Consumer Power

Corruption, Mismanagement at USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service's Put Consumers at Risk, Whistleblower Says

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-04-11 14:36
April 11, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationMartha RosenbergFair Trade & Social Justice, Food Safety veterinarian_cows_farm_dairy_cattle_1200x630.jpg

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which operates under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and employs more than 10,000 people, is tasked with ensuring the safety and proper labeling of U.S. meat, poultry and eggs.


FSIS inspectors are present at over 6,200 U.S. slaughter, food processing and import facilities to check for diseased animals, compliance with the Humane Slaughter Act, bacterial contamination and the presence of antibiotic, pesticide and other residues. FSIS investigators monitor sales and distribution of finished products to prevent disease outbreaks and to help initiate recalls of contaminated products when they occur.


The agency’s No. 1 job is to protect consumers. Yet according to a compliance operations official who worked at FSIS for many years, internal corruption, mismanagement, low morale and undisguised conflicts-of-interest within the agency often prevent FSIS inspectors and investigators from doing their jobs. It’s a public health crisis “just waiting to happen,” the official told us, on condition of anonymity.


Moreover, large meat producers like Cargill, Tyson, Smithfield, Swift (JBS) and Sanderson Farms are often given a "pass" thanks to their high-paid lobbyists:


"The same misbranding or adulteration of product that would force an immediate recall from a small, 'Ma and Pa' company is overlooked with big meat companies," says the official.


Inspectors in the line of fire


There are two kinds of inspector positions at FSIS––those who work the kill line in slaughter facilities, and consumer safety inspectors who check companies for compliance with their hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) plans. HACCP plans seek to prevent biological, chemical and physical hazards in food processing.


In the dysfunctional FSIS systems, said the official, slaughter line inspectors might have the toughest job of all––there are serious obstacles that prevent them from doing their jobs.


For example, FSIS inspectors can push a button and stop the slaughter line if they suspect a violation is occurring—but "they better be damn right or their head is going to be on the stick," the official said. Stopping the line was estimated to cost a plant $5,000 a minute several years ago and costs have only risen. Inspectors are further deterred from taking action because they "may not be supported by their frontline supervisor or by the district office/management team."


Under the Humane Slaughter Act, cattle and hogs first must be "stunned" with a blow to the head or an electric shock so they won’t feel the pain of slaughter. Yet the law is frequently broken, say insiders.


"In plants all over the United States, this happens on a daily basis," said Lester Friedlander, a veterinarian and formerly chief government inspector at a Pennsylvania hamburger plant. "I've seen it happen. And I've talked to other veterinarians. They feel it's out of control."


The late Tim Walker complained about similar violations to a USDA veterinarian in the Florida slaughter plant where he was employed, as well as to all his supervisors. But no action was taken. Employees were afraid to speak out for fear they might lose their jobs.


Going directly to FSIS about violations feels to FSIS employees like "they are tattling on themselves," according to our insider source, who said that some inspectors have even received death threats.  When inspectors have been stationed at a particular plant for a while, they also may identify as that plant's employee. In at least one major violation case, which became a scandal, an onsite inspector was having affair with an employee greatly complicating compliance. Fewer than 10 percent of inspector issues get to FSIS, our source told us, adding: "In fact inspectors are not even allowed to go directly to Compliance but rather must go through the chain of command at their plant."


Nor are FSIS employees always backed up by their supervisors when they do seek to cite violations. Dr. Dean Wyatt, an FSIS supervisory public health veterinarian stationed at Vermont-area slaughterhouses testified at Congressional hearings that he was specifically instructed by his supervisors not to file violation reports–not to do his job–and that official reports were sanitized and deleted. Plant managers, sensing the lack of support, openly defied inspectors, and workers followed suit. In his testimony, Wyatt said:


"I was always shot down, so to speak, by my supervisors. I would walk by a plant foreman; they would laugh at me. I would go up to trim—I would give a rail inspector his break. Plant foreman would come up and tell my trimmer: ‘This guy doesn’t know anything. Don’t trim what he tells you. Just trim what you see.’ I mean, that is an example of the most egregious action a supervisor can take, because when you don’t support your inspectors you are just as guilty of breaking the law as the establishment, in my view."


Cow heads exhibiting evidence of eye cancer switched to fool inspectors


Death threats, reluctance to stop the line and diminished inspector authority can allow unsafe food to be passed along to the public, according to the FSIS official who spoke to us. For instance, federal law prohibits dead and dying animals from being processed for meat for human consumption. Yet non-ambulatory animals (sometimes called "downers") are "often" simply brought through a back door and still allowed into the food supply, the official said.


Such subterfuge led to one of FSIS's most impressive actions, citing in instance where “We got the message that rendering was doing a lot of pickups at a particular location and investigated.” Rendering plants process animal by-products to make tallow, grease and high-protein meat and bone meal. FSIS's investigation led to the 2014 recall of 8.7 million pounds of beef products processed by Rancho Feeding Corp. in Petaluma, California, because Rancho Feeding had processed sick animals, including some with eye cancer.


The recall included Walmart Fatburgers, Kroger Ground Beef Mini Sliders and several Nestle products, and encompassed California, Florida, Illinois and Texas. It included both familiar beef cuts and offal, which refers to the head, intestines, liver, tongue, feet, hearts, bones and trim derived from cattle.


While local beef ranchers had been taking their cattle to Rancho for slaughter, Rancho also often purchased spent dairy cows to sell as meat, many of which had eye cancer and other diseases. For more than a year, Rancho had operated an elaborate scheme to swap uninspected cows infected with cancerous eyes with cattle that had already passed ante mortem inspection. According to Food Safety News, government attorneys accused Rancho co-owner Jesse J. Amaral Jr.,


"of ordering Rancho employees to process cattle that were condemned by the USDA veterinarian. At his instruction, [co-owner Felix] Cabrera allegedly had workers cut the 'USDA Condemned' stamps out of the cattle carcasses so they could be processed for sale and distribution. At about the same time, court documents state that Amaral gave the foreman, Cabrera, and the yardman,[Eugene] Corda, directions on how to circumvent inspection procedures for cows with cancerous eyes. Both Amaral and [Robert] Singleton told their employees to swap out uninspected cows with cancerous eyes with cattle that had already passed ante mortem inspection, according to the documents"


According to the federal indictment:


"Cabrera, or another kill floor employee at his instruction, placed heads from apparently healthy cows, which had been previously reserved, next to the cancer eye cow carcasses. The switch and slaughter of uninspected cancer eye cows occurred during the inspectors' lunch breaks, at a time during which plant operations were supposed to cease."


When the inspectors "returned from lunch for post mortem inspections, they were unaware that the carcasses they were inspecting belonged to cancerous cows that had escaped ante mortem inspection."


In defending Rancho co-owner Amaral, his attorney blamed "significant errors" by FSIS inspection staff who were supposed to watch as condemned animals were destroyed "before their eyes."


For government attorneys to take on a food case it must be airtight, as those attorneys are busy with arson and murder cases, the FSIS official told us. The Rancho Feeding case fit that criteria. In addition to the "yuck" factor of eating meat from beheaded cows with eye cancer, Rancho's plot presented serious and deadly risks, the official said. The Rancho meat, sneaked past inspectors, could well have contained specified risk materials (SRMs) which could transmit BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) commonly known as Mad Cow Disease.


This was not the first time the safety of Rancho’s operations was called into question. In late 2013, two cows slaughtered there had penicillin levels in their kidneys at 30 and 68 times the federal limits.


In 2014, Amaral was sentenced to one year in federal prison and a year of supervised release.


Impediments to recalls


The Rancho investigation, recall and legal proceedings that resulted in guilty pleas, convictions and jail time shows how the system is supposed to work.


But all too often, food lobbyists and lawyers are able to override recalls, according to the FSIS official who told us:


"The recall committee would be on the phone with perhaps 25 people including the food producer, lawyers, policy, science and public affairs personnel and investigators. Then there would be a sidebar––in which lawyers talk without FSIS staff being able to hear and the entire tone and then topic would have changed after the sidebar was finished."


When a food safety violation is identified, FSIS typically tries to convince the food producer to do a voluntary recall. FSIS has the authority to seize products on its own. But neither party wants the red tape nightmare and heightened publicity for fear of casting the food producer, and even the U.S. supply, in a bad light. Still, it was not uncommon, according to our source, when FSIS personnel would say "if you don't voluntarily recall, things could get rough for you," that the food producer's lawyer would respond with: "Show me the science. How do you know the problem is my guy's canning and not someone else's? You don't have enough evidence."


Not unlike other government-regulated industries, a revolving door and “old boys’ network” characterizes the relationship between the USDA and FSIS, and the captains of the meat industry, our source told us. Lobbyists, like those at the influential North American Meat Institute, are often former government workers or regulators who know how the game is played.


For example, in 2017, former FSIS deputy undersecretary Alfred Almanza left the agency to join meat giant JBS global which describes itself as "a leading processor of beef and pork in the U.S. and majority shareholder of Pilgrim's Pride Corporation, the second largest poultry company in the U.S."


The old boys' network is enhanced by the fact that FSIS is housed within the USDA headquarters, instead of in separate, independent offices which would allow inspectors greater latitude.


While major food producers can often obviate recalls, smaller operations can't the official told us:


"What is very disturbing is the unfair application of FSIS regulations such as recalls. The little guy gets beat to death while a Cargill, Tyson or JBS will get a walk for the same violation.”


More threats to public health


In addition to FSIS's many inspectors, investigators regularly visit food wholesalers, retailers and processors to regulate packaged and ready-to-sell items. Yet again, their work can be impeded. "If something does not look right to our inspectors, we ask to see records but they can be in a foreign language," the official said.


Seafood can be especially tricky. In a 2011 USDA report assessing U.S. Food & Drug Administration third-party certification of Southeast Asian shrimp production, for example, there were found to be major language barriers. Six out of eight auditors didn’t even know what drugs and chemicals were approved in U.S. exports. When a country is blocked from shipping shrimp it often "transships" through a country that is believed to be safe, say seafood safety experts.


As with slaughterhouses, food processors and vendors are also known to deliberately attempt scams. According to the FSIS official:


"My investigators found that a supplier of meat to prisons was misbranding and greatly inflating the amount of meat in their product which was actually only 80/20 ground beef. These are felonies for which people could potentially go to jail."


When serious food safety risks are detected, FSIS quickly assesses the national marketplace and traces the risks back to their source. If patients have been hospitalized, FSIS acquires samples and will interview the patients along with local health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the face of a contamination outbreak, FSIS investigators will quickly visit wholesalers, retailers and processers with questions like "Where else did you ship product?" "Did you separate lots?" and "Did you wash and clean machinery on the line?"


But in addition to concerns about bacterial content, unlabeled ingredients/allergens, foreign substances/adulteration, misbranding and elaborate deception schemes as seen with Rancho Feeding, something else haunts the compliance operations official–– agroterrorism:


"There is so much the general public doesn't understand about food in general and meat in particular, and security itself at a meat processing is extremely loose. It does not even have to be international terrorism––it could be local. Employees could deliberately introduce a razor into product or unintentionally contaminate product with dangerous, infectious diseases."


In recent years, the meat industry has rolled out many "post hoc" treatments to curtail meat pathogens—from the ammonia puffs used to make "pink slime," to irradiation, chlorine, carbon monoxide and of course antibiotic sprays. Yet, "it is a bad way to do business," the official told us, because different meats and different pathogens require different treatments.


Clearly there’s a lot wrong at FSIS that needs to be fixed. Similar corruption and product adulteration was seen with early alcohol production, our source told us. But the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was eventually able to rid the agency of industry lobbyists and influence.


FSIS needs to do the same.


Meanwhile, working at FSIS to protect the food supply can be a frustrating job for those who want to make a difference "against all odds" said the FSIS official.


This article was written for the Organic Consumers Association by contributing writer Martha Rosenberg. To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

Bold New Campaign Highlights How 'Nature Can Save Us' From Climate and Ecological Breakdown

Organic consumers - Fri, 2019-04-05 18:23
Environment & ClimateJessica CorbettCommon DreamsApril 3, 2019 nature_landscape_sun_clouds_1200x630.jpg

"The protection and restoration of these ecosystems can help to minimize a sixth great extinction, while enhancing local people's resilience against climate disaster."

A group of activists, experts, and writers on Wednesday launched a bold new campaign calling for the "thrilling but neglected approach" of embracing nature's awesome restorative powers to battle the existential crises of climate and ecological breakdown.

Averting catastrophic global warming and devastating declines in biodiversity, scientists warn, requires not only overhauling human activities that generate planet-heating emissions—like phasing out fossil fuels—but also cutting down on the carbon that is already in the atmosphere.

In a letter to governments, NGOs, the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity, and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Natural Climate Solutions campaign calls for tackling these crises by not only rapidly decarbonizing economies, but also by "drawing carbon dioxide out of the air by protecting and restoring ecosystems."

Along with stopping fossil fuel emissions, we badly need to restore natural systems. Important new effort spearheaded by @GeorgeMonbiot

— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) April 3, 2019

"By defending, restoring and re-establishing forests, peatlands, mangroves, salt marshes, natural seabeds, and other crucial ecosystems, very large amounts of carbon can be removed from the air and stored," the letter says. "At the same time, the protection and restoration of these ecosystems can help to minimize a sixth great extinction, while enhancing local people's resilience against climate disaster."

The letter urges the politicians, nonprofits, and international bodies to support such solutions with research, funding, and political commitment—and to "work with the guidance and free, prior and informed consent of indigenous people and other local communities."

The campaign also put out a short video that outlines "how nature can save us from climate breakdown."

The video notes that "exotic and often dangerous schemes have been proposed" to reduce atmospheric carbon—referencing controversial geoengineering suggestions favored by some politicians and scientists—"but there's a better and simpler way: let nature do it for us."

Writer and environmentalist George Monbiot, a leader of the campaign, laid out the scientific support for this approach to carbon drawdown in an essay on the campaign's website as well as in his Wednesday column for the Guardian.

Detailing the potential impact of restoring lands worldwide, Monbiot wrote for the newspaper:

The greatest drawdown potential per hectare (though the total area is smaller) is the restoration of coastal habitats such as mangroves, salt marsh and seagrass beds. They stash carbon 40 times faster than tropical forests can. Peaty soils are also vital carbon stores. They are currently being oxidized by deforestation, drainage, drying, burning, farming, and mining for gardening and fuel. Restoring peat, by blocking drainage channels and allowing natural vegetation to recover, can suck back much of what has been lost.

"Scientists have only begun to explore how the recovery of certain animal populations could radically change the carbon balance," he acknowledged, pointing to forest elephants and rhinos in Africa and Asia and tapirs in Brazil as examples.

"Instead of making painful choices and deploying miserable means to a desirable end," Monbiot concluded, "we can defend ourselves from disaster by enhancing our world of wonders."

Key supporters of the campaign include youth climate strike leader Greta Thunberg; journalist Naomi Klein; author and activist Bill McKibben; Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann; former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed; and activist Yeb Saño,along with more than a dozen others who signed the letter.

"Healing and restoring the natural world is key to carbon drawdown," Klein tweeted Wednesday, "plus it makes life fuller and richer and can create millions of jobs."

Proud to be part of this great call. When we think about a #GreenNewDeal we tend to focus on the built environment - but healing and restoring the natural world is key to carbon drawdown, plus it makes life fuller and richer and can create millions of jobs.

— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) April 3, 2019

Despite the high profiles of many supporters, the campaign launch did not attract the attention of the corporate media.

Monbiot took to Twitter to call out broadcast outlets for failing to cover not only the climate and ecological crises, but also potential solutions like those offered by the new campaign. As he put it, "They are living in a world of their own."

One less than thrilling aspect: despite a concerted effort by a PR company working pro bono with us on #NaturalClimateSolutions, NOT A SINGLE BROADCAST MEDIA OUTLET was prepared to cover this amazing topic, or even to mention our campaign. They are living in a world of their own.

— GeorgeMonbiot (@GeorgeMonbiot) April 3, 2019


They'll reproduce a rubbish corporate press release, but not a single BBC programme has reported our exciting and well-researched campaign. Corporate proganda, it seems, is all that counts.

— GeorgeMonbiot (@GeorgeMonbiot) April 3, 2019

Reposted in full with permission from Common Dreams.

Tell Congress to Ban Monsanto/Bayer's Cancer-Causing Roundup Weedkiller!

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-04-04 14:13
Belong to campaign: Millions Against MonsantoCategory: Genetic EngineeringArea: USA

Glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto (now Bayer)’s Roundup weedkiller, is the most-used agricultural chemical ever.

Mounting scientific evidence of its human health impacts suggests that it may also be the most devastating.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress to Ban Glyphosate!Read more

Presidential Candidate Says 'Ban Roundup!'

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-04-04 12:24
April 4, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAlexis Baden-MayerGenetic Engineering roundup_herbicide_bottle_shelf_store_1200x630.jpg

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is the first federal legislator and presidential candidate to call for a ban on Roundup weedkiller.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is too busy protecting Monsanto to protect you. So let’s call on all of Gabbard’s colleagues to join her in demanding Congress ban Roundup!

TAKE ACTION: Tell your Senators and Members of Congress to ban Monsanto’s Roundup!

After federal jurors found that Monsanto/Bayer’s flagship herbicide caused Edwin Hardeman’s non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Gabbard shared the news on Twitter:

"I’ve said it before, I’ll keep saying it: Ban roundup! It’s long past time we stopped relying on corrupt corporations with a profit incentive to fund science telling us their chemicals are 'safe.' Victims shouldn’t have to go to trial to get the truth."

Then, sharing Tom Philpott’s article in Mother Jones, “Scientists Found Worrisome New Evidence About Roundup and Cancer,” Gabbard tweeted:

“It is unacceptable that it takes a lawsuit against Monsanto, maker of Roundup, to determine whether exposure to glyphosate can cause cancer. We must protect the ability of independent scientists to research & publish findings free of corporate influence”

In February, Gabbard shared Lydia Mulvany and Deena Shanker’s article in Bloomberg, “Monsanto Roundup Attacks Healthy Gut Bacteria, Lawsuit Says,” that mentions Organic Consumers Association and Beyond Pesticide’s lawsuit filed in Washington, D.C., tweeting:

"Monsanto proves they'll do anything to pad their pockets, including manufacturing 'scientific studies' to influence the EPA while destroying small farmers. They unleashed the scourge of Roundup on us and should be held accountable for the consequences."

Finally, there’s someone brave enough to be the first member of Congress and presidential candidate to call for a ban on Monsanto’s carcinogenic Roundup weedkiller! Let’s not let Gabbard stand alone.

TAKE ACTION: Tell your Senators and Member of Congress to ban Monsanto’s Roundup!

Want Healthy Food? Clean Water? Sign Up Here!

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-04-03 15:21
April 3, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulPolitics & Globalization woman_raised_hand_meeting_1200x630.jpg

U.S. food, farming, environmental and climate policies are working just fine for giant corporations and their shareholders.

But these policies aren’t working for family farmers. And they sure as heck aren’t working for you.

Change won’t come from the top. It will have to come from people like you. The best place to start? In your own community, by building support for a Green New Deal (GND).

Can you attend or host a Green New Deal Town Hall in your community? Or if you live in one of these cities, can you participate in the Green New Deal Tour?

The Sunrise Movement is rallying support for the GND across the country with its first Green New Deal Tour. The tour launches on April 19, in Boston. It will continue through mid-May with stops in Detroit; Des Moines, Iowa; Chico, Calif.; Los Angeles; San Antonio, Texas;  New Orleans; Lexington, Ky.; and Washington, DC.

RSVP here to attend a GND Tour near you.

Don’t live near one of the tour stops? The Sunrise Movement is asking people to attend or host a GND Town Hall in their own community. More than 100 GND Town Halls have already been organized, in community churches, classrooms and union halls, in cities and towns, large and small.

Find a GND Town Hall near you. Or sign up to host a GND Town Hall in your community, and the Sunrise Movement will send you a toolkit to make it easy.

Planning to attend a tour or town hall? Or host a town hall of your own? Please use this form to let us know. And please download this fact sheet to distribute at the event.

OCA and Regeneration International are working closely with the Sunrise Movement to promote the GND because, frankly, we believe it’s our best hope for rapid and comprehensive food, farming and climate policy change.

The GND Resolution calls for clean air and water, and access to healthy food and climate- and community-resiliency. It also calls for working “collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector . . . by supporting family farming; by investing in sustainable farming and land-use practices that increase soil health; and by building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food.”

As you might imagine, Monsanto and the giant factory farm meat producers hate the GND. Because it spells the end of corporate monopolies, GMOs and factory farms.

You can bet that giant agribusiness corporations—the ones that pollute your water and produce Roundup weedkiller-contaminated junk food—are going to pull out all the stops to kill this powerful movement to clean up the environment, clean up our food, support good farming practices, and reverse global warming.

The only way we’ll win this, is if we mobilize millions of people, from every region in the country, from every background.

The only way we win this is if people like you help spread the word about how healthy soil is our best hope for healthy food and a healthy ecosystem.

The GND offers an unprecedented opportunity to finally unite the environmental, climate, food, labor and economic justice activists around one platform that offers solutions for the multiple crises we face.

Our job—and we need your help!—is to make sure that the final version of the GND includes policies and programs designed to scale up organic regenerative farming, in addition to policies and programs geared toward alternative energy solutions.

Can you attend or host a Green New Deal Town Hall in your community?

If you live in one of these cities, can you participate in the Green New Deal Tour?

Please use this form to let us know about your plans. And please download this fact sheet to distribute at the event.

Let’s all get on this train. And keep it moving in the right direction

Because These Threats Are Still Very Real

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-04-02 15:30
April 2, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsGenetic Engineering monsanto_glyphosate_roundup_blue_bottle_shelf_1200x630.jpg

After years of battling Monsanto, of working to expose the lies about glyphosate and Roundup weedkiller, we’re seeing glimmers of hope.

But this fight is far from over. And we desperately need your help to keep it going.

We’ve extended our spring fundraising campaign because we simply must reach our goal. Can you make a donation today? Every donation, small, large and in-between, will help fund our work to get pesticides out of your food. You can donate online, by mail or by phone, details here.

Within the past eight months, juries in two key trials against Monsanto have unanimously agreed that Roundup caused the plaintiffs’ non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancers.

Both juries punished Monsanto-Bayer with huge fines.

No amount of money makes up for the pain and suffering Roundup weedkiller has caused the victims in these two trials, or the tens of thousands of other people sickened by exposure to glyphosate.

But here’s what both these trials have made clear: The overwhelming evidence points to Roundup as a cause of cancer. And what’s more, it shows that Monsanto has known all along that Roundup causes cancer—and yet the company has gone to great lengths, and spent millions of dollars, to hide that evidence from the public.

In an article published by the Guardian, U.S. Right to Know’s Carey Gillam wrote:

Even the US district judge Vince Chhabria, who oversaw the San Francisco trial that concluded Wednesday with an $80.2m damage award, had harsh words for Monsanto. Chhabria said there were “large swaths of evidence” showing that the company’s herbicides could cause cancer. He also said there was “a great deal of evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of its product . . . and does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue.”

In 2016, 131,672,984 kilograms (290,289,239 pounds) of glyphosate was sprayed in the U.S., according to data published by the U.S. Geological Survey, obtained and analyzed by Pricenomics.

Where does all that poison end up? In soils, in drinking water, on your food—and in your body.

The widespread presence of glyphosate in everything from bread to cereal to snack bars to fruit juices to baby foods to ice cream to beer and wine has been well documented.

The latest report? Widespread glyphosate contamination in foods sold by popular chain restaurants, including many that market themselves as “healthy,” “natural” and even “organic.”

The anti-Monsanto verdicts, the testing and reporting about glyphosate in our foods, the investigative reports showing Monsanto’s extreme efforts to discredit the scientists who uncover the truth about glyphosate and Roundup have all led to greater consumer awareness.

But even as more cities and school systems announce plans to ban glyphosate, the U.S. EPA fails to act on the evidence. In fact, the EPA recently (and very quietly) moved to disapprove state efforts to impose their own restrictions on pesticide use!

We are in the middle of our own lawsuit against Monsanto, for placing misleading claims on bottles of Roundup sold to consumers.

We continue to test products for glyphosate, to report on those test results, and to go after the companies that claim their glyphosate-contaminated food is “natural.”

We are also a major funder of U.S. Right to Know, a nonprofit public interest, consumer and public health organization that has been deeply involved in exposing Monsanto’s lies and government ties.

But the simple truth is this: We can’t do this work without your help.

We rarely extend a fundraising deadline. We are doing it now because we must meet this quarter’s fundraising goal.

Please donate whatever you can by midnight, April 7. Every donation, small, large and in-between, will help fund our work to get pesticides out of your food. You can donate online, by mail or by phone, details here.


Let's Talk . . . About the Truth

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-03-26 17:50
March 26, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsGenetic Engineering truth_paper_rip_torn_edge_open_1200x630.png

Mere days after a jury unanimously concluded that Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller caused Edwin Hardeman’s cancer, Monsanto’s parent company, Bayer, took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal with this headline: “Let’s talk about Roundup® herbicides.”

As you might expect, Bayer’s ad wasn’t intended to discuss the truth about Roundup—it was intended to spread the same old lies.

The fact that Bayer was willing to splurge for an ad (the going rate for a WaPo full-page ad is $163,422) to try to convince the public that Roundup is safe, speaks volumes.

We can’t spend that kind of money on mainstream media advertising to counter the multitude of lies by companies like Monsanto and Bayer.

Instead, we’ve always relied on people like you to spread the truth by sharing our emails, and promoting our messages on social media.

That is, until now. But now our message is under attack.

We’re halfway through our spring fundraising campaign, but only a quarter way toward our goal. Please donate by midnight March 31, so your donation can be matched dollar-for-dollar by

This didn’t happen overnight. But it happened. And it’s getting worse. Everyday.

Our ability to speak the truth about Monsanto and other corporate agribusiness giants is under attack—by the corporations that don’t want you to know what their products are really doing to you, and to our entire earthly ecosystem.

Powerful corporations, backed by people like pro-GMO Bill Gates, are working to silence us. And to make it more difficult than ever to raise the money we need to do this work.

The fact that juries have found in favor of Monsanto’s victims in two landmark trials . . . and the fact that Monsanto-Bayer is facing nearly 9,000 more similar lawsuits . . . has these corporate criminals running scared.

Their only recourse? Silence the critics. Censor the truth.

Under the guise of stopping "fake news," internet watchdogs are burying alternative news that threatens the financial interests of companies like Monsanto and Bayer.

Only a fraction of what we post on social media is getting through to your news feeds.

Google is deciding what emails will go to your inbox—and which ones will go to spam.

Our job may be getting harder. But our determination to uncover the truth is stronger than ever.

As historian and activist Howard Zinn put it:

“. . . I suppose the most revolutionary act one can engage in is . . . to tell the truth.”

So, to Bayer and Monsanto, we say, “Yes, let’s talk. But let’s talk about the truth.”

And let’s keep talking . . . in voices so loud, and so persistent, that no amount of money will be able to silence them.

Please help keep our voices strong! Please donate by midnight March 31, so your donation can be matched dollar-for-dollar by

Demand to Know! Is the CDC Colluding with Coke?

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-03-21 20:33
March 21, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonPolitics & Globalization coca_cola_coke_plastic_bottles_store_1200x630.jpg

A new study suggests that people who frequently drink sugar-sweetened drinks, including soda, increase their risk of death from cardiovascular diseases, and to a lesser extend, cancer.

We think that’s all the more reason it’s time to investigate recent allegations that Coca-Cola is colluding with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to downplay the negative health consequences associated with drinking Coke.

TAKE ACTION: Ask the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform to investigate Coca-Cola’s influence on the CDC.

Your tax dollars fund the CDC, a federal agency that bills itself as “the nation’s health protection agency, working 24/7 to protect America from health and safety threats.”

But emails between the CDC and Coca-Cola executives reveal a cozy relationship, which Coke used to “to gain and expand access, to lobby and to shift attention and blame away from sugar-sweetened beverages,” according to a study published in The Milbank Quarterly.

The study based its findings on emails and documents obtained by U.S. Right to Know (USRTK), under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

You probably don’t drink Coke or other effects of sugary soft drinks, which scientists link to type 2 diabetes and heart disease, among other health problems. Still, shouldn’t America’s “health” authorities protect public health? Not the profits of big corporations and their health-harming products?

TAKE ACTION: Ask the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform to investigate Coca-Cola’s influence on the CDC.

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

Demand to Know! Is the CDC Colluding with Coke?

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-03-21 17:28
Category: Politics & GlobalizationArea: USA

Your tax dollars fund the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a federal agency that bills itself as “the nation’s health protection agency, working 24/7 to protect America from health and safety threats.”

But emails between the CDC and Coca-Cola executives suggest that the CDC may care more about Coke's profits than your health.

According to a study published in The Milbank Quarterly, the emails reveal that Coke executives used their cozy relationship with CDC officials “to gain and expand access, to lobby and to shift attention and blame away from sugar-sweetened beverages.” 

TAKE ACTION: Ask the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform to investigate Coca-Cola’s influence on the CDCRead more

'It's Probably Over for Us'

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-03-20 16:31
March 20, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationRonnie CumminsAll About Organics kid_boy_child_strawberries_farm_field_crop_1200x630.jpg

As I write this today, many of our friends in Midwest farming communities are reeling—record catastrophic flooding is threatening their livelihoods and lives.

It’s the last straw for many farmers who were already struggling financially. As one of them told a New York Times reporter, “It’s probably over for us.”

If we want to secure the safety and security of our food system, it’s time we revolutionize how farmlands are managed and how food is produced. Please pitch in today to help us take on the corporations that are destroying our food and health. Donate online, by mail or by phone, details here.

There are still a minority of Americans who will argue over whether this new wave of extreme weather is a result of human-induced climate change.

But the debate over whether our dominant factory farm, GMO industrial food system is healthy for humans, animals or the planet is over.

And so is the debate over who is responsible for what’s gone wrong.

An industrial food system propped up by taxpayer-funded subsidies, a food system that sticks you with the bill to clean up polluted waterways, a food system that shifts all the financial risk onto small farmers while funneling all of the profits to CEOs and corporate shareholders, a system that produces pesticide- and hormone-contaminated meat, dairy and highly processed junk foods, is unhealthy by any measure.

This system exists only because a handful of powerful corporations have been able to buy policies to support their degenerative business model . . . and in the process, make it nearly impossible for the organic regenerative farmers and ranchers who are good stewards of the land to compete.

Our job is to take on those corporations, and the political leaders who enable them. But we need your help.

Please pitch in today to help us take on the corporations that are destroying our food and health. Donate online, by mail or by phone, details here.

I recently watched a video called “The Children’s Fire.” It tells the story of how long ago, wise tribal leaders who saw that their former way of life was disappearing, delved into questions around life, living, dying, relationship and meaning.

The question they ultimately posed to themselves was this: “How shall we govern our people?”

Their answer was this: “No law, no decision, no action, nothing of any kind will be permitted to go out from this council of chiefs that will harm the children.”

The “Children’s Fire” is a pledge to the welfare of unborn future children.

It’s a commitment to the responsibility of each generation to protect the vitality and regenerative capacity of our common ecosystem.

It’s time we applied this long-term thinking to the policy decisions that determine how we manage the soil and water, and the natural cycles of our ecosystem, that are essential to producing food that nourishes and sustains us.

It’s time to protect farmers and ranchers like our friends in the Midwest, by demanding policies that support them in adopting agricultural practices that heal, not harm, the earth, and make their farms more prosperous and more resilient.

We can do this. But only if we marshall the courage and the human and financial resources required to take on some of the most destructive—and most powerful—corporations in the world.

You can help revolutionize how farmlands are managed and how food is produced, and preserved for your children and grandchildren. Please pitch in today so we can take on the corporations that are destroying our food and health. Donate online, by mail or by phone, details here.

New Study: Climate Concerns Affect Kids' Mental, Physical Health

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-03-14 12:49
March 14, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAlison Rose LevyEnvironment & Climate, Health Issues child_lost_sad_wall_sepia_1200x630.jpg

Parents may think their kids are too involved with school, friends and activities to pay much attention to climate change. But many kids actually are worried about climate change, according to an article on the Green Living website. The article cited reports of children as young as 7 years old losing sleep over climate concerns.

Now, a new study published in Current Psychiatry Reports says concerns about global warming are putting children “at risk of mental health consequences including PTSD, depression, anxiety, phobias, sleep disorders, attachment disorders and substance abuse.”

Dr. Susie Burke, co-author of “The Psychological Effects of Climate Change on Children,” told us in a recent interview:

“Children feel fear, anxiety, stress, and grief, as do many adults. Some believe that the world may end in their lifetimes. They will be living in a climate-altered world for longer than most adults. They are more dependent and vulnerable, and their views can be dismissed. They are not yet able to make laws that impact their future. That is why we see them stepping up and talking in front of the nation.”

Burke, along with colleagues, Ann V. Sanson and Judith Van Hoorn, reviewed the scientific literature in the U.S., U.K. and Australia. Their research revealed that the most immediate symptoms associated with climate anxiety sometimes produce longer-term effects, such as “problems with emotion regulation, cognition, learning, behavior, language development, and academic performance. Together, these create predispositions to adverse adult mental health outcomes,” the researchers said.

Burke said that her research shows that adults are not very good at protecting children:

“And as they see the ongoing adult failure to address climate change, children have begun to realize that we are not protecting them as what were once defined as future threats come closer and closer.”

Youth activists on the move

In September 2018, teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg traveled to the Davos World Economic Forum to confront the power elite gathered at an annual meeting. Thunberg told the world leaders:

"Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to make unimaginable amounts of money, and I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”

In the U.S., the Sunrise Movement has taken the lead in expressing the concerns that many young people feel. Young adults, teenagers and even children are demanding climate action and calling for the Green New Deal. Youth are carrying the climate message right into the offices of national leaders, like Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

How kids and parents cope

Many adults are just as concerned about climate change as their kids, though they may bring a different perspective. In the U.S., U.K. and Australia, research has found that only 5 to 7 percent of adults actually deny climate change. But “many more don’t have it in the front of their minds as an urgent issue,” Burke said.

“We do know adults have high levels of stress and awareness of climate change—but there are mechanisms that cause us to turn away. Because adults have enjoyed the lovely world that fossil fuels have created around us, food from anywhere in the world, whenever we should so desire it, adults put up a lot of resistance to change. Resistance to give up luxuries. From a child’s perspective, when they become aware of that, it is completely unacceptable to them.”

Getting to know the more—or less—effective coping strategies can help people respond. Swedish researcher Maria Ojala has identified three basic coping styles that people adopt to manage their own stress and to act as decision-makers and consumers.

• Problem-focused coping:  In this approach, both kids and adults find concrete things to do to try to address the cause of the problem, for example, taking public transport or riding bikes to school.

According to Burke, research shows that problem-focused coping, such as trying to reduce one’s own carbon footprint (or the carbon footprint of their own community) is associated with high environmental engagement but also linked to high levels of anxious and depressive feelings.

That may be because “the scale of the problem is large, and individual actions can’t ever address it at scale. And this can lead to overwhelm and despair,” Burke said. “Some can become fixated on incremental solutions—that are tokenistic— to make themselves feel better that they are doing something.”

• Emotion-focused coping:  People use this strategy, not to solve the problem, but to manage their own distress. Both adults and children might distract themselves, minimize the problem, tell themselves it’s not such a big problem, deny it or not think about it. “People withdraw and believe that they are maintaining their own energy, through not participating,” Burke said. “They do this to manage their emotions.” Some people respond by becoming hedonistic, Burke said, while others become resigned, hopeless and helpless, passive.

• Meaning-focused coping: In this strategy, both children and adults face up to the problem while finding a perspective that can both reassure themselves and galvanize them into action.

Burke offers the examples of taking comfort in the fact that millions around the world are paying attention, and hoping that will prompt the needed change. Or trusting in other agents, organizations and individuals to take action on climate: She told us:

“That’s where having climate heroes is a source of solace and inspiration. So is an outpouring of hundreds of thousands of adults saying ‘We support and believe you and are trying to make these changes as well.’” 

All of this supports meaning-focused coping and help young people generate optimism, even in the face of inaction on the part of leaders. For example, the Green New Deal activates meaning-focused coping because the resolution looks comprehensively at the full scale of the problem. In contrast to problem-focused coping, which can lead to disillusion and overwhelm because individual efforts don’t match the scale of the problem, people stay committed because “they know it’s the right thing to do and nothing else makes as much sense,” Burke said. “They continue to fight whether or not success is guaranteed.” That behavior is anchored by what psychologists call “grounded or authentic hope.” Not surprisingly, Ojala's research found that meaning-focused coping is related to high levels of environmental engagement and efficacy.

Whatever strategy adults or children choose, Burke warns that we have no choice but to persist on efforts to address climate change:

“We are all connected with children and the young whether we have our own children or not. Humans have always been able to face dreadful threats and get to the other side. There’s nothing that makes as much sense as continuing to engage and try to change the course of history.”

Alison Rose Levy writes for the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

Judge in Second Roundup Cancer Trial Worked for Firm that Defended Monsanto

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-03-13 16:06
March 13, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonGenetic Engineering roundup_bottles_mike_mozart_1200x630.jpg

On March 12, both sides in the Edwin Hardeman vs. Monsanto case delivered their closing arguments in San Francisco Federal Court. Hardeman sued Monsanto (now owned by Bayer), alleging that his longtime use of Roundup weedkiller caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer.

The jury could return its verdict any day now. The six-juror panel must return a unanimous decision, or a mistrial will be called. A new trial would likely take place in May. If the jury returns a guilty verdict, the case will enter the second phase, where Monsanto’s liability will be determined and damages may be awarded to the plaintiff.

This week’s closing  arguments followed a recent favorable ruling for the plaintiff—this despite new revelations about Chhabria’s past ties to Monsanto.

A surprising ruling in favor of the plaintiff

In a boost for the plaintiff, Chhabria last week dismissed Monsanto’s latest move to end the trial, citing evidence that glyphosate herbicides (including Roundup) could have caused Hardeman’s cancer. He ruled:

The plaintiffs have presented a great deal of evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of its product.

In his ruling, Chhabria also wrote:

. . . there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue.

Judge once worked for law firm that represented Monsanto

Chhabria’s ruling in favor of the plaintiff came as a surprise to some, given the his overall handling of the Hardeman case, which ultimately sparked inquiry into whether Chhabria was biased in favor of the defense. The inquiry led to the revelation that Chhabria once worked for a law firm that’s a “well-known defender of a variety of corporate interests, including Monsanto,” according to reporting by Carey Gillam of U.S. Right to Know.

Chhabria was appointed by then-President Obama in 2013, for the seat he currently holds in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. But prior to that, he worked as an associate, from 2002-2004, at Covington & Burling LLP, a firm that helped Monsanto defend itself over the controversial recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), marketed under the brand name Posilac.

The judge worked for the firm when Monsanto was engulfed in an all-out legal battle over rBGH, a genetically engineered drug developed by Monsanto. The drug, which is injected into cows to boost milk production, increases levels of another hormone, IGF-1 which has been linked to breast, prostate, colon, lung and other cancers in humans.

Not only is rBGH dangerous to humans, but its use is considered inhumane as it causes a string of health problems in cows—painful udder infections, hoof problems and birth defects. To counter these health issues, dairy farmers use antibiotics, which in turn contributes to the rising threat of antibiotic resistance, as explained in a report by Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) Oregon Chapter.

The synthetic growth hormone, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1993, is banned in Europe and Canada.

Chhabria’s time at Covington & Burling was short-lived. And while there’s no solid evidence he represented Monsanto directly, the judge is “also no stranger to the world of corporate power and influence,” notes Gillam.

Early on in the trial, Judge Chhabria threatened to “shut down” Hardeman’s lead attorney Aimee Wagstaff for violating the judge’s ban on presenting the jury with evidence that Monsanto attempted to manipulate regulators, including by ghostwriting safety reviews of its flagship herbicide.

Judge is ripping into Aimee Wagstaff again saying he wants to sanction her $1,000 and maybe the whole plaintiff’s legal team as well. Calling her actions “incredibly dumb” -

— carey gillam (@careygillam) February 25, 2019

Holy Sh—. Judge now dismisses jury for break and then RIPS into plaintiff’s attorney - says she has “crossed the line” and is “totally inappropriate” in her opening statements. Says this is her “final warning.”  Never a dull moment at the @Bayer Monsanto Roundup cancer trial.

— carey gillam (@careygillam) February 25, 2019

Chhabria also threatened to dismiss the case entirely and made repeated comments about the plaintiff’s “shaky” evidence.

The judge interrupted Wagstaff on numerous occasions during her opening statements, including when she tried to introduce Hardeman’s wife and began to tell the story of their life and what it was like when Hardeman first discovered the lump in his neck.

Plaintiff’s attorney  Aimee Wagstaff opens by introducing wife of plaintiff, and starts to tell story of their life and Hardeman finding lump in his neck; Judge Chhabria interrupts to tell Aimee to stick to comments dealing with causation only.

— carey gillam (@careygillam) February 25, 2019

Chhabria ultimately ordered Wagstaff to pay a $500 fine for angering him.

Sanctions bite. Plaintiff’s attorney in Monsanto Roundup cancer trial pays for angering judge in her opening statement.

— carey gillam (@careygillam) March 5, 2019

The sanction sparked a wave of anger and frustration from people around the world following the trial. In fact, it triggered “a flood of emails from lawyers and other individuals offering support and expressing outrage at the judge’s action,” Gillam reported.

Judge's decision last week to sanction plaintiff's lead attorney Aimee Wagstaff in @Bayer Monsanto Roundup cancer trial reportedly triggered flood of emails to Wagstaff from lawyers and others offering support and expressing outrage at the judge's action.

— carey gillam (@careygillam) March 4, 2019

Third Roundup cancer trial set for March 25

Hardeman vs. Monsanto is the second trial involving Monsanto’s cancer-causing Roundup weedkiller. Hardeman, 70, alleges that Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) cancer.

For nearly three decades, Hardeman said he used Roundup to kill weeds on his various California properties. He said he stopped using the weedkiller in 2012 and was diagnosed with NHL in 2016.

The Guardian reported on March 5 that Hardeman’s case is “high-stakes” as it’s considered a “bellwether” trial for the more than 9,000 similar lawsuits currently pending in the U.S. This means the verdict in Hardmen’s case could affect future litigation and possible settlements.

The third Monsanto trial is scheduled to begin March 25, in Oakland, California. Monsanto-Bayer is facing more than 9,000 similar lawsuits. Meanwhile, on March 8, a Florida cancer victim filed a $1-billion lawsuit against Bayer.

To keep up with the latest on the Hardeman vs. Monsanto trial, check out our #MonsantoTrial page and follow us on Twitter.

Watch this video for a Monsanto trial update from Gillam.

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


You Don't Have to Be Young to Join In!

Organic consumers - Mon, 2019-03-11 19:35
March 11, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationEnvironment & Climate climate_march_protest_signs_1200x630.jpg

“The house is on fire.”

That’s what 16-year-old Greta Thunberg told world leaders at the Davos World Economic Forum on January 25. It's also why she went on strike—to let the adults of the world know that young people are tired of waiting for action on climate change.

Want to show solidarity with Greta and other youth climate activists around the world? 

Join the March 15 international #YouthClimateStrike being promoted in the U.S. by our allies at the Sunrise Movement. Find tips on how to participate here.

In August 2015, Greta launched a one-person climate strike. At first, she was alone. Then other young students joined in. Greta now stays out of school every Friday to protest what she sees as the failure of adults to address the climate crisis.

Are you, your family, kids, friends and neighbors inspired by Greta? Then why not ditch school or work on March 15, to join striking youth—from elementary school kids to university students—in 50 countries, including Brazil, Chile, Iran, India and Japan? (Read the student strikers letter to world leaders).

Some nuts and bolts questions and answers

What happens if your children want to skip school on March 15 to join the strike?

Sunrise Movement leaders say that in most schools, striking students will be marked “absent” with no other repercussions. But just to be safe, if you’re a parent you may want to check with your local school's teachers and administrators to confirm your school’s policy.

Of course, your child could just call in sick for the day.

To connect with the ClimateStrike events in your area consult this map.

Adults are welcome to participate by:

• Supporting children who want to join the #YouthClimateStrike 

• Attending your local Sunrise rally or events with family and friends

• Telling your friends and neighbors about the Sunrise Movement, GND and upcoming #YouthClimateStrike

• Wearing green (or a green armband) on March 15th.

Sunrise: leading the way to a healthy and viable future for all

Here in the U.S., the Sunrise Movement’s outcry on the climate emergency has gained more national attention than any other social movement in recent U.S. history.

In just the last six months, U.S. Sunrise Movement activists, ranging in age from seven to 25, have staged protests on the Hill, inspired the creation of the GND and defended it. They’ve also confronted equivocating elected officials and requested their support for future GND legislation.

As a Sunrise partner, the OCA supports Sunrise and the GND as a vehicle for transitioning from a degenerative, extractive industrial food and farming system to a system based on regenerative agriculture practices that draw down and sequester carbon, produce nutrient-rich pesticide-free food, provide a fair living for farmers and ranchers and that leave the soil healthier, and our air and water cleaner.

As Greta recently said:

“United we will rise on 15 March and many times after until we see climate justice. We demand the world’s decision makers take responsibility and solve this crisis. You have failed us in the past. [But] the youth of this world has started to move and we will not rest again.”

Let’s show some solidarity with Greta, and all of the world’s youth on March 15!

Should Your Members of Congress Learn More About Organic?

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-03-05 15:17
March 5, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAlexis Baden-MayerAll About Organics, Politics & Globalization organic.png

You know that switching to organic and pasture-based agriculture is what we need to do to feed the world and cool the planet—because healthy soil can both provide abundant food, and also draw down and sequester carbon.

But do your members of Congress know this?

And if they do, are they doing anything to level the playing field for farmers who grow nutrient-rich food in ways that protect, not harm, the environment? So that those farmers stand a chance of making a decent living in a market dominated by industrial food producers?

Take Action: Invite your Congresspersons to the 'Farm and Food Policy for a Changing World' Briefing

We’re teaming up with GMO Free Pennsylvania to present a briefing on Capitol Hill to educate Senators and members of Congress about regenerative agriculture’s capacity to address some of our most pressing problems, including:

• Skyrocketing rates of diet-related diseases

• Rapidly vanishing natural resources, especially water

• Dangerous concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere

These problems have one thing in common: Their solution lies beneath our feet, in the soil. We might take dirt for granted, but we can't do much without it. As an anonymous wit observed:

Humankind, despite its artistic abilities, sophistication and accomplishments, owes its existence to a six-inch layer of farmable soil—and the fact that it rains!

TAKE ACTION: Click here to invite your Senators and Members of Congress to attend our March 8 briefing on how caring for the soil can help feed the world and cool the planet.

If you’re in the D.C. area, you’re welcome to attend in person, too!

The 2018 elections gave us many new members of Congress. Let’s get them engaged in working on a plan to transition to a regenerative organic food and farming system.

John E. Peck and Tiffany Finck-Hayne: Toxic Legacy Remains After Monsanto's Merger With Bayer

Organic consumers - Fri, 2019-03-01 16:52
Genetic EngineeringJohn E. PeckThe Cap TimesFebruary 28, 2019 bayer-roundup.png

The Department of Justice just announced its formal go-ahead for the Bayer-Monsanto merger, disregarding overwhelming opposition from farmers and other Americans across the country. The agency received more than a million public comments urging the agency to block the merger, but put its final rubber stamp on the deal at the end of January.

Now that Bayer and Monsanto have merged into the world’s largest biotech seed and pesticide corporation, it’s important to realize the true threat this massive conglomerate means for our entire food/farm system. Monsanto’s name may go into hiding, but its harmful legacy remains intact — emboldened, in fact, by Bayer’s acquisition.

In a politically convenient disappearing act, Bayer did sell off a handful of holdings to appease Justice Department concerns that it was gaining too much monopoly influence. By choosing to acquire Monsanto, Bayer also gained a rather infamous reputation — and potential future liability — now cascading throughout its entire product line.

Source Author 2: Tiffany Finck-Hayne

Rounding Up the Latest on the Monsanto Roundup Trial and Other Related News

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-02-28 14:30
February 28, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulGenetic Engineering, Politics & Globalization monsanto_black_white_tiles_letters_1200x630.jpg

While much of the nation was tuned into the Michael Cohen drama in Washington, D.C. this week, another drama was playing out in a San Francisco courtroom.

On February 25, a jury in San Francisco Federal Court began hearing the case of Edwin Hardeman vs. Monsanto. Hardeman alleges that Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer.

Hardeman’s is the second case involving someone who developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma after using Roundup. His case follows the August 10, 2018, $289-million judgment (later reduced to $78 million) awarded to DeWayne “Lee” Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who also sued Monsanto for causing his non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Monsanto’s appeal of the $78-million judgment is still pending.

There are more than 9,000 claims pending against Monsanto in state courts, about 620 awaiting trial in federal court. Reuters reported in November that Hardeman’s case was selected as “a so-called bellwether, or test trial, frequently used in U.S. product liability mass litigation to help both sides gauge the range of damages and define settlement options.”

Off to a rocky start

This week’s trial was barely underway before Judge Vince Chhabria threatened to “shut down” Hardeman’s attorney for violating the judge’s ban on presenting the jury with evidence that Monsanto attempted to manipulate regulators, including by ghostwriting safety reviews of its flagship herbicide.

According to reporting by U.S. Right to Know’s Carey Gillam, the judge was “ripping into” Hardeman’s attorney, Aimee Wagstaff, threatening to “sanction her $1,000 and maybe the whole plaintiff’s legal team as well. Calling her actions “incredibly dumb.”

A report in GM Watch outlined how even before the trial started, during jury selection. “Chhabria appeared to act in an overtly partisan way,” and had several prospective jurors “removed from the jury pool based on their written questionnaires, which indicated they had negative perceptions of Monsanto.”

According to GM Watch, Chhabria was biased from the start:

But although Chhabria agreed with Monsanto’s request to strike these people from the jury pool, he refused a request from the plaintiff’s attorneys to remove a prospective juror who said he felt “they (Monsanto) typically are very honest and helpful to society”, and that he believed Monsanto’s Roundup was safe. Negative perceptions of Monsanto, it seems, are problematic, but not positive ones.

On day three of the trial (Wednesday, February 26), another juror was dismissed, leaving one man and six women. As Gillam reports, a total of six jurors are required and all must be unanimous in their verdict. On the same day, Chhabria followed through on his threat to sanction ($500) Wagstaff.

Meanwhile, on the glyphosate front . . .

Even as jurors in San Francisco were listening to testimony on the science behind glyphosate and its link to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, glyphosate, the key active ingredient in Roundup, was making headlines elsewhere.

• Lymphoma News Today published an article on February 25 titled, “Exposure to Glyphosate in Herbicides Increases Risk of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Study Says.” The article referred to a recent meta-analysis of the studies on glyphosate and non-Hodgkin which concluded that exposure to glyphosate increases a person’s risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma by 41%.

• On February 22, Forbes magazine pulled an article by Geoffrey Kabat attacking the new meta-analysis confirming a link between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. As GM Watch reported, Kabat has plenty of conflicts of interest when it comes to Monsanto. He also wrongly claimed that Gillam, who reported on the meta-analysis, had previously been fired by Reuters.

• On February 14, Return to Now reported that Bill Gates donated $15 Million to a campaign pushing GMOs on small farmers around the world. This, despite mounting evidence of the health risks of GMO foods themselves, and the pesticides used to grow GMO crops. Not to mention the impact on water quality and soil health.

To keep up with the latest on the Hardeman vs. Monsanto trial, check out our #MonsantoTrial page.

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


Keeping It Real: Maine Regenerative Dairy Farmers Lose Contract, Not Hope

Organic consumers - Thu, 2019-02-28 14:07
February 28, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationKatherine PaulAll About Organics, Farm Issues milkhouse_dairy_and_creamery_1200x630.jpg

For four years, Milkhouse Dairy Farm and Creamery in Monmouth, Maine, supplied grass-fed organic milk to Horizon.

That was until Horizon told the farm’s owners, Caitlin Frame and Andy Smith, their contract would end in six months. Horizon said it was because Milkhouse was selling some of its milk direct to consumers and retail stores, and also using some of it to make and sell yogurt.

Horizon (owned by international food conglomerate, Danone) said it didn’t like that the farm was “diverting” some of its supply, instead of selling exclusively to Horizon.

In a video about Milkhouse Farm, produced by the Real Organic Project, Caitlin said that all-or-nothing policies like the one Horizon insists on takes the “independent” out of independently owned farms. Farmers lose their sense of ownership over their own farm and what they produce. For instance, a farmer can’t decide to sell 50 - 100 gallons of their milk to a local cheesemaker without fear of losing a big contract.

Caitlin and Andy were fortunate, in that they have their own on-farm milk processing. But the other five or six small Maine dairy farms dumped around the same time by Horizon didn’t. Andy told us that he suspects the real reason Horizon dropped their farm, and the others, is that the Horizon just didn’t want to deal with smaller milk suppliers.

In recent years, the organic dairy industry has been adopting the “bigger is better” model of non-organic dairy—a model that’s better for Big Brands, but not for smaller family-owned dairies. (They’re dropping like flies).

That model isn’t good for consumers, either. As the Washington Post reported last year, consolidation in the organic dairy industry has created a situation where consumers can no longer trust that milk advertised as organic even meets USDA organic standards, much less matches the quality of milk produced on farms like Milkhouse, which follow and/or exceed organic standards.

Smith told us in an interview that there’s no way a dairy farm with 5,000 - 10,000 cows is following the USDA Organic access to pasture rules which require animals to have a minimum of 120 days on pasture. They’re also not following the rules for transitioning calves to organic milk production. (For more on these rules and how they’re being skirted by large milk producers, read this article in the latest issue of “Organic Insider”).

By gaming the system, big organic milk brands can sell their products for less. Brands like Aurora and Horizon also supply the milk for store brands, such as those sold in Walmart, Costco and major retail chains. For a list of organic brands sold locally and regionally by authentic organic producers, check out the Cornucopia Organic Dairy Scorecard.

As with other agricultural sectors, smaller organic regenerative producers suffer under agricultural policies written by corporate agribusiness lobbyists who make sure the deck is stacked in their favor. The Green New Deal could help farms like Milkhouse, if it includes policies that reward farmers who use practices that lead to carbon drawdown and sequestration.

In the meantime, farmers like Caitlin and Andy are at a competitive disadvantage. With a farm their size, “We have no economy of scale,” Andy said. “Our products always end up costing more on the shelf.”

New England farmers don’t have access to the large tracts of land that exist in western states. But even if they did, Andy said they aren’t interested in scaling up. Fortunately, they are set up for on-farm processing. But that’s not feasible for most small farms, according to Andy, because of the cost, and because managing a milk processing operation requires a specific skill set that isn’t easy to come by.

“Lack of infrastructure is a huge problem, a huge bottleneck” for small dairy farms in Maine, Andy said. He said he and other small dairy farmers are working on several projects, including trying to create a shared brand, and trying to get an in-state milk processor. Right now, he said, most small organic dairies are limited to shipping their milk to Stonyfield, in New Hampshire, or Horizon, in western New York.

Milkhouse also raises pasture-based laying hens and pigs. The farm practices rotational grazing. In the video, Caitlin says pasture is the key “We grow grass, the cows make milk out of that grass and the milk feeds people. It’s magic making.”

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

Tell Congress: Consumers Want Labels on GMO Salmon!

Organic consumers - Mon, 2019-02-18 19:59
February 18, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAlison Rose LevyGenetic Engineering salmon_fish_underwater_1200x630.jpg

We think the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) was wrong to approve GMO salmon. But it did.

The least the FDA can do now is require clear labels on a genetically engineered food product that some scientists agree poses risks to human health and the environment.

TAKE ACTION: Tell your members of Congress to support the Genetically Engineered Salmon Labeling Act (H.R. 1104)!

In November 2015, the FDA approved genetically engineered salmon for sale in the U.S., despite our best efforts to stop them.

So far, GMO salmon hasn’t been sold in the U.S. because Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) managed to get the FDA to ban the import and sale of “frankenfish” until the agency agreed to establish labeling guidelines for it.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) meanwhile is working on finalizing GMO labeling rules since the passage of what became known as the "DARK Act." Those rules are shaping up just as we expected: as nothing more than a weak scheme involving QR codes and telephone numbers--and little or no useful labels for consumers.

Murkowski says that’s not good enough. So she’s reintroduced a bill to require clear labels on GMO salmon.

Murkowski has tried multiple times, without luck, to advance similar legislation. It’s only a matter of time before GMO salmon show up in U.S. stores and restaurants. Please take action today!

TAKE ACTION: Tell your members of Congress to support the Genetically Engineered Salmon Labeling Act (H.R. 1104)!

Arsenic in Your Fruit Juice? Tests Say Yes.

Organic consumers - Wed, 2019-02-13 17:49
February 13, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationJulie WilsonFood Safety juice_fruit_pour_glass_bottle_1200x630.jpg

Are there heavy metals lurking in your fruit juice?

Yes, according to a recent analysis by Consumer Reports (CR). CR tested 45 fruit juices in four popular flavors—apple, grape, pear and fruit blends—sold in the U.S. and found “elevated levels” of arsenic, cadmium and lead.

The levels were “concerning,” according to CR. Even more worrisome? Toxic heavy metals were found in nearly half of the juices tested.

The testing analyzed 24 national, store and private-label brands. Results included potentially harmful levels of cadmium, inorganic arsenic (the type most harmful to health) and/or lead in 47 percent of juices tested.

Out of all the flavors, grape juice and juice blends had the highest average of heavy metal levels.

Toxic heavy metals are known for their silent but deadly effects. Humans are exposed to heavy metals in a variety of ways including pesticides in food, contaminated drinking water, personal care products and amalgam dental fillings.

The toxins are the most dangerous when the effects are cumulative. In other words, the more you are exposed to heavy metals, the greater the risk. According to chemist, Tunde Akinleye, who led the testing:

“In the course of a lifetime, the average person will come into contact with these metals [cadmium, inorganic arsenic, lead and mercury] many times, from many sources. We’re exposed to these metals so frequently during our lives that it’s vital to limit exposures early on.”

CR’s test results are particularly alarming for a couple of reasons. For one, fruit juices are often marketed to children, who may be seriously harmed by heavy metal exposure even at low levels. Children who suffer chronic heavy metal exposure may experience lowered IQ, cancer, type 2 diabetes and behavioral problems, among other health issues.

Secondly, these heavy metals wouldn’t be showing up in our food and drink had our regulators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) taken the issue more seriously.

In 2013, the FDA proposed setting a threshold of 10 parts per billion (ppb) of inorganic arsenic in apple juice, the federal standard for arsenic in drinking water. The move followed earlier testing by Dr. Oz and CR in 2011, which found arsenic in apple juice. About 10 percent of the samples exceeded the U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s limit for arsenic in drinking water.

Regulators promised to lower the allowable limit by the end of 2018. But the FDA failed to act and the limit currently remains the same. Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at CR, told CR magazine:

“We encourage the FDA to finalize the limit as soon as possible. And we have pushed the agency to establish an even lower threshold for inorganic arsenic in apple juice at 3 ppb. We also believe more juices should be covered, not just apple.”

The FDA does have a set limit for lead in juice. But it’s 50 ppb, a limit CR warns is far too high. The standard for lead in bottled water is 10 times lower, at 5 ppb.

As for cadmium, the FDA has no set limit for the heavy metal in juice. That oversight is disturbing considering exposure to cadmium is linked to kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis.

Unfortunately, heavy metals are not the only threat lurking in fruit juice.

Recent testing by Moms Across America found glyphosate, the key active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller, in six top-selling orange juice brands: Florida’s Natural, Tropicana, Minute Maid, Starter Bros, Signature Farms and Kirkland.

Most noteworthy about this testing is that glyphosate—an herbicide linked to cancer by the World Health Organization—is turning up in products labeled “natural.”

Consumers seek out products that are labeled “natural,” because they believe those products are pesticide-free. And companies like Florida’s Natural use the word “natural” because they know consumers look for it—and will pay a premium for it.

If you expect products labeled “natural” to be free from unnatural ingredients—including agrochemicals linked to cancer—let Florida’s Natural know.

Click here to tell Florida’s Natural: Orange juice with Roundup weedkiller isn’t “natural!”

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

Why the Green New Deal Needs to Include Fair Prices for Farmers

Organic consumers - Tue, 2019-02-12 18:45
February 12, 2019Organic Consumers AssociationAlison Rose LevyEnvironment & Climate, Politics & Globalization woman_farmer_tomatoes_harvest_1200x630.jpg

The Green New Deal (GND) twin resolutions, introduced February 7, 2019, call for all Americans to have access to healthy food, clean water and clean air. The GND also proposes to provide “economic security,” jobs and good wages to all who want to participate in the new green economy.


For consumers, healthy food (and clean water and clean air, for that matter) mean transitioning away from an industrial agriculture model that poisons our food and pollutes our environment.


For farmers, any promise of “economic security” must include the return to an economic agriculture model based on providing farmers a fair price for the products they produce—or as the agriculture industry calls it, “parity pricing.” Only then, will the GND fulfill its promise to clean up our food system, clean up our environment and provide a “fair and just transition for all communities and workers.”


How farm economics used to work


The three most basic priorities of any food system should be to:


• Grow health-promoting food for people

• Grow food through consistent, ecologically sound methods that use (and renew) limited earthly resources wisely, rather than squandering or depleting them

• Fairly compensate food growers and producers to assure their financial sustainability so they can continue to grow food and care for the land.


Our food and farming system used to be built around these priorities. New York organic farmer and food activist, Elizabeth Henderson explains the original economic model for food production this way:


Farmers received fair prices for their crops, production was controlled to prevent costly surpluses, and consumer prices remained low and stable. At the same time, the number of new farmers increased, soil and water conservation practices expanded dramatically, and overall farm debt declined. What is even more important is that this parity program was not a burden to the taxpayers…by charging interest on its storable commodity loans, made nearly $13 million between 1933 and 1952.


Under this model, it was possible for farmers to:


• Calculate the costs of growing, for example, five bushels of wheat

• Extrapolate with slight margins for contingencies (like weather) how much wheat would be grown and required

• Determine a fair baseline price

• Manage surpluses and shortfalls


This was a better way to compensate farmers for excess production or shortfalls. Farmers could deposit into and manage stored surpluses during times of excess production, and the public could withdraw from those surpluses in times of scarcity.  There is no real rationale for paying farmers less for shelf-stable foods simply because that food was grown during a period of high yields.


The long unwinding of the parity model


Unfortunately, beginning nearly 70 years ago, the agro-industry started disrupting this economic model. It began in the early 1950s, with a corporate takeover of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that resulted in government policies that promoted the use of toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers in agriculture, and the corporations that sell them. Over time, policy changes led to increased industry consolidation and the concentration of power—and profits—in the hands of a shrinking number of dominant corporations.


This shifting economic model creates an uneven playing field for many of today’s farmers who come from multi-generational farming families that passed down their farmlands to successive generations. Some of these descendants—people the public knows as “organic farmers”—carried forward the centuries-old farming traditions that the policy takeover of the 1950s sought to displace. Their long-established cultivation practices (along with many new regenerative practices innovated over the last 40 years) have a dual purpose: to raise the food and to tend the land.


Organic regenerative farming practices accord with both nature and common sense—because if you grow food without tending the land, you will ultimately degrade the land until it can no longer grow food. It only makes sense, then, that organic farmers should receive a fair price for the goods—and ecosystem services—they provide.  Charles Walters, founder of Acres USA sums it up this way:


Bring back parity and farm organically—that’s the double recipe for bringing prosperity back to the farm.


For more on the history of parity price, read this article by organic dairy farmer Kevin Engelbert, or this interview with George Naylor, family farm advocate and past president of the National Family Farm Coalition.


How today’s system fails farmers


How exactly does the economic model of today’s industrial agriculture system predictably fail to deliver on the three baseline priorities of a healthy food system?  


One of the most basic tenets of a sound business model is to cover costs and provide adequate returns. Investing returns back into a business produces steady and sustainable growth. Failure to cover costs and reinvest leads to corner cutting, products of lesser quality, diminishing returns and debt.


Instead of giving those who supply one of humankind’s most baseline needs—food—a fair and stable price for what they grow, based on the actual costs (supplies, equipment, labor, land acquisition and management, processing, shipping, taxes, and more) the industrial agricultural system takes an undue share of the profits and entraps growers into working harder and harder, and growing more and more for less and less.


Here’s what happens: If farmers grow too little wheat, wheat prices go up. If they grow too much, prices go down. Instead of basing prices on the costs of production, under today’s agriculture economic model, costs are pegged to output levels. In other words, farmers are punished for producing too much food, and rewarded for producing too little.


If the goal of farming is to feed people, and provide a decent living for food producers, this makes no sense.


Today’s agricultural economic model not only fails farmers, it fails consumers and the environment.


Today’s model a disaster for consumers and the environment, too


Today’s USDA policies keep healthy food less affordable than junk food. Despite exhortations to consume more fruits and vegetables, food deserts and higher costs force many people to subsist on nutrient-poor packaged junk foods, such as chips, canned food and soda.


The disparity and injustice of our two-tiered food system allows those of means to consume healthy fruits, vegetables and grass-fed meat, while those of lesser income must survive on repurposed corn and GMO soy products, and “cheap” meat produced on industrial factory farms, or Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), where animals are treated inhumanely, and fed GMO feed laced with antibiotics, growth hormones and other drugs, including some that have been banned from animal production.


In order to compete under today’s model, many farmers find themselves forced into the commodity system, growing monoculture crops like corn and soy which require the use of expensive and toxic pesticides and herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers—all of which pollute waterways, deplete soil organic matter and fertility, degrade the land’s ability to absorb and hold water, kill off biodiversity and contribute to global warming and desertification.


Green New Deal has potential to fix our broken farming system


A major feature of the proposed Green New Deal is the creation of a new energy economy, with new jobs. But the GND also promises the opportunity to shift to a new food and farming economy that would:


• Help farmers caught up in the existing system to transition to regenerative methods

• Facilitate the entrée of new, younger and more diverse populations into a more economically fair and rewarding model for food farming with mentorship from veteran farmers

• Scale up climate mitigation to meaningful levels more successfully than possible through any other means

• Increase the availability of healthy foods for all


By giving farmers a fair price through the GND, farmers will be recruited to the frontlines of the climate emergency—reinvesting in the land, rebuilding the soil, increasing biodiversity and growing varied types of crops, such as fruits and vegetables, and not merely commodity crops like corn and soy.


This is why numerous environmental, food and climate organizations support the inclusion of regenerative agriculture in the GND.


The GND outlines ambitious and much-needed climate goals. Those goals are attainable—but only if the final plan includes policies and programs that will promote a transition from our dominant degenerative industrial agriculture system toward an organic regenerative alternative that provides access to healthy food for all, while at the same ending farming-related soil, air and water pollution, and moving us toward net zero emissions by drawing down and sequestering carbon in healthy soil.


Above all, the GND’s promise of “economic security” for all must include fair prices for farmers who farm in ways that produce healthy food, heal the earth and cool the planet.


Alison Rose Levy writes for the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.