Consumer Power

Regeneration: Rules for Revolutionaries

Organic consumers - Wed, 2017-05-10 14:22
Environment & Climate, Fair Trade & Social Justice, Politics & GlobalizationRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationMay 8, 2017 people bumping fists 1000x523.png

“Our common planet and governing system are fast approaching the point of no return. We must unite to protest and resist the out-of-control corporations and politicians that are degenerating our food, health, environment, climate, economy and politics. But we must also inspire and mobilize a new radical majority by focusing on positive solutions and alternatives in the marketplace and in the political arena—by building a multi-issue, multi-constituency power base in all 50 states, 3200 counties, and 39,000 cities and towns across the nation. The Regeneration Movement is a new grassroots-powered movement arising out of the organic food, natural health, fair trade and climate movements. Inspired by the Bernie Sanders insurgency, this new movement is dedicated to connecting the dots between all of our burning single issues, and to bringing together people and movements into a powerful revolutionary force. Our strategy is to mobilize a critical mass of Americans to oppose corporate crime and political corruption, through powerful public education, protests, consumer boycotts and political action. Over time we believe that our growing movement will gain the strength and power to bring out-of-control corporations to heel and, on the political front, to ‘throw the bums out,’ to replace the majority of the 500,000 elected public officials—from Main Street to Washington D.C.—who currently represent the interests of the corporate and economic elite (the ‘1 percent’), and replace these indentured bureaucrats with a new corps of insurgent public servants, willing to stand up and fight for the public interest. We are not talking about minor adjustments to our catastrophic ‘Business-as-Usual’ model. We are talking about a ‘Regeneration Revolution’.” – Ronnie Cummins, “Who We Are: Declaration of the New Nationwide Meetup.com Network called ‘Resist and Regenerate,’” April 22, 2017

Degeneration Nation

After eight years of failed promises, warmongering, and “business-as-usual, by-the-rich, for-the-rich” governance by the Obama administration and U.S. Congress, the Democratic Party Establishment and the mass media went on to sabotage the 2016 grassroots-powered campaign of radical insurgent Bernie Sanders. Instead, they nominated the hugely unpopular Hillary Clinton for President.

As a result, 92 million people stayed home on election day, 62 million voted for the neo-fascist billionaire Republican candidate Donald Trump, and 65 million voted for Clinton. Clinton “won” the popular vote but lost the Electoral College.

A hundred days into the Trump administration, what have we learned?

Number one: The Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress and Supreme Court, aided and abetted by Wall Street, fossil fuel companies, Big Pharma, Big Ag, and the military-industrial complex, as well as by collaborators in the Democratic Party Establishment and the “deep state” (FBI, CIA, and the military hierarchy), are the most corrupt and dangerous ruling elite in U.S. history.

Number two: A full 35-40 percent of the electorate (mainly older white people who live in the suburbs and small towns and rural areas outside major cities) are so bitter, nationalistic, greedy, brainwashed, racist, misogynist, homophobic and/or delusional that they continue to support Trump and his cronies no matter what they say or do. Climate change denial, xenophobia, racism, environmental pollution, cutbacks in health and social services, regulation rollbacks that let corporations pollute and poison at will, increased military spending, and tax cuts for the rich and big corporations are apparently no problem for Trump’s mass base, even as we rush headlong toward catastrophic global warming, economic meltdown and endless war.

The level of Trump support is now approximately the same as the Nazi Party (37 percent of the vote in the 1932 elections) enjoyed before Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933. Given this mass support for what can only be described as 21st Century corporate fascism, the Trump resistance has no choice, at least for the moment, but to focus on mobilizing the “other 65 percent” of the electorate, especially the youth and racial minorities, who did not vote for Trump.

Grassroots mobilization and mass protest against the Trump junta have reached an all-time high. Yet our growing Anti-Trump resistance is still rather weak in terms of explaining exactly what it is we are fighting for. Are we talking about a return to Establishment Democratic Party rule, a slight revision of the status quo we experienced during the Obama and Clinton administrations? Or are we talking about a genuine grassroots “Political Revolution” as called for by Bernie Sanders, now the most popular politician in the U.S.?

We’ve protested against Trump’s corporate cronies and swamp cabinet; against dirty oil pipelines and fracking; against rollbacks of environmental, food safety, health and consumer protection regulations; against the slaughter of civilians in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Iraq; against racist police and immigration policies; against laws designed to marginalize workers, poor people and minorities; and against anti-choice and homophobic cabinet and Supreme Court appointments and legislation.

Now, it’s time to work for something. It’s time to connect the dots between all of our burning issues, and unite our single-issue constituencies under a common vision and strategy for societal Regeneration—we cannot afford to return to the Democratic Party Establishment’s business-as-usual politics.

Resistance and Regeneration: Five Rules for Revolutionaries

It’s no secret that our current food, farming, health, climate and political crises pose a mortal threat, not just to our well-being, but to our very survival. The question is: What do we do about it?

Here are several organizing principles that we need to keep in mind, along with concrete action steps to begin to meet up and work with others in our local communities who are also ready for radical change.

Rule Number One: Talk about big change, not small change

We need to stop focusing exclusively on our favorite single issues or on the latest “protest du jour” against the Trump Administration. The reason Sen. Bernie Sanders is currently the most popular national politician is not because he’s talking about single-issue small-scale reforms, but rather because he’s talking about a multi-issue economic and political revolution. In times of radical crisis and dissatisfaction, people are looking for systemic change, not just minor reforms or empty rhetoric.

Rule Number Two: Describe the New Revolution in positive, solution-oriented terms, with a special emphasis on regenerative food, farming and land use

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

The regeneration of the body politic requires that we disengage ourselves from business-as-usual activism and the standard gloom and doom conversation on climate, health, war, politics, economics, ethics, and peace.

“Sustaining” a dying planet or “mitigating” catastrophic climate change or political fascism is no longer an option. We must change the global conversation surrounding the climate crisis, global poverty, unemployment, low-paying jobs, endless war, and deteriorating public health from halfway measures of “mitigating” to “reversing” or “solving.”

As we must never tire of explaining, there are grounds for hope. In terms of our food, farming, health and climate crisis, there is an organic, world-changing, field-tested, shovel-ready climate-stabilizing solution at hand. It’s no further away than the knives and forks in our hands. It already exists, on our local farms, gardens, lawns, parks, rangelands, wetlands and forests.  The solution to Climate Armageddon and many of our other pressing problems (health, nutrition, rural poverty) lies literally in conserving, restoring and re-carbonizing the living soil beneath our feet. Regenerative food, farming and land use, scaled up globally over the next 25 years—whereby we draw down more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than we emit, and store this carbon in the soil, forests, and wetlands—can turn the tide of modern history from degeneration to Regeneration.

According to India activist and author Vandana Shiva, “Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the health crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis of democracy."

Although Regeneration is used most commonly in reference to transformative food, farming and land-use practices, from the perspective of our new Movement, Regeneration principles can be constructively applied to every major problem of modern society, including national and international security, economics, unemployment, politics, health and ethics.

Even if the world manages to move to 100-percent renewable energy and zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as pledged by 200 nations at the Paris Climate Summit in 2015, and manages to “sustain” or stabilize atmospheric CO2 at 450-500 ppm, this is not enough to get us back to the safe level of 280-350 ppm of CO2 in our atmosphere. The only way we can safeguard the future of civilization is to not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050, but to also simultaneously scale up regenerative food, farming and land use so as to sequester enough carbon (200-250 billion tons) in our soils, forests and wetlands to reach the kind of “normal” atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases that we had several hundred years ago, before the industrial revolution.

If you are unfamiliar with the enormous impact of industrial food and farming and destructive deforestation and land use practices on global warming and the concept of natural carbon sequestration through regenerative land use, please visit the Regeneration International website.

If you’re unaware, as most of us are, that the majority of greenhouse gas emissions today come from not cars or industrial manufacturing and utilities, but rather from our out-of-control industrial food, farming and land-use practices, read this compelling article.

Rule Number Three: Connect the dots between single-issue movements and constituencies

None of our current single-issue movements are strong enough to change the degenerate dynamics in the marketplace or the political arena. We can’t go on having a food, anti-GMO and organic movement over here, a climate, environmental and anti-war movement over there, and scores of separate silos for environmental justice, health care, natural health, alternative energy, animal rights, LGBT rights, immigration rights, fair trade, Black Lives Matter, indigenous people’s rights, fair labor, women’s rights, family farmers’ rights, and students’ rights. We can’t go on having a segment of radicals and progressives who work on electoral politics but stay aloof from protests and issue-based campaigns, while those of us working on consumer, economic justice, environmental justice, racial justice or other issue-based campaigns ignore electoral politics.

Rule Number Four: Beyond online activism, build a massive on-the-ground Resist and Regenerate Movement 

We can’t rely on internet activism alone to get the job done. Yes, we must become even more effective in terms of using the internet and social media for public education and for putting pressure on corporations, regulatory bodies and politicians. But we also have to regularly step away from our laptops and phones, and trade Facebook time for face-to-face time. We need to communicate and meet up in person with our friends and neighbors, and our fellow activists in different movements, and begin to figure out how to exercise our collective consumer power, and political power, in numbers too big to be ignored. We need a new movement—one that empowers consumers and citizens to both resist the corporate takeover of our government, and also to propose solutions to regenerate our health, environment, economy and democracy.

All of our burning issues arise from the same degenerate “profit-at-any-cost” system, while all of the solutions we need are interconnected. Healthy soils, healthy people, healthy climate, healthy forests, clean water, healthy oceans, animal welfare, farmworker rights, peace, social justice, and rural/urban prosperity can go hand and hand if we move from our degenerative factory farm/junk food/industrial/globalized food, farming and land-use system to one based on organic and regenerative farming, animal husbandry, forestry and land use. A green economy based on renewable energy, regenerative farming, retrofitting the nation’s housing stock, mass transportation, commercial buildings, and infrastructure can provide jobs for all willing to work while we move toward zero fossil fuel emissions by 2050.

Reframing national and international security around the real threats we face: climate change, water scarcity, global poverty and environmental degradation, can provide our armed forces and the armed forces of all the nations of the world with something useful and meaningful to do, while providing a global basis for cooperation, rather than conflict.

Rule Number Five: Localize the Resist and Regenerate Movement

Through meetups and networking in our local communities, through connecting the dots between our single issues, we can resist the Degenerators and strengthen the Resist and Regeneration Movement. By reaching out to other activists working on food, farming, natural health, justice, climate, peace, and environmental issues we can bring about a revolution, not only in the marketplace, but in the political arena as well.

How do we start this process?

A few days ago we emailed this message to 500,000 organic consumers. Please read this call-to-action, and sign up to lead or participate in one of the hundreds of new Resist and Regenerate Meetup chapters that are forming across North America.

The time is late. The situation is dire. But we still have time to turn things around.

Venceremos. We shall overcome.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and a member of the Regeneration International steering committee.

A Personal Message From OCA Director Ronnie Cummins

Organic consumers - Wed, 2017-05-03 16:57
Environment & Climate, Genetic Engineering, Politics & GlobalizationRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationMay 2, 2017 resist regenerate no website 1000x523.png

Wall Street, Big Ag, Big Pharma, and multinationals like Monsanto, Dow, Exxon and Wal-Mart have always been able to buy industry-friendly regulations that put you and your family, and indeed our future survival, at risk.

But as we’ve seen recently—with the White House and Congressional attack on climate, food safety, factory farm, school lunches and environmental regulations, the escalation of the never-ending wars in the Middle East, the announcement that the USDA will not test foods for Monsanto’s poisonous pesticide Roundup, and the EPA’s plan to roll back a ban on Dow’s brain damage-causing pesticide (chlorpyrifos)—the corporate takeover of our political system has created what can only be described as a national emergency.

Out-of-control corporations and politicians, aided and abetted by the mass media and indentured scientists, are degenerating our food, health, environment, climate and democracy. This national and international crisis will only get worse—unless we act fast, act smart, and act together.

Please help us build a massive #resist and #regenerate movement to stop the corporate takeover of our democracy, and to bring about solutions that will regenerate everything from our food, farming, and health, to our economy and our democracy.

Get started today by setting up a local group on Meetup.com. Sign up here, then read the instructions below to get started organizing.

We learned a lot when we took on Monsanto and Big Food in the fight for GMO labeling. But perhaps the most important lesson was this: We have not yet built a movement big enough, or powerful enough, to beat giant corporations with deep pockets.

We must, and we can, do better. But to succeed, we’ll have to step away from our laptops and phones, meet in person with our friends and neighbors, and start exercising our collective consumer power, and our collective political power—in numbers too big to be ignored.

It’s time to build a new on-the-ground movement—one that empowers consumers and citizens to both resist the corporate takeover of our government, and regenerate our health, environment and democracy.

We call it the #resist and #regenerate movement. Today I’m personally inviting you to help lead and grow this new on-the-ground movement.

There are over 500,000 elected and appointed officials in this country. Too many of them are on the wrong side of the issues you care about—food, GMOs, health, the environment, social and economic justice.

Unless we elect new leaders—not just Congress members, but also city, county, school board, park board, and state officials—nothing will change. Politicians will continue to serve the corporations that fund their campaigns. Corporations will continue to write the laws that allow them to poison and pollute.

We have the power to change this—we just need to exercise it. And that means moving beyond our single-issue organizing, in favor of building a united and massive movement, both online and on the ground.

Today, I’m asking you to help lead this movement. Sign up here to start a Meetup.com chapter in your community, then read the instructions below.

Through meetups and networking in our local communities, by connecting the dots between our single issues, we can resist the Degenerators and strengthen the organic and regeneration movements.

By reaching out to and communicating with other activists working on food, farming, natural health, justice, climate, peace, and environmental issues we can bring about a revolution, not only in the marketplace, but in the political arena as well.

Please join us today as we #resist and #regenerate.

In Solidarity,

Ronnie Cummins
International Director

 

 

How to get started

Millions of people, in cities and counties across the country, are connecting via Meetup.com. By creating your own local “#resist and #regenerate” group on Meetup, you’ll be able to instantly connect with people who care about food, GMO, climate change, natural health, social and economic justice, animal welfare and other issues.

The Meetup platform makes it easy for you to invite local activists to a meeting to discuss how to make more progress on all of these issues, by working more closely together. We already have 200 of these Resist and Regenerate meetup groups going across the country, but we need thousands.

Here’s what to do (if you run into any problems, email organize@organicconsumers.org and someone will help):

1.    Check out the map to see if there is already a #Resist and #Regenerate group in your area.

2.    Go to meetup.com. Follow the instructions for setting up an account (it's free).

3.    Fill out this form. Once we've got your information we'll set up your #Resist and #Regenerate group and email you the link to join. (Your page will look like this, view the #Resist and #Regenerate map here.)

4.    Join your group!

5.    After you join your group, your OCA regional coordinator will make you a co-organizer for your group. Your regional coordinator will be on hand to answer questions.

6.    Once you are an co-organizer for your group, you can schedule your first meetup (Click on “Home,” then click on “Schedule a meetup.”)

7.    After you schedule a meetup, email organize@organicconsumers.org and your regional coordinator, to let them know. We’ll send you a packet of leaflets, bumper stickers and other materials. You’ll also find resources on your group homepage—click on “Pages” then “Resources.”

How Mainstream Media Insults the Public’s Intelligence on Vaccines

Organic consumers - Tue, 2017-04-25 18:15
Health IssuesMartha RosenbergOrganic Consumers AssociationApril 24, 2017 Kid Eyes 1000x523

There is a bitter war going on, and it’s not over Trumpcare or immigration: It is about vaccines.

Mainstream media and medical groups, typically funded or backed by Big Pharma, cast parents who are skeptical about vaccines as conspiracy theorists whose backward beliefs put the public at risk.

Vaccine skeptics cast vaccine promoters as paid shills, hired by Big Pharma to cover up documented vaccine-related injuries.

In mainstream and progressive media coverage (Mother Jones, Alternet, Huffington Post, Truthout, Progressive, The Nation) there is zero tolerance for critical debate about vaccine safety. Question why the hepatitis B vaccine is routinely given to babies at birth—for a disease mainly transmitted through sex and I.V. drug use—and you’re  labeled “anti-science.”

Suggest that some vaccines, including those such as the highly promoted HPV Gardasil and Cervarix (both of which have been linked to adverse reactions and death) are not exactly “life-saving,” and you might as well yell “bring back polio.”

The media routinely discredits parents of vaccine-injured children, accusing them of not knowing anything about medicine (except raising their own challenged child of course) and of "imagining" or even causing their child's deficits.

Progressive news sites that would never defend corporate media coverage of Monsanto or GMOs drink the vaccines-are-safe Kool-Aid. Last month, Jezebel ran this headline: "Robert De Niro and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Call Vaccines Dangerous, Which They Are Not." In a 2015 article, the Atlantic sneered that "Vaccines Are Profitable, So What?" And the Daily Beast has gone so far as to praise Paul Offit, perhaps the nation’s most extreme vaccine promoter.

One wants to ask these progressive sites: Do you really think Pharma has never steered us wrong, just for the sake of profit? What about all the drugs that had to be pulled from the market, after Pharma insisted they were safe? Drugs like Vioxx, Baycol, Trovan, Meridia, Seldane, Hismanal, Darvon, Raxar, Redux, Mylotarg, Lotronex, Propulsid, phenylpropanolamine (PPA), Prexige, phenacetin, Oraflex, Omniflox, Posicor, Serzone and Duract?

The fact is vaccines are not all safe. That’s why the National Vaccine Injury Compensation (VICP) program, established to provide monetary compensation to victims of vaccine injuries, exists. The VICP website states:

Most people who get vaccines have no serious problems. In very rare cases, a vaccine can cause a serious problem, such as a severe allergic reaction. In these instances, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) may provide financial compensation to individuals who file a petition and are found to have been injured by a VICP-covered vaccine.

Even the very pro-Pharma Forbes reports: "It's true that there have been 24,000 reports of adverse events with Gardasil" and "106 deaths." But the author of the Forbes article rationalizes: "There have also been 60,000 reports of adverse events with the mumps, measles, and rubella vaccine, and 26,000 following vaccination with . . . Prevnar, for pneumococcus bacteria."

We ask: Do two wrongs make a right, Forbes?

The CDC maintains a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) where people can see for themselves the adverse effects and deaths related to a particular vaccine. A search for people who have died from the measles vaccines MEA, MER, MM, MMR or MMRV revealed 416 deaths. Last summer, the mainstream science outlet

EurekaAlert submitted that reading VAERS info “may not build public trust or adherence.”

That is an understatement.

Profiteering and conflicts of interest not even hidden

There is no question vaccines are profitable. In some states, Blue Cross Blue Shield gives doctors bonuses for the vaccines they give patients. And an increasing number of drugstore chains now offer vaccines.

There are brazen and unhidden conflicts of interest between mainstream media and vaccine makers who influence reporting and discourage healthy debate about vaccine safety. Mike Papantonio, of the America’s Lawyer TV show, reports: 

According to a 2009 study by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, with the exception of CBS, every major media outlet in the United States shares at least one board member with at least one drug company. These board members wake up, they go to a meeting at Merck or Pfizer, and then they have their driver take them over to a meeting at a TV station.

The Gates Foundation is deeply entangled with vaccine makers, as are our own government agencies, including the CDC. It’s clearly a fox-guarding-the-henhouse situation. The vaccine industry also “gives millions to the Academy of Pediatrics for conferences, grants, medical education classes and even helped build their headquarters,” reports CBS.

In 2013, the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health reported that the seriousness with which academics portrayed the 2009-2010 swine flu outbreak was shaped proportionately by how much funding they had received from Pharma.

What does the science say?

When you read the scientific papers published about vaccine safety—and especially about links to childhood autism—it seems as if they are all written by four scientists who know each other and who work for Big Vac.  Despite overwhelming evidence that the mercury used in vaccines, thimerosal, is harmful to children and to pregnant women and the elderly, the official position of pro-vaccine scientists is “it was totally safe but we took it out anyway.”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., chairman of The World Mercury Project, disagrees. Vaccines containing thimerosal are neither safe, nor is thimerosal gone from vaccines he claims. Kennedy offers $100,000 to anyone who can find a published study indexed in PubMed proving mercury levels in vaccines are harmless for infants and developing fetuses at the levels they are given.

Though they are scientists, pro-vaccine researchers use embarrassing non-logic in their vaccine defenses—they actually employ the "Raven Paradox" which many of us learned in Logic 101. It declares that “all ravens are black; that bird is black; it must be a raven.”  In other words, according to logic-challenged researchers: "Mercury is safe—and it doesn't cause autism—so all vaccines are safe.”

Meanwhile, the pro-vaccine scientists seldom, if ever, address the more complicated scientific questions surrounding vaccines—such as other metals used in them, like aluminum. Or whether the current series of multiple vaccines administered to children today could overwhelm their immune systems. Or whether live vaccines or disease antibodies could paradoxically cause the disease they’re intended to prevent.

According to published articles, it’s not just the thimerosal but metals in general, such as the currently used aluminum in vaccines, that are under suspicion. Such metals can cross the child’s blood brain barrier and set off increased oxidative stress which is linked to autism, say journal reports. Oxidative stress is an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects through neutralization by antioxidants. Too many vaccines given too closely together to children that are too young also increases the stress, say those who question vaccines and vaccine schedules.

When a scientific paper appears to clearly show a link between childhood vaccines recommended in the U.S. and impaired neurodevelopment, pro-vaccine scientists savage it. A 2010 paper published in Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis, a quarterly peer-reviewed scientific journal covering neuroscience, found that “rhesus macaque infants receiving the complete U.S. childhood vaccine schedule” did not “undergo the maturational changes over time in amygdala volume that was observed in unexposed animals.”

Why does the amygdala matter? The researchers wrote: “Neuropathological and neuroimaging studies of individuals with an ASD [autism spectrum disorder] . . . have provided growing evidence of a central role for the amygdala.” Specifically, it is enlarged in such children “compared with neurotypical controls.”

Pro-vaccine scientists pounced. Not enough monkeys were used to establish a scientific finding, said one scientist. Opposite findings about the amygdala have been reached,

which invalidate the study, said another scientist. One angry scientist was even willing to discredit the monkey study by claiming that monkeys are not a valid model for human disease—thus annulling millions of experiments including the ones on which human drugs are approved! Of course, many in the animal welfare community have questioned the validity of animal "models."

Insulting illogic

On behalf of Pharma, mainstream science and media set up a strawman called “vaccines cause autism.” Then they knocked it down and declared vaccines safe. It is an insult to the public’s intelligence, especially in light of clear injuries that exist, including those documented in the VAERS database—not to mention injured people, especially parents of injured children. The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program alone has awarded $3.18 billion in 16,000 claims since 1988.

Do vaccine injury cases prove that vaccines are always unsafe and should always be avoided? Of course not. But those cases do prove that vaccines are not “completely safe” as the well-funded vaccine dogma continues to insultingly tell us.

Martha Rosenberg is a contributing writer for the Organic Consumers Association. 

International Monsanto Tribunal Calls for Human Rights Over Corporate Rights

Organic consumers - Thu, 2017-04-20 14:51
Environment & Climate, Fair Trade & Social Justice, OCA in the NewsKatherine PaulOrganic Consumers AssociationApril 18, 2017 Monsanto tribunal press conference 1000x523

Most opinion tribunals have had a considerable impact, and it is now accepted that they contribute to the progressive development of international law. – International Monsanto Tribunal Advisory Opinion, The Hague, April 18, 2017

On Tuesday, April 18, representatives of the Organic Consumers Association and our Regeneration International project gathered in The Hague, Netherlands, along with members of other civil society groups, scientists and journalists.

We assembled to hear the opinions of the five judges who presided over the International Monsanto Tribunal. After taking six months to review the testimony of 28 witnesses who testified during the two-day citizens’ tribunal held in The Hague last October, the judges were ready to report on their 53-page Advisory Opinion.

The upshot of the judges’ opinion? Monsanto has engaged in practices that have violated the basic human right to a healthy environment, the right to food, the right to health, and the right of scientists to freely conduct indispensable research.

The judges also called on international lawmakers to hold corporations like Monsanto accountable, to place human rights above the rights of corporations, and to “clearly assert the protection of the environment and establish the crime of ecocide.”

The completion of the Tribunal judges’ work coincides with heightened scrutiny of Monsanto, during a period when the company seeks to complete a merger with Germany-based Bayer. In addition to our organization’s recently filed lawsuit against Monsanto, the St. Louis-based chemical maker is facing more than 800 lawsuits by people who developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma after being exposed to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. As a result of recently-made-public court documents related to those lawsuits, pressure is mounting for Congress to investigate alleged collusion between former EPA officials and Monsanto to bury the truth about the health risks of Roundup.

The timing couldn’t have been better for the Monsanto Tribunal to announce its opinions. But is time running out for us to hold Monsanto accountable—and replace its failed, degenerative model with a food and farming system that regenerates soil, health and local economies?

Citizens’ tribunals historically contribute to developing international law

The Monsanto Tribunal judges had barely finished delivering their opinions before Monsanto spit out the usual pablum, claiming to be committed to finding “real solutions” to the challenges of hunger, food security and the role of farmers to “nourish our growing world sustainably.”

In a statement issued by the biotech giant’s Global Human Rights Steering Committee (who knew?), Monsanto claimed the Tribunal was “staged by a select group of anti-agriculture technology and anti-Monsanto critics who played organizers, judge and jury.”

In fact, organizers of the Tribunal had no say in the judges’ final opinion. And the judges themselves are all independent, highly qualified lawyers and legal experts, recognized by the international legal community for their accomplishments and credentials.

In their Advisory Opinion, the judges didn’t directly address criticism of the Monsanto Tribunal specifically, nor did they address attempts to delegitimize citizens’ tribunals (which the judges referred to as “Opinion Tribunals”) in general. But the judges did outline what an Opinion Tribunal is—and is not—and why they are important:

Their objective is twofold: alerting public opinion, stakeholders and policy-makers to acts considered as unacceptable and unjustifiable under legal standards; contributing to the advancement of national and international law.

The work and conclusions of opinion tribunals are shared with all relevant actors and widely disseminated in the national and international community. Most opinion tribunals have had a considerable impact, and it is now accepted that they contribute to the progressive development of international law.

Judges: Monsanto violated basic human rights

As we wrote last year, the Monsanto Tribunal judges were asked to consider six questions, referred to as the “Terms of Reference.” During two days of testimony, the judges heard from 28 witnesses (representing about 15 countries) on matters relating to the six questions.

On four of those questions—whether or not Monsanto violated the right to a healthy environment, right to food, right to health, and right to freedom of expression and academic research—the judges concluded in all cases that yes, Monsanto’s activities have violated all of those rights. (Detailed answers to all questions are included in the Advisory Opinion).

On the question of war crimes, related to Monsanto supplying Agent Orange to the U.S. military during the Vietnam War, the judges concluded:

Because of the current state of international law and the absence of specific evidence, the Tribunal cannot give any definitive answer to the question it was asked. Nevertheless, it seems that Monsanto knew how its products would be used and had information on the consequences for human health and the environment. The Tribunal is of the view that, would the crime of Ecocide be added in International law, the reported facts could fall within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

And that brings us to question six: Could the activities of Monsanto constitute a crime of ecocide, understood as causing serious damage or destroying the environment, so as to significantly and durably alter the global commons or ecosystem services upon which certain human groups rely?

Possibly—if ecocide were recognized as an international crime, under the Rome Statute. Because it isn’t, at least not yet, the judges could only add to existing calls for the International Law Commission to amend the Rome Statute to include ecocide on its list of international crimes.

On complicity in war crimes, the Tribunal judges wrote:

The Tribunal assesses that international law should now precisely and clearly assert the protection of the environment and the crime of ecocide. The Tribunal concludes that if such a crime of ecocide were recognized in international criminal law, the activities of Monsanto could possibly constitute a crime of ecocide. Several of the company’s activities may fall within this infraction, such as the manufacture and supply of glyphosate-based herbicides to Colombia in the context of its plan for aerial application on coca crops, which negatively impacted the environment and the health of local populations; the large-scale use of dangerous agrochemicals in industrial agriculture; and the engineering, production, introduction and release of genetically engineered crops. Severe contamination of plant diversity, soils and waters would also fall within the qualification of ecocide. Finally, the introduction of persistent organic pollutants such as PCB into the environment causing widespread, long-lasting and severe environmental harm and affecting the right of the future generations could fall within the qualification of ecocide as well.

International law has ‘failed woefully’, but we have to hope

We can’t do justice here to the Tribunal judges’ 53-page Advisory Opinion. The Opinion, which include 120 citations, paints a detailed picture of how Monsanto violates human rights and ravages the environment, on a global scale. In their published Opinion, the judges call for changes in international law in order to give priority to human rights, over the rights of corporations, and to hold corporations accountable for violating human and environmental rights.

While according companies like Monsanto unprecedented rights and entitlements, international law has failed woefully to impose any corresponding obligation to protect human rights and the environment. However, it is beyond the scope of this advisory opinion to consider the breadth of reforms required to re-align the respective priorities of commercial and public interests that must be brought about under international law. Therefore, the Tribunal strongly encourages authoritative bodies to address the legal and practical limitations that currently confine the scope, content and ultimately the effectiveness of international human rights law.

As she wrapped up the April 18 press conference in The Hague, Tribunal Judge Françoise Tulkens said that while the judges’ work was done, the work of civil society has just begun.

“Now this Advisory Opinion is in your hands, it’s for you to use it. You, as in civil servants, as in lawyers and judges, if it’s possible . . .  maybe this Opinion will serve in the development of international law, and of course international law does develop under the impetus of civil society, so for that maybe we have to wait one year, two years, decades, maybe centuries, I don’t know, but we still have to hope that it’s possible.”

As we hope for international law to start holding corporations like Monsanto (or Bayer or Dow or Syngenta) accountable for the devastating consequences of their poisonous chemicals, we must also look for hopeful solutions for feeding the world’s growing population. Monsanto will have you believe that its failed GMO monoculture model provides those solutions—but increasingly, the world is wising up to that lie.

In “3 Big Myths about Modern Agriculture,” David R. Montgomery, professor of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington, says that conventional farming practices that degrade soil health undermine humanity’s ability to continue feeding everyone over the long run. Montgomery writes:

I no longer see debates about the future of agriculture as simply conventional versus organic. In my view, we’ve oversimplified the complexity of the land and underutilized the ingenuity of farmers. I now see adopting farming practices that build soil health as the key to a stable and resilient agriculture.

Do we have decades or centuries, as Tulkens suggests, for international law to crack down on Monsanto? Probably not, if climate scientists’ predictions are correct. But as humans with rights, and consumers with responsibility for our purchasing decisions, we can help fuel a Regeneration Revolution that can both cool the planet and feed the world—without poison.

Watch the Monsanto Tribunal April 18 press conference

Summary of the Monsanto Tribunal Advisory Opinion

Monsanto Tribunal Advisory Opinion—full document


Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association.


 

Tell the USDA: Support Organic Farmers and Consumers Not Big Food. No ‘Organic Checkoff’ Program!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2017-04-06 19:56
Belong to campaign: Safeguard Organic StandardsCategory: All About OrganicsArea: USA

Advertisements with slogans like “Incredible Edible Egg,” “Pork: The Other White Meat,” “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner,” and “Got Milk?” promote industries (mostly Big Meat and Big Dairy), without ever mentioning a specific company or brand. Who pays for those ads?

The money comes from Research & Promotion (R&P) programs set up under the USDA, commonly referred to as checkoff programs. Now the USDA, with support from the Organic Trade Association (OTA), wants to establish a similar mandatory program specifically for organic producers.

Good idea? The Big Food corporations that are buying up organic brands (and calling a lot of the shots at OTA), say yes. But small organic producers and family farmers say that an organic checkoff program will be bad for them, and bad for consumers.

TAKE ACTION BY MIDNIGHT APRIL 19: Tell the USDA: Support organic farmers and consumers not Big Food. No ‘Organic Checkoff’ Program! Please sign our 'No Organic Checkoff' petition. Read more

Tell Your Senators: Protect Consumers’ Right to Hold Corporations Accountable

Organic consumers - Wed, 2017-04-05 19:09
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a suite of bills that would make it harder for ordinary people to take corporations like Monsanto to court—even if a company’s product is proven to cause serious injury or illness.

The bills—three of them—will soon head to the Senate.

TAKE ACTION: Tell your Senators to protect consumers’ right to hold corporations accountable by voting NO on H.R. 985, H.R. 725 and H.R. 720. Read more

'so I'm biggering my company'

Organic consumers - Wed, 2017-03-29 15:44
Environment & Climate, Genetic EngineeringRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationMarch 29, 2017https://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/50865/p/salsa/donation/common/public/?donate_page_KEY=12139 2017 Spring $180k 1000x523

There's a principle in business, that everybody knows is sound,
It says the people with the money, make this ever-loving world go ‘round.
So I’m biggering my company, I’m biggering my factory,
I’m biggering my corporate sign.
Everybody out there can take care of yours,
And me? I’ll take care of mine mine mine mine mine. – Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Trump just unveiled his vision for America: Let corporations pollute at will.

Trump’s plan to gut EPA and USDA regulations follows a previously announced plan to cut funding for medical research.

One of his prime targets? The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)—the agency that two years ago classified Monsanto’s Roundup as a probable human carcinogen.

With only three days to go, we’re about $60,000 short of our quarterly fundraising goal. Fortunately, Mercola.com, our ally in the battle against Monsanto, has stepped up with a triple match offer. Please help us take advantage of this generous offer by making a donation today.

There's no end to the grim news coming from Washington D.C. these days.

Chemicals in your food and water? Don’t worry.

Global warming? It doesn’t exist.

You may think the situation is hopeless. But you have more power than you think.

Corporations will cheer Trump’s plan to trade short-term corporate profits for your health, and your children’s future.

None will cheer more loudly than Monsanto.

As you know, Monsanto is hoping to “bigger its company” by merging with another of the world’s worst chemicals companies, Bayer.

But Bayer may not be so keen to buy Monsanto, if the lawsuits against the maker of Roundup keep piling up, if the number of acres planted in GMO crops continues to decline, and if the EPA decides against reregistering glyphosate because the agency can no longer deny the allegations that some of its own officials colluded with Monsanto to bury evidence that glyphosate causes cancer.

In the coming weeks and months, with your help, we will push for a Congressional investigation into the possibility that Monsanto and the EPA hid the truth from you about the health risks of Roundup.

 We will call on you to visit your Congress members in their home offices, and demand to know the truth about what went on behind closed doors at the EPA.

You will help us bring victims of Roundup to Washington, where they will make the case that Monsanto knew about the link between Roundup and cancer. (More than 700 people have sued Monsanto because they, or a family member, developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma after being exposed to Roundup).

You’ve probably reduced your own exposure to Roundup by avoiding GMO foods.

But it would be nearly impossible to avoid glyphosate altogether. Why? Because only 20 percent of GMO crops go into food. Twice as much goes into animal feed for factory farms. Another 40 percent are used to make ethanol.

History will no doubt rank glyphosate as one of the worst scourges unleashed on the human race.

Your relentless pursuit of the truth, and concern for the future, are our best hope for ridding the world of Roundup.

We're down to the wire, and we're still about $60,000 short of our quarterly fundraising goal. Fortunately, Mercola.com, our ally in the battle against Monsanto, has stepped up with a triple match offer. Please help us take advantage of this generous offer by making a donation today.

In Gratitude and Hope,

Ronnie Cummins
International Director

Congress Must Investigate Collusion Between Monsanto and the EPA, Now

Organic consumers - Thu, 2017-03-23 13:23
Environment & Climate, Health Issues, Politics & GlobalizationKatherine PaulOrganic Consumers AssociationMarch 23, 2017 handshake cartoon businessmen suits red cc 1000x523.png

“I have cancer, and I don’t want these serious issues in HED [EPA’s Health Effects Division] to go unaddressed before I go to my grave. I have done my duty.”

It’s been four years since Marion Copley, a 30-year EPA toxicologist, wrote those words to her then-colleague, Jess Rowland, accusing him of conniving with Monsanto to bury the agency’s own hard scientific evidence that it is “essentially certain” that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller, causes cancer.

Copley has since died. But her letter suggesting that EPA officials colluded with Monsanto to hide the truth about Monsanto’s flagship weedkiller has been given new life.

Thanks to the persistence of hundreds of plaintiffs in lawsuits alleging that they (or their deceased family members) were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after being exposed to Roundup, newly discovered internal emails and other documents are being made public. And they paint an increasingly troubling and sinister picture of corruption.

The Organic Consumers Association is calling on Congress to immediately and fully investigate these and any other revelations that may come to light.

A long history of deceit

For decades, Monsanto has enjoyed a revolving-door relationship with government agencies like the EPA and USDA, giving the chemical company unprecedented power to influence and manipulate the regulatory process.

Meanwhile, the biotech behemoth has attacked scientists’ claims that its flagship product, Roundup, causes harm to both humans and the environment, by discrediting scientists who raise concerns, coercing others into producing industry-friendly research, and manipulating corporate media into spinning a favorable narrative.

And while on the one hand clinging steadfastly to its claim that Roundup is “safe,” Monsanto strong-armed the junk food industry into joining forces against consumers who said fine, if your Roundup-sprayed GMO foods are safe, you should have no problem labeling them.

But just as the truth about DDT and Agent Orange came too late for many of its victims, so it appears to be the case for hundreds, or more likely tens of thousands of people—all over the world—who have been affected by Monsanto’s Roundup.

Here in the U.S., victims are fighting back through a wave of new lawsuits—more than 700, filed in St. Louis, Mo. (Monsanto headquarters) and Alameda, Calif.

As reported in EcoWatch, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., co-counsel in some of the lawsuits, told St. Louis Public Radio:

"We're bringing the lawsuit to address the injuries that have been caused by Roundup and glyphosate to mainly farmers and farm workers, but we think that consumers and home gardeners have also been affected." 

Monsanto is sticking to its story, that “when used according to directions,” Roundup is safe. Farmers who spray it, consumers who use it in their yards needn’t worry, the Biotech Giant says. But as lawyers and reporters sift through and pore over thousands of pages of court documents, Monsanto’s claims of safety ring more and more hollow.

As reported in Alternet:

One of the documents unsealed by Judge Vince Chhabria was an email written by William F. Heydens, a Monsanto executive, giving his colleagues the green light to ghostwrite glyphosate research and then hire academics to put their names on the papers. He even cited an instance where the company had used this method in the past. "We would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and they would just edit & sign their names so to speak," wrote Heydens.

On March 21, officials at the New York Medical College (NYMC) in Valhalla, N.Y., told the American Association for the Advancement of Science they will investigate one of their faculty members, who according to the court documents, put his name on a paper partially ghostwritten by Monsanto employees.

Good to know that at least one institution is willing to uphold the integrity of science.

Tip of the sinking iceberg?

In the coming weeks and months, reporters and lawyers will continue to sift through and analyze the mountain of new documents that include emails between Monsanto and EPA officials.

What we’ve seen so far may be just the tip of the iceberg. But after all the evidence has been analyzed and exposed, will it be enough to bring down Monsanto?

Probably not—unless the public pushes back as never before. And unless Congress does its job.

Meanwhile, people like Yolanda Mendoza, who trusted Monsanto’s word that Roundup is safe, deal with the consequences of that trust. Mendoza, diagnosed with Stage IV non-Hodgkin lymphoma, told a Houston, Texas-based TV station:

“I have nerve damage, I don't feel the tips of my fingers,” said Yolanda Mendoza. “My jaw, its still, I still can't feel it.”

In 2015, 17 scientists with the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research (IARC) on Cancer unanimously concluded in 2015 (and since reaffirmed) that Roundup is a "probable carcinogen" to humans—and that people exposed to Roundup are most likely to get non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other hematopoietic cancers.

Last month, A report by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council, stated unequivocally that the storyline perpetuated by companies like Monsanto—the one that says we need pesticides like Roundup to feed the world—is a myth. And a catastrophic one at that.

Since the EPA was established on December 2, 1970, to work for “a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people,” it has failed repeatedly to put public health above corporate profits, as documented in “Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA,” written by a 25-year veteran of the agency.

Roundup is the most widely used herbicide in the world. If anyone inside the EPA has colluded with Monsanto to bury evidence that this product—labeled “safe” and widely available today in stores like Home Depot, Walmart, TrueValue Hardware—causes cancer, Congress should investigate that collusion now.

Please ask your Congress members to investigate the truth about Monsanto and the EPA.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association.

 

Demand Congress Investigate Collusion Between Monsanto and the EPA!

Organic consumers - Mon, 2017-03-20 21:09
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoAppetite for a Change#resist and #regenerateCategory: Genetic Engineering, Health Issues, Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

The New York Times reported Tuesday (March 14) that a former high-level EPA official collaborated with Monsanto to bury the truth about Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller.

According to the Times, and other news outlets, Monsanto and the EPA official may have conducted a cover-up in order to protect Monsanto’s billion-dollar flagship product from being taken off the market.

For decades, the evidence has been mounting that Roundup causes cancer. Yet even after a panel of 17 scientists with the World Health Organization unanimously agreed that Roundup is a “probably carcinogenic,” Monsanto has refused to acknowledge the evidence. Instead, the company continues to profit from sales of a product—a product sold both commercially and in retail stores—that is linked to cancer.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress: Investigate the collusion between Monsanto and the EPA to bury the truth about Roundup. And in the meantime, ban sales of Roundup until we know the truth!Read more

EPA Official Bragged About Hiding Monsanto's Cancerous Truth

Organic consumers - Wed, 2017-03-15 20:43
Environment & Climate, Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationMarch 14, 2017https://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/50865/p/salsa/donation/common/public/?donate_page_KEY=12139 2017 Spring $115k 1000x523

While farmers and children exposed to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide were dying from non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a high-level EPA official was colluding with Monsanto behind the scenes to hide the truth.

And he actually bragged about it

We're calling on Congress to launch an official investigation into how EPA officials colluded with Monsanto. Can you help us raise $200,000 by midnight, March 31 to meet our quarterly online fundraising goal. You can donate online, by mail or by phone, details here.

According to the  New York Times, newly unsealed court documents reveal that former EPA official Jess Rowland let Monsanto ghostwriters write the toxicology reports that would form the basis for a government investigation into whether or not Roundup causes cancer.

“If I can kill this I should get a medal,” Rowland reportedly told a Monsanto executive, who shared the comment in an email.

As horrifying as this news is, even for those of us who aren't surprised, it gives consumers a little more leverage—and we intend to use it.
 
The only way we will stop Monsanto, and other corporations, from this kind of ruthless disregard for public health is to keep the pressure on—through boycotts, through relentless demands for accountability, and through the courts.

We may have lost the battle to label GMOs. But make no mistake—the years of educating consumers about the risks of GMO foods, and the poisons used to grow them, are paying off.

• Monsanto is facing more than 20 lawsuits from victims who say they, or a family member, have non-Hodgkins lymphoma because of exposure to glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup. Lawyers for the victims say Monsanto knew all along that its flagship herbicide causes cancer.

• Just this week, a California judge ruled that the state can require Monsanto to label Roundup sold in retail stores as a “possible carcinogen.”

• On April 18, judges who presided over the International Monsanto Tribunal will assemble in The Hague, Netherlands. They will tell the world what they found, after six months of poring over testimony delivered by more than 30 witnesses, including victims of Monsanto’s poisons, scientists, doctors and lawyers. The testimony was delivered during a 2-day citizens' tribunal, held in October, in The Hague. 

• OCA, along with another organization, will soon file our own lawsuit against Monsanto—details to be made public soon.

None of these developments would be possible without people like you, who have fought tirelessly and relentlessly to expose Monsanto’s lies. Please help us raise $200,000 by midnight, March 31 to keep up the pressure on Monsanto. You can donate online, by mail or by phone, details here.

Last week, a new United Nations report estimated that pesticides kill at least 200,000 people a year.

But as this latest news about Monsanto’s back-room deals to hide the truth proves, chemical companies simply don’t care.

As the Trump administration rolls out plans to gut environmental regulations, including the already weak regulation of pesticides like glyphosate, we must work harder than ever to expose the lies and the risks.

We can’t do it without you. And every donation, no matter how small, adds up. Thank you!
          
In Solidarity,

Ronnie Cummins
International Director


P.S. More than 80 percent of our support comes from individual donors like yourself. Donations of $5 and $10 really add up! You can donate online, by phone or by mail, details here. Thank you!

 

 

Monsanto Isn’t Feeding the World—It’s Killing Our Children

Organic consumers - Thu, 2017-03-09 15:23
March 9, 2017Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulEnvironment & Climate, Genetic Engineering, Health Issues tractor farm crops spray cc 1000x523.jpg

“How could we have ever believed that it is a good idea to grow our food with poisons?” – Dr. Jane Goodall

Two new reports published in recent weeks add to the already large and convincing body of evidence, accumulated over more than half a century, that agricultural pesticides and other toxic chemicals are poisoning us.

Both reports issue scathing indictments of U.S. and global regulatory systems that collude with chemical companies to hide the truth from the public, while they fill their coffers with ill-gotten profits.

According to the World Health Organization, whose report focused on a range of environmental risks, the cost of a polluted environment adds up to the deaths of 1.7 million children every year.

A report by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council, focused more narrowly on agricultural chemicals. The UN report states unequivocally that the storyline perpetuated by companies like Monsanto—the one that says we need pesticides to feed the world—is a myth. And a catastrophic one at that.

The fact that both these reports made headlines, in mainstream outlets like the Washington Post and the Guardian, is on one hand, good news. On the other, it's a sad and discouraging commentary on our inability to control corporate greed.

Ever since Rachel Carson, in her book “Silent Spring,” so eloquently outlined the insanity of poisoning our environment, rational thinkers have warned that at the least, we ought to follow the precautionary principle when it comes to allowing the widespread use of poisons to be unleashed into the environment.

And yet, here we are, in 2017, facing the prospect, in what is unfolding as the most corporate-friendly administration in history, of dismantling what little remains of the government’s ability to stop the rampant poisoning of our soils, food, water and air—the very resources upon which all life depends.

In his book, “Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA,” published in 2014, E. G. Vallianatos, who worked for the EPA for 25 years, wrote:

"It is simply not possible to understand why the EPA behaves the way it does without appreciating the enormous power of American’s industrial farmers and their allies in the chemical pesticide industries, which currently do about $40 billion per in year business. For decades, industry lobbyists have preached the gospel of unregulated capitalism, and Americans have bought it. Today, it seems the entire government is at the service of the private interests of America’s corporate class.”

That was three years ago. And yet, as public opinion shifts toward condemnation of the widespread use of toxic chemicals on our food, here in the U.S., government officials entrusted with public health and safety appear more determined than ever to uphold the “rights” of corporations to poison everything in sight—including our children.

‘UN experts denounce 'myth' pesticides are necessary to feed the world’

The headline in the Guardian’s story on the report delivered this week to the UN Human Rights Council said it all.

From the Guardian:

A new report, being presented to the UN human rights council on Wednesday, is severely critical of the global corporations that manufacture pesticides, accusing them of the “systematic denial of harms”, “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics” and heavy lobbying of governments which has “obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions.”

The report says pesticides have “catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole”, including an estimated 200,000 deaths a year from acute poisoning. Its authors said: “It is time to create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production.”

The UN report was authored by Hilal Elver, special rapporteur on the right to food, and Baskut Tuncak, special rapporteur on toxics. The report stated that chronic exposure to pesticides has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, hormone disruption, developmental disorders and sterility. It said the populations most at risk are farmers and agricultural workers, communities living near plantations, indigenous communities and pregnant women and children, who are especially vulnerable to pesticide exposure and require special protections.

The Crop Protection Association, a lobbying group representing the $50-billion agri-chemical industry, fired back at the report with its standard false claim that pesticides “play a key role in ensuring we have access to a healthy, safe, affordable and reliable food supply.” But Elver told the Guardian:

“It is a myth. Using more pesticides is nothing to do with getting rid of hunger. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), we are able to feed 9 billion people today. Production is definitely increasing, but the problem is poverty, inequality and distribution.”

Sustainable Pulse also reported on the story, noting that the report warns that some pesticides can persist in the environment for decades:

The excessive use of pesticides contaminates soil and water sources, causing loss of biodiversity, destroying the natural enemies of pests, and reducing the nutritional value of food. The impact of such overuse also imposes staggering costs on national economies around the world.

The UN report, which mentioned (page 15, no 68) the efforts of the Monsanto Tribunal to raise global awareness about the dangers of pesticides, included a long list of recommendations for moving away from chemical-based agriculture.  At the top of the list was a call out to the international community to work on a comprehensive, binding treaty to regulate hazardous pesticides throughout their life cycle, taking into account human rights principles. Such a treaty should:

•    Aim to remove existing double standards among countries that are particularly detrimental to countries with weaker regulatory systems

•    Generate policies to reduce pesticide use worldwide and develop a framework for the banning and phasing-out of highly hazardous pesticides

•    Promote agroecology

•    Place strict liability on pesticide producers.

‘Exposure to pollution kills millions of children, WHO reports find’

In a March 5 story, the Washington Post reported on two World Health Organization (WHO) reports how exposure to polluted environments is linked to more than one in four deaths among children under the age of five.

Worldwide, 1.7 million children's deaths are attributable to environmental hazards, such as exposure to contaminated water, indoor and outdoor pollution, and other unsanitary conditions, the reports found.

Weaker immune systems make children's health more vulnerable to harmful effects of polluted environments, the report says.

According to the WHO reports, which focused on a wide range of chemicals, including those found in food, electronics, contaminated water supplies, second-hand tobacco smoke, and others, one-fourth of all children’s deaths and diseases in 2012 could have been prevented by reducing environmental risks. From the WHO press release:  

Children are also exposed to harmful chemicals through food, water, air and products around them. Chemicals, such as fluoride, lead and mercury pesticides, persistent organic pollutants, and others in manufactured goods, eventually find their way into the food chain. And, while leaded petrol has been phased out almost entirely in all countries, lead is still widespread in paints, affecting brain development.

Authors of the WHO report recommended:

•    Housing: Ensure clean fuel for heating and cooking, no mould or pests, and remove unsafe building materials and lead paint.
•    Schools: Provide safe sanitation and hygiene, free of noise, pollution, and promote good nutrition.
•    Health facilities: Ensure safe water, sanitation and hygiene, and reliable electricity.
•    Urban planning: Create more green spaces, safe walking and cycling paths.
•    Transport: Reduce emissions and increase public transport.
•    Agriculture: Reduce the use of hazardous pesticides and no child labour.
•    Industry: Manage hazardous waste and reduce the use of harmful chemicals.
•    Health sector: Monitor health outcomes and educate about environmental health effects and prevention.

What will it take?

If you find yourself unsurprised by the findings of these reports, or the recommendations that follow, it’s no wonder. Many organizations, including ours, have for decades been calling for reforms.

But we can’t let our lack of surprise translate into complacency. In an op-ed published this week in The Hill, Devra Lee Davis, president of the Environmental Health Trust, and author of “The Secret History of the War on Cancer,” draws the parallel between our failure to regulate the tobacco industry with our failure to regulate the chemicals that today are largely responsible for two sad statistics: 1) one in two of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetimes; and 2) the rate of childhood cancer has increased by 50 percent since President Nixon declared a war on cancer, 40 years ago. 

Davis, who says we’re fixated on “the wrong enemies, with the wrong weapons,” says we should ask ourselves this:

Why did we wait until nearly forty years after tobacco was understood to cause cancer and other diseases before mounting a major effort to curtail its production and use? What took us so long to reduce the amount of benzene in gasoline or toxic flame retardants in our waters, food, furniture, bedding, fabrics and breastmilk?

Unfortunately, we know why—corporate control of our regulatory system. Perhaps the better question is, having failed to rein in Congress’ loyalty to a handful of ruthless, emboldened corporations, can we elect new people, at every level of our government, who will work for us? More critically, can we do it in time to save ourselves?

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association. 

Food and Farming in 50 Years

Organic consumers - Mon, 2017-03-06 18:34
March 6, 2017Organic Consumers AssociationAlexis Baden-MayerAll About Organics, Environment & Climate soil hands 100x523

Testimony given by OCA political director, Alexis Baden-Mayer, at the Visioning of U.S. Agriculture Systems for Sustainable Production Listening Session held by the USDA on March 2.

There are three interrelated challenges facing agriculture over the next 50 years.

The first is soil loss.

In the United States, soil is swept and washed away 10 times faster than it is replenished. That costs $37.6 billion every year. Globally, all of the world's topsoil could be gone within 60 years.

The second challenge is diet-related disease.

About half of all American adults have one or more preventable chronic diseases related to diet. Diet is now the number-one risk factor for disease. More than two-thirds of adults and nearly one-third of children are overweight or obese. This costs $190 billion a year. Obesity is the new malnutrition. Globally, a growing number of people have plenty to eat and yet remain malnourished.

The third challenge is climate change.

Floods, droughts, wildfires and extreme or unseasonable temperatures cause crop and livestock losses. In 2011, exposure to high temperature events caused over $1 billion in losses to U.S. agricultural producers.

Phasing out greenhouse gas emissions is important, but it won’t reverse climate change. Until we remove enough CO2 from the atmosphere to get back down below the dangerous tipping point of 350 ppm, the impacts of climate change will persist.

Luckily, there’s an inexpensive and easy-to-use technology for reliable carbon dioxide removal and sequestration. Soil.

Agricultural activities have removed roughly 660 GtCO2 from terrestrial ecosystems. The good news is we can put it back.

Shifting to agricultural practices that can draw that carbon back down to the soil would:

• Reduce atmospheric CO2 by 40-70 ppm by 2100,

• Build soil instead of losing it, and

• Improve resilience to drought and floods, while

• Producing more food that’s more nutritious, and

• Generating higher farm incomes from increased production of nutrient-dense food.

We need more research on the microbial communities in the soil that generate carbon storage. Plants give the carbon they get from photosynthesis to soil microorganisms in exchange for water and nutrients. It works best when there are lots of different plants exchanging lots of different nutrients with lots of different microbes. The greater the plant biodiversity, the more carbon gets stored. The best way to reverse soil loss and sequester carbon is to continuously cover soil with a diverse array of living plants.

Scientists are currently documenting microbial soil carbon sequestration using carbon-13 isotope pulse labeling. Using this method, they can track the carbon flows from plants to and through soil microorganisms and identify the plants and the microorganisms that store the most carbon.

Fence line comparisons have demonstrated greater resilience to droughts and floods in carbon rich soils. Now, scientists can measure water flows through soil in three dimensions and accurately document soils’ water infiltration and holding capacity.

Grazing and pasture-raised animals can be managed to increase plant biodiversity and microbial activity. Well-managed pastures can sequester even more soil carbon than cropping systems. But we need a deeper understanding of how methanotrophs in the soil utilize methane emitted from grazing animals.

Finally we need an assessment of the socio-economic impediments to, and opportunities for, realizing the full potential for soil carbon sequestration.

If increasing soil carbon can help produce more food than you ever thought possible on less land than you can imagine, as John Jeavons would say, then why don’t more farmers do it?

If increasing soil carbon produces food that is flavorful, aromatic, and so healthy and nutritious that it could cost-effectively reverse diet-related diseases, why aren’t more consumers demanding it?

ACT BY MIDNIGHT MARCH 9: Tell the USDA What You want Food & Farming to Look Like in 50 Years

Organic consumers - Mon, 2017-03-06 11:01
Belong to campaign: USDA WatchSafeguard Organic StandardsCategory: Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) wants to know what your vision is for the U.S. food and farming system over the next 50 years.

On March 2, the Organic Consumers Association presented testimony at the USDA’s “listening session” on the “Visioning of U.S. Agriculture Systems for Sustainable Production.” Now it’s your turn—the USDA has asked for public comments on what a “sustainable” food and farming system should look like.Read more

Tell Attorney General Sessions: Protect U.S. Farmers and Consumers. Say ‘NO’ to Big Biotech Mergers!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2017-03-02 15:11
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

In an August 16, 2016, memo, then-candidate Donald Trump’s agricultural advisory committee promised to “strengthen our nation’s agricultural industry as well as provide support to our rural communities.”

Yet, just recently newly elected President Trump signaled a thumbs up for the proposed mergers of two of the largest (and worst) agrochemical companies in the world—Monsanto and Bayer.

If the U.S. Department of Justice approves the Monsanto-Bayer merger, and also approves mergers between Dow Chemical and DuPont, and Syngenta and ChemChina, U.S. farmers, consumers and rural communities will suffer devastating consequences.

Tell Attorney General Sessions: Protect U.S. Farmers and Consumers. Say ‘NO’ to Big Biotech Mergers!Read more

#ConsumerRevolution Pledge

Organic consumers - Wed, 2017-02-22 21:51
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoSafeguard Organic StandardsCare What You Wear!Protest StarbucksCook Organic Not the PlanetGrass-fed Dairy#resist and #regenerateCategory: Environment & Climate, Fair Trade & Social Justice, Farm Issues, Food Safety, Genetic Engineering, Health IssuesArea: USA

Consumers have wised up to the evils of GMO foods. But Monsanto’s GMOs aren’t just in our foods. Only about 20 percent of all GMO crops in the U.S. are used to make (junk) food for humans—the other 80 percent go into animal feed, ethanol and cotton. Globally, the overwhelming majority of all cotton, much of it used to make cheap clothes, is GMO.

By exercising our collective purchasing power, and using the power of boycotts, consumers can force corporations to transition from degenerative production methods that harm human health, degrade soils, pollute the environment, abuse animals, shift profits from small farmers to large corporations, destroy biodiversity, exploit “cheap labor” and promote global warming . . . to regenerative production methods that improve human health, restore soil health, respect the environment, treat animals humanely, reward responsible farmers, promote biodiversity, treat/pay food and clothing workers fairly; and combat global warming.

Want to be part of the #ConsumerRevolution? Sign the pledge! Read more

Tell These Grocery Stores: No GMO Apples, Please!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2017-02-14 21:10
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCook Organic Not the PlanetCategory: All About Organics, Genetic EngineeringArea: USA

This week, the GMO Arctic Apple is headed to grocery stores for a trial run. They’re being tested in the Midwest—if you’re a Midwesterner, please read this!

Who stands to benefit from the GMO apple? Not consumers like you. Definitely not apple growers, who have been opposing this apple all along. The only benefits will go to Intrexon, the synthetic biology company that owns the GMO salmon, the GMO mosquito and the GMO apple.

You can still disrupt the market for these apples and keep them off our plates and out of our environment. But we need you to act now during this trial run in grocery stores.Read more

Philpott Is Right: Trump’s ‘Dark Forces’ Are Coming for Your Organic Food

Organic consumers - Tue, 2017-02-14 20:23
All About Organics, Politics & GlobalizationRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationFebruary 14, 2017 Smoke Man 1000x523

Over the past three decades, organic food, farming, and products in the U.S. have grown into a $50-billion-a-year powerhouse, representing more than 5 percent of all retail grocery sales. This growth has been achieved with little or no help from the White House, Congress or the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and that’s been true no matter which party, Democrat or Republican, has been in power.

At current rates of growth the majority of food sales in the U.S. will be organic or 100% grass-fed within three decades. Unfortunately these current levels of growth for organic, no matter how impressive they seem, will not be enough to prevent the current (food- and farm-related) public health, environmental and climate crises from metastasizing into a full-blown catastrophe within 25 years or less. That’s why my organization, the Organic Consumers Association is organizing for what we call a Consumer and Political Revolution 2017-2020.

Although the majority of consumers—no matter whether they voted for Hillary (65 million), Trump (62 million), or stayed home and didn’t vote (92 million)—tell pollsters that they know that organic food is superior to chemical/GMO food, in terms of nutrition and environmental impact, and that they believe that pesticides, synthetic hormones, antibiotic residues and GMOs are dangerous, Congress keeps subsidizing industrial agriculture, factory farms, processed food and GMO corn-derived ethanol to the tune of billions of dollars a year. At the same time, lawmakers show little or no support for organic or transition-to-organic farmers or programs.

100% grass-fed beef and dairy products are now the fastest growing segment of grocery store sales. Yet most grass-fed beef and cheese is imported from overseas (Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay) for the most part because here in the U.S., the USDA subsidizes factory-farm meat and animal products, rather than helping U.S. ranchers, farmers and processors move toward grass-fed, pasture-based, and regenerative production.

The Obama Administration behaved very much like the Bush Administration before it, providing little or no support for organic farming while touting the supposed benefits of GMOs, hi-tech agriculture, ethanol and agribusiness-friendly free trade agreements. Despite promises made in 2007 on the campaign trail that his administration would require mandatory labels on GMOs, Obama did nothing. In 2016, when Congress (including a number of recent Trump cabinet appointees) rammed through the controversial Roberts/Stabenow/Pompeo Dark Act, taking away the rights of states to require mandatory GMO labeling, Obama remained silent—instead of using his veto power.

Read more on Ronnie's Blog

Let’s get organized! Join a call with Ronnie Cummins, OCA’s international director.

Organic consumers - Mon, 2017-02-13 18:49
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoSafeguard Organic StandardsCook Organic Not the PlanetCategory: Environment & Climate, Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

Our health, our environment, our basic right to know—everything is under attack.

How do we unite the people working in our own communities on food, natural health, social justice and climate issues into a more powerful movement that can put an end to corporate crime and political corruption in the marketplace and in the political realm, while regenerating our health, our economy, our local communities and our democracy?

Sign up to join Ronnie and the Organic Consumers Association for this important call about how to launch both a #ConsumerRevolution and a #PoliticalRevolution.Read more

Regenerating Public Health: Beyond Obama and Trump

Organic consumers - Mon, 2017-02-13 17:51
Environment & Climate, Health IssuesRonnie CumminsOrganic Consumers AssociationFebruary 5, 2017 Money 1000x523

As evidenced by the 2016 primary and general elections, Americans–Democrats, Republicans, Greens, and Independents–want real change, radical change, not just “business as usual.” That’s why Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) nearly won the Democratic Party nomination in 2016 with his call for a “Revolution,” including Medicare for All, reining in Wall Street, higher taxes on corporate profits, an end to wars in the Middle East, and free tuition for students at public colleges. Polls consistently indicated that had Sanders survived the dirty tricks of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, and actually won the Democratic Party nomination, he could have defeated Trump by a significant margin.

On the Republican side of the partisan divide, 63 million (mainly white),bitterly dissatisfied Americans cast their votes against Hillary Clinton and for Donald Trump, a self-proclaimed revolutionary, who promised to “Make America Great Again,” by reducing taxes, and by raising the living standards of everyday Americans. Trump’s platform included putting an end to Obamacare and providing a more effective and affordable system of healthcare by devolving power to the states.

Since his inauguration, Trump and his minions have unfortunately declared war on the majority of Americans with a divisive, indeed alarming, series of sexist, racist, authoritarian and homophobic policy pronouncements and executive orders. After declaring he would “drain the swamp” of lobbyists and special interests, Trump has instead hypocritically put forth the nominations of corporate millionaires, billionaires, Wall Street insiders, militarists and climate deniers to his Cabinet, along with an anti-abortion extremist to the Supreme Court, and has enacted a series of executive decrees on immigration, environmental pollution, and pipelines that have brought millions of protesters out into the streets.

According to the well-respected Institute on Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP),

“Trump has issued instructions to effectively gag government scientists, thus threatening continuity and public accountability in research, and is preparing to gut regulations across multiple sectors that were designed in the public interest. He is building a cabinet of powerful millionaires and billionaires, some of whom oppose the very purpose that their agencies are mandated to serve. He is perpetuating the idea that recognition of climate change is subject to a belief system rather than to scientific evidence. He is attempting to reverse the social-, economic- and environmental-achievement and promise of renewable energy. –IATP newsletter Feb. 4, 2017.

One of the most pressing crises we face, a major topic in the 2016 elections, is our rapidly deteriorating public health and healthcare system. See the linked article and video at the end of this article. Unfortunately, neither Establishment Democrats (Clinton et al) nor Republicans (Trump) appear ready to “bite the hand that feeds them” (Big Pharma, the American Medical Association, insurance companies, junk food conglomerates, corporate agribusiness, chemical polluters) and offer a real solution, in terms of effective and affordable healthcare and public policy that address the underlying causes of rampant disease and sickness, not just the symptoms.

The root causes of the world’s most expensive and ineffective system of healthcare—the U.S. healthcare system—are not only medical errors (failing to focus on prevention and nutrition for example) and malpractice (the third leading cause of death in America), but also the self-destructive lifestyle choices or addictions (junk food, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and lack of exercise) of the majority of the population. The everyday behavior of consumers in our Fast Food nation, compounded by the routine “profit-at-any-cost” contamination of our environment, have not only degenerated public health, but have also raised healthcare costs ($3.3 trillion per year and rising) to the point where they are threatening to bankrupt our entire economic system.

Let's Talk

Organic consumers - Mon, 2017-02-13 15:30
February 13, 2017Organic Consumers AssociationEnvironment & Climate, Health Issues, Politics & Globalization Girls on phones 1000x523

UPDATE: Click here to listen to OCA's national organizing call with director Ronnie Cummins!

Our health, our environment, our basic right to know—everything is under attack. We need everyone on deck.

How do we unite the people working in our own communities on food, natural health, social justice and climate issues into one powerful movement to end corporate and political corruption at the local, state and federal levels?

Join Ronnie and the Organic Consumers Association for a national call about how to launch both a #ConsumerRevolution and a #PoliticalRevolution

Everyone is feeling it right now—the compulsion to get involved, to do something positive to protect our health and our environment. Can we regenerate our food and farming system? Can we regenerate our health? Our local economies? Even our democracy?

We think the answer is yes. But only if we give up single-issue organizing and start working together, from the grassroots up.

What do you think? We want to hear from you.

TAKE ACTION: RSVP for the call-to-action with OCA's Ronnie Cummins on Thursday, Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. Eastern/ 5 p.m. Pacific!