “The Trillion Tree Campaign,” global reforestation could capture 25 percent of global annual carbon emissions and create wealth in the global south.


The UN’s Trillion Tree Campaign is inspired in part by a recent study led by Dr. Thomas Crowther, Crowther and his fellow researchers, using integrated data from ground-based surveys and satellites, found that replanting the world’s forests (an additional 1.2 trillion trees) on a massive scale in the empty spaces in parks, woods, cities and degraded and abandoned land across the planet would drawdown 100 billion tons of excess carbon from the atmosphere.


Crowther told the Independent:


“There’s 400 gigatons now, in the three trillion trees, and if you were to scale that up by another trillion trees that’s in the order of hundreds of gigatons captured from the atmosphere – at least 10 years of anthropogenic emissions completely wiped out… [trees are] our most powerful weapon in the fight against climate change.”


Crowther’s figures don’t even include the massive amount of carbon drawdown and sequestration we can achieve through agroforestry and silvopasture practices, planting trees on the world’s often deforested croplands, pasturelands and rangelands.


More than 13.6 billion trees have already been planted as part of the Trillion Tree Campaign, which analyzes and projects not only where trees have been planted, but also the vast areas where forests could be restored. UNEP also emphasizes that there are “170 billion trees in imminent risk of destruction” that must be protected for crucial carbon storage and biodiversity protection.  


‘Four for 1000’ global policy initiative gaining traction


At the upcoming Global Climate Summit in Santiago, Chile, December 2-13, regenerative, carbon-sequestering, agricultural and land-use practices will be highlighted for the first time at the international level.


Countries that are having difficulties meeting their 2015 pledges in Paris to reduce their country’s greenhouse gas emissions to specific levels (most nations are) will now be able to include soil carbon sequestration (along with reforestation and landscape restoration) as part of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).


Since the 2015 Paris Climate Summit, three dozen nations and hundreds of municipalities, regions and non-governmental organizations have signed on the “4 for 1000: Soils for  Food Security and Climate Initiative.”


Governments that sign the initiative agree to augment their emissions reductions with a commitment to increase soil carbon sequestration by 4/1000% every year so as to achieve net-zero emissions (drawing down as much GHG as they are emitting) as soon as possible. Regeneration International is an active partner with the French government and others in encouraging nations, regions, municipal governments and organizations to sign-on to the 4 for 1000 Initiative.


Where do we go from here?


Besides stepping up our local and individual regenerative education and farming activities, the time has come for regenerators worldwide to focus on grassroots organizing, coalition building and bold political action.


With our Climate Emergency accelerating, and current atmospheric CO2 levels soaring to 415 ppm, we no longer have time to slowly scale up renewable energy and regenerative food, farming and land-use practices at our current pace. The inclusion of regenerative food and farming in the U.S. as part of the Green New Deal, amplified in the political arena by several major candidates for President in 2020, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, has opened up an unprecedented opportunity to move forward and gain mass grassroots support. Activists in the UK are now calling for the Labour Party to put forth a bold UK Green New Deal, much as the Sunrise Movement, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Bernie Sanders are doing in the U.S.


The final months of 2018 will likely be remembered as the decisive moment when the global grassroots finally awakened to the life-or-death threat posed by global warming. With violent weather and climate disasters becoming the norm, and international scientists finally shedding their customary caution to report that we must drastically slash (by at least 45 percent) global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, hundreds of millions of ordinary people across the world seemed to simultaneously wake up.


People are concerned, alarmed and ready to listen to our message. Now is the time for the Regeneration Movement to step forward and help mobilize our millions of allies and would-be allies. We know what to do. The best practices and practitioners in alternative energy, infrastructure rebuilding and regenerative food and farming are already visible in our local communities. Our moral and existential imperative is to mobilize politically and scale up these practices, raising the banner of a Regenerative Green New Deal in every community, region and nation.


The hour is late. But there’s still time to turn things around. If you haven’t already, please sign the Organic Consumers Association and Regeneration International’s petition for a Green New Deal. If you’re a farmer or rancher, sign here If you’re an activist or a green consumer sign here.


Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). To keep up with OCA’s news and alerts, sign up here.

Tell Your State Lawmakers: Ban Chlorpyrifos!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-05-22 18:10
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesArea: USA

Chlorpyrifos, manufactured by DowDuPont, is a neurotoxic organophosphate insecticide that, even at very low levels, has been linked to severe birth defects, brain damage and mental disorders in children, including ADHD and autism.

 Hawaii, California and New York (awaiting the governor’s signature) have passed laws banning chlorpyrifos. 

Connecticut and Oregon are poised to join them. Bills to ban chlorpyrifos ban have also been introduced in Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia. 

TAKE ACTION: Ask your state legislators to ban chlorpyrifos! (If your state has already taken action, please change your letter to a thank-you note).Read more

Organic Farming Explained

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-05-22 00:07
May 21, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulAll About Organics farmworker-2_1200x630.png

It’s easy to forget that before there was a National Organic Program, before there was organic certification, before there were genetically engineered crops and industrial factory farms, there were farmers—farmers who grew nutritious food and raised healthy meat, using farming and ranching practices that worked with, and enhanced, Earth’s natural systems and cycles.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program evolved out of the need to define “organic” in order to protect these good farmers in a marketplace increasingly being taken over by industrial food producers. Unfortunately, over the years, industrial food lobbyists have used their financial and political clout to try their best to weaken organic standards.

We continue to recommend that consumers look for the USDA organic seal, and we continue to lobby to protect and strengthen USDA organic regulations.

But it’s also important to remember that the original “definers” of organic were farmers—not the USDA.

If anyone knows how to define “organic,” it’s one of those farmers—Eliot Coleman. Coleman has more than 50 years’ experience in all aspects of organic farming, including field vegetables, greenhouse vegetables, rotational grazing of cattle and sheep, and range poultry. He’s an educator and researcher, founder of Four Season Farm in Harborside, Maine, and the author of many books, including “The New Organic Grower.” Coleman recently shared his explanation of “organic” in an email, an explanation that serves as a good reminder that this is how we feed the world. Coleman’s “Organic Farming Explained” is printed here with his permission.

1. Organic farming is based on the creation and maintenance of a biologically active fertile soil.

2. Pest-free plants and animals with active immune systems are a direct result of a biologically active fertile soil that has been shown to induce pest resistance in the crops.

3. Truly fertile soil results in food of the highest nutritional quality.

4. Investigations into the miraculous soil microbiome are revealing the vital natural processes that support a self-renewing agriculture.

5. Real soil fertility does not require inputs from off the farm. It can be endlessly self-renewed with farm-derived compost, crop rotations, green manures, cover crops, grazing livestock, and other time-honored practices that nurture the boundless energy and logic of the earth.

6. Deep-rooting grass and legume pastures in the rotation can make available the almost inexhaustible nutrient supply from the lower levels of the soil.

7. Since the biologically based systems of the organic farm are powered by ecologically sound management practices, not purchased fertilizers, this food production system is freely available to farmers everywhere and can thus feed mankind with exceptional food in perpetuity.

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

Tell Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown: GMO Soy Is Bad for Consumers, Bad for the Planet

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-05-21 18:05
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Food Safety, Genetic EngineeringArea: USA

The Impossible Burger—deceptively marketed as “natural”—already contains a genetically engineered ingredient, a yeast referred to as "heme."

Now, Impossible Foods, maker of the fake meat patty, is adding another GMO ingredient: genetically engineered soy. Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown wants you to think the switch to GMO soy was motivated by the company’s “commitment to consumers and our planet.”

But that’s a lie. On so many levels.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown: GMO Soy is bad for consumers, bad for the planet!Read more

Impossible Burger CEO Is Full of Baloney. Here's Why.

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-05-21 17:18
May 21, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulFood Safety, Genetic Engineering hamburger_cheese_plastic_toy_1200x630.jpg

The Impossible Burger—deceptively marketed as “natural”—already contains a genetically engineered ingredient, a yeast referred to as “heme.” 

Now, Impossible Foods, the maker of the fake meat patty, is adding a new GE ingredient: genetically engineered soy.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown: GMO Soy is bad for consumers, bad for the planet!

Impossible Foods wants you to think the switch to GMO soy was motivated by the company’s “commitment to consumers and our planet.”

But that’s simply not true. We explain why, in our article, “Six Reasons Impossible Burger’s CEO Is Wrong about GMO Soy.”

Burger-loving consumers who care about their health, and the health of the environment, are likely to choose burgers made from 100% grass-fed beef—not a lab-grown fake meat product made with GMO ingredients.

Why choose regeneratively raised 100% grass-fed burgers?

With more nutrients, and less risk of harmful pathogens, grass-fed beef is better for your health.

And when managed properly, cows raised on grass can have a net-positive impact on the environment—by improving soil carbon sequestration and ecosystem biodiversity, and by reducing the need for toxic pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

In his article, Brown says his company’s mission is to end the use of animals in food production by 2035. 

But the real mission of Impossible Foods is to generate profits for Brown and his shareholders. That’s why the company is keen to sell its Impossible Burger to fast-food restaurant chains, where it’s certain they won’t be labeled.

Brown plays fast and loose with the facts in his article, then writes: “Noise from anti-genetic engineering fundamentalists is inevitable.”

Let’s make some noise. 

TAKE ACTION: Tell Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown: GMO Soy is bad for consumers, bad for the planet!


6 Reasons Impossible Burger's CEO Is Wrong About GMO Soy

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-05-21 13:26
May 21, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationPat ThomasFood Safety, Genetic Engineering cheese_burger_impossible_1200x630.jpg

Throughout the U.S., major food brands are trying to get rid of GMO ingredients—not necessarily for the right reasons, but because nearly half of consumers say they avoid them in their food, primarily for health reasons.

But the CEO of Impossible Foods, purveyor of the Impossible Burger, is bucking that trend.

The manufacturers of the controversial veggie burger just announced that in the future, due to “high demand” for the product, its plant-based patties will be made using GMO soy.

The formula change was made to ensure the smooth rollout of the Impossible Burger in Burger King restaurants. The soy formulation is apparently better able to withstand Burger King’s trademark flame grilling. As a result, in early in 2019, Impossible Foods dumped the textured wheat protein it had been using and replaced it with soy protein concentrate instead.

Pat Brown, founder and CEO of Impossible Foods, publicly defended the move. But a closer look reveals that Brown’s claims about the healthfulness and sustainability of “Impossible Burger 2.0” just don’t stack up.

Here are six reasons the CEO of Impossible Burger is wrong when he claims that GMO soy is “the safest and most environmentally responsible option” for scaling up production of the fake meat product—a product that already uses a genetically engineered yeast, called heme, as its key ingredient.

1. Dubious health claims

When the switch to soy was first made. Sue Klapholz, Impossible Foods vice president of nutrition & health, said that "Soy is not only safe; it’s accessible, nutritious."

That’s not quite true.

Results from studies showing healthful properties of fermented soy products like tofu or miso are sometimes used to support the healthfulness of other, more highly processed types of soy.

But all soy is not created equal.

In the messy world of soy studies, where “soy” can be defined as almost anything with soy in it, there are just as many studies showing no or only marginal benefits, and in some cases, potential for harm—e. g. interference with thyroid medication—from diets high in soy.

Soy protein isolates and concentrates are made from defatted soybean flakes that have been washed in either alcohol or water to remove the sugars and dietary fiber. The flakes are then processed into powders or “flours.”

Alcohol is the most common process, as it produces products with a neutral taste. But the beneficial isoflavones in soy are removed by this method. Soy protein concentrate has the lowest level of healthful isoflavones—including daidzein, genistein and glycitein—of any form of processed soy.

There are other differences between the various types of soy. A 2014 study comparing GMO and organic soy beans found small but statistically significant differences in the nutritional quality: The organic soybeans had slightly higher protein levels and lower levels of omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids showed no significant difference. Both fats are essential in human diets, but U.S. eaters tend to consume a higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids than is healthy.

2. Higher use of pesticides

Brown says that “careful analysis” has “conclusively shown” GMO soy is “better for the environment than the alternatives.”

Absolutely untrue.  GMO soy, whether fed to cows or people, is bad for the environment.

A 2013 Food & Water Watch study, based on U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data, found that planting GM crops quickly resulted in the growth of herbicide-resistant “superweeds” which caused farmers to increase their herbicide use.

That report echoed the findings of another study produced by Washington State University research professor Charles Benbrook in 2012. In 2016, research from University of Virginia confirmed that glyphosate-resistant weeds have led to a 28-percent hike in herbicide use on GM soybeans compared with non-GM.

This has also been seen in other countries, including Canada, Brazil and Argentina.

There is also evidence that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller, accumulates in GM soy. The same study that found GM soy is nutritionally inferior to organic, and that GM-soy contained high residues of glyphosate and its toxic breakdown product AMPA, while conventional and organic soybeans were free of these agrochemicals.

That may help explain why a recent laboratory analysis by Moms Across America found glyphosate residues in the new formula Impossible Burger. The levels of glyphosate and its toxic breakdown product AMPA were low (11ppb) but as the Moms note, evidence from animal feed studies indicates that so-called 'safe' levels of glyphosate can destroy gut bacteria. Doses of 0.1 ppb of glyphosate has been shown to alter the gene function of over 4000 genes in the livers, kidneys and cause severe organ damage in rats.

Other studies of animals fed GM foods and/or glyphosate show worrying trends, including damage to vital organs like the liver and kidneys, damage to gut tissues and gut flora, immune system disruption, reproductive abnormalities and even tumors.

Agrichemical companies continue to claim that glyphosate is safe. Yet glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen” according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and its maker Monsanto (Bayer) has recently been ordered to pay out billions in compensation to victims who developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma as a result of using the weedkiller. More cases are pending.

3. No benefits for farmers

According to Brown, the company decided to source “American-grown, milled and processed GM soy” that is “from farms in Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois” because there just isn’t enough non-GMO soy to meet demand.

There is no question that GM soy is more plentiful than non-GM soy in the U.S.  In fact, the U.S. grows more soybeans than any other country except Brazil. According to the USDA, more than 90 percent of the soybeans harvested on U.S. farms are genetically engineered to withstand herbicides, especially Roundup.

That should translate into more crops to sell, but an indepth investigation by the New York Times found that, in addition to increasing pesticide use, genetic modification in the U.S. and Canada has not brought the expected increases in crop yields.

This echoes the findings of a 2016 National Academy of Sciences report found that “there was little evidence” that the introduction of genetically modified crops in the United States had led to yield gains beyond those seen in conventional crops.

Right now, U.S. farmers are suffering from a glut of soy, thanks to ongoing trade disputes with China, which have resulted in low prices and farm bankruptcies.

4. Kills biodiversity

The adoption of GMO herbicide-resistant crops like soy has favored the use of herbicides over tried and tested methods of weed management, such as crop rotation.

In addition to creating superweeds, glyphosate-based herbicides damage microbial life in the soil, which makes crops more susceptible to diseases. They are toxic to a range of aquatic organisms and also kill beneficial “weeds” like milkweed, a major food source for the Monarch butterfly.

As weeds become resistant, older and stronger pesticides such as 2,4-D or dicamba, are being used. In 2017-18, “dicamba drift” was responsible for damage to an estimated 5 million acres of non-GM soybeans in 24 states, in addition to numerous specialty crops and wild plants.

Globally, soy plantations have been responsible for wholesale clearing of forests and savannahs in places like Brazil, with the added effect of contributing to climate change. In the U.S., land converted to soy production has typically been pre-existing agricultural land and so is not linked to deforestation. But increasing demand for soy is destroying American prairies. Analysis of satellite data has shown that between 2006 and 2011, farmers in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska had converted 1.3 million acres of grassland into soybean and corn production.

Research by Environmental Working Group and the USDA's Economic Research Service supports this finding.

These monocultures are bad news for wildlife, because they destroy habitats for a wide range of wild creatures, from ground-nesting birds to pollinators like bees and butterflies.

But crop monocultures also lead to mono-diets. Agricultural diversity ensures a healthier environment and greater food security on a global scale. But the over-focus on cash crops like soy means that today just a handful of crops now dominate diets around the world. This new global diet has more calories and less nutrition, and is responsible for the global rise in non-communicable diseases such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

5. No ‘scientific consensus’ around safety

Brown proclaims there is “scientific consensus that GMOs are safe for consumers and the environment—a view now endorsed by the American Medical Association (AMA), the National Academy of Sciences and the World Health Organization.”

But Brown’s statement is factually untrue.

A closer look at these claims shows that the AMA’s Council on Science and Public Health statement opposing GMO labeling did not claim GMOs are safe. It acknowledged “a small potential for adverse events . . . due mainly to horizontal gene transfer, allergenicity and toxicity.” The AMA recommended mandatory safety assessments prior to release of GM foods—a system which, as the AMA pointed out, is not in place in the U.S.

The National Academy of Sciences has not issued any blanket claims of GMO safety. It did issue a report in which it analyzed a range of plant-breeding techniques and concluded that GM posed a higher risk of introducing unintended changes into food than any other crop breeding method other than mutation breeding, a method in which plant genomes are bombarded with radiation or chemicals to induce mutations.

The WHO has stated: “No effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of GM foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.”

But take a look at the text that preceded that sentence: “Different GM organisms include different genes inserted in different ways. This means that individual GM foods and their safety should be assessed on a case-by-case basis and that it is not possible to make general statements on the safety of all GM foods.” The WHO also recommends that “adequate post-market monitoring” is carried out to ensure the safety of GM foods.

Yet such monitoring is not carried out anywhere in the world. 

In fact, GM foods were not subjected to human trials before being released into the food chain. Their human health impacts are not being studied by any government agency, nor by the companies that produce them.

That’s why nearly 300 independent scientists from around the world issued a public warning that there was no scientific consensus about the safety of eating genetically modified food, and that the risks, as demonstrated in independent research, gave “serious cause for concern.”

6. Ignores consumer concerns

Brown says “we believe in our consumers and respect their right to consider the facts and decide for themselves.” He adds that the inclusion of GMO soy will lead to “noise from anti-genetic engineering fundamentalists.”

But concerns about GMOs aren’t just “noise.” They persist because they are legitimate, and because consumers want facts from independent researchers and other sources not from paid mouthpieces for the GMO industry, or from brands with a bias.

U.S. consumers overwhelmingly want GMO foods labeled so they can make real informed choices. Impossible Foods has chosen to ignore both legitimate concerns and the desire for choice by insinuating its fake meat burger onto the market via independent restaurants, large restaurant chains, theme parks, museums, stadiums, college campuses and corporate offices—places where no food labeling is required and where customers are least likely to ask questions.

It’s time to demand more from the food we eat, better protection from our regulators and a higher level of truthfulness and transparency from food brands.

If you want to let the CEO of Impossible Foods know that he's wrong about GMO soy, click here.

Editor's note:

OCA respects veganism as a personal choice. We also recommend consumers choose a diet high in plant matter, and that when they do eat meat, they eat only 100% pasture-raised, grass-fed meat—never meat from animals raised in factory farms. We recommend this for consumer health, and for the health of the environment.

Pasture-fed meat is high in beta carotene, calcium, selenium, magnesium and potassium and vitamins E and B, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a powerful anti-carcinogen. It’s also high in the long-chain omega-3 fatty acid DHA, which is vital for human brain development.

Apart from the health benefits of grass-fed meat, properly managed livestock play a critical role in restoring healthy soils and biodiversity, and in sequestering carbon. In fact, the best way to restore the health of our grasslands and prairies is to graze livestock, using regenerative grazing practices. In contrast, rows and rows of a single crop—whether it’s wheat or GMO soy—degrade the soil’s ability to sequester carbon, and destroy wildlife habitats. For more on this topic, please read this article on our website, and this article published in the Guardian.

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

Controversial Drug Ractopamine Is Back in the News—And Still in Your Food

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-05-16 13:59
May 16, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationMartha RosenbergEnvironment & Climate, CAFOs vs. Free Range, Food Safety pigs_livestock_animals_1200x630.jpg

A controversial drug allowed in meat production in the U.S.—but banned in 160 other countries—is in the news again. This time, it’s because the Trump administration, as part of a trade deal, is trying to force China to allow imports of U.S. pork raised with ractopamine.


Ractopamine is a beta-agonist routinely fed to pigs, cattle and turkey raised in industrial factory farms, or in industry parlance, “concentrated animal feeding farms,” or CAFOs. The drug mimics the effects of adrenaline, and is used to increase muscle tissue and make animals grow faster. It’s manufactured by Elanco Animal Health, until recently a division of drug giant Eli Lilly & Co.


If you buy industrially produced pork at a U.S. supermarket, it likely contains ractopamine—about 60 – 80 percent of industrial pork producers use the drug. If Trump forces China to allow imports of U.S. pork raised with ractopamine, that percentage could increase—and so will Elanco’s profits.


Pork producers aren’t required to tell you they use ractopamine, so don’t bother looking for it on the label. To avoid it, buy from a trusted local farmer, or look for the American Grassfed Association (AGA) logo—AGA-certified meat prohibits the use of ractopamine.


Ractopamine’s long, controversial history


In 2013, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) sued the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for withholding records pertaining to ractopamine’s safety.


According to the lawsuit, in response to the groups’ requests for information "documenting, analyzing or otherwise discussing the physiological, psychological and/or behavioral effects" of ractopamine, the FDA produced only 464 pages out of the existing 100,000 pages of records. Worse, all 464 pages had already been released as part of a reporter’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.


In 2014, CFS along with the Humane Society of the United States and United Farm Workers of America filed lawsuits against the FDA trying to vacate 11 animal drugs approvals, including ractopamine. The suits claimed the FDA had not adequately considered the effects of ractopamine on animal welfare, worker safety, wildlife and waterways.


But in 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers dismissed the petitions stating that the groups had not exhausted direct appeals to the FDA, in the form of "citizen petitions." Plaintiff lawyers argued that such drawn-out petitions allow dangerous drugs to remain in the food supply indefinitely.


USDA protects corporations first, consumers last


Unlike human drugs which must be proven safe, food ingredients approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) must be proven unsafe before the agency will prohibit them in food.


In other words, instead of following the precautionary principle which would mean erring on the side of caution (and consumers), the USDA gives the benefit of doubt to food producers.


The bias toward food producers is magnified by the government blocking laws requiring labels. Both Big Food and the government claim labels would "confuse" consumers and are unnecessary because there is "no difference" between foods containing things like GMOs or ractopamine, and foods that don’t contain those ingredients.


The USDA did approve "Never Fed Beta Agonists" labels that U.S. meat producers may use (and some are beginning to use). But the ractopamine-free labels were approved to appease Big Meat's many trading partners, including China, who won’t buy U.S. exports of meat raised with ractopamine—not because the agency was concerned about animal welfare or consumer safety.


While the USDA did approve ractopamine-free labels for pork, there are no such labels And there is another serious limitation to the move of U.S. meat producers to go "ractopamine-free." Conspicuously lacking are labels declaring turkey and beef ractopamine-free though as much as 30 percent of ration-fed cattle are fed the ingredient and an undisclosed number of turkeys. Clearly pork has more export value than beef or turkey, especially because it is a mainstay of many Asian diets. Still, beef is an issue: Russia has not accepted U.S. beef since 2013, reports Successful Farming, including "beta-agonist-free" beef.


What exactly is ractopamine?


Ractopamine is a beta agonist. In humans, its used for asthma patients to relax and widen muscles of the airways to facilitate better breathing. The potential to use ractopamine to build muscle in livestock was discovered during testing, when researchers found the drug made mice more muscular.


Approvals of ractopamine in meat production flew almost completely under the public radar: It was approved for use in U.S. pigs in 1999 (Paylean), for cattle in 2000 (Optaflexx) and for turkeys in 2009 (Topmax). In 2010, the FDA expanded the feeding approvals for Optaflexx in cattle.


But from the beginning, there have been serious safety, regulatory and transparency questions about ractopamine.


Three years after ractopamine was already in use in U.S. pigs, the the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine's Office of Surveillance and Compliance accused drugmaker Elanco of withholding information about "safety and effectiveness" and "adverse animal drug experiences" in a 14-page warning letter. 


The FDA’s Gloria J. Dunnavan wrote:


Our representatives requested a complete and accurate list of all your GLP [Good Laboratory Practices] studies involving Paylean® (Ractopamine hydrochloride), including their current status as well as the names of the respective study monitors. In response, your firm supplied to our representatives multiple lists which differed in the names of the studies and their status. In addition, your firm could not locate or identify documents pertaining to some of the studies. This situation was somewhat confusing and created unneeded delays for our representatives.


Somewhat confusing might be an understatement. But then the letter went on to say that Elanco had failed to document phone calls from angry farmers reporting "hyperactivity," "dying animals," "downer pigs" and "tying up" and "stress" syndromes. Where was the log of phone calls with farmer concerns including their reports that "animals are down and shaking" and "pig vomiting after eating feed with Paylean.” asked the FDA?


It is not clear if the FDA even knew about an early Canadian study in which monkeys given ractopamine “developed daily tachycardia” rapid heartbeat—and rats fed

ractopamine developed cleft palates, protruding tongues, short limbs, missing digits, open eyelids and enlarged hearts. In addition to the mutations, some rat pups were born dead or died soon after.


But it’s ‘safe,’ claims Elanco lobbyists


Elanco’s extensive lobbying has keep ractopamine on the market and in wider uses, despite concerns about the drug. One-third of all meetings on the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s posted public calendar during several months in 2009 were either with Elanco representatives or had to do with ractopamine, as noted “Born with Junk Food  Deficiency,” Martha Rosenberg.


As consumers call for ractopamine-free meat, Elanco defends the drug's safety and even presumes to call ractopamine "green," claiming that use of the drug means livestock need to eat less corn, which reduces the carbon footprint-per-pound of pork.


Taking a cue from biotech companies that try to call Frankenfoods “natural,” Elanco also says ractopamine "is made from ingredients that can be found in nature, including raspberry ketones."


Elanco even plays the "feed the world" card which companies like Monsanto has used to sell products like Golden Rice. Ractopamine "enables farmers to safely produce more pork with greater efficiency and allows them to feed more people," says Elanco.


No getting around it—beta antagonists are bad for people, bad for animals


Ractopamine is not the only beta agonist in use in animals and under a safety cloud. Clenbuterol, a cousin drug to ractopamine causes such adrenalin effects in humans it was banned in Olympics sports. Cyclist Alberto Contador failed a Tour de France anti-doping test in 2010 for levels of clenbuterol which he said he got from eating meat.


Zilmax (zilpaterol) hydrochloride) another ractopamine cousin is widely given to U.S. cattle with sometimes disastrous results. The hooves of cattle given zilpaterol were "basically coming apart," said Keith Belk, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, who viewed photos of lame cattle at Tyson Foods Inc. slaughterhouse in southeastern Washington state in 2014, at a convention. Some of the animals were euthanized because of the effects.


After ag professionals saw the images of cattle severely injured from Zilmax, food giant Tyson told feedlot customers it would stop accepting Zilmax-fed cattle for slaughter and manufacturer Merck temporarily suspended Zilmax sales. The next year, however, despite FDA reports of 285 U.S. cattle dying unexpectedly or being destroyed after being fed Zilmax, and 75 animals who lost hooves, 94 with pneumonia and 41 with bloat, Merck reversed itself and said it would reintroduce the drug. Cattle producers said Zilmax was mandatory during drought conditions. Growing animals with more weight and meat with less feed is the name of Big Meat's game.


Temple Grandin, Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, confirms the deleterious effects of zilpateral. Feedlot managers report the “outer shell of the hoof fell off” on the drug she says. The indiscriminant use of Paylean (ractopamine) also contributes to an increase in downer non-ambulatory pigs and pigs that are extremely difficult to move and drive she notes, leading to unacceptable harm to animals.


An article in the 2003 Journal of Animal Science confirms that “ractopamine does affect the behavior, heartrate and catecholamine profile of finishing pigs and making them more difficult to handle and potentially more susceptible to handling and transport stress.”


According to an article in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Talanta: “The use of highly active beta-agonists as growth promoters is not appropriate because of the potential hazard for human and animal health.”


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

California Banned Foie Gras. Ask Your State to Do the Same.

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-05-16 12:20
Category: Environment & Climate, CAFOs vs. Free Range, Food SafetyArea: USA

The U.S. Supreme Court recently affirmed California’s ban on foie gras, a so-called “luxury” food made from the enlarged livers of ducks and geese who have been fattened through force-feeding.

It’s time for other states to follow California’s lead and ban the inherently cruel practice of force-feeding birds!

TAKE ACTION: Please ask your state legislators to join California in banning foie gras. (If you live in California, please modify your message to say: “Thank you for banning foie gras.”)Read more

Monsanto Ordered to Pay $2 Billion to Cancer Victims

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-05-14 02:09
Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesCarey GillamUS Right to KnowMay 13, 2019 roundup_bottles_shelves_1200x630.jpg

After less than two full days of deliberations, a California jury ordered Monsanto to pay just over $2 billion in punitive and compensatory damages to a married couple who both developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma they say was caused by their many years of using Roundup products.

After listening to 17 days of trial testimony, jurors said Monsanto must pay $1 billion to Alberta Pilliod, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma brain cancer  in 2015, and another $1 billion to her husband Alva Pilliod, who was diagnosed in 2011 with non-Hodgkin lymphoma that spread from his bones to his pelvis and spine. The couple, who are both in their 70s,  started using Roundup in the 1970s and continued using the herbicide until only a few years ago. The jury also awarded the couple a total of $55 million in damages for past and future medical bills and other losses.

In ordering punitive damages, the jury had to find that Monsanto “engaged in conduct with malice, oppression or fraud committed by one or more officers, directors or managing agents of Monsanto”  who were acting on behalf of the company.

Pilliod v. Monsanto is the third Roundup cancer case to go to trial. And it is the third to conclude that Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicides can cause cancer and that Monsanto has long known about – and covered up – the risks.

In March, a unanimous jury in federal court in San Francisco ordered Monsanto to pay roughly $80 million in damages for failing to warn plaintiff Edwin Hardeman of the cancer risks of Roundup herbicide. Last August, jurors in state court in San Francisco ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million in damages to school groundskeeper Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, who is dying of non-Hodgkin lymphoma the jury found was caused by his exposure to Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicides. The judge in that case lowered the total verdict to $78 million and the verdict is now on appeal.

Both Johnson and Hardeman attended closing arguments in the Pilliod trial.

The Pilliod verdict is expected to only further erode the market value of Bayer AG, which purchased Monsanto last summer for $63 billion. Shares have dropped more than 40 percent since the Aug. 10 Johnson verdict was handed down.

More than 13,000 plaintiffs have filed similar lawsuits against Monsanto, alleging the company’s herbicides cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma and the company has hidden the risks.

Evidence laid out in the three trials included numerous scientific studies that showed what plaintiffs’ attorneys said was proof Monsanto’s herbicides can cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma. As well, the attorneys presented jurors with many internal Monsanto communications obtained through court-ordered discovery that show Monsanto has intentionally manipulated the public record to hide the cancer risks.

Among the many revelations that have emerged from the trials:

* Monsanto never conducted epidemiology studies for Roundup and its other formulations made with the active ingredient glyphosate to evaluate the cancer risks for users.

* Monsanto was aware that the surfactants in Roundup were much more toxic than glyphosate alone.

* Monsanto spent millions of dollars on covert public relations campaigns to finance ghostwritten studies and articles aimed at discrediting independent scientists whose work found dangers with Monsanto’s herbicides.

* When the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry sought to evaluate glyphosate toxicity in 2015, Monsanto engaged the assistance of EPA officials to delay that review.

* Monsanto enjoyed a close relationship with certain officials within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who have repeatedly backed Monsanto’s assertions about the safety of its glyphosate products.

* The company internally had worker safety recommendations that called for wearing a full range of protective gear when applying glyphosate herbicides, but did not warn the public to do the same.

Pilliod attorney Brent Wisner suggested to jurors in his closing arguments that they consider punitive damages in the range of $1 billion to send a message to Monsanto and Bayer about the need to change the company’s practices.

“The jury saw for themselves internal company documents demonstrating that, from day one, Monsanto has never had any interest in finding out whether Roundup is safe,” Wisner said following the verdict. “Instead of investing in sound science, they invested millions in attacking science that threatened their business agenda.”

Michael Miller, who served with Wisner as co-lead trial counsel said: “Unlike the first two Monsanto trials, where the judges severely limited the amount of plaintiffs’ evidence, we were finally allowed to show a jury the mountain of evidence showing Monsanto’s manipulation of science, the media and regulatory agencies to forward their own agenda despite Roundup’s severe harm to the animal kingdom and humankind.”

Bayer issued a statement after the verdict saying it would appeal: “Bayer is disappointed with the jury’s decision and will appeal the verdict in this case, which conflicts directly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s interim registration review decision released just last month, the consensus among leading health regulators worldwide that glyphosate-based products can be used safely and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic, and the 40 years of extensive scientific research on which their favorable conclusions are based.

“We have great sympathy for Mr. and Mrs. Pilliod, but the evidence in this case was clear that both have long histories of illnesses known to be substantial risk factors for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), most NHL has no known cause, and there is not reliable scientific evidence to conclude that glyphosate-based herbicides were the “but for” cause of their illnesses as the jury was required to find in this case.”

The damage award breaks down as follows:

Alva Pilliod


Past economic – $47,296.01

Past non-economic loss – $8 million

Future non-economic loss – $10 million

Punitive damages – $1 billion

Alberta Pilliod


Past economic – $201,166.76

Past non-economic – $8 million

Future economic  – $2,957,710

Future non-economic – $26 million

Punitive damages – $1 billion

TOTAL – $2.055 billion  

A federal judge has ordered Bayer to start mediation with plaintiffs’ attorneys and a hearing is set for next week in San Francisco on that issue. Several more trials are scheduled over the next year in courts around the United States.

For more updates follow Carey Gillam on Twitter @careygillam

This article has been reprinted with permission from US Right to Know.