Consumer Power

On World Food Day: Let's Boycott and Ban Factory Farms

Organic consumers - Fri, 2019-10-18 18:10
October 18, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulEnvironment & Climate poultryfarm1200x630.jpg

Welcome back to “The Jungle.” That’s how writer Kim Kelly ends the article she penned recently for The New Republic.

“The Jungle” refers to Upton Sinclair’s exposé-disguised-as novel, published in 1906, which revealed the atrocious conditions—for humans and animals—in U.S. slaughterhouses

The book ultimately led to federal regulations (within four months of the novel’s publication) which forced the owners of meatpacking plants to improve the dangerous and disgusting working conditions endured by those unfortunate enough to work in the animal slaughter business.

“Welcome back” refers to the Trump administration’s success in turning back the clock, making conditions worse—for workers in corporate-owned slaughterhouses and for consumers who eat the meat processed there.

Kelly’s article is one of two hot-off-the-presses news stories that shine a light on the darkest of industries—industrial meat production—and reveal how our federal regulatory agencies continue to enable industrial meat producers to thrive in what Pulitzer Prize-winning Chris Hedges recently referred to as the “Age of Radical Evil.”

October 16 was World Food Day. So we thought it fitting to remind consumers why it’s critical to boycott industrially produced meat, and why we should never give up the battle to end factory farming, once and for all.

USDA: worker and consumer safety an ‘unnecessary obstacle’

The article in the New Republic takes aim at the decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow pork processing plants to increase their line speeds—a move that almost guarantees that the already-dangerous job of working in a slaughterhouse will become even more dangerous.

That’s bad enough. But the new regulations, set to take effect in December, also cut—by 40 percent—the number of government inspectors at pork plants.

So who will inspect the meat? To make sure it’s safe for consumers? Processing plant employees. Who oh-by-the-way have no training in food safety.

The Guardian also reported on the new line speed regulations, citing a statement by the USDA that setting limits on line speeds was an “unnecessary regulatory obstacle to industry innovation.”

In other words, corporate profits outweigh the need to protect workers and consumers.

An investigation by the Guardian and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism last year found U.S. meat workers are already three times more likely to suffer serious harm than the average American worker.

Pork and beef workers were nearly seven times more likely to suffer repetitive strain injuries.

The investigators said that amputations, fractured fingers, second-degree burns and head trauma are “some of the serious injuries suffered by U.S. meat plant workers every week.”

Ted Genoways, author of “The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food,” told the Guardian this week:

“By allowing companies to run their production lines as fast as possible, the USDA is giving the green light to dramatically expanding the volume of meat production within an already strained system. In their own study group, this increased animal abuse, environmental violations, and work safety violations."

“And by giving yet another break to corporate interests, the USDA is also harming small farmers who are producing safer and healthier pork,” he said.

Costco 'experiment' will fail consumers, farmers and the environment

Moving on from pork to poultry . . . mainstream media this month finally picked up on a story we’ve been covering for nearly two years.

CNN reported on plans by Costco to build the largest chicken factory farm operation in the world, in Nebraska. CNN called the plan an “experiment” and the “largest-scale tests of a store's ability to become its own meat supplier, adding that “there’s no guarantee it will work.”

We can’t say if it will “work” for Costco. But we do know it won’t work for consumers who value quality meat, for Nebraskans who like to drink clean water and breathe clean air, or for anyone concerned about the growing public health crisis caused by the reckless use of antibiotics on factory farms.

And it sure won’t “work” for birds condemned to live out their short lives in filthy, stressful conditions with no chance of ever spending a day outside.

According to CNN:

The nearly 400,000 square-foot plant in Fremont will employ 950 workers. The plant will take 45 weeks to ramp up to full production. Once it's at full speed, the plant will process about 100 million chickens a year, or 40% of Costco's annual chicken needs. Costco will process around two million birds a week in Nebraska to supply to stores on the West Coast.

According to Nebraska-based GC Resolve, a grassroots community development, mobilization and education organization that opposes the Costco project, more than 21 million chickens will be housed in approximately 500 barns spread out over Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa, all upstream from the Omaha and Lincoln metro areas, creating public health concerns as litter will produce excess nutrients that will leach into Nebraska waterways.

GC Resolve has called for a boycott of Costco and a moratorium on factory farms. 

Organic Consumers has also called for a boycott, and has asked consumers throughout the country to sign this petition telling Costco that consumers don’t want more factory farms.

Nebraska Communities United, which also opposes the project, says this:

Industrial livestock production is NOT the future of Nebraska Agriculture and puts independent family farmers at risk. This extreme model of vertically integrated food production extracts wealth from rural communities, exploits farmers and workers alike, and degrades our land, air, and water. We want and are working toward a vibrant, regenerative agricultural system that produces quality food and quality employment for our communities. County zoning regulations in Nebraska are either non-existent or so weak as to provide almost no meaningful environmental, natural resource, or public health protections from the hazards posed by CAFOs. 

Read this full list of concerns about the Costco project. For more on how vertical integration of the poultry industry exploits farmers, consumers and animals, and pollutes the environment, read  “The Meat Racket,” by Christopher Leonard.

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

Ancestral Diet Can Prevent Macular Degeneration

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-10-16 17:00
Health IssuesDr. Joseph MercolaMercolaJuly 14, 2019https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2019/07/14/meal-plan-to-prevent-macular-degeneration.aspx paleoplate1200x630.jpg

Dr. Chris Knobbe, an ophthalmologist, has written an excellent book — “Ancestral Dietary Strategy to Prevent and Treat Macular Degeneration” — which, like the title suggests, tells you how to address the most common cause of legal blindness in the United States.

One of his heroes is Weston A. Price, the dentist who wrote the classic book “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.” I did not know this when I read Knobbe’s book, but it is very clear to me that Knobbe is the 21st century equivalent of Dr. Price.

The difference is that Price focused on the teeth and general physical degenerative diseases, like arthritis and cancer, whereas Knobbe is concentrated on his specialty, the eyes. But their findings are nearly identical: Industrially processed food is the root of most chronic disease. The first chapter is available free of charge on cureamd.org, where you can also order the book. Knobbe says,

“Ultimately … the next step I want to do is to … physically go out into the world and evaluate … the few niches around the world that are still consuming ancestral diets and analyze their macular degeneration,” he says.

Still, without venturing into foreign lands, Knobbe has amassed a wealth of knowledge by sifting through the published research, and what he’s found is shocking. Physicians are taught that macular degeneration is an inevitable consequence of aging and genetics, primarily, and has always existed. This, it turns out, is an absolute untruth.

Westernized diets are synonymous with chronic disease

As for so many others, Knobbe’s interest in diet and nutrition grew out of a personal experience. He’d suffered with arthritis for 15 years when he heard of the paleo diet, and within 10 days of switching saw significant improvement in his symptoms.

“In a nutshell, in about eight or 10 days, my arthritis was 80% better. This was so incredibly shocking to me after suffering for 15 years that I really wanted to know all I could know about nutrition. It just changed my life. I started investigating then.

This was in 2011. For the next couple of years, I investigated nutrition as much as I could. I learned so much but I was lost, until I came across the research of Weston Price …

Price was a highly-accomplished scientist, researcher and dentist who, in the 1930s, spent the better part of that decade evaluating people all around the world … as they transitioned from native, traditional diets to westernized diets …

He defined [the western diet] as refined white flour, sugars, canned goods, sweets, confectionery and vegetable oils. What Price found was that as people transitioned to those foods, they began to develop all of these diseases of civilization …

The take-home point here is that native, traditional foods contained 10 times as many fat-soluble vitamins, which are vitamins A, D and K2, four times as many water-soluble vitamins, which are all the B vitamins and C … and one and a half to 60 times more minerals than did the American diets of his day …

I’ve simplified it down to refined white flour, sugars, polyunsaturated vegetable oils and trans fats. When we consume these foods, we develop … chronic non-communicable disease. This includes heart disease, cancers, stroke, [high blood pressure], Type 2 diabetes, obesity, all the autoimmune disorders and so forth.

I understood this in 2013. Later that year, it finally hit me. I asked myself, ‘Could macular degeneration be another one of these diseases?’ Might it be a disease that follows processed food consumption? That question changed the course of my life …

I left ophthalmology practice and pursued this full-time, because I felt like it was the only way that I could … do all the research, write a book and publish papers … to try to get the word out … that our research supports the hypothesis with every last detail.”

Macular degeneration is not a natural part of aging

The amount of work Knobbe has put into his book is truly extraordinary. For starters, he did a complete historical analysis of macular degeneration, reviewing ophthalmology textbooks from more than 100 years ago. As mentioned, the orthodox, conventional view taught in medical school is that macular degeneration is a disease driven by aging and genetics.

According to Knobbe, 52 gene variants — single-nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs — have been linked to macular degeneration. Smoking, obesity and lack of exercise are also thought to play a modest role. “Of course, with the hypothesis that was in my mind, I questioned that,” Knobbe says.

“I knew that if I was going to be able to draw connections between Westernized diet and macular degeneration, the first thing I needed to do is to go back and explore all the history of macular degeneration.

Honestly, I thought that I would be able to go onto PubMed or Google Scholar and I would find some excellent reviews and some papers that had covered this.

There was nothing of the sort. In early 2015, I spent three or four months doing nothing but trying to research the history of this, because I couldn’t find any kind of review that had ever been done of this.”

Here’s a quick summary of some of the history he discovered:

• Ophthalmologists were first able to view the macula, the central retina, beginning in 1851, thanks to the ophthalmoscope, invented by German physician and physicist, Hermann von Helmholtz. Within 10 years, ophthalmoscope use had spread to every continent of the world.

• In 1855, ophthalmologists started producing atlases of the retina and began taking pictures of it.

• Macular degeneration was described for the first time in 1874 by British ophthalmologist Jonathan Hutchinson.

• In 1895, German ophthalmologist Otto Haab reviewed 50,000 ophthalmic patient records, coming to the determination that macular degeneration was as rare as traumatic maculopathy and myopic maculopathy (a nearsighted kind of macular degeneration) — two exceptionally rare conditions to this day.

• 1889, Austrian ophthalmologist Ernst Fuchs — who went on to become one of the most prominent ophthalmologists in the world over the next several decades — published his first textbook.

It’s an 800-page book, and it contains but a single sentence about macular degeneration. “It was basically like a footnote, [that] this condition does exist in the elderly,” Knobbe says. The second edition, published in 1919, stated the main cause of macular degeneration was myopia.

Medical books published over the following decades, all the way up to 1940, contained little or no mention of macular degeneration. Sir Stewart Duke-Elder was the world’s most esteemed and published ophthalmologist from approximately the 1920s to 1970.

In Duke-Elder’s 1927 textbook, there was no mention of macular degeneration at all. But in his 1940 second edition textbook, macular degeneration was given 13 pages. Here, Duke-Elder referred to it as “a common cause of failure in central vision in old people.”

“In 1927, I don’t think he even knew what macular degeneration was, which was typical. By 1940, it was becoming common,” Knobbe says. “By 1975, in the U.S., we had the Framingham study. At that point, 8.8% of Americans over the age of 52 had macular degeneration and 27.9% of those over the age of 75 had macular degeneration.

If you do the math, that translates to about 4.5 million Americans affected with macular degeneration. If you look back 50 years previous to 1925, there was no more than about 50 cases of macular degeneration in all of the world’s literature.”

Now, let me just say that ophthalmologists, their first kneejerk reaction to this is, ‘Well, they weren’t looking.’ I’m telling you, they say that because they haven’t read these textbooks. If you look at these textbooks from the 19th century, these clinicians were extraordinary.

Their attention to detail makes ours look pathetic because they didn’t have magnetic resonance imaging. They didn’t have optical coherence tomography scans like we use, fundus cameras and fluorescein angiography. They didn’t have any of that. They had an ophthalmoscope and they had their eyes. They did extraordinary exams … It [was] just an extraordinarily rare disease.”

According to Knobbe, in 2020 there will be 196 million people with macular degeneration, and it’s expected to increase to 288 million by 2040. As of 2006, 3.15 million people worldwide were legally blind in both eyes due to it. “I did the math and it turns out that in this world, at least 270 people will go blind every single day due to macular degeneration,” he says.

Video of Using Diet to Treat Macular Degeneration -Interview Preview with Dr. Chris Knobbe

Get This Cancer-Causing Substance Out of Organic Meats!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-10-15 17:25
October 15, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAlexis Baden-MayerFood Safety celery-powder-in-meat_1200x630.png

When you buy certified organic processed meats (bacon, ham, salami, hot dogs, etc.) with the words “uncured” and “no nitrates” on the package, you assume you’re avoiding cancer-causing substances, right?

Not if the meat you buy also contains celery powder.

SIGN THE PETITION: Get carcinogenic nitrosamines out of organic meat by banning celery powder!

When members of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) convene in Pittsburgh this month, they’ll address several controversial issues, including this one: Should celery powder be allowed in certified organic processed meats?

Celery powder? Something so harmless couldn’t have anything to do with the carcinogens found in processed meat from factory farms, could it?

If you’ve been indulging in organic “uncured” meats with “no nitrates,” you need to know that these labels, approved by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), are misleading. To understand them, you have to look for the asterix, which will lead you to this disclaimer: “except those naturally occurring in celery powder.”

Here’s the problem: Just like synthetic nitrates, when celery powder’s naturally occurring nitrates interact with proteins in red meat, they form nitrosamines. 

Nitrosamines, no matter how they are formed, are carcinogenic even in very small amounts. Every time you eat bacon, ham or other processed meat, your gut gets a dose of nitrosamines, which damage the cells in the lining of the bowel, and can lead to cancer.

In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer confirmed that nitrosamines in processed meat cause colorectal cancer.

Other studies have linked processed meats to childhood leukemia and brain tumors, stomach cancer, breast cancer and manic episodes.

Despite all this damning evidence, an NOSB subcommittee has taken its first vote on the subject. Shockingly, the subcommittee proposes to allow celery powder to be used for another 5 years starting in 2022!

Meanwhile, non-organic brands like Naked Bacon are starting to offer truly nitrate-free processed meats—from animals raised conventionally.

If the organic movement doesn’t adapt quickly, consumers will start to link “USDA Organic” with the carcinogenic meats they’re trying to avoid.

SIGN THE PETITION: Get carcinogenic nitrosamines out of organic meat by banning celery powder!

Watch This Video Free Until Midnight October 15!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-10-10 19:14
October 10, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationOCAEnvironment & Climate seedling_plant_rain_drop_soil_1200x630.jpg

Unless we stop abusing the world’s soil, we’ve got 60 years until we run out of farmable land.

“The Need To GROW", an award-winning new film narrated by Rosario Dawson, profiles three very different solutionary heroes and their underdog struggles to save the world.

To celebrate the film’s worldwide release, our friends at Food Revolution Network are teaming up with Earth Conscious films to offer it to you for free—but for only five days.

“The Need to GROW” focuses on how regenerating soils will:

• Store more water in our environment to prevent drought and flood
• Create high-powered nutrient density in ways that can restore human health
• Protect our drinking water and oceans from harmful chemical contaminants
• And reverse climate change by storing huge amounts of carbon in the soil!

Don’t miss out! Watch the entire film, free, from Food Revolution Network and Earth Conscious films, but only until October 15

Missed the date? Watch the “Need to GROW” trailer

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

How Climate Change Is Changing the Menu—and What We Can Do About It

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-10-10 16:40
October 10, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationPat ThomasEnvironment & Climate seedling_dry_drought_soil_1200x630.jpg

What will we eat in the future?

What was once an rhetorical musing has now become the critical question of our time as scientists grapple with tricky questions about life—and larders—in a climate-changing world.

Agriculture is both a key contributor to climate change and one of the sectors most vulnerable to those changes.

That fact alone should send an urgent message that the way we farm has to change.

Instead, what we’re witnessing is a stubborn cadre of policymakers, tech companies and big agribusinesses that believe that business as usual can be maintained with a just a few tweaks to the system.

But the science is telling a different story.

Earlier this year a report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that the world’s land and water resources are being exploited at “unprecedented rates,” and that topsoil is disappearing 10-100 times faster than we can replenish it.

As climate change begins to bite and we experience floods, drought, storms and other types of extreme weather that deeply disrupt the global food supply, feeding ourselves is going to get harder.

Some of the world‘s most vulnerable places are already bearing witness to these effects. After decades of decline, world hunger and malnutrition has, since 2014, begun to climb steadily again. By 2050 the effects of climate change will be responsible for 529,000 additional and avoidable deaths.

If you ever doubted that farming and food is a climate change issue, the rapidly mounting science is begging you not to doubt it anymore. Consider the studies published just this year:

• A University of Minnesota-led study noted that, while some places may be (temporarily) better off as the climate shifts, the long-term picture is grim. The world's top 10 crops—barley, cassava, maize, oil palm, rapeseed, rice, sorghum, soybean, sugarcane and wheat—supply a combined 83 percent of all the calories produced on cropland. Climate change has already affected production of these key energy sources and some regions—notably Europe, Southern Africa and Australia—are faring far worse than others.

In the United States the study found that in eastern Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, climate change has been reducing corn yields even as it marginally boosts them to the northwest in Minnesota and North Dakota. There was a similar pattern for soybeans with reductions moving up from the south and east parts of the country, where slightly more warming has occurred than in states farther north. The changing climate is also reducing overall yields of other important crops, such as wheat and barley.

• A comprehensive synthesis of climate change impacts on the nutritional quality of our food found that, over the next 30 years, climate change and higher CO2 could significantly reduce the availability of critical nutrients, such as protein, iron and zinc by 19.5 percent, 14.4 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively.

• A Rutgers University study found that climate change may reduce the ability of soils to absorb water in many parts of the world. That could have serious implications for groundwater supplies, food production and security, stormwater runoff, biodiversity and ecosystem stability.

• The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is a panel studying the benefits of nature to humans. It reports that while there is three times more carbon in the soil than in the atmosphere, that carbon is rapidly being released by deforestation and poor farming practices. This, in turn, is fueling climate change—and compromising our attempts to feed a growing world population.

• Australian scientists at the University of Tasmania combed through United Nations data from the past half century concluding that globally, an increase in extreme weather events is largely to blame for a rise in major food “shocks.” Overall, extreme weather was responsible over half the times when crop growth ground to a halt, posing is a major threat to global food security.

Food not crops

The University of Minnesota-led study quoted above found that climate change is reducing consumable food calories by around 1 percent yearly for the top 10 global crops. This may sound small, but it actually represents some 35 trillion calories each year—enough to provide more than 50 million people with a daily diet of over 1,800 calories—the level that the UN Food and Agriculture Organization says is essential to avoid food deprivation or undernourishment.

These figures are so staggering it’s hard to wrap our heads around just what they mean for the foods our families consume every day.

Most of us understand the world in terms of food not crop yields. So apart from those top 10 staple crops—which are often incorporated as ingredients in a variety of everyday foods such as ready meals, bakery items and snacks—what other food favorites are starting to feel the climate squeeze?

 The list may surprise you. 

• Coffee: At least 60 percent of current coffee species face extinction, according to a 2019 study. Coffee trees don’t thrive in extremes of temperature. They prefer the relatively cool mountainside regions of the tropics. In countries like Brazil, warmer temperatures and more prevalent weather extremes are beginning to affect yields. Climate change is also threatening native coffee trees that grow in the wild in Ethiopia. These are a valuable source of genetic diversity, which growers need to breed new strains of the plant that can thrive as the planet heats up.

• Tea: Most of the world’s tea is grown in China and India—both large regions with diverse climates. Changes in climate influence the taste and quality of tea. But they also, according to a 2019 report in the journal Nature, affect the quantity of tea that farmers can grow.  In the rich tea-producing regions of southern China, overall rainfall is increasing and instances of heavy rain that can damage tea crops are becoming more frequent. In Assam in India, intense rains cause waterlogging and soil erosion that damages root development and reduces yield. At the other extreme, heat is also causing problems. Warmer temperatures mean insects that attack tea plants can survive winter, and reproduce in greater numbers. Plantation managers in Assam are already reporting pest management problems with their tea plants.

• Orchard fruits: For U.S. apple crops, hotter spring weather is causing an increase in diseases like fire blight (particularly problematic for organic farmers who don’t use antibiotics). Intense sunlight can cause burn marks on the skin, which often means the apples can be sold only at a reduced price for the farmer, for juicing or pulp. Japanese scientists have found that climate change is making popular apples like the Fuji less crisp and less sweet. 

Other orchard fruits like cherries, plums, pears, and apricots and peaches) benefit from exposure to temperatures below 45° F (7° C) each winter. Skip the required cold, and fruit and nut trees struggle to break dormancy and flower in the spring. This can mean a drop in both the quality and quantity of fruit that's produced.

• Avocados: This leathery looking fruit may look tough on the outside, but to reach its peak of yumminess it needs temperatures that are neither too hot nor too cold.  Avocado crops in California have already suffered from heat waves and drought. One study estimates that climate change will cut California avocado production in half by 2050.  Mexico, which provides the U.S. with 80 percent of its avocados, is currently caught in a vicious downward spiral. Climate change is affecting its crops, but farmers are under pressure to grow more to keep up with increasing demand. Expanding their cropland through deforestation is contributing to the climate changes that are already threatening them.

• Bananas: As with other crops some countries—including Ecuador, Honduras, and a number of African countries—may see a temporary boost in banana crop production as global temperatures rise. But a recent report suggested that 10 countries, including the world's largest producer and consumer of bananas, India and the fourth largest producer, Brazil,will see a significant decline in crop yields.

• Chocolate: Some observers claim that climate change has pushed us to the brink of ‘peak chocolate’. Most of the world’s chocolate is grown by smallholder farmers in Africa. But changing weather and crippling poverty mean Africa’s cocoa farmers have had to switch to other crops to survive. In four decades, the amount of land available for growing cocoa has dropped 40 percent. In the next 40 years, the temperature in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, where 70 percent of cocoa is grown, is set to rise by 2°C making it too hot and dry for cocoa trees. The world will likely start feeling the shortfall by 2020 when, according to a report by the Earth Security Group, world cocoa demand is set to outstrip supply by 1m tonnes.

​​​​• Honey: Our honeybees are already under threat from Colony Collapse Disorder, and climate change is piling on the pressure. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, rising carbon dioxide levels are decreasing the protein levels in pollen. This means the bees aren't getting enough nutrition, which threatens their ability to reproduce and can cause early death.  Warmer temperatures and the earlier arrival of spring means trees and plants are flowering before bees have grown out of their larval state. This means fewer worker bees to pollenate our fruits and vegetable crops, to collect pollen for the hive and to make honey.

• Maple syrup: Unpredictable, yo-yoing weather is shortening the ‘sugaring season —the  period just before budding when the temperatures are mild enough trigger a process where the trees turn stored-up starches into sugar sap. Too-hot temperatures produce a stress reaction in the trees that causes them to put more energy into producing seeds then into producing sap—and the sap that is produced under these conditions is not as sweet. This means it can take twice as many gallons of sap to produce a gallon of syrup.

• Peanuts: When it comes to growing conditions peanut plants can be fussy. They grow best if they have up to five months of consistent warmth, combined with about 20 to 40 inches of rain. But the rain has to taper off by the harvest season or farmers can find it hard to pull the peanut pods out of the ground. Too hot, too cold or too wet and crops can fail. Peanuts of course are legumes. According to a recent study of global legume and non-staple vegetable production, if greenhouse gas emissions continue on their current trajectory, peanut yields could fall by 35 percent by 2100 due to water scarcity and increased salinity and ozone.

• Seafood: It’s not just land based harvests that will fail as climate change bites. As air temperatures rise, oceans and waterways also heat up and creatures who thrive in the cold, such as lobsters and salmon, can begin to decline. Warming seas also raise the risk of toxic marine bacteria, like vibrio, in raw seafood, like oysters or sashimi. Add these problems to that of obscene over-fishing and it might not be long before seafood is off the menu.

Meeting the challenges

Today, disruptions in the food supply chain can be found almost everywhere food is grown. The sheer scale of it is almost too much to take in, and for some it is paralyzing.

But regenerative farmers and ranchers are taking action.

They are rebuilding soil organic matter, restoring degraded soil biodiversity, improving the carbon-storage capacity of the land, diversifying their crops, planting varieties that are hardy and resilient.

Regenerative farmers and ranchers are reducing the use of energy-intensive chemical add-ons, including fertilizers and pesticides, making use of cover crops, crop rotations, compost and animal manures. They’re grazing and pasturing animals on grass and raising them in more naturalistic conditions.

Regenerative farmers and ranchers are thinking systemically. They’re moving beyond headline-grabbing techno-fixes like GMOs and synthetic biology to solutions that acknowledge the deeply interconnected nature of farming and the need to think and act systemically. 

The choices we make now will decide what we can eat in the future. If we stay on our current path, doubling down on intensive, wasteful, polluting industrial farming, we may have no choice but to accept a world where farmers don’t matter and where we survive on a grim diet of techno-burgers, ultraprocessed GMO snacks and fake foods grown in industrial vats.

But change the rules of the game and our choices begin to multiply.

It may not be possible to stop all the effects of climate change. We’ve let it go on for too long without addressing its biggest core causes: energy generation, industry and transport. But by acting on a new vision for food and farming, in line with the goals of the Green New Deal, we can begin to mitigate the worst of it and work with the rest to ensure a more stable future for everyone.

The farmers who are undertaking this task, including those who are members of the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal, are real climate heroes. We should be doing everything we can to support them.

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.

Can Organic Farming Save the World? Yes. But Only Through a Transformation in U.S. Food & Farm Policy

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-10-10 15:15
October 10, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonAll About Organics, Farm Issues organic_farmers_market_1200x630.jpg

Organic farming is a win-win for people, animals and the planet. But it’s so much more than a set of practices used to grow food. 

Organic agriculture takes a holistic approach that embraces Mother Nature—working with as opposed to against nature—to grow healthy, nutritious food while at the same time preserving earth’s natural ecosystems.

When done properly, organic farming is the way of the future. It’s a solution to some of the world’s greatest and most complex problems including climate change, food insecurity and the loss of biodiversity. It has the potential to both save us from climate catastrophe, and produce enough food to feed the world in a way that allows humans to live in harmony with nature.

A new report by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), the worldwide umbrella organization for the organic agriculture movement, shows how organic agriculture can create a better world.

The report, “Organic Agriculture and the Sustainable Development Goals,” examines the ways in which organic farming can help meet many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) proposed by the United Nations (UN) and its member states under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The agenda is a plan of action based on 17 goals aimed at addressing the main challenges facing the world in the next 15 years.

According to the report, organic agriculture can help achieve eight of those goals, including clean water, climate action, environmental conservation (more biodiversity), zero hunger, good health and wellbeing, decent work conditions and responsible consumption and production. 

The report also looks at the negative impacts of industrialized agriculture, and how organic agriculture can help offset these effects.

Life on Land

One of the SDGs mentioned in the report is Life on Land, a goal that aims to protect forests and stop land degradation. This goal is an important one. Global deforestation is occurring at an unprecedented rate. This leads to the loss of biodiversity. It also fuels global warming, as forests serve as major carbon sinks—and tearing tearing down forests releases CO2 into the atmosphere.

A recent report by the think tank Climate Focus revealed that an area of forest the size of the UK is being lost every year worldwide. Deforestation is largely driven by destructive farming practices. Take for example the Amazon fires, which were started by the clearing of land for agriculture—primarily soybean production and intensive cattle ranching.

Industrial agriculture and its extensive use of pesticides pollutes soil and water and is harmful to wildlife, including important pollinator insects, which are vital to wild plants and food crops. About 75 percent of crops used to feed humans are reliant on insect pollination.

Organic farming, on the other hand, has the opposite effect. Because it doesn’t use pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, and instead relies on a diversity of crops and beneficial insects, organic agriculture enhances biodiversity and soil organic matter. This is key as 25 percent of biodiversity is found in the soil, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).. Organic agriculture is thus an important tool in achieving the UN’s Life on Land SDG.

Fighting climate change with healthy soil

Organic agriculture is also essential in helping to meet the UN’s SDG on Climate Action.

Industrial agriculture and its chemical pesticides require vast amounts of fossil fuels. In addition to contributing to CO2 emissions, agrochemicals also degrade the soil, depriving it of the key micronutrients needed to grow healthy food and sequester carbon.

Organic agriculture is a solution to the climate action goal for two reasons. For one, it doesn’t rely on fossil fuel-intensive pesticides. Secondly, studies show that organic farms have 30 percent more plant and animal species than non-organic farms. This leads to healthier, nutrient-rich soil that can sequester vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere. This is crucial as soil contains more carbon than the atmosphere and terrestrial vegetation combined.

Can organic farming save the world?

The report goes on to show how organic agriculture can help promote clean water, solve world hunger, improve public health, spur economic growth and support sustainable production and supply chains.

Organic agriculture is a multi-faceted approach to food production that has the ability to reverse the negative environmental and social impacts of industrial agriculture.

So, can it save the world? Yes. But only through a major transformation in U.S. food and farming policy.

That means no more subsidizing chemical-dependent agriculture, GMOs or factory farming. It means supporting initiatives such as the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal, a national coalition that supports policy reforms for farmers and ranchers whose practices:

• fight climate change by reducing emissions and drawing down and sequestering carbon

• contribute to a clean environment and restore natural habitats

• provide access to locally produced, contaminant-free, nutrient-dense food

• help build and support resilient local and regional food systems and economies

• provide safe working conditions and living wages for farm workers

Are you a farmer or rancher? Or a farmer- or rancher-member organization? Would you like to see Congress pass better food and farming legislation? Legislation that supports you in your efforts to manage your land using practices that improve soil health, contribute to clean water, and produce healthy food? Sign this letter to Congress!

Not a farmer? Consumers can support a Green New Deal that radically transforms U.S. food and farming policy, too. Sign the petition here. 

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

Organic Chicken Less Likely to Harbor a Dangerous 'Superbug'

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-10-10 14:00
Food SafetySteven ReinbergMedical XpressOctober 3, 2019https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-10-chicken-harbor-dangerous-superbug.html chickens1200x630.jpg

(HealthDay)— In a finding that suggests organic is best, a new study indicates that chickens raised without antibiotics may have fewer types of antibiotic-resistant salmonella than animals raised at factory farms.

Salmonella is a common infection among poultry, so some large farms feed their chickens antibiotics to prevent the birds from getting sick, and to help them gain weight faster. But this practice can make salmonella resistant to the antibiotics usually used to treat it, the researchers said.

"Chicken and poultry meat samples that were labeled antibiotic-free or organic were half as likely to contain multidrug-resistant salmonella as conventionally raised poultry," said researcher Nkuchia M'ikanatha. He is lead epidemiologist for antimicrobial resistance response at the Pennsylvania Department of Health, in Harrisburg.

A related study found that almost one-third of meat and poultry were contaminated with antibiotic-resistant forms of the bug, M'ikanatha said.

Why It's More Urgent Than Ever to Keep Up the Pressure on Monsanto

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-10-10 07:45
October 10, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationOCA monsantopoisonsign_1200x630.jpg

Why is it especially urgent that we ramp up the campaign against Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller right now?

Because the evermore corrupt federal government and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continue to put the profits and campaign donations of chemical/GMO/pesticide companies like Monsanto ahead of the public interest.

And that poses an increasingly dangerous threat to our health, environment, climate and our children.

The EPA—especially under Trump, but also under the next administration, too—will never ban Roundup, or any of the scores of toxic chemicals threatening our lives, without massive grassroots pressure.

OCA and our allies, after 20 years of steady campaigning, have created a growing awareness and resistance against the Poison Cartel.

At the same time, the pro-organic, anti-GMO movement has created massive demand for organic and regenerative food.

But we need to push harder. We need to foment a grassroots uprising in the U.S., part of an international Millions Against Monsanto campaign.

We need to drive Roundup off the market and Monsanto/Bayer into bankruptcy.

We need to put the Poison Cartel out of business.

But we can’t do it without you.

URGENT: A generous donor has offered to match donations to our Millions Against Monsanto campaign through midnight PST, October 13. Please make your donation today, either online, by phone or by mail.

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

Tell the National Organic Program: Don’t Let 'Big Organic' Dairies Cheat Family Farmers and Consumers

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-10-09 19:03
Belong to campaign: Save Organic StandardsDump Dirty DairyCategory: All About Organics, Farm IssuesArea: USA

Got organic milk?

There are plenty of reasons to drink it.

And there are lots of organic dairies producing—with real integrity—authentic nutrient-dense organic milk, including raw milk.

Unfortunately for those organic dairies and for consumers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP) lets some very large dairies get—and keep—organic certification, even though they don’t play by the rules.

SIGN THE PETITION: Tell the National Organic Program: No more cow flipping! Finalize the Origin of Livestock Rule and close the loopholes that let Big Organic dairies cheat family farmers and consumers.Read more

'The Genie Will Not Go Easily Back into the Bottle'

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-10-08 14:28
October 8, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsGenetic Engineering monsanto_roundup_red_circle_no_1200x630.jpg

Why is it especially urgent that we ramp up the campaign against Roundup weedkiller right now?

Because the U.S. EPA is facing a deadline to decide whether to renew—or ban—glyphosate.

There are signs that the political will to keep allowing this cancer-causing chemical to poison us is faltering.

But without massive grassroots pressure, we will lose momentum.

A generous donor has offered to match donations to our Millions Against Monsanto campaign through midnight PST, October 13. Please make your donation today, either online, by phone or by mail.

Public opinion turned against Monsanto and Roundup long ago.

Now, there’s a glimmer of hope that regulators are tired of taking heat for supporting the likes of Monsanto and its parent company, Bayer.

Just this week, Bernhard Url, the head of the European Food Safety Authority, told Politico he thinks “we have to respect with humbleness if national parliaments decide to ban glyphosate.”

The movement to ban glyphosate is “now part of a political tidal wave,” Url said. “The genie will not go easily back into the bottle.”

It’s more urgent than ever that we step up the campaign against Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller. Please donate today, and your donation will be matched by one of your allies in the fight to ban glyphosate. 

The evidence against glyphosate continues to pile up.

One recent study links Monsanto’s weedkiller to an aggressive form of breast cancer. Another new study links it to heart disease.

With glyphosate sales predicted to hit $12.54 billion by 2024, Monsanto/Bayer has too much at stake to admit that Roundup causes cancer.

Bayer is facing nearly 18,000 lawsuits filed by people who say exposure to glyphosate caused their cancer. So far, Bayer has lost all three of the first Roundup cancer lawsuits to go to trial.

Monsanto lost in the court of public opinion years ago. 

Could public outrage at the dismal failure of regulators to protect the public from this toxic chemical finally force politicians and regulators to take a stand?

We wouldn’t keep fighting if we didn’t think so.

But we’re up against powerful forces. And a bottomless pit of lobbying dollars.

Still, it’s clear that the combination of an ever-growing body of scientific evidence, thousands of lawsuits and a very vocal public is making it more difficult for regulators to dismiss this movement.

We can’t stop now. We can’t let the genie retreat back into the bottle.

A generous donor has offered to match donations to our Millions Against Monsanto campaign, through midnight PST, October 13. Please make your donation today, either online, by phone or by mail.

Study: Roundup Weedkiller at Low Levels May Be Factor in Aggressive Breast Cancer

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-10-03 18:00
October 3, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationOCA roundupjugs1200x630.jpg

As if we needed more evidence of the dangers posed by Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller, this just in from GM Watch:

A newly published study adds to the ever-growing pile of evidence in support of the cancer-causing potential of the weedkiller active ingredient glyphosate. Glyphosate herbicides like Roundup are used on over 85% of genetically modified crops.

The new study shows that a very low concentration of glyphosate (in the parts per trillion range and thus environmentally relevant for everyone) can trigger breast cancer when combined with another risk factor.

The statistics are bleak: About one in eight women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. This year, 41,760 women will die from it.

Meanwhile, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency drags its feet, and Monsanto’s parent company continues to insist that glyphosate is safe, glyphosate remains the most widely used herbicide in the world—9.4 million tons of it were dumped on fields and lawns and parks in 2016 alone.

Because well, you know, corporate profits—the market for glyphosate is predicted to reach $12.54 billion by 2024.

Read 'Can Herbicides Cause Breast Cancer? Purdue and INSERM Scientists Discover a Piece to the Puzzle.'

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress to Ban Monsanto’s Roundup Weedkiller!

Make a tax-deductible donation to the Millions Against Monsanto Campaign

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

They've Been Farming for 40 Years. But the Deck Is Stacked Against Them.

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-10-03 07:00
October 3, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine Paul farming40years_1200x630.png

This week, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue threw small and mid-sized independent family farmers under the bus when he said:

“In America, the big get bigger and the small go out. I don’t think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability.”

Yet we sure as heck do have guaranteed income and guaranteed profitability for Big Ag and Big Food and Big Farms—in the form of billions of dollars in subsidies for the wealthiest farmers whose GMO monocultures degrade our soil, pollute our waterways and provide contaminated ingredients for junk food.

Who doesn’t Perdue and his U.S. Department of Agriculture want to support? Farmers like Phillip and Dorathy Barker, who farmed for 40 years in North Carolina.

In this video, Phillip Barker says:

“Forty years. We’ve been in dairy for 40 years. Not everybody wants to be big, big, big . . . We tried to sell into school systems, but we couldn’t because of the way the system is locked in.”

The “system” Barker refers to is the institutional food system dominated by three giant corporations—Aramark, Compass Group and Sodexo—which locks out independent farmers like the Barkers in favor of exclusive relationships with Big Food companies like Tyson (the No.1 water polluter in the U.S.), Cargill (recently dubbed the worst company in the world) and Coca-Cola.

And of course, whether it’s here in the states like North Carolina, or anywhere else in the world, farmers of color are the ones hit first and worst by the destructive business practices of Big Ag and Big Food.

Watch the Real Meals Campaign video

Read ‘Real Meals, Not Dirty Deals: A National Coalition Calls for Food Justice’

TAKE ACTION: Join the Real Meals Campaign

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

Could We Recycle Plastics Into Roads?

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-10-02 20:30
Environment & ClimateDr. Joseph MercolaMercola.comOctober 2, 2019https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2019/10/02/could-we-recycle-plastics-into-roads.aspx plastic water bottles cc 1200x630.jpg

Readers of this newsletter know that plastic pollution is an urgent crisis. But, as if the 299 million tons of plastics the world produces a year were not enough, the situation is actually getting worse. China had imported 40 percent of America’s plastic waste, as well as other recyclables, for the last 30 years, but abruptly banned the imports in 2017.1

This has had dire consequences and the market for recyclables has all but collapsed, leaving cities that depended on exporting to China with no buyers.

The same cities that used to earn a profit from selling their recyclable plastics and waste now must pay to have it hauled away and worse: Some are now burning their plastic waste. Incinerating plastic is, of course, a major source of air pollution, including carbon and greenhouses gasses, and no solution to plastic pollution.2 Los Angeles County has incinerated about 20,000 tons of plastic in since 2018!3

Also, those ubiquitous single-use plastic bags that so many stores refuse to discontinue are too thin to recycle along with harder plastics because they get caught in the processing machinery.4 That means they need to go to a special drop-off location for disposal — but how many people make that extra effort? The presence of single-use plastic bags all over the environment is our answer. Clearly, we need some new recycling ideas and, luckily, there are some.

Could We Recycle Plastics Into Roads?

Modifying asphalt with added plastic asphalt polymers is not a new idea. Such roads, made from virgin polymers and sometimes ground tires, have been used for decades to make high-traffic truck roads, reduce noise reduction and prevent roads from cracking from weather extremes, especially in Western countries.5

But plastic roads made with discarded, low-grade polymer are a relatively new idea that is gaining traction. It’s an idea that not only avoids creating new, virgin plastic, but reduces existing plastic waste.

In fact, every kilometer of road made with low-grade, discarded plastic uses 1 million plastic bags, saves 1 ton of asphalt and costs 8 percent less than conventional roads.6 Asphalt production is polluting, emitting 96 million tons of CO2 in the U.S. alone.7 Here is how the plastic road movement got started in India, according to the Guardian.8

Dr R Vasudevan, a chemistry professor and dean at the Thiagarajar College of Engineering in Madurai, came up with the idea through trial and error, sprinkling shredded plastic waste over hot gravel and coating the stones in a thin film of plastic. He then added the plastic-coated stones to molten tar, or asphalt. Plastic and tar bond well together because both are petroleum products.

A modified version of the road which adds road scrap to plastic-coated gravel was tested out in March this year on a highway connecting Chennai with Villupuram. It was the first time plastic road technology was used for a national highway. It is expected to reduce construction costs by 50%.

An Early Plastic Road in India Passes the Stress Test

Jambulingam Street was one of India’s first plastic roads. Built 17 years ago, it proved to be surprisingly durable and has won favorable reviews from all segments of society. According to The Guardian:9

The tar road in the bustling Nungambakkam area has weathered a major flood, several monsoons, recurring heat waves and a steady stream of cars, trucks and auto rickshaws without showing the usual signs of wear and tear.

Built in 2002, it has not developed the mosaic of cracks, potholes or craters that typically make their appearance after it rains. Holding the road together is an unremarkable material: a cheap, polymer glue made from shredded waste plastic.

Soon, the idea of plastic roads spread to neighboring countries like Bhutan, and the roads were given good reviews by the authorities:

"The plastic tar roads have not developed any potholes, rutting, raveling or edge flaw, even though these roads are more than four years of age," observed an early performance report by India’s Central Pollution Control Board. Today, there are more than 21,000 miles of plastic road in India, and roughly half are in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Most are rural roads, but a small number have also been built in cities such as Chennai and Mumbai.

Consumers Force Lobbying Group for Big Food Brands to 'Re-Brand' Itself

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-10-02 18:50
October 2, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulAll About Organics potato_chips_junk_food_store_shelf_1200x630.jpg

Think consumers don’t have much power? Think again. 

It may have taken a few years, but consumers can take the lion’s share of credit for bringing down Big Food’s $2-billion lobbying group.

Back in the day before Congress killed consumers’ right to know about GMOs, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) spent millions of dollars in California to defeat a citizen ballot initiative in 2012 that would have required labels on GMO foods.

That made the GMA and its members—including organic and natural brands owned by Big Food corporations—favorite targets of pro-labeling consumers. 

Brands weren’t too happy about that. So when a similar initiative came on the ballot in Washington, the GMA tried to protect Big Brands by illegally laundering donations to the anti-labeling campaign.

From then on, it was all downhill for Monsanto’s Evil Twin.  

The state of Washington swooped in and sued the GMA. In a statement, then-Attorney General Bob Ferguson said:

"Truly fair elections demand all sides follow the rules by disclosing who their donors are and how much they are spending to advocate their views."

True to form, the GMA fought the lawsuit—and is still fighting it. 

Capital Press reported last week that the GMA is asking the Washington Supreme Court to overturn the record fine the trade group was ordered to pay.

The GMA’s attack on consumers’ right to know inflicted so much damage on member brands, that one by one, brands left the trade group—and took their membership dues with them.

Between the lawsuit and the membership mass exodus, the GMA found itself struggling. What to do?

Rebrand itself, of course. The group recently announced that it will now call itself the Consumer Brands Association.

The GMA was once a $2-billion lobbying powerhouse. Consumer pressure led the organization to launder donations in order to relieve that pressure . . . which led to a lawsuit that tainted the group’s own “brand” . . . and which ultimately led the consumer brands that funded the GMA to jump ship.

Will changing its name to the Consumer Brands Association be enough to erase its sordid, anti-consumer past?

Time will tell.

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

How Media Watchdogs Became Industry Lapdogs

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-10-02 08:45
Environment & Climate, Food SafetyDr. Joseph MercolaMercola.comOctober 2, 2019https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2019/10/02/how-media-watchdogs-became-industry-lapdogs.aspx media news cc 1200x630.jpg

The press plays an enormously important role in our society. It informs us about important events and reveals problems we might not have been aware of before. At least that's the theory. Sadly, while the free press of the past indeed served the role of watchdog and independent informer, the press we have today is far from free and unbiased.

In fact, it's hard to look at today's press corps as champions for the free-flow of information. Most reporters simply aren't, anymore. They do shape society, though — just not in the way you might think. Evidence reveals a deep trend of manipulation occurring in many fields, but it appears particularly prevalent in science and medicine.

One way by which industry and even government are shaping and manipulating the press is by way of press embargoes, and the so-called "close-hold embargo" in particular. Another way is through the creation of front groups, and there are now many dozens of industry front groups masquerading as independent information organizations.

Virtually every major industry employs front groups to give the appearance of independent thinking and reporting on industry affairs when, in reality, they're simply spouting industry PR. As such, they are an integral part of an industry propaganda machine.

Recognizing Industry Front Groups

I've previously published information about several such front groups, including the International Food Additives Council (IFAC), the Coalition Against Costly Food Labeling Proposition and Alliance to Feed the Future.

Back in 2013, the Center for Food Safety also published a report with the telling title, "Best Public Relations Money Can Buy: A Guide to Food Industry Front Groups,"1 which reveals how the food and agricultural industries hide behind friendly-sounding organizations aimed at fooling the public, policymakers and the media.

The report highlights specific tactics used by industry front groups to deceive or shape public opinion, such as:2

• Astroturfing (creating fake grassroots campaigns)

• "Shooting the messenger" — ridiculing, marginalizing and discrediting critics

• Paying for science that supports the industry narrative

• Scaremongering

American Council on Science and Health

The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) is a respectable-sounding front group for Monsanto and other multinational biotech companies. A 2013 Mother Jones3 article spilled the beans on who's actually funding this pro-industry science group.

They defend everything from fracking to pesticides, the toxic plastic ingredient bisphenol-A (BPA) and genetically engineered foods — all in the name of squelching "unwarranted fear mongering by those who don't understand the science."

The ACSH claims to be an independent research and advocacy organization consisting of "concerned scientists" who are devoted to debunking "junk science." 

But once you understand who this front group really serves, it becomes easy to see why the scientific basis for the ACSH's recommendations may be questionable at best. As reported by Mother Jones:4

[I]nternal financial documents ... show that ACSH depends heavily on funding from corporations that have a financial stake in the scientific debates it aims to shape.

One prominent player has been Hank Campbell,5 president of the ACSH from 2015 until 2018.6 He also founded, purchased or was otherwise tied to a string of websites and organizations focused on science reporting, including ION Publications LLC, Science 2.0, Science Codex and ScienceBlogs.com.

In a November 17, 2018, Twitter post,7 NYU professor Charles Seife illustrated Campbell's network of science blogs in "Mapping a Monsanto-Loving Octopus,"8 showing the intricate connections between ACSH and the various blogs, and how these various sites all promote Big Biotech's products and aims. As reported by U.S. Right to Know (USRTK) in December 2018:9

According to documents10 released via litigation, Monsanto paid the American Council on Science and Health in 2015 to defend glyphosate and help discredit11 the scientists of the World Health Organization's cancer research panel for their report raising cancer concerns about the herbicide.

The documents indicate that Monsanto executives were uncomfortable about working with ACSH but did so anyway because 'we don't have a lot of supporters and can't afford to lose the few we have,' Daniel Goldstein, Monsanto's senior science lead, wrote in an email to colleagues.

Seife is accurate enough in his description of Campbell's science network as an octopus. It's a rather bewildering maze of ties. Here, I will summarize just one. ScienceBlogs was founded in 2006 by Seed Media Group, whose board at one point included the now infamous Jeffrey Epstein,12 who recently died in prison pending trial on sex trafficking charges.

In 2010, journalist Gaia Vince published an article13 in The Guardian discussing ScienceBlogs' decision to publish a nutrition blog written by scientists contracted by PepsiCo, and her dealings with Seed Magazine, a Seed Media Group publication. (Recall: Seed Media owned ScienceBlogs).

Vince recounts how the magazine dropped one of her stories for the simple reason they were "in the midst of advertising negotiations with Dow" and her piece happened to be critical of the company.

"It seems I had to run my articles past the ads department. In more than a decade working in the industry, I had never come across such a blatant disregard for editorial independence," Vince wrote.14

After languishing and being shut down toward the latter end of 2017, ScienceBlogs was picked up by ACSH's president Campbell in 2018.15

Sign by Midnight October 3: No GMOs in Organic!

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-10-01 17:41
October 1, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulAll About Organics, Genetic Engineering scientist_wheat_gmo_grains_1200x630.jpg

From the “Department of Here We Go Again,” the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) needs our help—again—to remind the Trump administraton that all forms of genetic engineering must be excluded from organic production.

We have only until midnight EST October 3 to flood the NOSB with comments.

TAKE ACTION BY MIDNIGHT EST OCTOBER 3: Tell the National Organic Standards Board: NO GMOs in Organic!

When the NOSB holds its fall meeting later this month, members will once again revisit the issue of which production methods meet the criteria for “excluded methods” in organic. 

“Excluded methods” refers to the “terms defined” section of organic regulations, related to genetic engineering, which states:

Excluded methods. A variety of methods used to genetically modify organisms or influence their growth and development by means that are not possible under natural conditions or processes and are not considered compatible with organic production. Such methods include cell fusion, microencapsulation and macroencapsulation, and recombinant DNA technology (including gene deletion, gene doubling, introducing a foreign gene, and changing the positions of genes when achieved by recombinant DNA technology). Such methods do not include the use of traditional breeding, conjugation, fermentation, hybridization, in vitro fertilization, or tissue culture. 

Since 2001, when consumer uproar forced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to keep GMOs out of organic, genetic engineering has evolved to include a host of new technologies that didn’t exist 15 years ago.

The onslaught of new technologies has led to industry pressure on the NOSB to consider allowing some of these newer technologies—including gene-editing technologies such as CRISPR and mutagenesis (a method of plant breeding that involves subjecting plants to radiation, or dousing them in chemicals, in a way that scrambles their genes in order to produce new traits)—in organic.

Organic consumers and farmers have consistently opposed allowing any of these technologies in organic. But a statement made last summer by USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach has stoked new fears that industry lobbyists intend to keep pushing their plan to corrupt organic standards.

In July, during the House Committee on Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research hearing, Ibach said this: 

“As the National Organic Standards Board set the rules originally, GMOs are not eligible to be in the organic program. However, we’ve seen new technology, including gene-editing, that accomplishes things in shorter periods of time than a natural breeding process can. I think there is the opportunity to open the discussion to consider whether it is appropriate for some of these new technologies that include gene-editing to be eligible to be used to enhance organic production and to have drought and disease-resistant varieties, as well as higher-yield varieties available.”

That comment didn’t sit well with the Organic Farmers Association (OFA), which immediately fired off a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

In the letter, signed by more than 80 organizations (including Organic Consumers Association), OFA said that “the organic community is united that WE DO NOT WANT TO revisit the conversation about genetic engineering in organics, and all forms of genetic engineering should remain excluded methods under the National Organic Program.”

OCA got its start fighting to keep GMOs, along with irradiation and sewage sludge, from being allowed in organic. We’re not about to give up that fight now.

But given growing industry pressure, amplified now by Ibach, it’s critical that consumers continue to make it clear to NOSB members, so they can make it clear to the Trump administration, that we reject all forms of GMO production in organic.

And it’s worth reminding the NOSB and the National Organic Program that they don’t have the power to allow GMOs in organic through their own policymaking.

The only legal pathway for adding GMOs to organic production must include a formal rulemaking process that leads to a change in federal regulations—something organic consumers and farmers would marshall all their resources to fight.

TAKE ACTION BY MIDNIGHT EST OCTOBER 3: Tell the National Organic Standards Board: NO GMOs in Organic!

 

 

Linking Arms: Farmers, Consumers and Climate Activists Launch National Coalition for a Green New Deal

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-09-26 15:13
September 26, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulAll About Organics, Farm Issues sf_1200x630.png

“Today, tens of thousands of young people with the Sunrise Movement are linking arms with the tens of thousands of farmers and ranchers in this historic coalition to demand a Green New Deal that reinvests in our family farms and empowers them to be the heroes we need them to be to stop the climate crisis.” - Garrett Blad, Sunrise Movement, September 18, 2019

Last week, Organic Consumers Association (OCA), joined Regeneration International (an organization we helped co-found and continue to support) and the Sunrise Movement to officially launch the national coalition of U.S. Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal. 

Five members of Congress joined us in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., to call for a Green New Deal for farmers and ranchers.

Earlier in the day, we delivered a letter to every member of Congress, signed by more than 500 individual farms, and 50 organizations representing more than 10,000 farmers and ranchers, asking Congress to support the Green New Deal Resolution.

Representatives of the Women, Food & Agriculture Network, Indiana Farmers Union and American Sustainable Business Council joined in the press conference, which was covered by multiple media outlets, including Politico, The Hill, Civil Eats and FERN AgInsider.

Why is a consumer and environmental advocacy group like OCA so invested in this new coalition of farmers and ranchers?

Because we’re facing a food crisis. A soil crisis. A water crisis. And a climate crisis. And there’s just no way we solve these interconnected issues without addressing food and farming policy. 

And no way we do it without “linking arms” and working together.

Consumer demand is critical, but not enough

In recent years, consumers have united to tell Big Food that we’re sick of pesticide-contaminated, nutrient-deficient junk food. Consumer power has forced Big Brands to rethink how they produce food. 

Consumers are no longer blindly loyal to brands they perceive as being bad for their health, bad for the environment and bad for the animals unfortunate enough to be part of the factory farm food chain.

As far back as 2015, according to this article in Ad Age, brands that admitted to depending on GMOs and chemicals were seeking ideas to "re-establish our identity in the natural foods movement.”

Just this week, Big Food’s biggest lobbying group, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), announced it will change its name to the Consumer Brands Association. The GMA says the name change represents a shift in strategy to “represent the broader consumer packaged goods industry.”

But make no mistake, the GMA’s rebranding was forced by consumers, who targeted the trade group for being complicit in killing the consumer-led GMO labeling movement. Consumer outrage drove many big-name GMA members to run for the hills, in hope of saving their brand image. And once they did, the GMA never regained its former lobbying glory.

The flip side of the anti-Big Food consumer movement has been the growing demand for organic and regeneratively produced food.

Farmers and ranchers need more support

Consumer demand is critical, but it can go only so far in forcing wholesale change in how food is produced in the U.S. We also need a massive overhaul of food and farming policy to help independent farmers and ranchers compete in the marketplace.

As Ohio farmer and writer, Gene Logdson, wrote in his article, “The Myth of the Self-Made Yeoman:”

No figure is more endearing and enduring in agriculture than the lonely plowman out there on the horizon who raises himself by his own bootstraps to financial success. Only problem is, there is no occupation more dependent on the cooperation of society and nature to achieve success than farming.

The “cooperation of society” must include not only consumer demand, but also policy support. Yet it’s tough to get policy support for organic and regenerative farmers and ranchers—when Big Ag spends more on lobbying for policies to prop up its degenerative GMO monoculture and factory farm practices than do lobbyists for the defense sector, as reported by Truthout.

Agribusiness lobbying efforts result in billions of dollars worth of subsidies, which go primarily to the largest and wealthiest farmers—whose practices are polluting our waterways, producing junk food and destroying soil health. In fact, the largest 15 percent of farm businesses receive 85 percent of the $25 billion spent annually on farm subsidies.

As Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) said at the press launch of the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal:

“We’re paying too much to the wrong people to grow the wrong food in the wrong places.”

Empowering farmers to work for us all

How do independent organic regenerative farmers and ranchers compete with Big Ag’s deep pockets for policies that help them—and by extension, help all of us? Policies that empower them to transition to practices that keep our water clean? Policies that give more of us better access to healthier food? And policies that restore climate stability?

We hope it’s by forming a grassroots lobbying coalition that works together with—not just in parallel with—the food and natural health movements, the social and economic justice movements, environmentalists and climate activists to pressure Congress to pass a Green New Deal for farmers and ranchers.

Last week was just the start. Now, the work begins. The coalition will work to grow larger and more powerful. Its members will conduct farmer-to-farmer outreach. They’ll fan out into their communities to connect with consumers, environmentalists, church groups and climate activists—anyone who cares about the future of our food and our environment.

Ultimately, the coalition will use the grassroots power it builds to work with Congress, especially the coalition’s Congressional Advisory Committee, to rapidly scale up food and farming policy change, for the benefit of all of us. Find out how you can support the coalition. And please sign our Green Consumers for a Green New Deal petition.  

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

Study: Plant Diversity Leads to More Carbon Stored in the Soil

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-09-26 12:24
September 26, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationPat ThomasAll About Organics, Environment & Climate children_magnifying_glass_garden_1200x630.jpg

A new study confirms what most scientists already know, and what proponents of industrial agribusiness either don’t get, or won’t admit: Nature abhors a monoculture.

The study suggests that by restoring biodiversity, we can vastly enhance the soil’s potential to store carbon.

That’s good news for the climate. And there are co-benefits: healthier, more resilient soil and plants, not to mention wildlife habitats.

Scientists have long believed that soil aggregates—clusters of soil particles—were the principal locations for stable carbon storage. These clusters develop when tiny particles of soil clump together.

Mycorrhiza—the microscopic fungi which live in healthy soils—produce sticky compounds that help “glue” these clusters together helping to stabilize and protect the carbon particles inside them.

Now, a recent study out of the Michigan State University (MSU) Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, suggests that this soil clustering is most efficient when soil has a healthy “pore structure.” And the key to a healthy pore structure is plant biodiversity. According to the report:

Soils from restored prairie ecosystems, with many different plant species, had many more pores of the right size for stable carbon storage than did a pure stand of switchgrass.

Pores and clusters

Soil pores are the spaces between soil clusters (soil without pores is basically rock!). The pores are formed by the movement of roots, fungi, worms and insects, and by expanding gases trapped within these spaces.

The amount of carbon that soil can hold depends on the type of soil—and soil type also affects porosity and carbon storage.

Clay-based soils, for instance, hold organic carbon for longer than sandy soils. The ins and outs of this “carbon budget” are also affected by regional climate, how often the soil is disturbed and even the levels of organic material, which in turn are influenced by  the health and diversity of in the soil.

A connected network

Soil pores, large and small, form a connected network underground and are important because they are reservoirs for groundwater and for the oxygen that plants need to thrive.

But what the MSU scientists found was that they also provide the optimal micro-environment for accumulating carbon.

Over a period of nine years, the researchers studied five different cropping systems in a replicated field experiment in southwest Michigan. Of the five cropping systems, the two with the highest plant diversity had many more pores of the right size for stable carbon storage.

According to Alexandra Kravchenko MSU professor in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences and lead researcher on the project:

"What we found in native prairie, probably because of all the interactions between the roots of diverse species, is that the entire soil matrix is covered with a network of pores. Thus, the distance between the locations where the carbon input occurs, and the mineral surfaces on which it can be protected is very short.”

That, he says, means that a lot of carbon is being stored in the prairie soil. In contrast he noted that in monoculture switchgrass the pore network was much weaker, so the microbial metabolites had a much longer way to travel to the protective mineral surfaces.

Monocultures of corn were even worse at storing carbon than the switchgrass.

The upshot is that while we tend to think the best way to put more carbon in soil is to have plants produce more biomass, either as roots or as residue left on the soil surface to decompose, a focus on plant diversity may be a more effective and elegant long-term solution.

Fast and slow cycles

That’s because soil is dynamic. In any field there are likely to be several different natural carbon cycles operating simultaneously at any one time.  Carbon in the soil is made up of different types of organic materials at differing stages of decomposition. In terms of carbon turnover and storage, these materials fall into three broad categories, or pools: “fast pools,” “slow pools” and “stable pools.”

For climate change mitigation slow and stable pools are key.

Some carbon, in the form of plant residues and the carbon secreted by plant roots, will only stay in the soil for a short time—weeks to years—before it is emitted back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. This fast pool is necessary, in part, because it provides an important source of energy for soil microorganisms.

The “slow pool,” where carbon can remain for years to decades, is made up of processed plant material, microbial residues leftover from the fast pool, and carbon molecules that are protected from microbes in soil clusters. This pool helps to maintain soil structure and the distribution of soil nutrients.

A third “stable pool” is made up of decomposed organic material—humus—as well as soil carbon that is well protected from microbes. It can be found below one meter deep and can retain carbon for centuries to millennia.

There is also a fourth “pool” of what’s known as recalcitrant organic carbon, made up of organic material that doesn’t decompose.

We can do better

We can’t rely on soil as our only means of climate change mitigation. Nor can we escape the fact that climate and soil are locked into a kind of push–me-pull-you battle. The more our climate changes, and the more heat and drought we experience, the more soil structure will be affected. making it harder for soil to sequester carbon.

Under these circumstances more soil carbon will enter the “fast pool” cycle releasing more CO2 into the atmosphere.

But we can keep learning about our soil and how it works, and use this knowledge to help make it much more efficient and impactful in terms of the carbon it can sequester. One way to do this is through careful and conscious land management.

Better farming, grazing practices are key

A 2017 study estimated that with better management, global croplands have the potential to store an additional 1.85 gigatons carbon a year. That’s equal to the annual emission of the global transportation sector.

While the capacity of soil to store carbon isn’t infinite, some scientists believe our global soils could continue to sequester carbon at this rate for 20 to 40 years before becoming saturated. Plenty of time for us to get our collective act together on lowering global emissions.

Farmers can help soils reach their carbon storage potential by planting cover crops, practicing crop rotation, rotational grazing and agroforestry, minimising tillage and using green and animal manures. All of these things, which are key activities of organic and regenerative farmers, help slow down carbon turnover and encourage sequestration.

An added bonus is that carbon storage isn’t just something we do for the future. It directly benefits farmers today by improving soil fertility, reducing erosion and increasing resilience to droughts and floods.

Healthy soil also produces healthy plants—which means better nutrition for all of us.

Regenerative farmers know that healthy soil doesn’t just help us fight climate change. Improving biodiversity, soil structure and workability and the level of nutrients in our foods it will also help us adapt to and survive it—and that really is a future worth fighting for.

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.

Monsanto Makes New Bid to Block St. Louis Trial

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-09-25 15:35
September 25, 2019U.S. Right to KnowCarey GillamGenetic Engineering rounduphd1200x630.png

Less than a month away from what would be the fourth Roundup cancer trial to pit cancer victims against the former agrochemical giant Monsanto Co., lawyers for the opposing sides continue to battle over how, when and where the case should – or should not – be heard.

Lawyers for Monsanto and for its German owner Bayer AG, sent a letter last week to the presiding judge in St. Louis County Circuit Court seeking action that would break up the group of plaintiffs into many smaller groups and delay the trial date of Oct. 15 that was previously set for 14 plaintiffs who had been grouped under the case Winston V. Monsanto.

Lead plaintiff Walter Winston and 13 others from around the country were set for trial in St. Louis City Court but Monsanto protested the venue for all the plaintiffs except Winston and after months of battling between the lawyers for both sides, St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Michael Mullen transferred all plaintiffs except Winston to St. Louis County in a Sept. 13 order.  A Missouri Supreme Court ruling early this year found it was improper for plaintiffs’ attorneys to anchor plaintiffs from outside the area to someone who had proper venue to bring a lawsuit in St. Louis.

Plaintiffs attorneys have been working to keep all 14 plaintiffs together and on track for an Oct. 15 trial, seeking approval for Judge Mullen to take a temporary assignment to the county for the purposes of trying the Roundup case. But Monsanto protested that effort, calling it an “extraordinary  proposal” in the company’s Sept. 19 letter to St. Louis County Judge Gloria Clark Reno.

The company said the plaintiffs’ attorneys “have only themselves to blame for the position they are now in. At the time they filed their claims, venue in the City of St. Louis was not proper… The Missouri Supreme Court’s decision… flatly confirmed that conclusion.”

Additionally, Monsanto’s lawyers argued in their letter that any trial should have no more than two plaintiffs: “A joint trial of the disparate claims of thirteen plaintiffs – claims arising under the law of three different states – would inevitably and impermissibly confuse the jury and deprive Monsanto of a fair trial.”

The Winston lawsuit, filed in March of 2018, would be the first trial to take place in the St. Louis area. Two trials that had been set to start in St. Louis in August and September have been delayed.

Before selling to Bayer last year, Monsanto was based in the suburb of Creve Coeur and was one of the largest St. Louis area-based employers.  Roundup cancer trials that had been set for St. Louis area in August and September have both already been delayed until next year. The back and forth battling over where and when the Winston trial may or may not take place has been ongoing for more than a year.

The plaintiffs in the Winston case are among more than 18,000 people in the United States suing Monsanto claiming that exposure to the company’s glyphosate-based herbicides caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma and that Monsanto hid the risks associated with its weed killers. Three juries in three trials over similar claims have found in favor of plaintiffs and ordered large punitive damages against Monsanto.

Bayer and lawyers for the plaintiffs are engaged in discussions about a potential global settlement of the litigation. Bayer has been dealing with a depressed share price and disgruntled investors ever since the Aug. 10, 2018 jury decision in the first Roundup cancer trial. The jury awarded California groundskeeper Dewayne “Lee” Johnson $289 million and found that Monsanto acted with malice in suppressing information about the risks of its herbicides.

Posted with permission from U.S. Right to Know

Listen to the Farmers

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-09-24 14:54
September 24, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsAll About Organics, Farm Issues farmer_harvest_corn_crop_field_1200x630.jpg

“If you want to know what creativity and courage look like in America, talk to a farmer . . . it is time we listen to them when they tell us that now is the time for creativity and courage and action.” - Rep. Jim McGovern, speaking at the launch of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers for a Green New Deal press conference, September 18, 2019

Last month, a United Nations report prepared by more than 100 experts from 52 countries warned of a looming global food crisis if we don’t hurry up and address global warming by ending the exploitation of the world’s land and water resources.

The solution, according to the experts? Change the way we produce food and manage land.

But how do we do that? When the biggest exploiters of our resources—the agribusiness and chemical giants—have access to a bottomless pit of money they can use to influence the people who write our food and farming policies?

We do it by building a grassroots lobbying force too powerful to be ignored.

And we do it by putting the farmers and ranchers who are ready to produce food and manage land regeneratively in the driver’s seat. 

Help us keep up the momentum. Your donation today will help power a national coalition of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers who will fight for a healthier food and farming system.

Last week, five members of Congress, along with several farmers, and members of Regeneration International, the Sunrise Movement, Organic Consumers Association and other farmer-rancher organizations stood in front of the U.S. Capitol to announce the formation of the national coalition of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers for a Green New Deal.

Earlier that day, we delivered a letter, signed by more than 525 individual farmers and ranchers, and about 50 organizations representing more than 10,000 farmers and ranchers, asking Congress to support a Green New Deal for farmers and ranchers. 

The press conference in Washington, D.C. was just the start. Now the hard work begins.

Help us keep up the momentum. Your donation today will help power a national coalition of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers who will fight for a healthier food and farming system.

Call these farmers regenerative, organic, biodynamic, agroecological . . . whatever specific practices they’re using to restore soil health, keep your water clean, build strong local food systems, and produce pesticide-free nutrient-rich food, these are the farmers who care about the land and water and animals they manage.

These farmers and ranchers aren’t looking for handouts.

They just want Congress to stop spending billions of dollars to subsidize corporate polluters who produce contaminated food.

They want a level playing field.

In the coming months and year, the farmers and ranchers in this coalition will form a speakers bureau. They will fan out into their local communities, where they’ll talk to consumers, to other farmers, to local and state lawmakers.

They will build powerful alliances with environmental and social and economic justice organizations.

They will invite members of Congress out to their farms and ranches, to see for themselves how regenerative farming and grazing restores wildlife habitats and builds healthy soils that store carbon and capture and hold precious rainfall.

And they will travel to Washington to hold hearings on Capitol Hill, to personally meet with members of Congress, to lobby for laws that will empower them to be good stewards of the land, while also allowing them to make a decent living.

And every law these farmers and ranchers will lobby for, will be a law that benefits you.

If you value clean air, clean water and healthy food, if you care about the environment, if you care about social and economic justice, these farmers and ranchers will be working for you.

But they’ll need your help.

Help us keep up the momentum. Your donation today will help power a national coalition of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers who will fight for a healthier food and farming system.