Consumer Power

Former Monsanto CEO Ordered to Testify at Roundup Cancer Trial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOHNSON APPEAL DELAYED

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

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

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

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

Three Steps for Building a Million-Person Food Citizen Force

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

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

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

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

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

Well, not so much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate concerns beginning to influence policy, but slowly

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

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

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

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

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

What can we do to change this?

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

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

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

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

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

Just imagine that.

Building a million-person food citizen force

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buyer Beware: GMO Stevia Is Everywhere

Organic consumers - Fri, 2019-12-06 17:00
Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesDr. Joseph MercolaMercola.comDecember 6, 2019https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2019/12/06/gmo-stevia-sweetener.aspx spoon-stevia-cc-1200x630.jpg

Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana), a perennial shrub native to South America, has a long history of use as a natural sweetener for food, medicines and beverages.1 Whole stevia contains a number of substances, including various stevioside compounds, rebaudiosides and glycoside.

Steviol glycosides, including rebaudioside A, rebaudioside D and rebaudioside M (Reb A, Reb D, Reb M respectively), are what provide the sweet taste, with Reb A being the sweetest.2 In its isolated, purified form, Reb A is 250 to 400 times sweeter than sugar.

Despite hundreds of years of safe use of stevia, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has labeled stevia leaf and crude stevia extracts “unsafe food additives,”3 granting GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status to certain high-purity steviol glycosides only.4

In 2007, Hain Celestial Group Inc., maker of Celestial Seasonings herbal teas, received a warning letter from the FDA saying the stevia used in some of their teas may be dangerous to blood sugar and reproductive, cardiovascular and renal systems.5

If this FDA action strikes you as backward, you’re not alone. More often than not, consuming whole plant products will be safer due to synergistic effects than using a single active ingredient by itself. Many suspect the FDA is protecting the sugar and artificial sweetener industries.

As noted by Rob McCaleb, president and founder of the Herb Research Foundation, “Sweetness is big money. Nobody wants to see something cheap and easy to grow on the market competing with the things they worked so hard to get approved.”6

Beware of Cargill’s Genetically Engineered ‘Stevia’

To this day, FDA considers whole stevia unsafe, while genetically engineered (GE) versions of stevia have received the green light for widespread and unregulated use in food. The FDA issued a GRAS No Objection letter for Cargill’s GE stevia product EverSweet in 2016.7

Even more ridiculous, Cargill’s GE stevia is being marketed as “nonartificial.” As reported by the nonprofit watchdog group U.S. Right to Know (USRTK) November 20, 2019:8

The international food conglomerate Cargill is ramping up commercial-scale production of its genetically engineered sweetener, EverSweet, in a new $50 million production facility that began operating this week in Blair, Nebraska …

Cargill is marketing its new stevia substitute as ‘non-artificial.’ What does that mean? Consumers who click on the link provided in the press release will not get a straight answer.

The web page twists itself into knots trying to describe the new process, which involves genetically engineering yeast to convert sugar molecules into a substance that mimics the taste of stevia, as a ‘centuries old technique’ — without once mentioning genetic engineering or the genetic modified organisms (GMOS) used to make the product.

In short, Cargill’s “nonartificial stevia” isn’t even derived from actual stevia. It’s a GE-derived synthetic biology product designed to mimic components of the real thing.9 While “inspired” by real stevia, EverSweet’s Reb M and Reb D components are made through GE yeast fermentation. Can it get any more artificial than that? As reported by Star Tribune:10

A decade ago, Cargill partnered with the University of Munich and Swiss biotech company Evolva to map the stevia leaf’s molecular biology. The team found that when Reb M and Reb D were combined, it produced the same sweetness but without the Reb A molecule that can give pure stevia products a bitter aftertaste.

But Reb M and Reb D are found in less than 1% of each stevia leaf and Cargill said it could never grow enough to make leaf extraction feasible without degrading the land … The process adds a GMO yeast to a fermentation tank where it helps convert simple sugars into Reb M and Reb D.

Subterfuge and Misleading Marketing

In recent years, awareness of the potential hazards of GMOs have skyrocketed, and Americans have fought hard for transparency in labeling. More and more people are also demanding fresh, natural, unadulterated or minimally processed foods.

Not only did Americans not get clear and proper GMO labeling, companies like Cargill are taking the subterfuge even further by using vague descriptors such as “fermentation derived” and “nature identical” to describe what’s in reality an artificially lab-created substance.

A key take-home message from all of this is that if you want a stevia-based sweetener that is actually made from the plant, opposed to GE yeast, you have to make sure it’s certified organic or has been non-GMO verified.

Cargill also promotes its synthetic, GE-derived stevia as “sustainable,” which is yet another grossly misleading PR ploy. As noted by USRTK, Cargill provides no data to support its sustainability claims.

What’s already apparent is that lab-grown synthetic biology compounds are causing severe economic damage to indigenous farmers. As reported by Huffpost in 2017, “Farmers in Paraguay and Kenya, for example, depend on stevia crops.”11

California: Tell Your State Lawmakers to Ban Monsanto’s Roundup Weedkiller!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-12-04 18:43
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic EngineeringArea: USACA - California

On April 25, 2019, the California Assembly unanimously passed AB-619, a bill that would put a temporary moratorium on the use of glyphosate, preventing localities from using any pesticide that contains the active ingredient glyphosate until January 1, 2025.

This important bill could become law if it passes the California Senate in 2020.

Another bill, AB-468, introduced in 2019, would ban the use of Roundup at schools.

TAKE ACTION: Tell your state representatives to support bills (AB-619 and AB-468) to ban glyphosate use in public spaces and schools!Read more

Hawaii: Tell Your State Lawmakers to Ban Monsanto’s Roundup Weedkiller!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-12-04 17:42
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic EngineeringArea: USAHI - Hawaii

In 2019, two bills on glyphosate were introduced in the Hawaii state legislature. 

One was killed: HR109 would have required the Department of Education to report its use of glyphosate on schools and playgrounds. 

The other survived and has been carried over to 2020: HB872 would prohibit the use of glyphosate herbicides on or within 100 feet of a school. 

TAKE ACTION: Tell your state representatives to support House Bill 872 to ban glyphosate use on and around schools!Read more

New York: Tell Your State Lawmakers to Ban Monsanto’s Roundup Weedkiller!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-12-04 16:40
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic EngineeringArea: USANY - New York

Four bills to ban or restrict the use of glyphosate (the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller) were introduced in 2019 in the New York state legislature.

The bills will be carried over to the 2020 legislative session. But will they pass?

TAKE ACTION: Tell your state representatives to support these bills to ban glyphosate and study its risks!Read more

Vermont: Tell Your State Lawmakers to Ban Monsanto’s Roundup Weedkiller!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-12-04 15:38
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic EngineeringArea: USAVT - Vermont

A bill to ban glyphosate (the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller) was introduced in the Vermont legislature in 2019, and will be carried over to the 2020 legislative session:

House Bill H.301 would ban the sale, use, and application of glyphosate.

TAKE ACTION: Tell your state representatives to support this bill to ban glyphosate!Read more

Make Your State the First to Ban Monsanto’s Roundup Weedkiller!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-12-04 14:35
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic EngineeringArea: USA

Our Millions Against Monsanto campaign to ban glyphosate is gaining steam in statehouses across the country.

Which U.S. state will be the first to ban glyphosate-based weedkillers like Roundup,  the flagship pesticide manufactured by Monsanto (now owned by Bayer)?

Will it be yours?

Take Action: Make your state the first to ban Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller!Read more

WebMD and Healthline Exposed Violating Your Privacy

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-12-04 08:00
Politics & GlobalizationDr. Joseph MercolaMercola.comDecember 4, 2019https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2019/12/04/medical-data-sharing.aspx persononcomputer1200x630.jpg

As reported in a November 12, 2019, Financial Times article,1 dozens of popular health websites are tracking, storing and sharing your personal data, including WebMD (the leading health website) and Healthline (currently the third most popular health site2).

These two websites also, as of this year, dominate Google health searches, which virtually guarantees their continued growth and influence. “Establishment, big corporate pharma websites like WebMD are monopolizing the first page of results,” Google Whistleblower Zach Vorhies confirmed in an interview with The Epoch Times.3

I wrote about how these two websites use and share your data in my November 8, 2019, article “Shocking Proof How Google Censors Health News.” I’ve also covered this issue in other articles, so the Financial Times’ report came as no surprise to me.

What some might not know is that this kind of information sharing is illegal in Europe. As reported by Financial Times:4

“Using open-source tools to analyse 100 health websites, which include WebMD, Healthline, Babycentre and Bupa, an FT investigation found that 79 per cent of the sites dropped ‘cookies’ — little bits of code that, when embedded in your browser, allow third-party companies to track individuals around the internet. This was done without the consent that is a legal requirement in the UK.”

Seventy-eight percent of the sites shared user data with DoubleClick, Google’s advertising arm, while 48% shared data with Amazon. Facebook, Microsoft and AppNexus, another advertising firm, also received user data.

What this means is DoubleClick, Google’s ad service, will know which prescriptions you’ve searched for on these websites, thus providing you with personalized drug ads, and Facebook will know what you’ve searched for in WebMD’s symptom checker, as well as any diagnoses you received.

European Law Is Unambiguous and Far Stricter Than the US

According to Financial Times,5 “keywords such as ‘heart disease’ and ‘considering abortion’ were shared” from several sites, including Healthline, and eight of the 100 sites tested included specific identifiers that allow third parties to tie the information to specific individuals. Tracker cookies were also dropped without consent or before any consent was given.

The following graphic, created by Financial Times, illustrates the flow of data from BabyCenter.com, a site that focuses on pregnancy, children’s health and parenting, to third parties, and the types of advertising these third parties then generate.

Wolfie Christl, a technologist and researcher, told Financial Times:6 “These findings are quite remarkable, and very concerning. From my perspective, this kind of data are clearly sensitive, has special protections under the [General Data Protection Regulation] and transmitting this data most likely violates the law.”

Phil Smith, director-general of the U.K.s Incorporated Society of British Advertisers told Campaignlive.com7 that the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation — which was implemented in May 2018 — is unambiguous and straight-forward: Websites must request and obtain “explicit consent for the sharing of ‘special category data,’” which includes health data.

Other special category data considered to be particularly sensitive and needing explicit consent to be shared include race, ethnic origin, political persuasion, religious affiliation, trade union membership, genetics, biometrics, sexual orientation and details relating to your sex life.

Weeding Out 'Undesirables'

In response to Financial Times’ report, Google said it “does not build advertising profiles from sensitive data,” and that it has “strict policies preventing advertisers from using such data to target ads."8 Well, if it’s not being used to personalize medical ads, what is the health data being used for, and why is it collected and shared in the first place?

According to Tim Libert, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University who developed the open-source tool Financial Times used to investigate the information sharing, medical information can be used to “prey on the ill and vulnerable.”9 Health data can also be used to secretly discriminate against certain individuals. As noted by Libert:10

“As medical expenses leave many with less to spend on luxuries, these users may be segregated into ‘data silos’ of undesirables who are then excluded from favorable offers and prices. This forms a subtle, but real, form of discrimination against those perceived to be ill.”

Source Author 2: Maryam Henein

How Google Is Stealing Your Personal Health Data

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-12-04 07:30
Politics & GlobalizationDr. Joseph MercolaMercola.comNovember 27, 2019https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2019/11/27/google-and-data-mining.aspx google_1200x630.png

Google, by far one of the greatest monopolies that ever existed, and poses a unique threat to anyone concerned about health, supplements, food and your ability to obtain truthful information about these and other issues.

This year, we’ve seen an unprecedented push to implement censorship across all online platforms, making obtaining and sharing crucial information about holistic health increasingly difficult.

As detailed in “Stark Evidence Showing How Google Censors Health News,” Google’s June 2019 update, which took effect June 3, effectively removed Mercola.com and hundreds of other natural health sites from Google search results. Google is also building a specific search tool for medical and health-related searches.1

And, while not the sole threat to privacy, Google is definitely one of the greatest. Over time, Google has positioned itself in such a way that it’s become deeply embedded in your day-to-day life, including your health.

In recent years, the internet and medicine have become increasingly intertwined, giving rise to “virtual medicine” and self-diagnosing — a trend that largely favors drugs and costly, invasive treatments — and Google has its proverbial fingers in multiple slices of this pie.

Health Data Mining Poses Unique Privacy Risks

For example, in 2016, Google partnered with WebMD, launching an app allowing users to ask medical questions.2 The following year, Google partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, launching a depression self-assessment quiz which turned out to be little more than stealth marketing for antidepressants.3,4

Google and various tech startups have also been investigating the possibility of assessing mental health problems using a combination of electronic medical records and tracking your internet and social media use.

In 2018, Google researchers announced they’d created an artificial intelligence-equipped retinal scanner that can appraise your risk for a heart attack.5

According to a recent Financial Times report,6 Google, Amazon and Microsoft collect data entered into health and diagnostic sites, which is then shared with hundreds of third parties — and this data is not anonymized, meaning it’s tied to specifically to you, without your knowledge or consent.

What this means is DoubleClick, Google’s ad service, will know which prescriptions you’ve searched for on Drugs.com, thus providing you with personalized drug ads. Meanwhile, Facebook receives information about what you’ve searched for in WebMD’s symptom checker.

“There is a whole system that will seek to take advantage of you because you’re in a compromised state,” Tim Lebert, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University told Financial Times.7 “I find that morally repugnant.”

While some find these kinds of technological advancements enticing, others see a future lined with red warning flags. As noted by Wolfie Christl, a technologist and researcher interviewed by Financial Times:8

“These findings are quite remarkable, and very concerning. From my perspective, this kind of data are clearly sensitive, has special protections.”

The following graphic, created by Financial Times, illustrates the flow of data from BabyCenter.com, a site that focuses on pregnancy, children’s health and parenting, to third parties, and the types of advertising these third parties then generate.

Tech Companies Are Accessing Your Medical Records

As described in the featured Wall Street Journal video,9 a number of tech companies, including Amazon, Apple and the startup Xealth, are diving into people’s personal electronic medical records to expand their businesses.

Xealth has developed an application that is embedded in your electronic health records. Doctors who use the Xealth application — which aims to serve most health care sectors and is being rapidly adopted as a preferred “digital formulary”10 — give the company vast access to market products to their patients. The app includes lists of products and services a doctor believes might be beneficial for certain categories of patients.

When seeing a patient, the doctor will select the products and services he or she wants the patient to get, generating an electronic shopping list that is then sent to the patient. The shopping links direct the patient to purchase these items from Xealth’s third-party shopping sites, such as Amazon.

As noted in the video, “Some privacy experts worry that certain Xealth vendors can see when a patient purchased a product through Xealth, and therefore through their electronic health record.” In the video, Jennifer Miller, assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine says:

“In theory, it could boost adherence to physician recommendations, which is a huge challenge in the U.S. health care system. On the other side, there are real worries about what type of information Amazon in particular is getting access to.

So, from what I understand, when a patient clicks on that Xealth app and is taken to Amazon, the data are coded as Xealth data, which means Amazon likely knows that you purchased these products through your electronic health records."

Video of Why Big Tech Wants Access to Your Medical Records Source Author 2: Maryam Henein

I Promise You This

Organic consumers - Mon, 2019-12-02 17:37
December 2, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsAll About Organics giving_tuesday_2018.jpg

Two of the most often repeated comments I hear from donors are: “Thank you for never giving up!” and “I wish I had more to give.”

Today, on #GivingTuesday, I promise you that no matter the obstacles, we will never give up the fight against corporations that contaminate your food and poison your environment.

And to those who say they wish they had "more to give," let me say this: Your donation is critical! Our organization runs on donations just like yours.

We have until midnight PST tonight to raise $50,000. A generous donor has stepped up to match your donation, dollar-for-dollar, if we hit that target. Can you make a contribution today, by mail or by phone? Details here.

We work to protect your food and environment in a variety of ways.

Our corporate campaigns expose the corrupt practices of companies like Monsanto and DowDupont.

Through our legal work, we force companies like Tyson and General Mills and Ben & Jerry’s to either live up to the promises they make about their products—or stop misleading you with labeling lies and fraudulent ads.

On the policy front, we mobilize hundreds of thousands of consumer comments and petition signatures and phone calls to urge members of Congress to prioritize your safety—not corporate profits.

But the most important work we do is keeping you informed, so you can make healthier consumer choices. And that work suffers when funds run low.

Like most nonprofits these days, we’ve recently found ourselves facing quarterly budget shortfalls.

It’s not surprising. After all, it seems the number—and urgency—of crises threatening our future grows with each passing day.

It’s hard to keep up. But we must. And we must never give up.

We have until midnight PST tonight to raise $50,000. A generous donor has stepped up to match your donation, dollar-for-dollar, if we hit that target. Can you make a contribution today, by mail or by phone? Details here.

Six Monsanto Roundup Cancer Trials Set for January

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-11-27 16:46
November 26, 2019U.S. Right to KnowCarey GillamGenetic Engineering roundup_glyphosate_herbicide_bottles_1200x630.jpg

After several months out of the headlines, lawyers for both sides of the nationwide Roundup cancer litigation are gearing up for overlapping trials in the new year as several more cancer patients seek to blame Monsanto for their diseases.

Six trials are currently set to take place starting in January, with one in February, two in March and additional trials scheduled almost every month from April through October 2021. Thousands of additional plaintiffs still are working to get trial dates set for their claims.

The plaintiffs in the upcoming January trials include two children who were stricken by non-Hodgkin lymphoma allegedly after being repeatedly exposed to Monsanto herbicides at very young ages. Also set for January is the trial for a woman named Sharlean Gordon who has suffered several debilitating recurrences of her cancer. Another trial will present the claims of five plaintiffs who claim Monsanto’s herbicides caused their cancers.

Notably, two of the trials in January will take place in the St. Louis, Missouri area – where Monsanto was headquartered for decades before its acquisition in June 2018 by Germany’s Bayer AG. Those two trials will be the first to go before jurors in Monsanto’s home town. Gordon’s case was supposed to go to trial in the area last August but was postponed, as were others set for the second half of 2019, as Bayer and plaintiffs’ attorneys initiated settlement talks.

It is still possible that some sort of settlement – individual case-specific, or larger – could happen before January, but the lawyers on both sides are preparing for a schedule that presents numerous logistical challenges. Each trial is expected to last several weeks, and not only are some lawyers involved in trying cases with overlapping trial schedules, but a small group of expert witnesses will be testifying in multiple cases taking place at the same time.

Three trials have taken place so far  in the sprawling mass tort litigation, which began in 2015 after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified a chemical called glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen with a particular association to non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Since the 1970s, glyphosate has been the active ingredient in Monsanto branded herbicides, and is currently considered the most widely used herbicide in the world.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys say that the current line-up of cases represent even stronger claims for damages than the prior three trials.  “These are very strong cases,” said lawyer Aimee Wagstaff, who represents Gordon. In March, Wagstaff client Edwin Hardeman won an $80 million jury verdict from a San Francisco jury in his lawsuit against Monsanto.

For the Gordon case, Wagstaff has subpoenaed former Monsanto chairman Hugh Grant to testify live at the trial. Grant has thus far only testified through deposition and not had to testify in front of a jury; nor have other high-level Monsanto executives because the trials were held in California. But with the trial in St. Louis, plaintiffs’ lawyers are hoping to get some Monsanto scientists and executives on the stand for questioning. Grant’s attorneys have objected the making him appear in person, and both sides are awaiting a ruling on that matter.

In the most recent trial to take place, a jury in Oakland, California ordered Monsanto to pay more than $2 billion in damages to Alberta and Alva Pilliod, a married couple who both suffer from NHL they blame on exposure to Roundup.  The first trial ended in August 2018 when jurors in state court in San Francisco ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million  in damages to school groundskeeper Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, who has been diagnosed with a terminal type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.  The judges in all three of those cases ruled that the awards were excessive and reduced the damage amounts, though the verdicts are currently under appeal.

More than 42,000 people  in the United States are now suing Monsanto claiming that Roundup and other Monsanto’s herbicides cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The lawsuits allege that the company was well aware of the dangers for many years but did nothing to warn consumers, working instead to manipulate the scientific record to protect company sales.

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

This Revolutionary System Can Help Stop Global Warming

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-11-27 16:34
Environment & Climate, Farm IssuesRonnie CumminsMercola.comNovember 27, 2019 agavenaturallandscape_1200x630.jpg

“Unsustainable land use and greenhouse gas emissions are delivering a one-two punch to natural ecosystems that are key to the fight against global climate change. 

And without sweeping emissions cuts and transformations to food production and land management, the world stands no chance of staving off catastrophic planetary warming.”—Huffington Post, citing the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.1

Agave plants (the best known of which are blue agave, used to produce tequila), along with nitrogen-fixing, companion trees such as mesquite, huizache, desert ironwood, wattle and varieties of acacia that readily grow alongside agave, are among the most common and prolific, yet routinely denigrated or ignored plants in the world. As India climate scientist Promode Kant points out:

“Agave is to the drier parts of the world what bamboo is to its wetter zones. Capturing atmospheric CO2 in vegetation is severely limited by the availability of land and water. The best choice would be species that can utilize lands unfit for food production and yet make the dynamics of carbon sequestration faster.

As much as 40 percent of the land on earth is arid and semi-arid, largely in the tropics but also in the cool temperate zones up north. And on almost half of these lands, with a minimum annual rainfall of about 250 mm and soils that are slightly refractory, the very valuable species of agave grows reasonably well.”2

Agave plants and nitrogen-fixing trees, densely intercropped and cultivated together, have the capacity to draw down massive amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere and produce more above-ground and below-ground biomass (and animal fodder) on a continuous year-to-year basis than any other desert and semi-desert species.  

Agaves are ideal for arid and hot climates. Once established, agaves and their companion trees require little or no irrigation to survive and thrive, and are impervious to rising global temperatures and drought. Agaves alone can draw down and store above ground the dry weight equivalent of 30 to 60 tons of CO2 per hectare (12 to 24 tons per acre) per year. One hectare equals 10,000 square meters or 2.47 acres. 

Now a new, agave-based agroforestry and livestock feeding model developed in Guanajuato, Mexico, promises to revitalize campesino/small-farmer livestock production while storing massive amounts of atmospheric carbon above and below ground. 

Scaled up on millions of currently degraded and overgrazed rangelands, these agave-agroforestry systems have the potential to not only improve soil and pasture health, but to help mitigate and potentially reverse global warming, aka climate change.

Climate Emergency 

As international scientists, activists and our own everyday experience tell us, we are facing a Climate Emergency. A “profit-at-any-cost,” fossil fuel-supercharged economy, coupled with industrial agriculture and factory farms, destructive land use and mindless consumption have pumped a dangerous load of CO2 and greenhouse gas pollution into the sky, bringing on global warming and violent climate change. 

Degenerative food, farming, livestock and land-use practices have decarbonized and killed off much of the biological life and natural carbon-sequestering capacity of our soils, forests and ecosystems. 

This degradation and desertification of global landscapes has oxidized and released billions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, resulting in the elimination of much of the above-ground carbon biomass once stored in our forests and landscapes. 

This global degeneration has depleted so much of the carbon and biological life in our soils, trees and plants that these natural systems can no longer draw down and sequester (through natural photosynthesis) enough of the excess CO2 and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to maintain the necessary balance between CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the carbon stored in our soils, trees and plants.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) estimates that arid and semi-arid lands make up 41.3 percent of the earth's land surface, including 15 percent of Latin America (most of Mexico), 66 percent of Africa, 40 percent of Asia and 24 percent of Europe. 

Farmers and herders in these areas face tremendous challenges because of increasing droughts, erratic rainfall, degraded soils, overgrazed pastures and water scarcity. Many areas are in danger of degenerating even further into desert, unable to sustain any crops or livestock whatsoever.  

Most of the world’s drylands are located in the economically underdeveloped regions of the Global South. But there are millions of acres of drylands in the U.S., Australia and Southern Europe as well. Farming, ranching and ecosystem conservation are becoming increasingly problematic in these drylands, especially given the fact that the majority of the farms and ranches in these areas do not have irrigation wells or year-round access to surface water. 

Crop and livestock production levels are deteriorating, trees and perennials have typically been removed or seasonally burned, and pastures and rangelands have been overgrazed. Poverty, unemployment and malnutrition in these degraded landscapes are rampant, giving rise to violence, organized crime and forced migration

The good news, however, coming out of Mexico—applicable to many other regions—is that if farmers and ranchers can stop overgrazing pastures and rangelands and they can stop slash-and-burn practices. In place of those practices, farmers and ranchers can reforest, revegetate, rehydrate and recarbonize depleted soils, by integrating traditional and indigenous water catchment, agroforestry, livestock and land-management practices with agave-based agroforestry. If they do, we may well be able to green the drylands and store and sequester massive amounts of carbon.

Vía Orgánica, the ‘Organic Way’

After decades as a food, farm, anti-GMO and climate campaigner for the Organic Consumers Association in the U.S., I now spend a good part of my time managing an organic and regenerative farm and training center, Vía Orgánica, in the high-desert drylands of North Central Mexico. 

Our semi-arid, temporal (seasonal rainfall) ecosystem and climate in the state of Guanajuato is similar to what you find in many parts of Mexico, and in fact in 40 percent of the world. In our valley, we typically get 20 inches, or 500 millimeters, of precipitation in the “rainy season” (July to October), which greens the landscape, followed by eight months with little or no rain whatsoever. 

At Rancho Vía Orgánica, we’ve been trying to regenerate our high-desert (6,300 feet elevation) environment, developing farming, livestock and landscape-management practices that produce healthy organic food and seeds, sequester carbon in the soil, preserve our monte, or natural densely-vegetated areas, slow down and infiltrate rainwater (including runoff coming down the mountains and hillsides) to recharge our water table, and reforest and revegetate our still somewhat degraded corn fields and pasturelands. 

Looking across our mountain valley, the most prominent flora are cactus and agave plants—some of which are quite large—along with hundreds of thorny, typically undersized mesquite, huizache and acacia shrubs and trees. 

In order to grow our vegetables and cover crops, maintain our olive, mulberry, citrus and pomegranate trees, and provide water and forage for our animals, we—like most small farmers and ranchers in Mexico—irrigate with only the rainfall that we can collect and store in cisterns, ponds and soils. 

Eighty-six percent of Mexican farmers and herders have no source of water other than seasonal rainfall, so they have to struggle to maintain their milpas (corn, beans and squash) and raise their animals under increasingly adverse climate conditions. 

Greening the Drylands: A New Agroforestry Model

Recently Juan Frias, a retired college professor and scientist, came up to me after attending a workshop at our farm. As we discussed regenerative agriculture practices and climate change, Juan told me about a new system of drylands agroforestry and livestock management (sheep and goats), based on agave plants and mesquite trees in the nearby community of San Luis de la Paz. They call their agroforestry system Modelo Zamarripa.3

By densely planting, pruning and intercropping high-biomass, high forage-producing, fast-growing species of agaves (1,600 to 2,000 per hectare) among pre-existing deep-rooted, nitrogen-fixing tree species such as mesquite, or among planted tree seedlings, these farmers are transforming their landscape and their livelihoods. 

When the agaves are 3 years old, and for the following five to seven years, farmers can begin pruning the leaves (or pencas), chopping them up finely with a machine, and then fermenting the agave in closed containers for 30 days, ideally combining the agave leaves with 12 percent or more of mesquite pods by volume to give them a higher protein level. In our region mesquite trees start to produce pods that can be harvested in five years.

By year seven, the mesquite and agaves have grown into a fairly dense forest. In years eight to 10, the root stem (or pina), weighing 100 to 200 pounds, of the agave is ready for harvesting to produce a distilled liquor called mescal. Meanwhile the hijuelos (or pups) put out by the mother agave plants are being continuously transplanted back into the agroforestry system, guaranteeing continuous biomass growth and carbon storage. 

In their agroforestry system, the Zamarripa farmers integrate rotational grazing of sheep and goats across their ranch, supplementing the pasture forage their animals consume with the fermented agave silage. Modelo Zamarippa has proven in practice to be ideal for sheep and goats. We are now experimenting at Vía Orgánica with feeding agave silage to our pastured pigs and poultry.

The revolutionary innovation of these Guanajuato farmers has been to turn a heretofore indigestible, but massive and accessible source of biomass—the agave leaves—into a valuable animal feed, using the natural process of fermentation to transform the plants’ indigestible saponin and lectin compounds into digestible carbohydrates and fiber. 

To do this the farmers have developed a relatively simple machine, hooked up to a tractor, that can finely chop up the tough leaves of the agave. After chopping the agave, the next step is to anaerobically ferment the biomass in a closed container (we use 5-gallon buckets with lids). 

After 30 days, the fermented agave-mesquite silage provides a nutritious but very inexpensive, compared with alfalfa, hay or cornstalks, silage or animal fodder that costs less than 2 Mexican pesos (or approximately 10 cents U.S.) per kilo (2.2 pounds) to produce. 

According to Frias, lambs readily convert 10 kilos of this silage into 1 kilo of body weight. At less than 10 cents per kilo (4 cents per pound), agave silage could potentially make the difference between survival and bankruptcy for millions of the world’s small farmers and herders.  

Agaves and Carbon Storage and Sequestration

The Zamarripa system of drylands afforestation and silvopasture draws down and stores in the plants large quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere. Agronomists have observed that certain varieties of agave can produce up to 43 tons per hectare of dry-weight biomass per year, on a continuous basis.4

These high-biomass varieties of agave will likely thrive in many of the world’s arid ecosystems, wherever any type of agave and nitrogen-fixing trees are already growing.

Nitrogen-fixing trees such as mesquite can be found in most arid and semi-arid regions of the world. Mesquite grows readily not only in Texas and the Southwestern U.S., Mexico, Central America, Argentina, Chile and other Latin American nations, but also “thrives in arid and semi-arid regions of North America, Africa, the Middle East, Tunisia, Algeria, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Myanmar (Burma), Russia, Hawaii, West Indies, Puerto Rico and Australia.”5

At Vía Orgánica, outside San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato,6 we are using moveable, solar-fenced paddocks for our grazing sheep and goats in order to protect our mesquite tree seedlings, to prevent overgrazing or undergrazing, to eliminate dead grasses and invasive species, and to concentrate animal feces and urine across the landscape in a controlled manner.

At the same time that we are rotating and moving our livestock on a daily basis, we are transplanting, pruning, finely chopping and fermenting the heavy biomass leaves (or pencas) of agave salmiana plants. Some individual agave pencas can weigh (wet) as much as 20 kilos or 44 pounds. 

The bountiful harvest of this regenerative, high-biomass, high carbon-sequestering system will eventually include not only extremely low-cost, nutritious animal silage, but also high-quality organic lamb, mutton, cheese, milk, aquamiel (agave sap), pulque (a mildly alcoholic beverage) and distilled agave liquor (mescal), all produced organically and biodynamically with no synthetic chemicals or pesticides whatsoever, at affordable prices, with excess agave biomass and fiber available for textiles, compost, biochar and construction materials.

Massive Potential Carbon Drawdown

From a climate crisis perspective, the Modelo Zamarripa is a potential game-changer. Forty-three tons of above-ground dry-weight biomass production on a continuing basis per hectare per year ranks among the highest rates of drawing down and storing atmospheric carbon in plants in the world, apart from healthy forests. 

Imagine the carbon sequestration potential if rural farmers and pastoralists can establish agave-based agroforestry systems over the next decade on just 10 percent of the world's 5 billion degraded acres (500 million acres), areas unsuited for crop production, but areas where agave plants and suitable native nitrogen-fixing companion tress (such as acacia varieties in Africa) are already growing. 

Conservatively estimating an above-ground biomass carbon-storage rate of 10 tons of carbon per acre per year on these 500 million acres, (counting both agave and companion trees, above-ground and below-ground biomass) we would then be able to cumulatively sequester 5 billion tons of carbon (18 billion gigatons of CO2e) from the atmosphere every year. 

Five billion tons of additional carbon sequestered in the Earth’s soils and biota equals nearly 50 percent of all human greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. 

More Background on Agaves

To better understand the potential of this agroforestry/holistic grazing system, a little more background information on agave plants, and nitrogen-fixing or trees such as mesquite, huizache or other fodder and food-producing trees such as inga or moringa may be useful. 

Various varieties of agave plants (along with their cactus relatives and companion nitrogen-fixing trees) are found growing on approximately 20 percent of the earth’s lands, essentially on the half of the world’s drylands where there is a minimum annual rainfall of approximately 10 inches, or 250 mm, where the temperature never drops below 14 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Kant has described the tremendous biomass -roduction and carbon-storage potential of agaves in dry areas:

“Agave can … be used for carbon sequestration projects under CDM [the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Climate Protocol] even though by itself it does not constitute a tree crop and cannot provide the minimum required tree crown cover to create a forest as required under CDM rules. 

But if the minimum required crown cover is created by planting an adequate number of suitable tree species in agave plantations then the carbon sequestered in the agave plants will also be eligible for measurement as above ground dry biomass and provide handsome carbon credits … 

It causes no threat to food security and places no demand for the scarce water and since it can be harvested annually after a short initial gestation period of establishment, and yields many products that have existing markets, it is also well suited for eradication of poverty …”7

Agaves, of which there are 200 or more varieties growing across the world, can thrive even in dry, degraded lands unsuitable for crop production because of their Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) photosynthetic pathway (cacti and other related desert plants also have a CAM pathway) that essentially enables these plants to draw down moisture from the air and store it in their thick tough leaves during the nighttime, while the opening in their leaves (the stomata) close up during daylight hours, drastically reducing evaporation. 

Meanwhile, the agave's relatively shallow mycorrhizal fungi-powered roots below the soil surface spread out horizontally, taking in available moisture and nutrients from the topsoil, especially during the rainy season. 

In addition, the agave's propagation of baby plants (or pups)—up to 50 among some varieties—that grow out of its horizontal roots makes the plant a self-reproducing perennial, able to sustain high-biomass growth, and carbon storage and sequestration on a long-term basis. 

Even as a maturing agave plant is pruned beginning in year three (to produce fermented silage), and the entire mature agave plant (the pina) is harvested at the end of its life span, in order to make mescal, in our case after eight to 10 years, the plant leaves behind a family of pups that are carrying out photosynthesis and producing biomass (leaves and stem) at an equal or greater rate than the parent plant. 

In other words, a very high level of above-ground carbon storage and below-ground sequestration can be maintained year after year—all with no irrigation and no synthetic fertilizers or chemicals required, if intercropped in conjunction with nitrogen-fixing trees such as mesquite, huizache, inga, moringa or other dryland species, such as the acacias that grow in arid or semi-arid areas.

Agaves and a number of their tree companions have been used as sources of food, beverage and fiber by indigenous societies for hundreds, in fact thousands of years. However until recently, farmers had not been able to figure out how to utilize the massive biomass of the agave plant leaves which, unless they are fermented, are basically indigestible and even harmful to livestock. 

In fact, this is why, besides the thorns and thick skins of the leaves, animals typically will not, unless starving, eat them. But once their massive leaves, which contain significant amounts of sugar, are chopped up and fermented in closed containers, livestock, after a short period of adjustment, will gobble up this sweet, nutritious forage like candy. 

Developing a native species-agroforestry-livestock system on 5 million to 10 million acres of land otherwise unsuitable for food crops in a large country like Mexico (which has 357 million acres of cropland and pastureland, much of which is degraded) could lsequester 37 percent to 74 percent of the country’s net current fossil fuel emissions (current net emissions are 492m tons of CO2e). 

And, of course, wherever these agave-agroforestry-holistic grazing systems are deployed, farmers and ranchers will also be restoring the fertility and moisture-holding capacity of millions of acres of pasturelands and rangelands, thereby promoting rural food self-sufficiency and prosperity.

Scaling up best regenerative practices on the world’s billions of acres of croplands, pasturelands and forest lands—especially those degraded lands no longer suitable for crops or grazing—can play a major role, along with moving away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, in stopping and reversing climate change.

For more information on the global Regeneration Movement go to Regeneration International. Please sign up for our free newsletter and, if you can afford it, make a tax-deductible donation to help us spread the message of Regenerative Agriculture and Agave Power across the world.

“Our house is on fire,” as teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg reminds us, but there is still time to turn things around.

Reposted with permission from Mercola.com. Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and co-founder of Regeneration International. To keep up with OCA’s news and alerts, sign up here.

There's a Map for that!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-11-26 22:06
November 26, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAll About Organicshttps://regenerationinternational.org/regenerative-farm-map regenmap1200x630.jpg

What could be better this Thanksgiving than giving thanks to the farmers who made your Thanksgiving feast possible?

Thanking farmers every day, by buying local organic regenerative all year round. 

Trouble finding the best farmers in your area? We’ve made it easy, by creating a map of nearly 2,000 verified regenerative producers. Check it out here!

Family farmers need your help more than ever right now.

Industry consolidation has all but destroyed the family dairy farm.

Unprecedented flooding devastated many farms in the midwest this year. Some of them may never recover.

According to a recent report from Iowa State University, 44 percent of Iowa’s farmers don’t have enough cash to pay their bills. 

Meanwhile, industrial mega-factory farms, artificially propped up by taxpayer-funded subsidies, keep small independent farms at a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace.

What organic regenerative farmers need most right now are consumers like you.

In fact, many of the farmers we talk to tell us the only way they’re going to make it is by selling direct to consumers—profit margins are so thin, they have to eliminate the middleman.

If you’d like to support your local organic and regenerative farmers more, but just don’t have the time to do the research to determine which ones are farming in line with your values, you’re in luck.

Our team spent countless hours, days, weeks and months doing the research for you. Check out the map!

There are lots of reasons to buy organic regeneratively produced fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products. 

Local organic and regenerative food is better for your health. Better for the health of the environment—including fighting climate change. And it’s better for your local economy.

Want to help us make the map better? If we’ve missed a regenerative farm in your area, please let us know by filling out this form.

Not sure if your local farm is regenerative? Check out the definition here. Still not sure? Call us: 952-777-3239

Factory Farmed Turkeys—Nothing to be Thankful For

Organic consumers - Fri, 2019-11-22 16:48
November 6, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationPat ThomasEnvironment & Climate, CAFOs vs. Free Range, Food Safety turkey_farm_1200x630.jpg

Thanksgiving dinner means only one thing for millions of us: turkey. Of the 100 million turkeys on farms around the U.S., 46 million of them will be eaten on Thanksgiving Day. Americans will consume another 22 million turkeys over the Christmas holidays, according to the National Turkey Federation.

When turkeys arrive at our supermarkets, plucked and cleaned, there’s nothing to alert us to the conditions endured by most of the birds that eventually land on our holiday tables. But the vast majority of the turkeys sold during the holidays come from industrial factory farms, where as many as 25,000 birds—pumped full of antibiotics and GMO corn—are crammed into a single barn.

So at a time of year when we are supposed to be thankful for the good things in life, spare a thought for that factory-farmed bird whose life is definitely nothing to be thankful for.

We’re number one!

Producing 7.5 billion pounds of turkey meat each year, the U.S. is the world’s largest producer and exporter of turkey products. Top producing states include Minnesota, North Carolina, Arkansas, Indiana and Missouri.

Turkey production used to be seasonal, but today’s producers can raise birds year-round in huge industrial barns.

As consumers have become interested in healthier low-fat meats, turkey in the form of ground turkey, turkey breasts and deli meats, has become a meat for all seasons. Americans now eat just over 16 pounds of turkey per person each year.

But being the No. 1 producer of cheap industrial farmed turkey means we are also number one when it comes to causing suffering and cruelty, and perpetuating a whole host of unsustainable practices that ultimately make all our lives worse. (Organic Consumers sued Tyson earlier this year for making misleading claims of “humane treatment” and “environmental stewardship” about the brand’s chicken products. Some Tyson-owned Hillshire Farms brand turkey products claim on the package to be “all natural”).

Around 85-90 percent of the turkey we eat comes from industrial factory farms. The birds are raised in overcrowded, noisy, dirty environments with little or no access to outdoors and no ability to express natural behavior.

Intensively reared turkeys can be subjected to beak-trimming—a traumatic procedure, performed without anesthetic (used to ‘fix’ the tendency towards aggression and reduce injuries and cannibalism, which arise in birds kept in unnatural and crowded conditions). Beak-trimming is painful, damages tissue and nerves, and renders the bird unable to naturally explore and “sense” the world around it through its beak.

Turkeys are also victims of historical genetic manipulation. The turkey of the past was a much smaller bird than the one we eat today. Today’s bird is bred for fast growth and a higher proportion of breast meat. Selective breeding for rapid weight-gain, along with the use of high-nutrient feed, means that conventional turkeys are too heavy to support their own weight. This can lead to lameness, painful leg/hip-joint inflammation and infections.

Their large size and broad breasts mean male breeding turkeys (stags) are unable to mate naturally without risking injury to the female. As a result, artificial insemination has become routine. This procedure involves ‘milking’ the males for semen, and then catching and inseminating the females (hens) by tube/syringe.

It’s a short, miserable life. A bird that could live up to 12 years in the wild is routinely slaughtered at anywhere between 9 and 24 weeks.

Paying the price

“Thanks” to industrial farming, the price consumers pay at the grocery store for industrially produced turkey has consistently gone down over the last decade. On the surface, that sounds like a boon for consumers.

But the supermarket price tag doesn’t reflect the real costs associated with the production of factory farmed turkeys—including the cost of cleaning up environmental pollution and the health costs associated with consuming contaminated poultry.

Cheap turkey also comes at a big cost to the farmers that are under contract with companies like Cargill and Tyson to raise the birds before slaughter. Contract farmers, who account for about 69 percent of industrial turkey production,  are finding it increasingly hard to make ends meet, thanks to the industry’s “vertically integrated” business model.

Under this model, the big companies maintain control over research, hatching, growing, feeding, processing, packaging, transportation and marketing of the birds. Farmers are almost incidental to the process—some even describe their lives as being like serfs.

The top five turkey-producing companies—Butterball, Jennie-O, Cargill, Farbest and Tyson, respectively—dominate the market, producing 61.5 percent of all the turkey consumed in the U.S.

Of these Cargill, recently named by Might Earth the “worst company in the world,” is arguably the most controversial. As Mighty Earth reports:

“Throughout its history, Cargill has exhibited a disturbing and repetitive pattern of deception and destruction . . . its practices have ranged from violating trade embargoes and price fixing, to ignoring health codes and creating markets for goods produced with child and forced labor.”

The Mighty Earth report notes that “under pressure” the company has adopted a higher standard of practice in some areas “which shows that it can change when it wants to.” But such instances are rare and given that “the environmental protections and climate leadership from governments that may have once held the company’s worst instincts in check are now in retreat,” the pressure is largely off the company to up its game.

The traceability game

That bad/good image of Cargill is nicely illustrated by a recently initiated traceability scheme for Thanksgiving turkeys.

In 2017, Cargill trialed a 60,000-bird pilot scheme using an electronic record-keeping system known as ‘blockchain’.

Blockchain codes on every bird allowed producers to track each individual bird back to the state and county where it was raised, to see photos of the farm and read messages from the farmers.

Using the same code, customers could go to the website for Cargill’s Honeysuckle White brand turkey, and “get to know” the exact family farmer who raised their bird. 

Other food companies, notably Walmart and Nestlé are also experimenting with blockchain. 

Cargill claimed that the system improved traceability in a way that would instill consumer confidence. The project’s initial success has led to expansion of the program, to around 200,000 birds from 70 farms.

But questions remain. There are issues with blockchain (which evolved out of the cryptocurrency market) in general and with the Cargill system in particular.

The original concept of blockchain was an open, shared public “ledger” to which independent participants could contribute entries and information. While information about a product or company could be added by anyone, once there it could not be taken away. In this way the blockchain, in theory, keeps people honest, remains independent and can continue to grow without its “owner.”

Of course, a blockchain is also only as good as the information fed into it. If companies create their own bespoke blockchain systems, over which they have total control—as Cargill (and others) appear to have done with this in-house system—it’s easy to see how it could become just another meaningless marketing tool.

For the Honeysuckle White birds, critics say there is a lack of information about animal welfare, husbandry practices, environmental sustainability or farmer compensation. Claims that the farmers are “independent family farmers” have also been called as misleading. Most are contract growers working for Cargill.

In addition, while the blockchain “traceability” might make Honeysuckle White seem a better choice than, for example, the company’s other non-traceable turkey brand, Shady Brook Farms, the birds are basically the same.

What’s more, Cargill’s birds are basically the same—and live the same tragic lives—as those produced by the other big producers.

What to do?

Turkey is the food centerpiece of choice for 85 percent of those who celebrate Thanksgiving, and Americans will spend around $991 million on Thanksgiving turkeys this year. 

Though it may seem like a “luxury” there is no getting away from the fact that animals reared with the single goal of providing cheap meat for consumers are reared in ways that would turn most of our stomachs—and that diminishes both our lives and theirs.

It’s definitely nothing to be thankful for.

We can do better, we can shop better and we can eat better.

At any time of year, the big question is whether we can continue to justify the ongoing cruelty of factory farming – so much of which is hidden behind inadequate and confusing labels – and whether we are willing to take a stand at the supermarket checkout.

This holiday season, let’s make our values shine through in our actions. Check out our Holiday Turkey Buying Guide, or visit Regeneration International’s new map of regenerative farms and click here for regenerative and organic turkey producers, to see how to set yourself—and your turkey bird—free  from the chains of industrial farming.

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.

Cargill's GMO Stevia Hoodwinks Consumers

Organic consumers - Fri, 2019-11-22 15:57
November 20, 2019U.S. Right to KnowStacy MalkanFood Safety, Genetic Engineering sugar_raspberry_spoon_1200x630.jpg

The international food conglomerate Cargill is ramping up commercial-scale production of its genetically engineered sweetener, EverSweet, in a new $50 million production facility that began operating this week in Blair, Nebraska. The plant will “be producing enough EverSweet to sweeten many millions of bottles/cans of soft drinks or servings of yogurt each month,” according to a Cargill spokesman. 

Cargill is marketing its new stevia substitute as “non-artificial.” What does that mean? Consumers who click on the link provided in the press release will not get a straight answer. The web page twists itself in knots trying to describe the new process, which involves genetically engineering yeast to convert sugar molecules into a substance that mimics the taste of stevia, as a “centuries old technique” — without once mentioning genetic engineering or the genetic modified organisms (GMOs) used to make the product. 

Cargill told the Star Tribune it does not market EverSweet as “natural” – so “non-artificial” it is.  The subterfuge doesn’t end there. 

Cargill, which former Congressman Henry Waxman’s environmental group named the “worst company in the world” in 2019 for (among other things) its “repeated insistence on standing in the way of global progress on sustainability,” markets EverSweet as “sustainably” produced. That claim, as we reported in 2017 Huffington Post article, was cooked up by PR strategists tasked with figuring out how to make vat-produced ingredients sound palatable to consumers who are demanding fresh, natural foods with clear, simple labels.

Corporations and investors with their sights set on moving stevia — and other high-value plant-based flavors and fragrances — off the farms and into the labs met in a 2014 strategy session to discuss how to sell this concept to consumers. PR strategists at the meeting recommended avoiding terms like “synthetic biology” and “genetic engineering” (too scary, too much backlash), and suggested going with more vague descriptions such as “fermentation derived” and “nature identical.”  They recommended focusing reporters on stories of hope and promise, and making food activi
sts “feel like we are we are all marching under the same banner” for food sustainability, transparency and food sovereignty.

Companies and consumers who truly do care about those concepts would do well to look behind the hype. In Cargill’s frame, Eversweet is “sustainable” because it moves production off the land. But it really doesn’t; the company’s new $50 million “fermentation facility,” situated in the heart of GMO Roundup Ready corn country, will depend on those pesticide-sprayed crops – or some other sugar source grown on the land – to feed the yeast in its vats to make EverSweet. Its press release uses the buzzwords of sustainability but provides no details to back up the claims. We reached out to the company to ask for more details; no response yet but we will add any comments we receive. 

Meanwhile, farmers in countries like Paraguay have been sustainably farming stevia for generations, and they make a good living cultivating the crop, reports the ETC Group. The World Economic Forum noted in a survey of leading global risks that “the invention of cheap, synthetic alternatives to high-value agricultural exports … could suddenly destabilize vulnerable economies by removing a source of income on which farmers rely.” Moreover, poor farmers have been actively encouraged to invest in stevia, because its cultivation can help preserve fragile and unique ecosystems. 

For consumers in the U.S., it is getting harder to avoid the new genetically engineered foods that are quietly making their way to grocery stores without clear labeling. Certified organic or non-GMO verified remain two standards committed to avoiding synthetic biology and genetically engineered ingredients.

As for Cargill, it is the largest privately held company in the U.S., bigger even than the notorious Koch Industries, and its  footprint extends around the world, notes former congressman Waxman, chairman of the Mighty Earth campaign, in their July report naming Cargill the Worst Company in the World. “We recognize this is an audacious claim. There are, alas, many companies that could vie for this dubious honor. But this report provides extensive and compelling evidence to back it up … In my 40-year long career in Congress, I took on a range of companies that engaged in abusive practices. I have seen firsthand the harmful impact of businesses that do not bring their ethics with them to work. But Cargill stands out.”

Posted with permission from U.S. Right to Know

Progress from the Bottom Up: How Farmers, Consumers and Value Chains Put Local Foods on the Map

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-11-20 18:22
November 20, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAnthony FlaccaventoFarm Issues, Politics & Globalization farmer_harvest_produce_1200x630.jpg

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

I’m one of those “farmers and ranchers for a Green New Deal,” and like a lot of them, my involvement started with soil.

I began market gardening in 1994, five years before my wife and I purchased the old tobacco farm where we’ve been doing organic farming ever since. Back in the mid 90’s in southwest Virginia, there was barely a hint of a “local food system,” save the occasional bartering of excess produce or the purchase of a quarter cow for freezer meat.

In that context, I started a tiny CSA—Community Supported Agriculture—with a dozen families, supplying them from my market garden. I reckon it was one of the first CSAs in central Appalachia.

Within four years, there were nearly 100 participating families and six other farmers contributing produce, eggs, honey and other staples, organized in a growers’ network we called Highlands Bio-Produce. There were two types of farmers in our network:  Amish, and back-to-the-landers.

The customers who committed to us for the 28-week season, mostly middle class folks, were also of two types: The “conscious consumer,” committed to good, healthy eating and willing to spend more time and money to get it; and the “dabbler,” folks who were willing to try something different, but as much for the novelty as out of any larger commitment.

We had, I think, a predominance of dabblers amongst our early customer base, part of the reason why turnover was quite high. I recall being scolded by one such customer whose exasperation over the lack of sweet corn in her basket came through in a phone call. That call was in the first week of June, three weeks after our spring frost date had passed. Corn plants were not even a foot tall yet.

For food consumers accustomed to ubiquitous abundance, seasonal limitations were anathema.

A great deal has changed since then.

For one, there are many more farmers producing for local markets. According to a 2016 survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, there are more than 167,000 farmers in the U.S. now selling at least part of their farm products through local and regional channels.

Estimates of total sales of “local foods” vary (depending upon what you consider to be “local”) but are between $8.7 billion and $12 billion, either figure representing dramatic growth over the past decade. And a sizeable portion of these farms are using ecologically sound production practices: Over $6 billion of organic food sales in 2016 were through local markets.

Organic food sales in the U.S. now exceed $50 billion annually.

While produce continues to be the “front line” of local foods, in many parts of the country it is only part of what’s being offered through farmers markets, CSAs and other local food channels.  Eggs, a wide range of healthy, pasture-raised meats, and bit by bit, even dairy have crept into local food markets. This is making it possible—even easy in some places—for shoppers to “make the market their supermarket” as we’ve begun to say in Abingdon.

The development of local foods infrastructure, almost from scratch, represents a second critical change from the early years of earth momma customers traveling to “their farmer” to pick up the week’s groceries. Though still far less commonplace than supermarkets and fast food, local, sustainably raised food is far more widely and conveniently available than 20years ago. The number of farmers markets has increased nearly fourfold, from 1,750 in the mid-nineties to over 8500 today.

Food hubs, which aggregate, pack and ship local farm products, now number several hundred across the country, making it easier for independent grocers, restaurants, schools and hospitals, and even some supermarkets to carry local food.

And though still sorely inadequate to the needs, local food processing facilities, from abattoirs to shared-use commercial kitchens have begun to make it easier for small- to mid-size farmers to add value to their products and reach more customers.

The third significant change is among eaters, the consuming public.

For one thing, there are many more American consumers seeking out local food, not only at markets, but in restaurants and at the schools where they, or their children attend. A 2017 Gallup Poll found that nearly three-fourths of people stated they purchase local food, while one in five Americans indicated they eat local food twice per week, according to Statista.

While I’m skeptical of these numbers, having experienced first-hand the profound challenge of changing people’s shopping and eating habits, there is no doubt that tens of millions of Americans now consider where their food comes from, how it was raised and where they can get it. 

Local foods, along with organic and sustainably produced foods, have demonstrated that the market can drive change towards health and ecological sustainability. However, it’s equally clear that the pace of this change is too incremental to seriously impact climate change or foster broadly based—and desperately needed—economic revitalization in rural communities.

For that, we need major investment, along with policy changes that will support sustainable farming and regional food systems, while breaking the stranglehold of Big Ag monopolies that undermine farmers, rural communities and the ecosystem. 

What kind of policy do we need and how can a Green New Deal make that happen?

While that will be the focus of the second article in this series, part of the strategy for policy change must come from the bottom up, building on the successes of the organic and local foods movements. That success includes tens of millions of everyday Americans, including people of limited means, who now shop for local and sustainable foods.

Yet precious few of them are engaged in the bigger questions of policy and public priorities. They’re sustainable food consumers, but most are not sustainable food citizens.

I believe that a portion of them can be mobilized to be advocates for a more just and sustainable food system, one reflective of their social and ecological values.

Given the choice after all, how many people who routinely support sustainable farmers with their food dollars really want to support Monsanto and Tyson with their tax dollars? That’s an absurd contradiction, one that we can change only if we build a broad base of well-informed and well-equipped food citizens.

And that’s where the second piece in this series will begin.

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

NEW YORK: Tell Gov. Cuomo to Sign the Ban Chlorpyrifos Bill!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-11-20 17:24
November 20, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAlexis Baden-MayerGenetic Engineering farm_spray_blue_tractor_1200x630.jpg

Want to get chlorpyrifos—DowDuPont’s brain-damaging pesticide—out of New York, for good?
 
Tell Governor Cuomo to sign the bill!
 
TAKE ACTION TODAY: Urge Governor Cuomo to sign S. 5343, which would make New York the second state to ban the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos!

After you use the form to send a message to Governor Cuomo, please call him at 1-518-474-8390. 

If you can, please also attend the rally from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Thursday, November 21 outside the Governor’s New York City office at 633 3rd Ave, New York, New York 10017 (RSVP here).

Chlorpyrifos harms children, is linked to bee decline and poisons the environment. The science is clear: New York’s legislature did the right thing by banning this pesticide.

However, Governor Cuomo still hasn’t signed the bill. Rumors are swirling that he’s going to veto this ban if we don’t make enough noise.

TAKE ACTION TODAY: Urge Governor Cuomo to sign S. 5343, which would make New York the second state to ban the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos!

Chlorpyrifos is extremely toxic. It has been linked to neurodevelopmental impacts in children—such as ADHD, autism spectrum disorder and lower IQ. 

It’s also horrible for wildlife. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that chlorpyrifos threatens almost 1,400 endangered and threatened species. 

And chlorpyrifos is the second-most toxic pesticide to bees, which are dying at alarming rates.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its decision to ignore its own scientists and not ban chlorpyrifos, but that process could take years. 

California, the largest agricultural state, just announced it will ban chlorpyrifos by 2021. Hawaii has already passed a similar law. If Governor Cuomo wants to be a leader, he needs to sign New York’s ban immediately!  

This bill passed the legislature with overwhelming support because people like you called their legislators and demanded they protect people, not pesticide industry profits. 

We know Gov. Cuomo is hearing from the pesticide industry. Big Ag lobbyists aren’t slowing down and neither can we. 

TAKE ACTION TODAY: Urge Governor Cuomo to sign S. 5343, which would make New York the second state to ban the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos!

What It Takes to Be Carbon Neutral — For a Family, a City, a Country

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-11-20 07:00
Politics & GlobalizationMichael BirnbaumWashington PostNovember 19, 2019https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2019/11/19/what-it-takes-be-carbon-neutral-family-city-country/?arc404=true windfarm_1200x630.jpg

COPENHAGEN — Louise Purup Nohr’s morning routine is like something out of a sustainable future.

When she hustles her kids into the bathroom, what flushes down the toilet will later turn into the natural gas that warms breakfast on the stove. The eggs come from the chickens in the backyard. The coffee machine’s gurgling is powered by electricity generated from the wind. The water that washes the dishes is heated by sustainable sawdust pellets. The recycling gets shunted in eight directions, so that little ends up in the dump. And the commute — first to school, then to work — is on a cargo bike that bumps across Copenhagen’s extensive bike-lane network.

Amid mounting global concern about climate change, Denmark has turned into a buzzing hive of green experimentation, with efforts underway inside homes, across cities and on a national scale.

Tell Amazon: Stop Selling Fake CBD Oil!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-11-19 18:44
Belong to campaign: The Myth of NaturalCategory: Food Safety, Health IssuesArea: USA

Consumer alert: Before you pay $200 an ounce for what you think is a premium, phytocannabinoid-rich hemp extract, be aware that Amazon.com doesn’t actually sell CBD. 

Ever search for “CBD” on Amazon.com? If you’ve bought any of the products that come up, including the site’s “Best Seller,” it’s likely you’ve been fleeced.

According to Amazon.com’s drug and paraphernalia policy, “Items containing CBD/cannabinoid or full spectrum hemp oil, including topical products, are prohibited from listing or sale on Amazon.”

And yet, when you search “CBD” on Amazon.com, this policy doesn’t come up—but dozens of products do.

TAKE ACTION! Tell Amazon to stop selling fake CBD!Read more