Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dangerous Levels of Roundup Found in GMO Foods Across U.S.

In a recent report released by Norwegian scientists and researchers studying genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and other genetically engineered produce in the Unite States, GMO foods across the U.S. have been found to contain absurdly dangerous high, levels of Roundup, a product used to kill weeds and ward off various harmful insects.

As Roundup is known as a weed-killing poison, one should probably ask why this particular substance would be used in the very food which keeps humans alive.

The answer lies in customer demands at the grocery store for flawless produce and goods, but this demand comes at a cost. Hence, the Monsanto Corporation in particular has both used this demand, as well as utilizing cheaper means of producing food, which looks delectable and sells quickly.

However, the chemicals and pesticides used in growing food products across the country, specifically GMO produce, present a grave health risk to many Americans who continue to purchase these foods containing pesticides like Roundup and others every single day.

Showing dangerous levels of glyphosate (the chemical manufactured to kill weeds, and used in Roundup), genetically engineered soy is frequently used in feed for animals such as cows, chickens, pigs, as well as feed for turkeys. Glyphosate has also been frequently found in non-organic foods, mostly in packaged food items and a range of GMO products and foods across the U.S.

According to the study published by ScienceDirect, not only do glyphosate GMO soybeans retain higher traces of glyphosate, but “Organic soybeans showed a more healthy nutritional profile than other soybeans.” The study also says that even though organic soy contained less fiber and omega-6, that organic soy “showed a more healthy nutritional profile than other soybeans.” The study concluded that overall, GMO soybeans are not equivalent to non-GMO soybeans.

GMO foods, with the aid of the kinds of chemicals found in Roundup, are altered in such a way that would not and could not ever appear naturally in nature. Corn, soy, beets, and canola are some of these main crops which are both GMO and are often treated with Roundup.

As the Norwegian study states, weeds are now becoming resistant to glyphosate. Farmers producing GMO produce spray more and more Roundup, and the chemical has infiltrated crops that consumers purchase on a day-to-day basis. 

Allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), non-organic farmers have been allowed to use such chemicals, and this has resulted in increased levels of glyphosate in foods across the U.S. The rise of hard-to-kill super weeds has only seduced the EPA to raise these residue limits by 200 percent, specifically in soybeans.

The conclusion of the report shows that between genetically engineered soybeans, traditional (non-GMO) soybeans and organic soybeans, all GMO soybeans had high levels of glyphosate, and were found to have less nutritional vitamin content than what is found in traditional soy. Organic and non-GMO soybeans did not show any traces of glyphosate. Soybeans which were organic also provided more nutritional benefits, including higher levels of protein and less saturated fats than GMO soybeans.

Based on the studies mentioned, are dangerous levels of Roundup in GMO foods found across the U.S. something that Americans actually want? The general consensus seems to be negative. GMOs in general have already been recently banned in Bavaria, Germany, and the U.S. state of Vermont has now required complete labeling of all products with GMO origin. The task now is to determine how such powerful companies, Monsanto especially, will work to help repair the current system of allowing GMO produce cultivation, or must citizens act in order to halt GMO production?


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

How Vermont plans to defend the nation’s first GMO law

Expect two things to happen now that Vermont’s legislature has passed H.112.
Any day now, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) is expected to make history by signing that bill into law as he has suggested, making his the first state to require genetically modified food to be labeled as such. Then, maybe not too long after that, expect the state to be sued over it.

There’s no guarantee of legal action, but legislators, officials and advocates are preparing for it. Earlier this month, state Attorney General Bill Sorrell told Vermont Public Radio that he would be “very surprised” if the state isn’t sued over the law. And officials were so sure of a challenge that the measure itself creates a $1.5 million legal defense fund, to be paid for with settlements won by the state. They think it’s coming, but they also say they’re ready.

“The threat of a lawsuit worked for a while, but now it doesn’t work anymore,” says Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association, whose organization has for years worked with activists and lawmakers in Vermont on the issue. “I think they may go ahead and sue and do it rather quickly in the hopes that it may gather momentum,” he added, referring to biotech industry groups.

Other states have pursued similar measures, but Vermont’s law will be the first of its kind. Connecticut and Maine passed labeling requirements, but with trigger clauses requiring multiple other states to pass labeling requirements before their own go into effect. At least 25 states have considered such legislation, according to a Monday report on labeling requirements from the nonprofit Council for Agricultural Science and Technology. And advocates are hopeful they will get a measure on the Oregon ballot this year.
JUMP for more

Monday, April 28, 2014

Cloning used to make stem cells from adult humans

(CNN) -- For the first time, cloning technologies have been used to generate stem cells that are genetically matched to adult patients.

Fear not: No legitimate scientist is in the business of cloning humans. But cloned embryos can be used as a source for stem cells that match a patient and can produce any cell type in that person.

Researchers in two studies published this month have created human embryos for this purpose. Usually an embryo forms when sperm fertilizes egg; in this case, scientists put the nucleus of an adult skin cell inside an egg, and that reconstructed egg went through the initial stages of embryonic development.

"This is a dream that we've had for 15 years or so in the stem cell field," said John Gearhart, director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Gearhart first proposed this approach for patient-specific stem cell generation in the 1990s but was not involved in the recent studies.

Stem cells have the potential to develop into any kind of tissue in the human body. From growing organs to treating diabetes, many future medical advances are hoped to arise from stem cells.

Scientists wrote in the journal Cell Stem Cell this month that they used skin cells from a man, 35, and another man, 75, to create stem cells from cloned embryos.

"We reaffirmed that it is possible to produce patient-specific stem cells using a nuclear transfer technology regardless of the patient's age," said co-lead author Young Gie Chung at the CHA Stem Cell Institute in Seoul, South Korea.

On Monday, an independent group led by scientists at the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute published results in Nature using a similar approach. They used skin cells from a 32-year-old woman with Type 1 diabetes to generate stem cells matched to her.

Both new reports follow the groundbreaking research published last year by Shoukhrat Mitalipov and colleagues at Oregon Health & Science University in the journal Cell. In that study, researchers produced cloned embryos and stem cells using skin cells from a fetus and an 8-month-old baby.

"It's a remarkable process that gives us these master cells, these stems cells that are essentially the seeds for all of the tissues in our bodies," said George Daley, director of the Stem Cell Transplantation Program at Boston Children's Hospital, who was not involved in the recent studies. "That's why it's so important for medical research."

A brief history of stem cells

The first developments in the field of stem cell research used leftover embryos created by the union of sperm and egg from in vitro fertilization.

But embryonic stem cell research is controversial because to use the stem cells for developing medical treatments, the embryo is destroyed. Embryos have the potential to develop into a fully formed human, bringing up ethical questions.
Scientists later realized that it's not necessary to use embryos to obtain stem cells that match patients. Shinya Yamanaka won the 2012 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for discovering how to make "induced pluripotent stem cells," or IPS cells.

IPS cells are made by inserting genes to "turn back the clock" on mature cells that already have specific functions. It doesn't matter what the cell was before; it can now be reprogrammed as any kind of cell researchers want.

Why, then, would researchers bother to make stem cells using cloning, which requires human eggs and the creation of embryos?

"People have made patient-matched stem cells using IPS methods," said Dieter Egli, senior author on the Nature paper that could have implications for diabetes treatment and researcher at the New York Stem Cell Foundation. "But it is not clear in the U.S. at the very least, and also elsewhere, how and if these are going to be translated into people."

Egli points out that there have been some reports that IPS cells may have shortcomings when converted into specific cell types, and that stem cells produced by cloning may be better.

But which stem cell type is better and safer -- the IPS cells or cells from cloned embryos? That is still an open question. To settle it, there would need to be a comparison of the two stem cell types generated using the DNA of the same person.

Gearhart doesn't see the cloning method replacing the use of IPS cells, which are not controversial and don't require that women donate their eggs.

"As we learn more about the reprogramming process that normally occurs in the egg following fertilization, we can use that information to produce better IPS cells," Gearhart said.

The process of extracting eggs is complex and expensive; having enough supply is a "serious concern," Daley said.

"The more we learn about reprogramming, the more I think IPS will be the one of choice," Gearhart said.

Making stem cells by cloning

An embryo, the earliest stage of human development, is a cluster of cells smaller than the period at the end of this sentence.

To make a cloned embryo, scientists use equipment analogous to "like a half-million-dollar video game," Daley said.

Researchers perform surgery on eggs with needles that are the 10th of the size of a human hair. They use joysticks to manipulate the tiny equipment, spearing the egg, removing its DNA and then transferring the nucleus of a skin cell into the egg.

"That process, which is called nuclear transfer, sets in motion this remarkable process of early human development," Daley said. "We trick this reconstructed egg into thinking it's been fertilized."

Chung's group -- which led the Cell Stem Cell study -- used this cloning method that Mitalipov had pioneered to get two stem cell lines out of 77 eggs. "It seems that the quality of oocyte (egg) plays a pivotal role," Chung said.

Egli and colleagues had their own spin on the cloning process, amending it so that it happens in a more controlled way. Their study in Nature used electricity in combination with chemicals, and manipulating the calcium concentration, to improve the procedure. They generated stem cells specific to the diabetic patient who had donated skin cells; the eggs came from donors.

This group got four cell lines from 71 eggs, said research assistant Lydia Mailander. The average egg donation is 14 to 15 oocytes. Researchers estimate it would take two such donations to get one stem cell line.

In mice, Egli and colleagues showed in a separate study that the cloned stem cells from the diabetic patient mature into glucose-responsive beta cells, which secrete insulin into the bloodstream of the animals.

Further considerations

It's not clear that there are enough eggs in supply to support a large-scale production of stem cells this way, experts said.

For the near-term research purposes, there seem to be enough eggs available for stem cell cloning: About 10,000 egg donor cycles occur annually in the United States, Egli said.

But egg donation for research is generally low, Gearhart said. According to the American Diabetes Association, about 1 million Americans have Type 1 diabetes, the target population for a potential stem cell therapy.

The cloning method takes a few weeks, and is not significantly faster than generating IPS cells, Egli said.

Including compensation to the woman, an egg donation cycle costs about $14,000, Egli said.

"It may not at all be more expensive (than IPS) if the cells that we make are actually better," he said. "That's why it's important to do these comparisons."
Such a comparison would be interesting, said Daley, but the advantages would have to be considerable to beat out IPS, which is "much more efficient and less ethically contentious that Yamanaka (the Nobel winner) taught us."

Still, from a research perspective, the cloning method could help scientists interested in understanding how an egg reprograms the cell, Daley said. It could help answer: "How does an egg reset the whole identity of an adult cell back to an embryonic state?"

Stem cell cloning research might, in this way, teach scientists how to make stem cells more efficiently, he said, and optimize them for medical applications.

How about making a clone?

Mitalipov told CNN in 2013 that the embryos created in his study, from skin cells and eggs, would not grow babies. That would have required additional technology, and it wasn't part of the study.

But the same basic "nuclear transfer" principle used in Mitalipov's, Chung's and Egli's studies was used create Dolly the sheep, the first mammal clone.

In Dolly's case, an embryo created by nuclear transfer was transplanted to a ewe, which gave birth to a sheep.

In the case of human embryos generated in these stem cell experiments, "it would be dangerous and unethical to attempt to transfer them into a uterus," Daley said.

Link and a Great Slide Show of "History of Stem Cells"

Bone Marrow Transplants A Lot Safer Now

Sandra Haber, a 65-year-old psychologist in Brooklyn, wants everyone to know how easy it is now to donate bone marrow.

Hers was failing. She was anemic, bled easily and had little resistance to infection. As her condition progressed toward leukemia, doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center urged her to get a bone-marrow transplant. Fortunately, there was a donor: Testing showed that a sister living in New Mexico was a perfect match.

But at first Haber's sister was hesitant, fearful of the general anesthesia, painful withdrawal of marrow from a hip bone and difficult recovery she thought was involved. Yet she came to New York for further tests and learned that the process was simple and safe: basically a lengthy blood donation after a week of daily injections to spur her own bone marrow to produce an oversupply of stem cells.

About 90 percent of bone marrow "transplants" are now done this way, most often with stem cells from a matched donor's blood, sometimes from a baby's umbilical cord and placenta or the patient's own stem cells. After the recipient's own dysfunctional marrow is destroyed by intensive chemotherapy and sometimes total body radiation, the donated stem cells are infused into the recipient's blood through a special intravenous line, called a central line. The cells find their way to bone marrow, where they gradually restore the recipient's ability to produce red and white blood cells and platelets.

"A stem cell transplant is not a walk in the park," Haber said. "It's more like a marathon than a sprint, and the healing process is long and not linear."

It typically takes six months to a year to regain full blood cell production and immune function, during which special precautions are essential.

But when a life is saved, the challenges are worth it, recipients say. Haber said her weeks in the hospital in relative isolation were not especially difficult. She described the fatigue afterward as more of a hardship, but that, too, abated as she has gradually regained her former energy.

Now Haber wonders why a sign in her hospital still reads "Bone Marrow Transplant Unit," when marrow donation is a rarity and the thought of it may scare off potential donors.

Many in need of healthy bone marrow die before a good match can be found. Haber thinks if the language changed, far more people from diverse ethnic and racial groups might be willing to join the American Bone Marrow Donor Registry -- whose name perhaps should also be changed.

Donors must be 18 to 60 and healthy. Registration involves just a cheek swab from which the donor's tissue type is analyzed and stored in a national database.

When someone who needs new bone marrow has no close match among eligible relatives, doctors check the registry for a matching volunteer elsewhere. The need is especially great for patients who are African-American, Asian or of mixed ethnic or racial backgrounds.

A match is determined by checking proteins called HLA antigens present on cells from the donor and recipient. As with other traits, people inherit the genes that determine these antigens from each parent; the more genetically distant the parents, the less common the mix of antigens is likely to be. Without a very close match, the donor's cells are likely to attack the recipient's tissues, a potentially fatal complication called graft-versus-host disease.

Stem cell transplants can help people whose bone marrow is diseased or dysfunctional and unable to produce the red blood cells that carry oxygen, white blood cells that fight infections, or platelets that enable the blood to clot. Such conditions include cancers like leukemia, certain lymphomas, multiple myeloma and aplastic anemia; inherited disorders like sickle cell anemia and thalassemia; and severe immune deficiency disorders in newborns.

For cancer patients, a stem cell transplant offers an additional benefit: The new blood cells can attack errant cancer cells that may have survived the original chemotherapy.

Stem cell transplants are expensive, $100,000 to $200,000.

Prospective patients are urged to check with their insurance carriers before embarking on the process.


Friday, April 25, 2014

Monsanto and Big Food Losing the GMO and 'Natural' Food Fight

After 20 years of battling Monsanto and corporate agribusiness, food and farm activists in Vermont, backed by a growing movement across the country, are on the verge of a monumental victory -- mandatory labels on genetically engineered foods and a ban on the routine industry practice of labeling GMO-tainted foods as "natural."

On April 16, 2014, the Vermont Senate passed H.112 by a vote of 28-2, following up on the passage of a similar bill in the Vermont House last year. The legislation, which requires all GMO foods sold in Vermont to be labeled by July 1, 2016, will now pass through a House/Senate conference committee before landing on Governor Peter Shumlin's desk, for final approval.

Strictly speaking, Vermont's H.112 applies only to Vermont. But it will have the same impact on the marketplace as a federal law. Because national food and beverage companies and supermarkets will not likely risk the ire of their customers by admitting that many of the foods and brands they are selling in Vermont are genetically engineered, and deceptively labeled as "natural" or "all natural" while simultaneously trying to conceal this fact in the other 49 states and North American markets. As a seed executive for Monsanto admitted 20 years ago, "If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it."

Proof of this "skull and crossbones" effect is evident in the European Union, where mandatory labeling, in effect since 1997, has all but driven genetically engineered foods and crops off the market. The only significant remaining GMOs in Europe today are imported grains (corn, soy, canola, cotton seed) primarily from the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and Argentina. These grains are used for animal feed, hidden from public view by the fact that meat, dairy and eggs derived from animals fed GMOs do not yet have to be labeled in the EU.

Given the imminent passage of the Vermont legislation and the growing strength of America's anti-GMO and pro-organic movement, the Gene Giants -- Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, Bayer, BASF, and Syngenta -- and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), representing Big Food, find themselves in a difficult position. Early polls indicate that Oregon voters will likely pass a ballot initiative on Nov. 4, 2014, to require mandatory labeling of GMOs in Oregon. Meanwhile, momentum for labeling continues to gather speed in other states as well.

Connecticut and Maine have already passed GMO labeling laws, but these laws contain "trigger" clauses, which prevent them from going into effect until other states mandate labeling as well. Vermont's law does not contain a "trigger" clause. As soon as the governor signs it, it will have the force of law.

Divisions Between Big Food and the Gene Giants

Given what appears to be the inevitable victory of the consumer right-to-know movement, some of the U.S.'s largest food companies have quietly begun distancing themselves from Monsanto and the genetic engineering lobby. General Mills, Post Foods, Chipotle, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and others have begun to make changes in their supply chains in order to eliminate GMOs in some or all of their products. Several hundred companies have enrolled in the Non-GMO Project so they can credibly market their products as GMO-free.

At least 30 members (10 percent of the total membership) of the GMA who contributed money to defeat Proposition 37 in California in November 2012, have held back on making further contributions to stop labeling initiatives in other states. Among the apparent defectors in the GMA ranks are: Mars, Unilever, Smithfield, Heinz, Sara Lee, Dole, Wrigley, and Mead Johnson. Under pressure from the Organic Consumers Association, Dr. Anthony Weil's natural health and supplements company, Weil Lifestyle, pulled out of the GMA.

Meanwhile a number of the Gene Giants themselves, including Monsanto, appear to be slowly decreasing their investments in gene-spliced GMOs, while increasing their investments in more traditional, and less controversial, cross-breeding and hybrid seed sales. Still, don't expect the Gene Giants to give up on the GMO seeds and crops already in production, especially Roundup Ready and Bt-spliced crops, nor those in the pipeline such as 2,4-D "Agent Orange" and Dicamba-resistant corn and soybeans, GE rice, and "RNA interference" crops such as non-browning apples, and fast-growing genetically engineered trees.

America's giant food companies and their chemical industry allies understand the threat posed by truthful labeling of GMOs, pesticides, antibiotics, growth promoters and toxic chemicals. They understand full well that the GMO monocrops and factory farms that dominate U.S. agriculture not only pose serious health and environmental hazards, but represent a significant public relations liability as well.

This is why the food and GE giants are threatening to sue Vermont and any other state that dares to pass a GMO labeling bill, even though industry lawyers have no doubt informed them that they are unlikely to win in federal court.

This is also why corporate agribusiness is supporting "Ag Gag" state laws making it a crime to photograph or film on factory farms. Why they're lobbying for state laws that take away the rights of counties and local communities to regulate agricultural practices. And why they're supporting secret international trade agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that will, among other provisions, enable multinational corporations to sue and eliminate state and local laws on matters such as GMOs, food safety, and country of origin labeling.

The bottom line is this: Corporate America's current "business-as-usual" strategies are incompatible with consumers' right to know, and communities' and states' rights to legislate.

Coca-Cola, Pepsi, General Mills, Kellogg's, Campbell's, Safeway, Del Monte, Nestlé, Unilever, ConAgra, Wal-Mart, and every food manufacturer with GMO-tainted brands, understand they're not going to be able to label their products as "produced with genetic engineering," or drop the use of the term "natural" on GMO-tainted products, only in Vermont, while refusing to do so in other states and international markets. This is why their powerful front group, the GMA, is frantically working in Washington, D.C., to lobby the FDA and the Congress to take away the right of states to require genetically engineered foods and food ingredients to be labeled, and to allow them to continue to label and advertise genetically engineered and chemically-laced foods as "natural" or "all natural."

Industry's Last Chance: Indentured Politicians

Conspiring with the GMA, Monsanto's minions from both the Republican and Democratic parties in Congress, led by the notorious Koch brothers mouthpiece, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), introduced in early April in the House a GMA-scripted bill to outlaw mandatory state GMO labels and allow the continued use of "natural" or "all natural" product labels on a wide range of Frankenfoods and beverages.

The GMA's federal offensive to prop up the dangerous and evermore unpopular technology of transgenic foods comes on the heels of two high-profile ballot initiative battles in California (2012), and Washington State (2013), where GMA members were forced to spend almost $70 million to narrowly defeat GMO labeling forces. The 15 largest contributors to stop GMO labeling in California and Washington include the following GMA members:

(1) Monsanto: $13,487,350
(2) Dupont: $9,280,159
(3) Pepsico: $4,837,966
(4) Coca-Cola: $3,210,851
(5) Nestlé: $2,989,806
(6) Bayer CropScience: $2,591,654
(7) Dow Agrosciences: $2,591,654
(8) BASF Plant Science: $2,500,000
(9) Kraft Foods (Mondolez International) $2,391,835
(10) General Mills: $2,099,570
(11) ConAgra Foods: $2,004,951
(12) Syngenta: $2,000,000
(13) Kellogg's: $1,112,749
(14) Campbell Soup: $982,888
(15) Smucker Company: $904,977

The Fire Next Time

These "dirty tricks," "dirty money" ballot initiative victories in California and Washington now ring hollow. If Congress or the FDA, prompted by these same companies, dare to stomp on states' rights to require GMO labels on GMO food, if they dare to repress the rights of millions of consumers to know whether or not their food is genetically engineered, they run the very real risk of detonating an even larger and more vociferous grassroots rebellion, including massive boycotts and a concerted effort to throw "Monsanto's Minions" out of Congress. The widespread furor last year over the so-called "Monsanto Protection Act," surreptitiously appended to the Appropriations Bill, and then, after massive uproar, subsequently removed, is but a partial foreshadowing of the turmoil yet to come.

Likewise Congress or the FDA should think twice before legally sanctioning the patently outrageous practice of allowing companies to continue to label or advertise GMO or chemically tainted food as "natural" or "all natural."

Given the fact that 80-90 percent of American consumers want genetically engineered foods to be labeled, as indicated by numerous polls over the last 10 years, and given the fact that it is obviously unethical and fraudulent to label or advertise GMO or heavily chemically processed foods as "natural," even the FDA has so far declined to come to the rescue of Monsanto and Big Food. In the face of 65 so far largely successful national class-action lawsuits against food companies accused of fraudulently labeling their GMO or chemically-laced brands as "natural, "Big Food's lawyers have asked the FDA to come to their aid. But so far, the FDA has declined to throw gasoline on the fire.

It's clear why "profit at any cost" big business wants to keep consumers in the dark. They want to maximize their profits. The consumer, the environment, the climate be damned. But let's review, for the record, why truthful food labeling is so important to us, the overwhelming majority of the people, and to future generations.

Here are three major, indeed life-or-death, issues that drive America's new anti-GMO and pro-organic food movement:

(1) There is mounting, and indeed alarming, evidence that genetically engineered foods and crops, and the toxic pesticides, chemicals, and genetic constructs that accompany them, are hazardous. GMOs pose a mortal threat, not only to human and animal health, but also to the environment, biodiversity, the survival of small-scale family farms, and climate stability.

(2) Genetically engineered crops are the technological cornerstone and ideological rationale for our dominant, out-of-control system of industrial agriculture, factory farms, and highly processed junk food. America's industrial food and farming system is literally destroying public health, the environment, soil fertility and climate stability. As we educate, boycott and mobilize, as we label and drive GMOs off the market, we simultaneously rip the mask off Big Food and chemical corporations, which will ultimately undermine industrial agriculture and speed up the "Great Transition" to a food and farming system that is organic, sustainable and climate stabilizing.

(3) Fraudulent "natural" labels confuse consumers and hold back the growth of true organic alternatives. Consumers are confused about the difference between conventional products marketed as "natural," or "all natural"and those nutritionally and environmentally superior products that are "certified organic." Recent polls indicate that many health- and green-minded consumers remain confused about the qualitative difference between products labeled or advertised as "natural," versus those labeled as organic. Many believe that "natural" means "almost organic," or that a natural product is even better than organic. Thanks to growing consumer awareness, and four decades of hard work, the organic community has built up a $35-billion "certified organic" food and products sector that prohibits the use of genetic engineering, irradiation, toxic pesticides, sewage sludge and chemical fertilizers. As impressive as this $35 billion Organic Alternative is, it remains overshadowed by the $80 billion in annual spending by consumers on products marketed as "natural." Get rid of fraudulent "natural" labels on GMO and chemically tainted products, and organic sales will skyrocket.

With the passage of the Vermont GMO labeling law, after 20 years of struggle, it's time to celebrate our common victory. But as we all know, the battle for a new food and farming system, and a sustainable future has just begun.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

An Apple a Day, and Other Myths

SAN DIEGO — A trip to almost any bookstore or a cruise around the Internet might leave the impression that avoiding cancer is mostly a matter of watching what you eat. One source after another promotes the protective powers of “superfoods,” rich in antioxidants and other phytochemicals, or advises readers to emulate the diets of Chinese peasants or Paleolithic cave dwellers.

But there is a yawning divide between this nutritional folklore and science. During the last two decades the connection between the foods we eat and the cellular anarchy called cancer has been unraveling string by string.

This month at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, a mammoth event that drew more than 18,500 researchers and other professionals here, the latest results about diet and cancer were relegated to a single poster session and a few scattered presentations. There were new hints that coffee may lower the risk of some cancers and more about the possible benefits of vitamin D. Beyond that there wasn’t much to say.

In the opening plenary session, Dr. Walter C. Willett, a Harvard epidemiologist who has spent many years studying cancer and nutrition, sounded almost rueful as he gave a status report. Whatever is true for other diseases, when it comes to cancer there was little evidence that fruits and vegetables are protective or that fatty foods are bad.

About all that can be said with any assurance is that controlling obesity is important, as it also is for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke and other threats to life. Avoiding an excess of alcohol has clear benefits. But unless a person is seriously malnourished, the influence of specific foods is so weak that the signal is easily swamped by noise.

The situation seemed very different in 1997, when the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research published a report, thick as a phone book, concluding that diets loaded with fruits and vegetables might reduce the overall incidence of cancer by more than 20 percent.

After reviewing more than 4,000 studies, the authors were persuaded that green vegetables helped ward off lung and stomach cancer. Colon and thyroid cancer might be avoided with broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts. Onions, tomatoes, garlic, carrots and citrus fruits all seemed to play important roles.

In 2007, a major follow-up all but reversed the findings. While some kinds of produce might have subtle benefits, the authors concluded, “in no case now is the evidence of protection judged to be convincing.”

The reason for the change was more thorough epidemiology. The earlier studies tended to be “retrospective,” relying on people to remember dietary details from the distant past. These results were often upended by “prospective” protocols, in which the health of large populations was followed in real time.

The hypothesis that fatty foods are a direct cause of cancer has also been crumbling, along with the case for eating more fiber. The idea that red meat causes colon cancer is shrouded in ambiguity. Two meta-analyses published in 2011 reached conflicting conclusions — one finding a small effect and the other no clear link at all.

If hamburgers are carcinogenic, the effect appears to be mild. One study suggests that a 50-year-old man eating a hefty amount of red meat — about a third of a pound a day — raises his chance of getting colorectal cancer to 1.71 percent during the next decade, from 1.28 percent. Spread over a population of millions, that would have an impact. From the point of view of an individual, it barely seems to matter.

Trying to tweeze feeble effects from a tangle of variables, many of them unknown, inevitably leads to a tug of war of contradictory reports. (As the San Diego meeting was winding up, a new paper on high-fat diets and breast cancer suggested there might be a connection after all.)

With even the most rigorous studies, it is hard to adjust for what epidemiologists call confounding factors: Assiduous eaters of fruits and vegetables probably weigh less, exercise more often and are vigilant about their health in other ways. Some of this can be sorted out with randomized controlled trials, with two large groups of people arbitrarily assigned different diets. But such studies are expensive, and the rules are hard to enforce in the short term — and probably impossible over the many years it can take for cancer to develop.

The emphasis at the meeting was on other things: new immunotherapies, the role of chronic inflammation and the endlessly intricate subterfuges of cancer cells. With his focus on nutrition, Dr. Willett seemed like the odd man out.

“Diet and cancer has turned out to be more complex and challenging than any of us expected,” he said, standing thin as a rail at the lectern. There were some reasons for optimism. A study last year suggested that while eating lots of produce had no effect on most breast cancers, vegetables might reduce the occurrence of a type called estrogen-negative. Cutting back on milk and other dairy products might possibly lower the risk of prostate cancer. As epidemiologists began to follow the health of younger populations, Dr. Willett hoped that more dietary influences would yet emerge.

That evening at a reception hosted by the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, guests partook of a sumptuous buffet that included, among other fare, thick slabs of roast beef, a variety of rich cheeses and generous servings of wine. Afterward came the cancer research association’s grand celebration known for its dessert buffet.

The next morning the scientists were back at the meeting, coffee in hand, rushing from session to session. Some might have paused to study a display in the convention dining area recognizing the 50th anniversary of the surgeon general’s report on smoking and cancer.

In countering this disease, the campaign against tobacco has been the closest thing to a triumph. But now that smoking is on the wane in this country, obesity is on the rise. Being fat (as opposed to eating fat), Dr. Willett proposed, may now be causing more fatal cancers than cigarettes.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Monsanto GM Soy Is Scarier Than You Think

Soybeans are the second-largest US crop after corn, covering about a quarter of US farmland. We grow more soybeans than any other country except  Brazil. According to the US Department of Agriculture, more than 90 percent of the soybeans churned out on US farms each year are genetically engineered to withstand herbicides, nearly all of them involving one called Roundup. Organic production, by contrast, is marginal—it accounts for less than 1 percent of total US acreage devoted to soy. (The remaining 9 percent or so of soybeans are conventionally grown, but not genetically modified.)

Americans don't eat much of these lime-green legumes directly, but that doesn't mean we're not exposed to them. After harvest, the great bulk of soybeans are crushed and divided into two parts: meal, which mainly goes into feed for animals that become our meat; and fat, most of which ends up being used as cooking oil or in food products. According to the US Soy Board, soy accounts for 61 percent of American's vegetable oil consumption.

Given soy's centrality to our food and agriculture systems, the findings of a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Food Chemistry are worth pondering. The authors found that Monsanto's ubiquitous Roundup Ready soybeans, engineered to withstand its own blockbuster herbicide, contain more herbicide residues than their non-GMO counterparts. The team also found that the GM beans are nutritionally inferior.

In the study, the researchers looked at samples of three kinds of soybeans grown in Iowa: 1) those grown from GM herbicide-tolerant seeds; 2) those grown from non-GM seeds but in a conventional, agrichemical-based farming regime; and 3) organic soybeans, i.e., non-GM and grown without agrichemicals.

They found residues of glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) and aminomethylphosphonic acid, or AMPA, the compound glyphosate breaks down into as it decays, on all ten of the GM samples—and in none of the non-GM and organic ones.

The researchers found residue levels hovering above a level Monsanto itself has characterized as "extreme."

The GMO soy had total residues averaging 11.9 ppm, with a maximum reading of 20.1 ppm—averages that are are well below the Environmental Protection Agency's limit of 20 ppm, a limit shared by the European Union. Yet as the authors note, back in 1999, Monsanto itself reported that the maximum recorded reading of glyphosate residue found on Roundup Ready soy was 5.6 parts per million—a level it called "extreme," and "far higher than those typically found."

So, the researchers found residue levels well below the EPA's limit, but hovering above a level Monsanto itself has characterized as "extreme." What to make of it?

As the authors note, the science around the effects of glyphosate at relatively low levels is controversial. By setting the residue limit at 20 parts per million, US and European regulators are endorsing a no-harm view. But some independent research, including a 2012 study (my account here) by University of Pittsburg scientist Rick Relyea, found that Roundup in water at 3 ppm induced morphological changes in frogs. And in a 2012 paper, German researchers subjected various bacterial strains typically found in the guts of poultry to glyphosate at levels of 5 ppm and lower and found that it tended to harm beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus, while pathogens like Salmonella Entritidi tended to be "highly resistant" to it. The results suggest that glyphosate can shift the balance of the gut microbiota—hardly comforting, given the surge in research finding that subtle changes to the bacteria in our bodies have a huge impact on our health.

The study also found small but statistically significant differences in the nutritional quality of the soybean types: The organic soybeans had slightly higher protein levels than the other two, and lower levels of omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids showed no significant difference. Both fats are essential in human diets, but research suggests that US eaters tend to consume a higher ratio of omega-6 acids to omega-3 acids than is healthy.

It's worth noting that food isn't glyphosate's only pathway to our bodies. In a 2011 study, researchers for the US Geological Survey "frequently detected" glyphosate in surface waters, rain, and air in the Mississippi River basin. "The consistent occurrence of glyphosate in streams and air indicates its transport from its point of use into the broader environment," USGS stated in a press release, adding that "we know very little about its long term effects to the environment."

Charles Benbrook, a Washington State University researcher who documented the rise in glyphosate use that has accompanied Roundup Ready crops, told me that "human dietary exposure to glyphosate is now probably the highest ever for any pesticide used in the US." When you consider the additional doses we get through water and air, the chemical stands "in a class by itself" in terms of human exposure. "I sure hope EPA is right in its evaluation of the toxicity of glyphosate," he said.

Thus a plague of herbicide-resistant weeds and a corresponding spike in herbicide use may not be the only black marks against Monsanto's blockbuster Roundup Ready crops.

Plenty of LINKS here

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter Weekend was Great!

We had a very pleasant Easter Weekend.  Watched our annual "The Ten Commandments" on Saturday night, and then religious movies all day on Sunday.

I did something a little different this year.  Instead of a Bone-In Leg of Lamb, I ordered a "Semi Boneless" cut.  I was shocked at the price, but was delighted with the result.  Much more meat.

I rubbed it with fresh lemon juice, plugged it with garlic, and topped with Rosemary.

Baked it on a "rack" of lemon halves.  Dumped in a box of Beef Broth on the bottom of the pan.

This makes a WONDERFUL GRAVY!  

Maw used to make a "Noodle Ring", but I don't have a bundt pan, so made a noodle casserole.  Egg Noodles, beaten eggs and a little milk.  So yummy, and it brought back childhood memories.

Served some asparagus on the side. Sipped on champagne.  Dinner was a great success.

Hoping that everyone had a joyous Easter.  Wishing you love, health and happiness!

Nan and Dom

Monday, April 21, 2014

Big Fun With Keith and Lauren!

Had a great time in PCB last week.  Great friends, Keith and Lauren came over on Sunday morning.  We floundered on the beach all day, hit happy hour across the street, had a pizza delivered, had a white russian party....too much fun!  They spent the night.

Monday morning, after a nice breakfast, we hit the beach again and played "ladder golf " for a few hours.

I've known Keith for a few years, and he's my favorite beach buddy.

Just got to meet his wife last year.  We've become fast friends.  Good times!

 I was planning on coming home on Good Friday, but after listening to the weather report, Dom urged me to wait until Saturday morning. (we had HORRIBLE rain that lasted all day.

Had a nice, uneventful drive home.  (5 hours)  Picked up a bunch of Popeye's Chicken, biscuits, dirty rice and red beans for dinner.  It's good to be home!


Editor’s note: This commentary is by Susan Hammond, who is the executive director of the War Legacies Project, a Vermont based-organization that provides comprehensive support to families heavily affected by the long-term impacts of war in Southeast Asia. She wrote this last week while in Vietnam with Sen. Patrick Leahy and others.

In April 1970, my father went to Vietnam for his second tour in the Army Corps of Engineers. My siblings and I were just old enough to watch the war on TV, but most of the time the Vermont hills restricted the signal, so we remained blissfully ignorant of what was happening. My dad came home safely, or so we thought.

Forty-four years later, it is his daughter who is heading back to Vietnam. Like my father I will land at the former Da Nang U.S. airbase, now a major commercial airport. And my visit is directly related to the war. It ended nearly 40 years ago, but it still affects my family and hundreds of thousands of American and Vietnamese families.

When I first went to Vietnam in 1991, curious about the land that took my father away, I found a very poor country, still with many bombed-out buildings and war invalids begging on the streets. But I also found a postwar generation eager to pick up the pieces and move forward. It was a country on the verge of great change and I wanted to be part of it.

I returned to Vietnam in 1996 to study Vietnamese. I was amazed at the changes in just five years. Office towers, luxury apartments and hotels were replacing the shattered buildings. The new “Dragon” economy was booming, erasing most remnants of the war.

About this time, Vietnam returned to my father: he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. We now know that this is one of the many devastating health and environmental effects that can be attributed to Agent Orange, the herbicide U.S. forces used in Vietnam.

I have spent most of the past 15 years addressing the impacts of Agent Orange. More than 12 million gallons of herbicides contaminated with dioxin, a known carcinogen, were sprayed in Southeast Asia during the war. The Vietnamese estimate that it affected the health of up to 3 million people, including several hundred thousand children who were born with disabilities.Hundreds of thousands of U.S. Vietnam veterans and their families have also been affected.

The hard fact now is that more than two dozen dioxin “hot spots” remain at former U.S. military bases where the herbicides were stored and handled. Many are places where people walk every day. They are still exposing those born long after the war to dioxin.

For many years, the issue of Agent Orange in Vietnam was too politically charged to touch. The Vietnamese were afraid people would think the whole country was contaminated. The U.S. government thought Vietnam’s claims of damage were a propaganda ploy. The blame game derailed action on both sides.

I began to try to raise awareness about the situation and did what I could to help families caring for people believed affected by Agent Orange. Slowly, others joined the effort, including the Ford Foundation’s Vietnam country director, Charles Bailey, who took on this issue when no other donors would. Ford-funded research established that dioxin contamination was limited to former U.S. bases and outlined a remediation plan.

In late 2006, President Bush visited Vietnam and agreed with President Triet that addressing the Agent Orange residues “would make a valuable contribution to the continued development of their bilateral relations.” It will come to no surprise to Vermonters that much of the progress since then has been due to Sen. Patrick Leahy. He has ensured U.S. funding “for the remediation of Vietnam conflict-era chemical storage sites, and to address the health needs of nearby communities.”

That is why I am in Vietnam again. Along with Leahy and Vermont’s Rep. Peter Welch, I will witness the “power-up” moment in which a U.S.-built plant starts heating dioxin-contaminated soil at Da Nang to 635 degrees F, breaking the toxin down into harmless molecules. By 2016, the site will no longer threaten the nearby population. By then, work will also have started at the Bien Hoa base and, with luck, at other contaminated sites.

Thanks again to Sen. Leahy, the U.S. has begun to provide assistance to affected people in Vietnam. Some U.S. funding gives “direct assistance for disabled persons in areas that were heavily sprayed with Agent Orange or are otherwise contaminated with dioxin.” One USAID project serves people in Da Nang with disabilities “regardless of cause” and has helped several hundred children go to school or receive physical therapy. Dozens of people have been helped to start a small business or get vocational training.

Progress on this issue was made possible when all sides agreed to drop the blame game and just address the human need. But much remains to be done. Many children and young adults with severe disabilities live in rural areas with limited access to services. Their families struggle to survive, unable to both work and care for them. Thanks to our donors, my organization and its Vietnamese partners help provide medical care, prosthetic limbs and scholarships, or livelihood training in things like animal husbandry, but it’s not enough. This is the population U.S. funding needs to reach.

Those who have been affected in Vietnam are not asking for much, just acknowledgement that they have been harmed by Agent Orange, in the ways that hundreds of thousands of American veterans like my father were harmed.

I will applaud as the dioxin remediation project starts up in Da Nang, and I will thank Sen. Leahy for all he has done to get us to this historic moment. But the United States needs to do more on the human health side of the problem for our own veterans and for those in Vietnam who have been affected. It is time for the real healing to begin.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

19 Common Side Effects if Chemotherapy

Cancer cells divide more quickly than healthy cells, and chemotherapy drugs effectively target those cells. Unfortunately, fast-growing cells that are healthy can be damaged too. There are many different chemotherapy drugs with the potential for many different side effects. These effects vary from person to person and from treatment to treatment.

Chemotherapy drugs are powerful enough to kill rapidly growing cancer cells, but they also can harm perfectly healthy cells, causing side effects throughout the body.

The Side Effects of Chemotherapy on the Body

Cancer cells divide more quickly than healthy cells, and chemotherapy drugs effectively target those cells. Unfortunately, fast-growing cells that are healthy can be damaged too. There are many different chemotherapy drugs with the potential for many different side effects. These effects vary from person to person and from treatment to treatment.

Factors that play a role in side effects include other ongoing treatments, previous health issues, age, and lifestyle. Some patients experience few side effects while others feel quite ill. Although most side effects clear up shortly after treatment ends, some may continue well after chemotherapy has ended, and some may never go away.

Chemotherapy drugs are most likely to affect cells in the digestive tract, hair follicles, bone marrow, mouth, and reproductive system. However, cells in any part of the body may be damaged.

Circulatory and Immune Systems

Routine blood count monitoring is a crucial part of chemotherapy. That’s because the drugs can harm cells in the bone marrow, where blood is produced. This can result in several problems. Red blood cells carry oxygen to tissues. Anemia occurs when your body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells, making you feel extremely fatigued. Other symptoms of anemia include:

*pale skin
*difficulty thinking
*feeling cold
*general weakness

Chemo can lower your white blood cell count, which results in neutropenia. White blood cells play an important role in the immune system: they help fight infection and ward off illness. Symptoms aren’t always obvious, but a low white blood cell count raises the risk of infection and illness. People with an immune system weakened by chemotherapy must take precautions to avoid exposure to viruses, bacteria, and other germs.

Cells called platelets help the blood clot. A low platelet count, called thrombocytopenia, means you’re likely to bruise and bleed easily. Symptoms include nosebleeds, blood in vomit or stools, and heavier-than-normal menstruation.

Some chemo drugs can weaken the heart muscle, resulting in cardiomyopathy, or disturb the heart rhythm, causing arrhythmia. This can affect the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively. Some chemo drugs can increase the risk of heart attack. These problems are less likely to occur if your heart is strong and healthy at the start of chemotherapy.

Nervous and Muscular Systems

The central nervous system controls emotions, thought patterns, and coordination. Chemotherapy drugs may cause problems with memory, or make it difficult to concentrate or think clearly. This symptom sometimes is called “chemo fog,” or “chemo brain.” This mild cognitive impairment may go away following treatment, or may linger for years. Severe cases can add to anxiety and stress.

Some chemo drugs can cause pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling in the hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy). Muscles may feel tired, achy, or shaky. Reflexes and small motor skills may be slowed. It’s not unusual to experience problems with balance and coordination.

Digestive System

Some of the most common side effects of chemotherapy involve the digestive tract. Mouth sores and dry mouth can make it difficult to chew and swallow. Sores also may form on the tongue, lips, gums, or in the throat. Mouth sores can make you more susceptible to bleeding and infection. Many patients complain of a metallic taste in the mouth, or a yellow or white coating on the tongue. Food may taste unusual or unpleasant.

These powerful drugs can harm cells along the gastrointestinal tract. Nausea is a common symptom, and may result in bouts of vomiting. However, anti-nausea medications given in conjunction with chemotherapy drugs can help alleviate this symptom.

Other digestive issues include loose stools or diarrhea. In some people, hard stools and constipation can be a problem. This may be accompanied by pressure, bloating, and gas. Take care to avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

Side effects involving the digestive system can contribute to loss of appetite and feeling full even though you haven’t eaten much. Weight loss and general weakness are common. Despite all this, it’s important to continue eating healthy foods.

Hair, Skin, and Nails (Integumentary System)

Many chemotherapy drugs affect the hair follicles and can cause hair loss (alopecia) within a few weeks of the first treatment. Hair loss can occur on the head, eyebrows, eyelashes, and body. As troubling as it can be, hair loss is temporary. New hair growth usually begins several weeks after the final treatment.
Some patients experience minor skin irritations like dryness, itchiness, and rash. You may develop sensitivity to the sun, making it easier to burn. Your doctor can recommend topical ointments to soothe irritated skin.

Fingernails and toenails may turn brown or yellow, and become ridged or brittle. Nail growth may slow down, and nails may crack or break easily. In severe cases, they can actually separate from the nail bed. It’s important to take good care of your nails to avoid infection.

Sexual and Reproductive System

Chemotherapy drugs can have an effect on your hormones. In women, hormonal changes can bring on hot flashes, irregular periods, or sudden onset of menopause. They may become temporarily or permanently infertile. Women on chemotherapy may experience dryness of vaginal tissues that can make intercourse uncomfortable or painful. The chance of developing vaginal infections is increased.

Chemotherapy drugs given during pregnancy can cause birth defects. In men, some chemo drugs can harm sperm or lower sperm count, and temporary or permanent infertility is possible.

Symptoms like fatigue, anxiety, and hormonal fluctuations may interfere with sex drive in both men and women. So can worrying about loss of hair and other changes in appearance. However, many people on chemotherapy continue to enjoy
an intimate relationship and an active sex life.

Kidneys and Bladder (Excretory System)

The kidneys work to excrete the powerful chemotherapy drugs as they move through your body. In the process, some kidney and bladder cells can become irritated or damaged. Symptoms of kidney damage include decreased urination, swelling of the hands and feet (edema), and headache. Symptoms of bladder irritation include a feeling of burning when urinating and increased urinary frequency.

You’ll be advised to drink plenty of fluids to flush the medication from your system and to keep your system functioning properly. Note: Some medications cause urine to turn red or orange for a few days. This isn’t cause for concern.

Skeletal System

Most people—and especially women—lose some bone mass as they age. Some chemotherapy drugs can cause calcium levels to drop and contribute to bone loss. This can lead to cancer-related osteoporosis, especially in post-menopausal women and those whose menopause was brought on suddenly due to chemotherapy.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), women who have been treated for breast cancer are at increased risk for osteoporosis and bone fracture. This is due to the combination of the drugs and the drop in estrogen levels.

Osteoporosis increases the risk of bone fractures and breaks. The most common areas of the body to suffer breaks are the spine and pelvis, hips, and wrists.

Psychological and Emotional Toll

Living with cancer and dealing with chemotherapy can exact an emotional toll. You may feel fearful, stressed, or anxious about your appearance and your health. Some people may suffer from depression. Juggling work, financial, and family responsibilities while undergoing cancer treatment can become overwhelming.
Many cancer patents turn to complementary therapies like massage and meditation for relaxation and relief. If you have trouble coping, mention it to your doctor. They may be able to suggest a local cancer support group where you can speak with others who are undergoing cancer treatment. If feelings of depression persist, professional counseling may be necessary.

Original Article, Sources and Graphics HERE

Ten Scientific Studies Prove that GMO Foods Can Be Harmful To Human Health

Over the past few years, a number of countries have completely banned GMOs and the pesticides that go along with them, and they are doing so for a reason. The latest country to consider a complete ban is Russia after top government scientists recommended at least a 10-year ban.

The truth is, we don’t know enough about GMOs to deem them safe for human consumption. Believe it or not the very first commercial sale of them was only twenty years ago. There is no possible way that our health authorities can test all possible combinations on a large enough population, over a long enough period of time to be able to say with absolute certainty that they are harmless.

There are a multitude of credible scientific studies that clearly demonstrate why GMOs should not be consumed, and more are emerging every year.

“GM Crop Production is Lowering US Yields and Increasing Pesticide Use…There is no reason GM foods should be approved safe for consumption, we just don’t know enough about them. We could easily feed the planet through organic, GMO-free methods, so there is absolutely no reason we need GM foods around… the current approval of glyphosate and Roundup is deeply flawed and unreliable…Because humans that’ve been exposed to glyphosate have a drop in amino acid tryptophan levels, they do not have the necessary active signalling of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is associated with weight gain, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.“
Hot Links HERE

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Monsanto: The Enemy Of Family Farmers

After years of work by scientific public interest organizations such as Center for Food Safety and governmental bodies such as the United Nations, consumers around the world are becoming aware of the dangers of industrial, chemical-based agriculture. The most legitimate science and research bodies recommend turning toward organic and sustainable agriculture, shunning genetically engineered (GE or GMO) products and the chemicals they are designed to promote. Yet despite the U.N.'s assessment that sustainable agriculture is the way to feed the world's growing population, U.S. government agencies continue to support the biotechnology industry and its pesticide-promoting crops as the path forward. But the message is failing -- even with the backing of the U.S. government and a barrage of advertising from companies like Monsanto.

With the growth and power of the food movement, corporate giants are beginning to take action. According to news reports last year, Monsanto "[shook] up its senior public relations staff, upped its relationship with one of the nation's largest public relations firms and helped launch a [new] website..." After decades of employing a "block-us-and-we'll-sue-you" approach, Monsanto recently began an intense makeover PR campaign: popularity by association.

Monsanto is cozying up to the reputation, authenticity and wholesomeness of family farmers -- and hoping the all-American nostalgia many associate with the small scale farmer rubs off on them.

During the Super Bowl, key media markets saw Monsanto's "It Begins with a Farmer" commercials, which were intended to demonstrate that the company shares the same values as family farmers and the consumers they feed and clothe.

Consider the cold, hard facts:

*Monsanto's seeds squeeze out family farms.

In reality, Monsanto is no friend to the family farmer or the communities they live in and support. In fact, Monsanto (and other chemical companies like Dow Chemical, Syngenta, BASF, Pioneer/Dupont, and Bayer) have forced small farmers into a dying breed. The cost of industrial agriculture forces farmers to get big or get out. This is particularly true of GE herbicide-resistant seeds, which USDA economists tell us have contributed to increased consolidation of farmland in fewer hands.

For those farmers who survive, profit margins are smaller due to the high cost of inputs. Genetically engineered (GE or GMO) seeds have dramatically driven up per-acre seed prices ever since they were introduced in 1996 (see chart below).

Add to this the rising costs of chemical fertilizers and pesticides (including herbicides) in this "one size fits all" agricultural model where chemical companies make out like bandits on the sale of seeds and chemical inputs. In the end, family farmers get squeezed out by the mammoth farms enabled by biotechnology.

*Monsanto prohibits seed saving.

Monsanto imposes contracts and wields patents that forbid farmers from saving seeds year-to-year, a practice that has been part of agriculture for centuries. They demand farmers buy new, expensive seeds each year. And if a farmer stops using Monsanto's patented seeds, they are at risk of breaching their contract. Sprouts from patented seeds planted in a previous growing season can "volunteer," or grow spontaneously the following year, even in a new crop variety. If discovered, the farmer could face penalties for patent infringement. Monsanto fosters strife in rural communities by running a "hotline" that encourages farmer to call the company and inform on their neighbors, and has even hired retired farmers to entrap farmers into buying seed illegally, activities one judge referred to as Monsanto's "scorched earth policies."

*Monsanto sues farmers.

Monsanto has undertaken an unprecedented litigation campaign against American farmers to end the practice of seed-saving and so maximize its profits. They devote $10 million of its annual budget to investigate approximately 500 farmers each year who are suspected of patent infringement. As of November 2012, 410 farmers and 56 small businesses and farming operations have been involved in court cases involving alleged patent infringement, and have paid the company nearly $24 million in damages, a sum that does not include additional litigation costs like attorney or witness fees. While Monsanto has taken action against thousands of farmers, only the vast majority reach pre-trial settlements to avoid facing the multinational giant in court. When these pretrial settlements are included, farmers have paid Monsanto an estimated $85 to 160 million. Monsanto would like to dismiss the significance of these suits and direct attention to their new website full of smiling, meticulously selected farmers. This is simply a distraction from the hundreds, if not thousands, of farmers who have lost their livelihoods to the corporate machine.

*Monsanto poisons farmers and their communities.

Monsanto touts the safety of their products and claims to support worker safety, despite established links between pesticide exposure and declining health. Farmers in the U.S. who consider their health damaged by Monsanto's products have had a hard time finding legal recourse. Farmers overseas have had better luck. In 2012, a French court ruled that Monsanto's Lasso weed killer was responsible for poisoning a French farmer, who suffered from memory loss, stammering, and headaches. Because Monsanto had not properly labeled the pesticide, the farmer did not know how toxic the chemical truly was. For years, Argentinian farmers have experienced increased cases of cancer and birth defects, ever since Monsanto products were introduced to their fields. This year, the community successfully filed a suit to block Monsanto's construction of a transgenic seed plant, fearing their health would continue to worsen.

Don't be fooled by Monsanto's PR spin machine.

Monsanto does not share our values and they aren't interested in changing their ways. To learn more about issues related to genetic engineering (or GMOs), visit

Jump for LINKS Here

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Koch Industries and Monsanto Team up to End Your Right to Know

Apparently it wasn’t an April fool’s joke. Three months after news outlets revealed the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s (GMA) plan to pursue federal legislation to block states from enacting “right to know” laws, they finally have a sponsor: Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS).

According to news reports, Congressman Pompeo plans to introduce legislation to prevent states from enacting laws requiring the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) food. The bill would instead codify a failed 13-year old voluntary labeling standard for GE foods.

“GMA’s selection of Congressman Pompeo as their champion shows how extreme the proposal really is,” said Colin O’Neil, director of government affairs for Center for Food Safety. “Selecting Pompeo creates an unholy alliance between Monsanto and Koch Industries, two of the most reviled corporations in America.”

Congressman Mike Pompeo was the single largest recipient of campaign funds from the Koch Brothers in 2010. After winning election with Koch money, Congressman Pompeo hired a Koch Industries lawyer to run his office. According to The Washington Post, Congressman Pompeo then introduced bills friendly to Koch Industries while Koch hired outside lobbyists to support them.

Koch Industries’ subsidiary, Georgia-Pacific, is a member of the Grocery Manufacturers Association which donated more than $7 million against the recent Washington State ballot initiative to label GE foods.  Monsanto, another GMA member, was the single largest contributor to that campaign. Between Washington State and California, Monsanto, GMA (including Georgia-Pacific), and others, have contributed over $67 million to keep consumers in the dark about GE foods.

“With Vermont, Oregon and other states poised to take action this year, it is clear that GMA is scared of what’s ahead,” added O’Neil. “They know that the food movement’s power is growing and that labeling is not a matter of if but when. They are afraid of state action and now they’re trying to steal away consumer choice in Congress.”

Background on State Labeling:

Connecticut and Maine have already passed GE labeling legislation. Alaska passed a bill requiring the labeling of genetically engineered fish and fish products. Vermont’s bill has already passed the state house and a senate committee. It is expected that nearly 30 states will introduce GE labeling laws or initiatives in the 2014 legislative session and Oregon is already planning a ballot initiative on the issue.

Background on National Labeling:

Building on public demand for information, in 2013, Senator Barbara Boxer and Congressman Peter DeFazio introduced legislation that would require mandatory labeling of GE foods at the federal level. The common sense legislation would compel the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to implement a mandatory labeling policy. FDA has the authority to require food companies to disclose the presence of these novel food ingredients, and the agency has already required labeling for more than 4,000 ingredients, additives and food processes.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Shameful Truth About the Naked Juice Class Action Lawsuit Settlement and What American Consumers Can Do About It

Last week, Naked Juice agreed to settle a very important class action lawsuit which accused the company of deceptive labeling.

The primary basis of the lawsuit stemmed from the company’s use of the words “All Natural” on products that contained Archer Daniels Midland’s Fibersol-2 (“a soluble corn fiber that acts as a low-calorie bulking agent”), fructooligosaccharides (an alternative sweetener), other artificial ingredients, such as calcium pantothenate (synthetically produced from formaldehyde), and genetically-modified soy.

Since these ingredients are either genetically-engineered or synthetically produced and do not exist in nature, it is completely misleading to consumers for these juices to claim to be “All Natural.”

As part of the settlement, Naked Juice, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, has agreed to remove the label “All Natural” from all of its juices and to pay a $9 million settlement to the class action group.

Without a question, this is a big, big win for consumers and is a huge step forward for more accurate labeling in the U.S.  It also puts other food manufacturers on serious notice that GMOs are anything but natural and cannot be marketed as such.

Yet, as one digs deeper into the fine details of this lawsuit settlement, there are some extremely troubling details of which the general public is completely unaware.


Tell Naked to get Honest About Labeling HERE

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Angels hitting coach Don Baylor breaks leg on ceremonial first pitch (MULTIPLE MYELOMA)

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The season began in ceremony, as they all do, though in this case with the hitting coach in a trembling heap at home plate, which they very rarely do.

And, well, damn, Los Angeles Angels personnel on Monday night loaded 64-year-old Don Baylor into an ambulance, which would ferry him to a hospital, where he would be treated for what the team initially believed was an injury to his lower leg, and by appearances not a minor one. His wife Becky was at his side.

By the seventh inning, the Angels announced Baylor had broken his right femur – the thighbone – and would undergo surgery Tuesday. Baylor was diagnosed 11 years ago with a cancer called Multiple Myeloma, which creates soft spots in – and therefore weakens – the bones, and he'd carried on.

"It just kinda sucks," Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick said. "The first day, that's not how we want to start the season. …A lot of the guys here, they love Groove. To see something like that happen to a good person like Groove, it's tough."

If you didn't know about Baylor's cancer, it's probably because of that; he carries on. Town after town. Job after job. Season after season. He returned to the Angels, for whom he'd played six seasons in the late 1970s and early '80s, this winter as hitting coach. Another town, another job, another season.

Because he would not succumb. Because that is who he is, and what he does. He coaches ballplayers, soothes hitters, leads them.