Friday, August 27, 2010


Published on Friday, August 27, 2010 by The Huffington Post
Monsanto in Gates' Clothing? The Emperor's New GMOs

by Eric Holt Gimenez

If you had any doubts about where the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is really placing its bets, AGRA Watch's recent announcement of the Foundation's investment of $23.1 million in 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock should put them to rest. Genetic engineering: full speed ahead.

If you are one of those people who believes the axiom that Monsanto is the farmer's friend (and the corollary, that its climate-ready, bio-fortified GMOs can save the world from hunger) you will not be surprised, disappointed, or find any conflict of interest in this investment.

But if you are part of the growing population who gets their information about GMOs from scientists who are not beholden to corporate funding, has a problem with anti-trust issues, or is getting queasy about the increasing monopoly power of philanthropy capital... it's time to say the Emperor has no clothes.

Under the guise of "sustainability" the Foundation has been spearheading a multi-billion dollar effort to transform African into a GMO-friendly continent. The public relations flagship for this effort is the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), a massive Green Revolution project. Up to now AGRA spokespeople have been slippery, and frankly, contradictory about their stance on GMOs.

The first Director of AGRA was Gary Toenniessen, a career program officer for Rockefeller Foundation. He said AGRA was not ruling out GMOs and if and when they were introduced it would be with all the appropriate "safeguards." After AGRA was criticized for not having any Africans, Kofi Anan was named Chairman in 2007. He first said GMOs were out of the picture, the next day he recapitulated. Last Spring, Joe DeVries, who runs the AGRA seed program was asked by a Worldwatch blogger if they were engaging in genetic engineering. "Read our lips," said Joe DeVries. "We are not promoting or funding research for GMOs (genetically modified organisms)..." In fact, in Kenya alone AGRA has used funds from the Gates Foundation to write grants for research in genetically modified agriculture. Nearly 80% of Gates' funding in Kenya involves biotech and there have been over $100 million in grants to organizations connected to Monsanto. In 2008, some 30% of the Foundation's agricultural development funds went to promoting or developing genetically modified seeds (See Ending Africa's Hunger)..

More to the point is that--as Monsanto and Gates are fully aware--to establish a healthy GMO industry one first needs a strong conventional breeding program in place: labs, experiment stations, agronomists, extensionists, molecular biologists... and farmer's seeds. All of which Gates, Rockefeller, Monsanto and AGRA are actively lining up.

They also need the power of U.S. government funding. That is where the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Casey-Lugar come in. USAID is now headed up by former Gates employee Rajiv Shah. The Casey-Lugar Global Food Security act ties foreign aid to GMOs. When the Gates Foundation places a bet, they like to hold all the cards.
Africa's seeds are a potential windfall investment for Monsanto. Regardless of the philanthropic side of its intentions, cloaked in the sheep's clothing of AGRA, the Gates Foundation is moving stealthily opening African seed market to global corporations. When the research, extension, and U.S. foreign aid is all in place Monsanto will swoop in for the feast.
Copyright © 2010, Inc.

Eric Holt Gimenez, Ph.D. is a food system researcher and agroecologist. He is the Executive Director of Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy. He is the main author of a new book on the world food crisis: "Food Rebellions: Crisis and the Hunger for Justice" from Food First (

Thursday, August 26, 2010

AIN'T NOTHIN' LIKE THE REAL THING! But how do you find NON-GMO food??

Published on Wednesday, August 25, 2010 by YES! Magazine
A Month Without Monsanto
April Dávila wondered what it would take to cut the GMO giant out of her family's life. She found that it was far more entrenched than she'd ever realized.

by April Dávila

In January of this year, while procrastinating on Facebook, I followed a link to an article reporting on evidence that there may be health effects associated with consuming Monsanto's genetically modified (GM) corn. Clicking on that link was one of those moments on which I look back and laugh. I had no idea how my life was about to change.
Monsanto's Reach

The article I stumbled onto concerned a study done in 2009 by a group of French scientists investigating the safety of genetically modified food. Their results, as published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences, pointed toward kidney and liver damage in rats fed GM corn.

I began to research where exactly Monsanto corn appeared in my family's diet. With a little online sleuthing, I learned that in addition to producing the genetically modified corn, Monsanto produces several other genetically modified crops such as soy, sugar beets, and cotton. Many of these crops form the foundation of our diets: 70 to 80 percent of American processed foods contain genetically engineered ingredients, according to the Grocery Manufacturers of America. A large percentage of the cotton in our clothes and homes begins in Monsanto's labs.

Probing a little deeper, I was surprised to learn that a company specializing in genetically modified plant crops also had an enormous influence on America's meat industry. Sixty percent of genetically modified corn goes to feed America's beef cattle. Additionally, Monsanto's recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is used to increase milk production in many dairy cows.

Tracing Foods Back to their Source
I decided to see if I could go the entire month of March without consuming any Monsanto products. I committed to an all organic, vegan diet, and reluctantly invested in a small organic cotton wardrobe. It was an experiment born of curiosity: I wanted to know just how deeply my life was influenced by Monsanto, a company I knew little about before that click of my mouse in January.

By day two of my attempt to remove Monsanto from my life, I realized I was in way over my head. For the past 10 years Monsanto has bought up seed companies around the globe. They now own a majority of the seed lines in America, including a large percentage of organic seeds. For everyday purposes, a Monsanto seed that is grown organically is still organic, but in my attempt to avoid Monsanto, I was left without any easy way of knowing what foods fit my experiment. I retreated to subsisting on wild-caught fish while I dug deep to try to figure out where exactly my foods came from.

With the help of sustainable food advocate Cassie Gruenstein, I got in touch with dozens of health food stores and manufacturers to ask where they sourced their products. I spent hours at the farmers' market asking farmers what seed companies they bought from, googling on my iPhone before making purchases. It took several weeks, but I slowly built a somewhat normal Monsanto-free existence.

Unfortunately, with the exception of a few national brands (check out Annie's, Inc. Massa Organics, and Lundberg Farms for a good start), there is no easy way to avoid Monsanto. It requires talking with the person who grew your food--every ingredient of every bite.
Good First Steps

While it's extremely difficult to entirely avoid Monsanto, there are some basic guidelines that anyone can use to minimize the genetically modified organisms in their lives.

1. Avoid processed foods. In particular, eliminate High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) from your diet and be sure to read labels. HFCS appears in everything from sodas to wheat bread.
2. Consider going vegetarian, limiting your meat consumption, or buying grass-fed varieties. Over 60 percent of genetically modified corn goes to feed cattle on polluting concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in America.
3. Buy organic dairy products to make sure animals weren't given Monsanto's recombinant bovine growth hormone.
4. Buy organic cotton when you can. Monsanto is a major player in the cotton industry. Even though cotton makes up only 2.5 percent of the world's crops, it is doused with 16 percent of the world's pesticides. Cotton pesticides, most of which are listed as "extremely hazardous" by the World Health Organization, turn up regularly in water sources around the globe.

What most amazed me during my month without Monsanto was the influence that one corporation had in my daily life--without me knowing anything about it. Once I started looking, Monsanto was everywhere. Once I started making the effort to avoid it, I found something else that surprised me: the confidence that comes from really knowing what I'm eating.

April Dávila wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. April is a freelance writer living and working in Los Angeles. Find out more about her at
YES! Magazine encourages you to make free use of this article by taking these easy steps. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License


GMO Crop Catastrophe in USA a lesson for EU
by F. William Engdahl* 22 August 2010 From: Frankfurt (Germany)

As the European Union moves closer to approving the cultivation of GMOs despite stiff widespread opposition, it ought to be paying urgent attention to the agricultural arms race unfolding in the United States. The gospel of high-tech genetically modified (GM) crops is no longer sounding quite so sweet. Roundup-resistant “superweeds” are plaguing Monsanto crops across southern US states, driving farmers to use more herbicides, abandon their farms or .... return to conventional crops.

Roundup Resistance Fields invaded by poison-resistant weeds will require additional – and in some cases more environmentally harmful – herbicides.

Recently the unelected potentates of the EU Commission in Brussels have sought to override what has repeatedly been shown to be the overwhelming opposition of the European Union population to the spread of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in EU agriculture. EU Commission President now has a Maltese accountant as health and environment Commissioner to rubber stamp the adoption of GMO. The former EU Environment Commissioner from Greece was a ferocious GMO opponent. As well, the Chinese government has indicated it may approve a variety of GMO rice. Before things get too far along, they would do well to take a closer look at the world GMO test lab, the USA. There GMO crops are anything but beneficial. Just the opposite.

What is carefully kept out of the Monsanto and other agribusiness propaganda in promoting genetically manipulated crops as an alternative to conventional is the fact that in the entire world until the present, all GMO crops have been manipulated and patented for only two things - to be resistant or "tolerant" to the patented highly toxic herbicide glyphosate chemicals that Monsanto and the others force farmers to buy as condition for buying their patented GMO seeds. The second trait is GMO seeds that have been engineered genetically to resist specific insects. Contrary to public relations myths promoted by the agribusiness giants in their own self-interest, there exists not one single GMO seed that provides a greater harvest yield than conventional, nor one that requires less toxic chemical herbicides. That is for the simple reason there is no profit to be made in such.

Giant Super-weeds Plague

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, world renowned genecist and biophysicist.

As prominent GMO opponent and biologist, Dr Mae-Wan Ho of the Institute of Science in London has noted, companies such as Monsanto build into their seeds herbicide-tolerance (HT) due to glyphosate-insensitive form of the gene coding for the enzyme targeted by the herbicide. The enzyme is derived from soil bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens. Insect-resistance is due to one or more toxin genes derived from the soil bacterium Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). The United States began large scale commercial planting of GMO plants, mainly soybeans and corn and cotton around 1997. By now, GM crops have taken over between 85 percent to 91 percent of the areas planted with the three major crops, soybean, corn and cotton in the US, on nearly 171 million acres.

The ecological time-bomb that came with the GMO according to Ho, is about to explode. Over several years of constant application of patented glyphosate herbicides such as Monsanto’s famous and highly Roundup, new herbicide-resistant "super-weeds" have evolved, nature’s response to man-made attempts to violate it. The super-weeds require significantly more not less herbicide to control.

ABC Television, a major US national network, made a recent documentary about the super-weeds under the rubric, "super weeds that can’t be killed. [1]

They interviewed farmers and scientists across Arkansas who described fields overrun with giant pigweed plants that can withstand as much glyphosate as farmers are able to spray. They interviewed one farmer who spent almost €400 000 in only three months in a failed attempt to kill the new super-weeds.

The new super-weeds are so robust that harvester combines are unable to harvest the fields and hand tools break trying to cut them down. At least 400 000 hectares of soybean and cotton in Arkansas alone have become invested with this new mutant biological plague. Detailed data on other agricultural regions is not available but believed similar. The pro-GMO and pro-agribusiness US Department of Agriculture has been reported lying about the true state of US crop harvest partly to hide the grim reality and to prevent an explosive revolt against GMO in the world’s largest GMO market.

Palmer amaranth, or pigweed, is a particularly tenacious Roundup-resistant pest that has been known to damage harvesting equipment.

One variety of super-weed, palmer pigweed can grow up to 2.4 meters high, withstands severe heat and prolonged droughts, and produces thousands of seeds with a root system that drains nutrients away from crops. If left unchecked, it takes over an entire field in a year. Some farmers have been forced to abandon their land. To date palmer pigweed infestation in GMO crop regions has been identified in addition to Arkansas, also in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, New Mexico, Mississippi and most recently, Alabama and Missouri.

Weed scientists at the University of Georgia estimate that just two palmer pigweed plants in every 6 meter length of cotton row can reduce yield by at least 23 percent. A single weed plant can produce 450 000 seeds. [2]

Roundup Toxic Danger Being Covered-up

Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the US and the world at large. Patented and sold by Monsanto since the 1970s under the trade name Roundup, it is a mandatory component of buying GMO seeds from Monsanto. Just go to your local garden store and ask for it and read the label carefully.

As I detail in my book, Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation, GMO crops and patented seeds were developed in the 1970’s with significant financial support from the pro-eugenics Rockefeller Foundation, by what were essentially chemical companies - Monsanto Chemicals, DuPont and Dow Chemicals. All three were involved in the scandal of the highly toxic Agent Orange used in Vietnam, as well as Dioxin in the 1970’s, and lied to cover up the true damage to its own employees as well as to civilian and military populations exposed.

Their patented GMO seeds were seen as a clever way to force increased purchase of their agricultural chemicals such as Roundup. Farmers must sign a legal contract with Monsanto in which it stipulates that only Monsanto Roundup pesticide may be used. Farmers are thus trapped both in buying new seeds from Monsanto each harvest and buying the toxic glyphosate.

France’s University of Caen, in a team led by molecular biologist, Gilles-Eric Seralini, did a study that showed Roundup contained one specific inert ingredient, polyethoxylated tallowamine, or POEA. Seralini’s team demonstrated that POEA in Roundup was more deadly to human embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells than even the glyphosate itself. Monsanto refuses to release details of the contents of its Roundup other than glyphosate, calling it "proprietary."

The Seralini study found that Roundup’s inert ingredients amplified the toxic effect on human cells - even at concentrations much more diluted than those used on farms and lawns! The French team studied multiple concentrations of Roundup, from the typical agricultural or lawn dose down to concentrations 100,000 times more dilute than the products sold on shelves. The researchers saw cell damage at all concentrations.

Glyphosate and Roundup are advertised as "less toxic to us than table salt" in a pamphlet from the Biotechnology Institute promoting GMO crops as ’Weed Warrior.’ Thirteen years of GMO crops in the USA has increased overall pesticide use by 318 million pounds, not decreased as promised by the Four Horsemen of the GMO Apocalypse. The extra disease burden on the nation from that alone is considerable.

Nonetheless after introduction of Monsanto GMO seeds commercially in the USA, use of glyphosate has risen more than 1500% between 1994 and 2005. In the USA some 100 million pounds of glyphosate are used on lawns and farms every year, and over the last 13 years, it has been applied to more than a billion acres. When questioned, Monsanto’s technical development manager, Rick Cole, reportedly said the problems were "manageable." He advised farmers to alternate crops and use different makes of herbicides produced by Monsanto. Monsanto is encouraging farmers to mix glyphosate with its older herbicides such as 2,4-D, banned in Sweden, Denmark and Norway for links to cancer and reproductive and neurological damage. 2,4-D is a component of Agent Orange, produced by Monsanto for use in Vietnam in the 1960s.

US Farmers Turn to Organics

Farmers across the United States are reported to be going back to conventional non-GMO crops instead. According to a new report from the US Department of Agriculture, retail sales of organic food went up to $21.1 billion in 2008 from $3.6 billion in 1997. [3] The market is so active that organic farms have struggled at times to produce sufficient supply to keep up with the rapid growth in consumer demand, leading to periodic shortages of organic products.

The new UK Conservative-Liberal coalition government is strongly backing lifting a de facto ban on GMO in that country. UK Chief Scientific Adviser, Prof. John Beddington, recently wrote an article in which he misleadingly claimed " The next decade will see the development of combinations of desirable traits and the introduction of new traits such as drought tolerance. By mid-century much more radical options involving highly polygenic traits may be feasible." He went on to promise "cloned animals with engineered innate immunity to diseases" and more. I think we can pass that one up, thank you.

A recent study by Iowa State University and the US Department of Agriculture assessing the performance of farms during the three-year transition it takes to switch from conventional to certified organic production showed notable advantages of organic farming over GMO or even conventional non-GMO crops. In an experiment lasting four years - three years transition and first year organic - the study showed that although yields dropped initially, they equalized in the third year, and by the fourth year, the organic yields were ahead of the conventional for both soybean and corn.

As well, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) has recently been published, the result of three-year deliberation by 400 participating scientists and non-government representatives from 110 countries around the world. It came to the conclusion that small scale organic agriculture is the way ahead for coping with hunger, social inequities and environmental disasters. [4] As Dr Ho argues, a fundamental shift in farming practice is needed urgently, before the agricultural catastrophe spreads further across Germany and the EU to the rest of the world. [5]

F. William Engdahl-
Author of Gods of Money: Wall Street and the Death of the American Century and Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order. His other books include Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation. and A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order.

[1] "Super weed can’t be killed", ABC News, 6 October 2009. See also, Jeff Hampton, N.C. farmers battle herbicide-resistant weeds, The Virginian-Pilot, 19 July 2009.

[2] Clea Caulcutt, ‘Superweed’ explosion threatens Monsanto heartlands, Clea Caulcutt, 19 April 2009.

[3] Carolyn Dimitri and Lydia Oberholtzer, Marketing U.S. organic foods: recent trends from farms to consumers, USDA Economic Research Service, September 2009.

[4] International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, IAASTD, 2008.

[5] Ho MW UK Food Standards Agency study proves organic food is better. Science in Society 44, 32-33, 2009.


Food & Water Watch Releases Comprehensive 2010 Smart Seafood Guide
Only Guide to Consider Socio-Economic Impact of Consuming Seafood; Warns Against Turning to Imported Fish Post-Gulf Spill

WASHINGTON - August 25, 2010 - On Wednesday, the national consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch released its 2010 Smart Seafood Guide to direct consumers in making safer, more sustainable seafood decisions. This year, researchers analyzed over 100 types of seafood (60 percent more than in 2009) to create the only guide assessing not only the human health and environmental impacts of eating certain seafood, but also the socio-economic impacts on coastal and fishing communities.

In their 2010 guide, Food & Water Watch highlighted what they refer to as the “Dirty Dozen” — species that fail to meet two or more of their criteria for safe and sustainable seafood. This year, the worst offender was imported coastal-farmed shrimp. According to the guide, the shrimp mostly come from countries where health, safety, labor and environmental standards are much weaker than in the U.S. This often means the shrimp were raised in crowded, dirty farms, and doused with assorted chemicals, antibiotics and pesticides, some of which are illegal to use in the U.S.

“The guide comes at a critical time. We’ve been fielding countless questions from consumers on seafood safety after the Gulf oil spill,” said Marianne Cufone, Food & Water Watch’s Fish Program Director. “Unfortunately, because of the spill, many people are considering imported seafood as a safer alternative to domestic. Often, it’s not.

The guide not only educates consumers on seafood selection, but also offers information on U.S. seafood production and regulation. For instance:

• Less than 2 percent of imported seafood is inspected.

• Over 70 percent of domestic shrimp and about 60 percent of domestic oysters came from the Gulf of Mexico prior to the spill.

• The average consumer eats around 16 pounds of seafood annually, about 4 pounds of which is shrimp.

The guide steers consumers away from certain types of seafood like fish raised in factory farm conditions that pose threats to both the marine ecosystem and public health; unregulated imports; depleted fish (like bluefin tuna); and fish more likely to contain harmful contaminants like mercury and PCB (like swordfish).

The guide is offered as an online tool for consumers searching for seafood based on taste or U.S. region of origin. In addition, Food & Water Watch has developed a smaller, printed version for consumers to reference before making a purchase at markets or restaurants.

“It’s really the most consumer friendly guide out there,” Cufone said. “We’re not telling you what to eat. We’re providing you with important information so that you can make safer, more sustainable seafood choices based on your own personal tastes and priorities.”

For more information on the Gulf spill’s impact on the availability of certain seafood items listed on the 2010 Smart Seafood Guide, check the latest government updates at:"> and">
and and"> and">"> and"> and
CONTACT: Food & Water Watch, Lauren Wright, 202-683-4929;

Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.


EPA Policy Restoring Public Right to Know About Chemical Hazards Wins Strong Support from Health, Labor and Environmental Advocates
The names of toxic chemicals will no longer be kept secret from the public
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 25, 2010 4:54 PM

WASHINGTON - August 25 - Twenty-six health, labor and environmental organizations today filed detailed comments voicing resounding support for a long-overdue change in a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policy that denied public access to information EPA receives from the chemical industry. That policy and the resulting Agency practice had allowed chemical companies routinely to mask the identity of chemicals when submitting information to the agency about known health and safety impacts. [Click here to see a sample redacted chemical industry report to EPA.]

“EPA’s move brings us toward an age of greater transparency and helps give people the power to make safer choices about what products to bring into their home,” said Earthjustice attorney Marianne Engelman Lado. “If a chemical is known or suspected to be causing cancer or other serious diseases, at the very minimum, the public should be able to find out the name of that chemical. Although it’s the law, in the past it wasn’t the practice.”

The groups' filing comes as Congress considers legislation that would overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the 1976 law that EPA, health, labor and environmental groups, and even the chemical industry agree has not adequately protected the public from toxic chemicals. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has declared enhancing chemical safety to be one of her priorities, and announced the agency’s new right-to-know policy in late May. At that time EPA signaled its intent to deny industry claims seeking to withhold the names of chemicals when submitting health and safety data to the Agency. EPA announced that it will not only deny future claims, but will review and challenge such claims made in the past.

“One of the few positive provisions of TSCA is that it clearly puts chemical health and safety data off-limits for protection as confidential business information,” said Dr. Richard A. Denison, senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund. “Despite this, chemical companies have as a matter of course claimed the identity of the chemical in question to be confidential even when providing EPA data indicating a chemical presents a substantial risk—yielding the perverse outcome that the public learns only that some unnamed chemical may be dangerous.”

One provision of current law requires chemical companies to submit to EPA any studies or data they obtain that indicate a chemical presents a substantial risk to the public or the environment. According to EPA, the identities of more than 40 percent of the hundreds of chemicals covered by reports submitted in fiscal years 2006 through 2009 have been claimed secret.

On the rare occasions in the past when EPA has reviewed such claims, it has uniformly found they do not actually qualify for protection after all. Yet EPA's only recourse is to challenge those claims one by one—a highly resource-intensive activity that has hamstrung EPA officials. EPA officials have noted that they review an average of only 14 of the thousands of secrecy claims made under TSCA annually. EPA's new policy puts companies on notice that they should not make those claims, and that they will be denied except in very rare cases.

“Communities of color and low-income communities are particularly at risk from toxic chemicals,” said Dr. Mark Mitchell, President of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice. “Public access to all available health information on chemicals is critical to our communities' ability to inform and protect ourselves from the disproportionately high exposures to such chemicals that we experience.”

In their comments, the groups urged EPA to take several additional steps in implementing the new policy, including that

* EPA should implement a system for tracking and publicly reporting the status of all reviewed and challenged claims and should provide that information on EPA’s website in a timely manner.
* In reviewing past claims, EPA should prioritize review of claims for chemicals for which available information indicate cause for concern as to hazard or exposure potential.
* Where EPA determines that a chemical's identity is not entitled to protection in the context of a health and safety study, it should also remove any such protection for that chemical in the context of its listing on the TSCA Inventory.
* EPA should require the recertification of CBI claims after no more than five years and not allow information to be withheld from the public indefinitely without substantiation.

CONTACT: Earthjustice
Kathleen Sutcliffe,
202) 667-4500, ext. 235

Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.


Rotten Eggs and Our Broken Democracy

by Amy Goodman
Published on Thursday, August 26, 2010 by

What do a half-billion eggs have to do with democracy? The massive recall of salmonella-infected eggs, the largest egg recall in U.S. history, opens a window on the power of large corporations over not only our health, but over our government.

While scores of brands have been recalled, they all can be traced back to just two egg farms. Our food supply is increasingly in the hands of larger and larger companies, which wield enormous power in our political process. As with the food industry, so, too, is it with oil and with banks: Giant corporations, some with budgets larger than most nations, are controlling our health, our environment, our economy and increasingly, our elections.

The salmonella outbreak is just the most recent episode of many that point to a food industry run amok. Patty Lovera is the assistant director of the food-safety group Food & Water Watch. She told me: “Historically, there’s always been industry resistance to any food-safety regulation, whether it’s in Congress or through the agencies. There are large trade associations for every sector of our food supply, starting from the large agribusiness-type producers all the way through to the grocery stores.”

The salmonella-tainted eggs came from just two factory farms, Hillandale Farms and Wright County Egg, both in Iowa. Behind this outbreak is the egg empire of Austin “Jack” DeCoster. DeCoster owns Wright County Egg and also owns Quality Egg, which provides chicks and feed to both of the Iowa farms. Lovera describes DeCoster as “a poster child for what happens when we see this type of consolidation and this scale of production.”

The Associated Press offered a summary of DeCoster’s multistate egg and hog operation’s health, safety and employment violations. In 1997, DeCoster Egg Farms agreed to pay a $2 million fine after then-Labor Secretary Robert Reich described his farm “as dangerous and oppressive as any sweatshop.” In 2002, DeCoster’s company paid $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Mexican women who reported they were subjected to sexual harassment, including rape, abuse and retaliation by supervisors. Earlier this summer, another company linked to DeCoster paid out $125,000 to the state of Maine over animal-cruelty allegations.

Despite all this, DeCoster has thrived in the egg and hog business, which puts him in league with other large corporations, like BP and the major banks. The BP oil spill, the largest in the history of this country, was preceded by a criminally long list of serious violations going back years, most notably the massive Texas City refinery explosion in 2005 that killed 15 people. If BP were a person, he would have been imprisoned long ago.

The banking industry is another chronic offender. In the wake of the largest global financial disaster since the Great Depression, banks like Goldman Sachs, flush with cash after a massive public bailout, subverted the legislative process aimed at reining them in.

The result: a largely toothless new consumer-protection agency, and relentless opposition to the appointment of consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren to head it. She would give the banks as much oversight as the new agency would allow, which is why the bankers, including President Barack Obama’s appointees like Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and economic adviser Larry Summers, are believed to be opposing her.

The fox, you could say, is watching the henhouse (and the rotten eggs within). Multinational corporations are allowed to operate with virtually no oversight or regulation. Corporate cash is allowed to influence elections, and thus, the behavior of our elected representatives. After the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which will allow unlimited corporate donations to campaigns, the problem is only going to get worse. To get elected, and to stay in power, politicians will have to cater more and more to their corporate donors.

There is hope. There is a growing movement to amend the U.S. Constitution, to strip corporations of the legal status of “personhood,” the concept that corporations have the same rights as regular people.

This would subject corporations to the same oversight that existed for the first 100 years of U.S. history. To restrict political participation just to people will take a genuine, grass-roots movement, though, since Congress and the Obama administration can’t seem to get even the most basic changes implemented. As the saying goes, if you want to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
© 2010 Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 800 stations in North America. She is the author of "Breaking the Sound Barrier," recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

Monday, August 23, 2010

New SUGAR standards for KIDS....what's the rush???

Shut Up and Eat Your Sugar

Monday 23 August 2010

by: Jim Hightower | OtherWords | Op-Ed

OK, children, homework time.

Let's see if we can handle this little lesson in logic. One, America has a rather huge child obesity problem. Two, major food corporations constantly pitch ads to children for such stuff as sugar-saturated breakfast cereals and fat-laden "Happy Meals." So, how does fact No. 2 relate to fact No. 1? Yes, No. 2 is a cause of No. 1. It's really not that hard to grasp, is it?

Not unless you're a lobbyist for a food manufacturer. Last year, Congress directed four federal agencies to work together on new standards for commercials that food giants run on cartoon shows and other TV programs for children. This intervention was necessary, because the industry's own voluntary program to push healthy choices for kids was, at best, loosey-goosey. For example, such sugar bombs as Kellogg's Froot Loops and Frosted Flakes were nutritionally A-OK by industry standards--as was a candy named Yogos, the main ingredient of which is sugar.

So, the agencies came up with nutritional requirements that were at least strict enough to prevent the marketing of candy as a healthy food. Ah, progress! But--oh, mercy--the howl of pain from industry lobbyists was piercing. One shrieked that the new proposal "would virtually end all food advertising as it's currently carried out to kids." sir, not all food advertising, just ads for stuff like...well, Yogos.

However, the screams of the food giants--echoed by their congressional puppets--seem to have spooked the agencies. The final proposal has now been delayed, and regulators have retreated to "tweak" it. Note that the main ingredient in the word tweak is "weak." To help fight for strong nutritional standards that advance our children's health, contact the Center for Science in the Public Interest: