Friday, July 24, 2015


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You Don’t Matter. House Votes for Monsanto’s Right to Deceive Consumers
by Ronnie Cummins

'We know this: We can’t let this bill get through the U.S. Senate.' (Image:
On Thursday, 275 members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of H.R. 1599, the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act. By voting for the DARK Act, these politicians voted against truth and transparency, against science, against the more than century-old right of states to legislate on matters relating to food safety and labeling.

They voted against the 90-percent of Americans who are in favor of mandatory labeling of GMOs. They voted against the producers of non-GMO foods.

They voted against you.

Now that the DARK Act has been approved by the House, we’ll have to stop it in the Senate. We have to move fast—because Monsanto is desperate to pass a bill that preempts mandatory GMO labeling laws at the state and federal levels, before Vermont’s GMO labeling law takes effect next year.

H.R. 1599 was sold to Congress via multi-million dollar public relations and lobbying campaigns built on lies and deception. The bill’s sole purpose is to support an industry—Monsanto’s poison-peddling industry—that was founded on lies and deception from the get-go.

Were the Congress members who voted against you fooled by Monsanto’s slick, deceitful packaging of this so-called “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act”? Or did they simply vote with their wallets, stuffed full of biotech and junk food industry cash?

We don’t know. But we know this: We can’t let this bill get through the U.S. Senate.
Less than 24 hours before the House vote, the industry-funded front group behind H.R. 1599 was still pushing out the lies. The “Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food,” feigning concern for consumers, emailed members urging them to support the DARK Act because if we require mandatory labeling, it will increase the cost of your food by $500/year. That lie has been debunked over and over, by legitimate independent studies. It’s a lie based on a study funded by, and which remains the intellectual property of, the Council for Biotech Information—of which Monsanto is a member.

Less than 24 hours before the House vote, a staffer in the office of the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Pompeo, told a caller that the DARK Act gives consumers what they want: the means to know whether or not their food contains GMOs. “Consumers can choose to presume that all foods have GMO contents unless they are labeled or otherwise presented as non-GMO.  Meaning that it is knowable and it is known by the public which products have GMO and which don't,” claimed a Pompeo minion.

More lies. The DARK Act creates a voluntary, government-run non-GMO certification program. Unless every producer of non-GMO products pays to have those products certified non-GMO, consumers will still have no way of knowing which products contain GMOs, and which don’t. And why should the burden of labeling fall on the producers of non-GMO foods, when the risk factor is associated with those foods that do contain GMOs?

H.R. 1599 would repeal existing state GMO labeling laws, such as Vermont’s Act 120, and would preempt any future state or federal laws requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods or foods containing GMOs. That’s unconstitutional, according to the Campaign for Liberty, which said this in a statement yesterday: 

Whatever your views on GMOs, there is no Constitutional justification for the federal government to preempt state laws in this area. There certainly is no justification for Congress to preempt private sector efforts to meet consumer demands for non-GMO foods, while allowing those who support the use of GMOs to do so.

Yet 275  members of the U.S. House today voted against the U.S. Constitution. And if we don’t stop them, a majority of U.S. Senators could do the same.

If we are going to stop the federal government from taking away our right to demand truth and transparency in labeling, we will have to double or triple our size and our impact. And we have to do it now.

Ronnie Cummins is a veteran activist, author, and organizer. He is the International Director of the Organic Consumers Association and its Mexico affiliate, Via Organica.


Oregon's Farm to School programs lead the nation with new fundingOregon's Farm to School programs lead the nation with new funding

This is a news release from Upstream Public Health and Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network:

All Oregon school districts can receive extra funds to buy and serve local foods, starting this fall, thanks to the Oregon legislature. Oregon has been a national leader in Farm to School and School Garden programs, and this will be another first: offering funds to all districts that participate in the federal school lunch program, not just the “winners” of competitive grants.
The legislature provided a total of $4,519,189 for this popular program for 2015-17, including a $3.3 million increase in the end-of-session spending bill, SB 5507. Several key program details were also revised through SB 501. Both bills passed the Senate and House on Monday (7/6/15), in the final hours of the 2015 legislative session.

New funding will also be available for food-based, agriculture-based and garden-based education programs, to help kids get excited about fresh and healthy foods.

“Kids will do many things with beets if you serve them in a cafeteria,” says Kasandra Griffin of Upstream Public Health. “They make great projectiles, they make great face paint. But if a kid grows a beet in a school garden, they will actually eat beets when they are served in the cafeteria or at home, because it reminds them of the time they grew a beet themselves, and they liked it.”

Supporters tout a wide range of benefits of the Farm to School and School Garden program, from reducing hunger, to improving nutrition and reducing the childhood diabetes epidemic, to supporting Oregon’s economy.

“Farm to School programs help farmers, processors and rural Oregon,” said House Republican Leader Mike McLane. “I’m proud to support this innovative program that supports our communities while also providing students with healthy and fresh Oregon-grown food.”
Representative McLane was a co-sponsor of HB 2721, the stand-alone version of the Farm to School Bill, before it was folded into SB 5507 and 501.

The focus on local can transform the buying habits of schools. According to Megan Kemple of the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition, “Oregon schools spend over $45 million in federal dollars on school lunch ingredients, every year. By investing in Farm to School, we can encourage school districts to change their buying behavior and keep more of that federal money circulating in Oregon. And that makes a big difference in the bottom lines of farmers here in Lane County, and around the state.”

Jane Gullet, the Nutrition Director of Yamhill-Carlton School District, is proof of that type of behavior change. Her district received one of the grants for 2013-15. “The grant changed the way I think about buying food,” she said.

“I never thought about this before, but now the first thing I ask any vendor is whether their products are local, or if they have a local alternative. I’m aiming to serve 75% local products.”

“Local” is defined as anything produced or processed in the state of Oregon. Over half of the food dollars from the 2013-15 grants were spent on produce, especially apples, pears, and berries, but other local foods also qualify, including meat, seafood, grains, dairy, and even processed foods. Some of Gullet’s favorite local products include vegetarian chili from Truitt Family Foods, fresh lean ground beef from Carlton Farms, low-fat vanilla Tillamook yogurt, and whole-wheat buns and breadsticks from Teeny Bakery.

Peter Truitt, of Truitt Family Foods, produces the chili that Gullet buys. “We love selling our Salem-made foods to Oregon schools. It feels good knowing we are providing the nutrition kids need to learn. As Oregon's Farm to School activities have increased, so has the demand for healthy, locally processed food. This creates an attractive market for farmers and food processors. At Truitt Family Foods, we are developing new hummus and bean dips for the school market, and will be able to hire more workers as this business grows.”

The amount of funding available per school district will be based on the number of students eating school lunches (per USDA’s National School Lunch Program) there the previous year. All schools are eligible – public, private, charter. Other program changes in HB 2721 include allowing the schools to use the “food” funds for any school meals (not just lunch), separating the funding for educational activities from the funding for food purchasing, and making non- profit partners and commodity commissions eligible to apply for the educational portion.
This year’s program expansion is a particularly sweet victory for Representative Brian Clem, D-Salem, who has been championing Farm to School and School Garden bills every session since 2007. “Our goal ever since 2007 has been to provide funding for every school in the state to buy local products,” says Clem. “It took us a few years, but we made it. With this step, we continue to lead the nation in showing how Farm to School and School Garden programs should be done, and how much they can benefit kids, farmers, and everyone in between.”

Oregon Department of Education manages the grant program, in collaboration with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. They will post updated information soon for schools and other partners:


Saturday, July 18, 2015


Another ‘Too Big to Fail’ System in G.M.O.s 

Before the crisis that started in 2007, both of us believed that the financial system was fragile and unsustainable, contrary to the near ubiquitous analyses at the time.
Now, there is something vastly riskier facing us, with risks that entail the survival of the global ecosystem — not the financial system. This time, the fight is against the current promotion of genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.s.

Our critics held that the financial system was improved thanks to the unwavering progress of science and technology, which had blessed finance with more sophisticated economic insight. But the “tail risks,” or the effect from rare but monstrously consequential events, we held, had been increasing, owing to increasing complexity and globalization. Given that almost nobody was paying attention to the risks, we set ourselves and our clients to be protected from an eventual collapse of the banking system, which subsequently happened to the benefit of those who were prepared.

Third, we were told that had ideas such as ours prevailed in the past, they would have hindered risk-taking. Yet, the first rule of risk-taking is to not cross the street blindfolded.
Fourth, toxic financial exposures were deemed to be “safe,” according to primitive risk models. But Fannie Mae went bust exactly because of overconfidence in its bad models (and, incidentally, after its bailout, appears to use the same risk models).

Fifth, the system kept relying on “predictions,” not noticing that the past track record of predictions by central bankers and economists can be used to make astrologists look good. Yet the entire economic system rested on these flimsy predictions — while we were advocating a system that had isolated parts to withstand prediction errors.

We were repeatedly told that there was evidence that the system was stable, that we were in “the Great Moderation,” a common practice that mistakes absence of evidence for evidence of absence. For the financial system to be viable, the solution is for it to resemble the restaurant business: decentralized, with mistakes that stay local and that cannot bring down the entire apparatus.

As we said, the financial system nearly collapsed, but it was only money. We now find ourselves facing nearly the same five fallacies for our caution against the growth in popularity of G.M.O.s.

First, there has been a tendency to label anyone who dislikes G.M.O.s as anti-science — and put them in the anti-antibiotics, antivaccine, even Luddite category. There is, of course, nothing scientific about the comparison. Nor is the scholastic invocation of a “consensus” a valid scientific argument.

Interestingly, there are similarities between arguments that are pro-G.M.O. and snake oil, the latter having relied on a cosmetic definition of science. The charge of “therapeutic nihilism” was leveled at people who contested snake oil medicine at the turn of the 20th century. (At that time, anything with the appearance of sophistication was considered “progress.”)
Second, we are told that a modified tomato is not different from a naturally occurring tomato. That is wrong: The statistical mechanism by which a tomato was built by nature is bottom-up, by tinkering in small steps (as with the restaurant business, distinct from contagion-prone banks). In nature, errors stay confined and, critically, isolated.

Third, the technological salvation argument we faced in finance is also present with G.M.O.s, which are intended to “save children by providing them with vitamin-enriched rice.” The argument’s flaw is obvious: In a complex system, we do not know the causal chain, and it is better to solve a problem by the simplest method, and one that is unlikely to cause a bigger problem.

Fourth, by leading to monoculture — which is the same in finance, where all risks became systemic — G.M.O.s threaten more than they can potentially help. Ireland’s population was decimated by the effect of monoculture during the potato famine. Just consider that the same can happen at a planetary scale.

Fifth, and what is most worrisome, is that the risk of G.M.O.s are more severe than those of finance. They can lead to complex chains of unpredictable changes in the ecosystem, while the methods of risk management with G.M.O.s — unlike finance, where some effort was made — are not even primitive.

The G.M.O. experiment, carried out in real time and with our entire food and ecological system as its laboratory, is perhaps the greatest case of human hubris ever. It creates yet another systemic, “too big too fail” enterprise — but one for which no bailouts will be possible when it fails.

Saturday, July 4, 2015


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General Mills To Eliminate Artificial Colors and Flavors From All Cereals

June 23, 2015 | Posted in Rundown, Writers | 0 Comments

ABC Action News has just reported General Mills’ groundbreaking announcement that they are voluntarily removing harmful food dyes and artificial flavors from their entire cereal line – even Trix and Lucky Charms.
This is not to say that the brightly colored breakfast grains will become lackluster – it’s always been possible to naturally color food. There was never any need to subject consumers to 15 million pounds of carcinogenic petroleum byproducts (coal tar derivatives) per year.
The company is the first major cereal company to replace those artificial ingredients with fruits, vegetables and spices.
“We wanted to make sure they were still fun vibrant colors that we are providing and the fruity flavor that kids expect,” Kate Gallager, General Mills cereal developer, told Good Morning America.
Gallager provided an exclusive look at General Mills’ top secret cereal lab where they tried hundreds of natural ingredients like tomatoes, purple carrots and spices like turmeric for colors.
By this coming January, the company said 75 percent of its cereals will be without those artificial ingredients, likely including Trix and Reese’s Puffs; and by the end of 2016, the company hopes to cover 90 percent of the cereal brands.
General Mills says Lucky Charms’ marshmallows will prove to be the most difficult and might not become naturally colored until 2017. GM said they were making changes for health reasons and that over 60 percent of their cereals either were already free of dyes or have made the transition.
The FDA still holds that artificial colors are not harmful to the nervous system of children and do not lead to hyperactivity. The European Union disagrees – prior to banning them, they made sure ingredients displayed warnings to parents. Even if the FDA will stalwartly defend the unnecessary ingredients, there is ample proof of artificial colors linked to ADHD, allergies and cancer. The FDA should recall (no pun intended) that the artificial colors approved as safe in previous decades had to be pulled from the market for the dangerous harmful health effects.
Artificial flavors are synthetic, mainly chemically derived additives that fall under a broad spectrum of ingredients. Some individuals are sensitive to certain artificial ingredients but may have to avoid all products that contain artificial flavorings since the labels are non-specific. If the body does not recognize the components, such chemical flavorings can take up receptor sites and place heavier burdens on the liver and pancreas which need to need to exhaust more enzymes to break them down.
In recent years, GM eliminated most GMOs from most of their Cheerios line because of consumer demand. Whenever a giant food company makes great strides to please consumers, it never hurts to thank them.

Heather Callaghan is a natural health blogger and food freedom activist. You can see her work at and Like at Facebook.

This article can be republished from this site in part or in full, leaving all links intact, giving full attribution including bio, under Creative Commons license.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Agribusiness is the biggest lobbyist on the EU-US trade deal, new research reveals

No sector has lobbied the European Commission more during the preparation phase for the negotiations on the proposed EU-US trade deal (TTIP) than the agribusiness sector, according to data published today by Corporate Europe Observatory in a series of research-based infographics. Food multinationals, agri-traders and seed producers have had more contacts with the Commission’s trade department (DG Trade) than lobbyists from the pharmaceutical, chemical, financial and car industry put together.
The infographics reveal a dramatic business-bias in the Commission’s consultation policy around this giant trade deal. Of the 560 lobby encounters that DG Trade held to prepare the negotiations, 520 (92 per cent) were with business lobbyists, while only 26 (four per cent) were with public interest groups. So, for every encounter with a trade union or consumer group, there were 20 with companies and industry federations. The data covers contributions to the Commission’s public consultations, public stakeholder meetings and lobby meetings behind closed doors.

Pia Eberhardt, trade campaigner with Corporate Europe Observatory said: “DG Trade actively involved business lobbyists in drawing up the EU position for TTIP while keeping 'pesky' trade unionists and other public interest groups at bay. The result is a big-business-first agenda for the negotiations which endangers many achievements that people in Europe have long struggled for, from food safety rules to environmental protection.”

While the European Commission has claimed publicly that the trade deal will not threaten European rules on food and environmental safety, an analysis of the key tools and principles in the negotiations, also published today, shows that TTIP could lead to precisely that.
Nina Holland, agribusiness campaigner with Corporate Europe Observatory said: “Agribusiness lobbies such as the pesticide industry have strongly pushed their agenda via the TTIP negotiations with the aim of undermining current EU food regulations. Trade tools such as “mutual recognition” and “regulatory co-operation” are likely to lead to an erosion of food safety standards in the long run. The industry is also trying to use TTIP to derail important EU initiatives such as the one to deal with endocrine disrupting chemicals.”
The infographics also shine a light on other economic sectors that were lobbying actively in the preparatory phase of the TTIP negotiations, including telecommunications and IT, auto industry, engineering, as well as the chemical sector.
Overall, the data suggest that the agenda-setting for TTIP has been largely driven by businesses with headquarters in the US, Germany and the UK and by industry lobby groups organised on the EU level such as the European employers’ federation BusinessEurope and the European Services Forum, a lobby outfit of large services companies such as Deutsche Bank and TheCity UK. Companies from Greece and large parts of Eastern Europe were entirely absent from the corporate lobby push for TTIP, suggesting that businesses in the poorer EU countries have little to gain from this trade deal.
The data also reveals that more than 30 per cent (94 out of 269) of the private sector interest groups that have lobbied DG Trade on TTIP are absent from the EU’s Transparency Register, among them large companies such as Walmart, Walt Disney, General Motors, France Telecom and Maersk. Some of the industry associations lobbying hardest for TTIP such as the US Chamber of Commerce and the Transatlantic Business Council are also lobbying under the radar of the lobby register.
Link to infographics: "Who lobbies most on TTIP?"
Link to "TTIP: A lose-lose deal for food and farming"

Monday, June 29, 2015



Published on

Stupidity and Intelligence: Science, GMOs and Our Food

How industrial-scale farming is actually becoming anti-science.
The intelligence of both human farmers and the natural world itself, writes Dr. Shiva, "is being thwarted by the false construction of the living Earth as dead matter, to be exploited limitlessly for human control, domination and greed." (Photo: fossen_42/flickr/cc)
"Science" is derived from the scire – "to know".
Each of us should know what we are eating, how it was produced, what impact it has on our health.
"Agroecology, not the mechanistic and blind paradigm of industrial agriculture, is the truly scientific approach to food production."
The knowledge we need for growing food is knowledge of biodiversity and living seed, of living soil and the soil food web, of interaction between different species in the agroecosystem and of different seasons. Farmers have been the experts in these fields, as have ecological scientists who study the evolution of microorganisms, plants and animals, the ecological web and the soil food web.
In industrial agriculture the knowledge of living systems is totally missing since industrial agriculture was externally driven by using war chemicals as inputs for agriculture. Soil was defined as an empty container for holding synthetic fertilizers, plants were defined as machines running on external inputs. This meant substituting the ecological functions and services that nature and farmers can provide through renewal of soil fertility, pest and weed control, and seed improvement. But it also implied ignorance of the destruction of the functions by the toxic chemicals applied to agriculture.
This complex knowledge of interacting, self-organizing, self-maintaining, self-renewing and self-evolving systems that farmers have had is now being confirmed through the latest in ecology. At the agricultural systems level, agroecology, not the mechanistic and blind paradigm of industrial agriculture, is the truly scientific approach to food production.
At the level of organisms, epigenetics and the new knowledge that cells are in constant communication with each other is leading to the emergence of a new paradigm of life as communication and intelligence. Living systems are not dead matter, assembled like a machine. 

Yet in recent times only one kind of knowledge, the Mechanistic Reductionist paradigm based on seeing the world as a machine, and reduction of a system its parts, has been elevated to the status of science.
The emerging sciences of complexity and connectedness expose the oceans of ignorance in which the mechanistic fundamentalism is steeped. Because living systems are self-organized complexity—and not machines— knowledge of a small fragmented part in isolation of its relationships with the rest of the system, translates into not-knowing.
This epistemic violence is now being combined with the violence of corporate interests to viciously attack all scientific traditions, including those that have evolved from within Western Science and transcended the mechanistic world view.
Industrial-scale farming, in this way, is actually becoming anti-science.
No where is this more evident than in how reductionism has  been used to colonise the seed. Seed is self organized intelligence – it reproduces, it multiplies, and it constantly evolves. Farmers, specially women, have combined their intelligence with the intelligence of the seed, and through breeding as co-creation, they have domesticated wild plants, increased diversity to adapt to diverse climates and cultures. Additionally, they have improved both nutrition and taste as well as increased resilience, which is the evolutionary potential of the seed. Seeds have been improved on the basis of ecological and social criteria.
The rhetoric for taking over food systems and seed supply is always based on "Improved Seed." But what is not mentioned is that industrial seeds are only "improved" in the context of higher dependence on chemicals, and more control by corporations.
The latest in the anti-scientific discourse of industrial agriculture is by reducing everything to "GMOs."
Genetic Engineering is used to redefine seed as a corporate "invention" to claim patents and collect royalties. Farmers suicides in the cotton belt of India are directly related to the extraction of super-profits from farmers as royalty. And this is illegal since Monsanto never had a patent on Bt cotton.
It is claimed the GMOs will increase food production but the technology does not increase yields.
It is claimed that genetic engineering is a precise technology. This is false for four primary reasons. First, genetic engineering is based on the false assumption that one gene gives rise to one trait. Second, it is so imprecise that antibiotic resistance marker genes have to be added to even know if the gene was actually introduced in the cell of the plant and genes from virulent viruses have to be added to promote the trait being introduced. Third, because the genes come from unrelated organisms, and include bacterial and viral genes, there are unknown impacts on the organism and the ecosystem in which it is introduced. This is why there are multidisciplinary sciences involved in Biosafety, and an international UN law to regulate GMOs for their Biosafety impact called the Cartagena Protocol to the Convention on the Conservation of Biodiversity.
"It is precisely on the denial of intelligence of humans and other species that the edifice of mechanistic reductionism is based."
Fourth, the anti-scientific claim that GMOs are accurate and selection and conventional breeding are inaccurate ignores the intelligence of plants and of farmers which is at play in evolution. In fact, the emergence of antibiotic resistance indicates the intelligence of bacteria to evolve under the pressure  of antibiotics. Bacteria, as intelligent beings, are remaking themselves in response to antibiotics. The emergence of superpests resistant to Bt toxin in plants, and superweeds resistant to Roundup with the spread of Roundup Ready GMOs indicates the intelligence of insects and plants to remake themselves under the pressure of toxins associated with GMOs which are designed to kill them. But it is precisely on the denial of intelligence of humans and other species that the edifice of mechanistic reductionism is based.
"Intelligence" is based on the Latin inter legere – "to choose". From the slime mold and bacteria, to plants and animals, including humans, intelligence is the choice we make to evolve in order to respond to changing contexts. Life is a cognitive system, with communication constantly taking place in a network on non-separable patterns of relationship. Living beings innovate all the time to deal with environmental challenges that face them. As evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin says, "The characteristic of a living object is that it reacts to external stimuli rather than being passively propelled by them. An organisms life is constant mid-course corrections."
As a species, we as humans are falling behind the slime mold and bacteria to make an intelligent response to the environmental threats we face. And our intelligence is being thwarted by the false construction of the living Earth as dead matter, to be exploited limitlessly for human control, domination and greed.
The mid-course correction we need is to move beyond the mechanistic paradigm, and beyond exploitation which is manipulating not just living organisms, but knowledge itself.
It is claimed that the Bt toxin in GMOs degrades, but it has been found to survive in the blood of pregnant women and fetuses. It is claimed that Roundup and Roundup Ready crops are safe for humans because humans do not have the shikimate pathway. This is outright violence against science. Ninety percent of the genetic information in our body is not human but bacterial.

Out of the 600 trillion cells in our body only 6 trillion are human, the rest are bacterial. And bacteria have the shikimate pathway. The bacteria in our gut are being killed by Roundup leading to serious disease epidemics, from increasing intestinal disorders to neurological problems such as the increase in occurrence of autism and Alzheimers. The soil, the gut and our brain are one interconnected biome – violence to one part triggers violence in the entire inter-related system. The US Centers for Disease Control data shows that on current trends one in two children in the US could be autistic in a few decades. It is not an intelligent species that destroys its own future because of a distorted and manipulated definition of science.
As Einstein had observed: "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe."
Dr. Vandana Shiva is a philosopher, environmental activist and eco feminist. She is the founder/director of Navdanya Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology. She is author of numerous books including, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis; Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply; Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace; and Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development. Shiva has also served as an adviser to governments in India and abroad as well as NGOs, including the International Forum on Globalization, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization and the Third World Network. She has received numerous awards, including 1993 Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize) and the 2010 Sydney Peace Prize.