Friday, February 11, 2011


Getting back to sleep soon and found this in the NY Times:
"While several factors have contributed to soaring food prices, what really stands out is the extent to which severe weather events have disrupted agricultural production. And these severe weather events are exactly the kind of thing we’d expect to see as rising concentrations of greenhouse gases change our climate — which means that the current food price surge may be just the beginning................
But the evidence does, in fact, suggest that what we’re getting now is a first taste of the disruption, economic and political, that we’ll face in a warming world. And given our failure to act on greenhouse gases, there will be much more, and much worse, to come."

Marianne Klepacki

Great START, Mark....but can't SAY the "G" word? Get REAL on GMO's !

February 1, 2011, 10:28 pm

A Food Manifesto for the Future

For decades, Americans believed that we had the world’s healthiest and safest diet. We worried little about this diet’s effect on the environment or on the lives of the animals (or even the workers) it relies upon. Nor did we worry about its ability to endure — that is, its sustainability.
That didn’t mean all was well. And we’ve come to recognize that our diet is unhealthful and unsafe. Many food production workers labor in difficult, even deplorable, conditions, and animals are produced as if they were widgets. It would be hard to devise a more wasteful, damaging, unsustainable system.

Here are some ideas — frequently discussed, but sadly not yet implemented — that would make the growing, preparation and consumption of food healthier, saner, more productive, less damaging and more enduring. In no particular order:
  • End government subsidies to processed food. We grow more corn for livestock and cars than for humans, and it’s subsidized by more than $3 billion annually; most of it is processed beyond recognition. The story is similar for other crops, including soy: 98 percent of soybean meal becomes livestock feed, while most soybean oil is used in processed foods. Meanwhile, the marketers of the junk food made from these crops receive tax write-offs for the costs of promoting their wares. Total agricultural subsidies in 2009 were around $16 billion, which would pay for a great many of the ideas that follow.
  • Begin subsidies to those who produce and sell actual food for direct consumption. Small farmers and their employees need to make living wages. Markets — from super- to farmers’ — should be supported when they open in so-called food deserts and when they focus on real food rather than junk food. And, of course, we should immediately increase subsidies for school lunches so we can feed our youth more real food.
  • Break up the U.S. Department of Agriculture and empower the Food and Drug Administration. Currently, the U.S.D.A. counts among its missions both expanding markets for agricultural products (like corn and soy!) and providing nutrition education. These goals are at odds with each other; you can’t sell garbage while telling people not to eat it, and we need an agency devoted to encouraging sane eating. Meanwhile, the F.D.A. must be given expanded powers to ensure the safety of our food supply. (Food-related deaths are far more common than those resulting from terrorism, yet the F.D.A.’s budget is about one-fifteenth that of Homeland Security.)
  • Outlaw concentrated animal feeding operations and encourage the development of sustainable animal husbandry. The concentrated system degrades the environment, directly and indirectly, while torturing animals and producing tainted meat, poultry, eggs, and, more recently, fish. Sustainable methods of producing meat for consumption exist. At the same time, we must educate and encourage Americans to eat differently. It’s difficult to find a principled nutrition and health expert who doesn’t believe that a largely plant-based diet is the way to promote health and attack chronic diseases, which are now bigger killers, worldwide, than communicable ones. Furthermore, plant-based diets ease environmental stress, including global warming.
  • Encourage and subsidize home cooking. (Someday soon, I’ll write about my idea for a new Civilian Cooking Corps.) When people cook their own food, they make better choices. When families eat together, they’re more stable. We should provide food education for children (a new form of home ec, anyone?), cooking classes for anyone who wants them and even cooking assistance for those unable to cook for themselves.
  • Tax the marketing and sale of unhealthful foods. Another budget booster. This isn’t nanny-state paternalism but an accepted role of government: public health. If you support seat-belt, tobacco and alcohol laws, sewer systems and traffic lights, you should support legislation curbing the relentless marketing of soda and other foods that are hazardous to our health — including the sacred cheeseburger and fries.
Mark Bittman’s Blog
Read more from the columnist.
  • Reduce waste and encourage recycling. The environmental stress incurred by unabsorbed fertilizer cannot be overestimated, and has caused, for example, a 6,000-square-mile dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico that is probably more damaging than the BP oil spill. And some estimates indicate that we waste half the food that’s grown. A careful look at ways to reduce waste and promote recycling is in order.
  • Mandate truth in labeling. Nearly everything labeled “healthy” or “natural” is not. It’s probably too much to ask that “vitamin water” be called “sugar water with vitamins,” but that’s precisely what real truth in labeling would mean.
  • Reinvest in research geared toward leading a global movement in sustainable agriculture, combining technology and tradition to create a new and meaningful Green Revolution.
I’ll expand on these issues (and more) in the future, but the essential message is this: food and everything surrounding it is a crucial matter of personal and public health, of national and global security. At stake is not only the health of humans but that of the earth.
This column appeared in print on February 2, 2011. It will appear in Opinionator regularly.


No GMOs.
Take action!
Clicking the text below will add your name to this petition. The petition reads:
Click to sign.
Dear Friend,
For months, we've been asking the USDA and the Obama Administration to deny Monsanto's application to market its genetically modified Roundup Ready alfalfa. Unfortunately, on January 27, President Obama's Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued unrestricted approval for GMO alfalfa, brushing aside very real concerns about its disastrous effects on the organic industry, the environment, and our health.1
It also appears that the decision came all the way from the top of the president's political team. According to Maureen Dowd's New York Times column on January 29, David Axelrod — one of President Obama's chief advisors — urged the administration to "plow forward' with the approval of GMO alfalfa in a White House staff meeting.2
Along with our allies, CREDO members have submitted hundreds of thousands of public comments opposing GMO alfalfa on the grounds that it will contaminate non-GMO strains and cause irreparable damage to the organic dairy and beef industry, which relies on GMO-free alfalfa for feed.
It is deeply disappointing that President Obama and his administration have chosen to support Monsanto's profits and consolidation of the agricultural sector over the livelihoods of farmers and health of consumers. But we can't give up now. We need to hold the administration accountable for their decision and dig in for the long-term fight against GMOs and Big Ag.
If GMO alfalfa wasn't enough, just a week later the USDA issued approval for another of Monsanto's GMO products — sugar beets — prior to the completion of a court-ordered environmental review.3
The problems with GMO crops are multifold. When grown in open fields, their genes are extremely difficult to contain. This is particularly true for alfalfa which is a perennial and a profuse pollinator, making it extremely likely that modified genes from its pollen will end up in conventional and organic crops.
Because organic certification prohibits the inclusion of GMOs, any contamination renders a food ineligible for the organic label. So otherwise organic cows that are fed contaminated alfalfa are no longer able to produce organic dairy or beef, decimating organic farmers' profit margins.
These decisions make it clear that the Obama administration is more comfortable standing up for Monsanto and Big Ag than for the farmers who produce and the consumers who eat our food.
The battle is far from over. The recent GMO approvals are already being appealed in the courts. We will continue to follow this issue and alert you to action opportunities.
In the meantime, we need to let President Obama know we're watching and that these potentially disastrous decisions are being made by his administration, on his watch. Click here to automatically sign the petition telling him you'll keep fighting today.
Thank you for standing up for safe and healthy food.
Adam Klaus, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets


10 Facts about Fluoride
Fluoride Action Network
| Printer-Friendly Version

1) 97% of western Europe has chosen fluoride-free water . This includes: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, and Switzerland. (While some European countries add fluoride to salt, the majority do not.) Thus, rather than mandating fluoride treatment for the whole population, western Europe allows individuals the right to choose, or refuse, fluoride.

2) Fluoride is the only chemical added to drinking water for the purpose of medication (to prevent tooth decay). All other treatment chemicals are added to treat the water (to improve the water's quality and safety - which fluoride does not do). This is one of the reasons why most of Europe has rejected fluoridation. For instance:
In Germany, "The argumentation of the Federal Ministry of Health against a general permission of fluoridation of drinking water is the problematic nature of compulsion medication."
In Belgium, it is "the fundamental position of the drinking water sector that it is not its task to deliver medicinal treatment to people. This is the sole responsibility of health services."
In Luxembourg, "In our views, drinking water isn't the suitable way for medicinal treatment and that people needing an addition of fluoride can decide by their own to use the most appropriate way."

3) Contrary to previous belief, fluoride has minimal benefit when swallowed. When water fluoridation began in the 1940s and '50s, dentists believed that fluoride needed to be swallowed in order to be most effective. This belief, however, has now been discredited by an extensive body of modern research (1).
According to the Centers for Disease Control, fluoride's "predominant effect is posteruptive and topical" (2). In other words, any benefits that accrue from the use of fluoride, come from the direct application of fluoride to the outside of teeth (after they have erupted into the mouth) and not from ingestion. There is no need, therefore, to expose all other tissues to fluoride by swallowing it.

4) Fluoridated water is no longer recommended for babies. In November of 2006, the American Dental Association (ADA) advised that parents should avoid giving babies fluoridated water (3). Other dental researchers have made similar recommendations over the past decade (4).
Babies exposed to fluoride are at high risk of developing dental fluorosis - a permanent tooth defect caused by fluoride damaging the cells which form the teeth (5). Other tissues in the body may also be affected by early-life exposures to fluoride. According to a recent review published in the medical journal The Lancet, fluoride may damage the developing brain, causing learning deficits and other problems (6).

5) There are better ways of delivering fluoride than adding it to water. By adding fluoride to everyone's tap water, many infants and other at-risk populations will be put in harm's way. This is not only wrong, it is unnecessary. As western Europe has demonstrated, there are many equally effective and less-intrusive ways of delivering fluoride to people who actually want it. For example:
A) Topical fluoride products such as toothpaste and mouthrinses (which come with explicit instructions not to swallow) are readily available at all grocery stores and pharmacies. Thus, for those individuals who wish to use fluoride, it is very easy to find and very inexpensive to buy.
B) If there is concern that some people in the community cannot afford to purchase fluoride toothpaste (a family-size tube of toothpaste costs as little as $2 to $3), the money saved by not fluoridating the water can be spent subsidizing topical fluoride products (or non-fluoride alternatives) for those families in need.
C) The vast majority of fluoride added to water supplies is wasted, since over 99% of tap water is not actually consumed by a human being. It is used instead to wash cars, water the lawn, wash dishes, flush toilets, etc.

6) Ingestion of fluoride has little benefit, but many risks. Whereas fluoride's benefits come from topical contact with teeth, its risks to health (which involve many more tissues than the teeth) result from being swallowed.
Adverse effects from fluoride ingestion have been associated with doses atttainable by people living in fluoridated areas. For example:
a) Risk to the brain. According to the National Research Council (NRC), fluoride can damage the brain. Animal studies conducted in the 1990s by EPA scientists found dementia-like effects at the same concentration (1 ppm) used to fluoridate water, while human studies have found adverse effects on IQ at levels as low as 0.9 ppm among children with nutrient deficiencies, and 1.8 ppm among children with adequate nutrient intake. (7-10)

b) Risk to the thyroid gland. According to the NRC, fluoride is an “endocrine disrupter.” Most notably, the NRC has warned that doses of fluoride (0.01-0.03 mg/kg/day) achievable by drinking fluoridated water, may reduce the function of the thyroid among individuals with low-iodine intake. Reduction of thyroid activity can lead to loss of mental acuity, depression and weight gain (11)
c) Risk to bones. According to the NRC, fluoride can diminish bone strength and increase the risk for bone fracture. While the NRC was unable to determine what level of fluoride is safe for bones, it noted that the best available information suggests that fracture risk may be increased at levels as low 1.5 ppm, which is only slightly higher than the concentration (0.7-1.2 ppm) added to water for fluoridation. (12)
d) Risk for bone cancer. Animal and human studies – including a recent study from a team of Harvard scientists – have found a connection between fluoride and a serious form of bone cancer (osteosarcoma) in males under the age of 20. The connection between fluoride and osteosarcoma has been described by the National Toxicology Program as "biologically plausible." Up to half of adolescents who develop osteosarcoma die within a few years of diagnosis. (13-16)
e) Risk to kidney patients. People with kidney disease have a heightened susceptibility to fluoride toxicity. The heightened risk stems from an impaired ability to excrete fluoride from the body. As a result, toxic levels of fluoride can accumulate in the bones, intensify the toxicity of aluminum build-up, and cause or exacerbate a painful bone disease known as renal osteodystrophy. (17-19)

7) The industrial chemicals used to fluoridate water may present unique health risks not found with naturally-occurring fluoride complexes . The chemicals - fluorosilicic acid, sodium silicofluoride, and sodium fluoride - used to fluoridate drinking water are industrial waste products from the phosphate fertilizer industry. Of these chemicals, fluorosilicic acid (FSA) is the most widely used. FSA is a corrosive acid which has been linked to higher blood lead levels in children. A recent study from the University of North Carolina found that FSA can - in combination with chlorinated compounds - leach lead from brass joints in water pipes, while a recent study from the University of Maryland suggests that the effect of fluoridation chemicals on blood lead levels may be greatest in houses built prior to 1946. Lead is a neurotoxin that can cause learning disabilities and behavioral problems in children. (20-23)

8) Water fluoridation’s benefits to teeth have been exaggerated. Even proponents of water fluoridation admit that it is not as effective as it was once claimed to be. While proponents still believe in its effectiveness, a growing number of studies strongly question this assessment. (24-46) According to a systematic review published by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, "The magnitude of [fluoridation's] effect is not large in absolute terms, is often not statistically significant and may not be of clinical significance." (36)
a) No difference exists in tooth decay between fluoridated & unfluoridated countries. While water fluoridation is often credited with causing the reduction in tooth decay that has occurred in the US over the past 50 years, the same reductions in tooth decay have occurred in all western countries, most of which have never added fluoride to their water. The vast majority of western Europe has rejected water fluoridation. Yet, according to comprehensive data from the World Health Organization, their tooth decay rates are just as low, and, in fact, often lower than the tooth decay rates in the US. (25, 35, 44)
b) Cavities do not increase when fluoridation stops. In contrast to earlier findings, five studies published since 2000 have reported no increase in tooth decay in communities which have ended fluoridation. (37-41)
c) Fluoridation does not prevent oral health crises in low-income areas. While some allege that fluoridation is especially effective for low-income communities, there is very little evidence to support this claim. According to a recent systematic review from the British government, "The evidence about [fluoridation] reducing inequalities in dental health was of poor quality, contradictory and unreliable." (45) In the United States, severe dental crises are occurring in low-income areas irrespective of whether the community has fluoride added to its water supply. (46) In addition, several studies have confirmed that the incidence of severe tooth decay in children (“baby bottle tooth decay”) is not significantly different in fluoridated vs unfluoridated areas. (27,32,42) Thus, despite some emotionally-based claims to the contrary, water fluoridation does not prevent the oral health problems related to poverty and lack of dental-care access.

9) Fluoridation poses added burden and risk to low-income communities. Rather than being particularly beneficial to low-income communities, fluoridation is particularly burdensome and harmful. For example:
a) Low-income families are least able to avoid fluoridated water. Due to the high costs of buying bottled water or expensive water filters, low-income households will be least able to avoid fluoride once it's added to the water. As a result, low-income families will be least capable of following ADA’s recommendation that infants should not receive fluoridated water. This may explain why African American children have been found to suffer the highest rates of disfiguring dental fluorosis in the US. (47)
b) Low-income families at greater risk of fluoride toxicity. In addition, it is now well established that individuals with inadequate nutrient intake have a significantly increased susceptibility to fluoride’s toxic effects. (48-51) Since nutrient deficiencies are most common in low-income communities, and since diseases known to increase susceptibility to fluoride are most prevalent in low-income areas (e.g. end-stage renal failure), it is likely that low-income communities will be at greatest risk from suffering adverse effects associated with fluoride exposure. According to Dr. Kathleen Thiessen, a member of the National Research Council's review of fluoride toxicity: “I would expect low-income communities to be more vulnerable to at least some of the effects of drinking fluoridated water." (51)

10) Due to other sources, many people are being over-exposed to fluoride . Unlike when water fluoridation first began, Americans are now receiving fluoride from many other sources* besides the water supply. As a result many people are now exceeding the recommended daily intake, putting them at elevated risk of suffering toxic effects. For example, many children ingest more fluoride from toothpaste alone than is considered “optimal” for a full day’s worth of ingestion. According to the Journal of Public Health Dentistry:
"Virtually all authors have noted that some children could ingest more fluoride from [toothpaste] alone than is recommended as a total daily fluoride ingestion." (52)
Because of the increase in fluoride exposure from all sources combined, the rate of dental fluorosis (a visible indicator of over-exposure to fluoride during childhood) has increased significantly over the past 50 years. Whereas dental fluorosis used to impact less than 10% of children in the 1940s, the latest national survey found that it now affects over 30% of children. (47, 53)
* Sources of fluoride include: fluoride dental products, fluoride pesticides, fluorinated pharmaceuticals, processed foods made with fluoridated water, and tea.

To access the references, click here


Fluoride Action Network | 802-338-5577 |

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


February 8, 2011, 8:30 pm  New York Times

Is ‘Eat Real Food’ Unthinkable?

Mark BittmanMark Bittman on food and all things related.
In recent weeks we’ve seen a big, powerful government agency, a big, powerful person and a big, powerful corporation telling us what to eat. Even with all this big, powerful input, we know nothing that we didn’t know last year. We do, however, have a new acronym; unfortunately, it’s not the one we need.
And a little progress. Limited kudos go to the United States Department of Agriculture, whose Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 — yes, it’s 2011, but they’re published every five years — are the best to date. We’re told to eat “less food” and more fresh foods; wise advice. But aside from salt, the agency buries mostly vague recommendations about what we should be eating less of: we’re admonished to drink “few or no” sodas — hooray for that — and “refined grains,” Solid Fats and Added Sugars. And there’s our fabulous acronym: SOFAS.
The problem, as usual, is that the agency’s nutrition experts are at odds with its other mission: to promote our bounty in whatever form its processors make it. The U.S.D.A. can succeed at its conflicting goals only by convincing us that eating manufactured food lower in SOFAS is “healthy,” thus implicitly endorsing hyper-engineered junk food with added fiber, reduced and solid fats and so on, “food” that is often unimaginably far from its origins. When it comes to eating more “good” food, the report is clear, because that can’t harm producers. When it comes to eating less of what’s “bad,” the language turns to “science,” because telling us which products to avoid — like a 3,000-calorie fast-food “meal” or a box of low-fat but chemical-laden crackers — would play badly with industry. Instead we’re told to avoid SOFAS. Where’s that SOFAS aisle?

The report might have led with Michael Pollan’s ground-breaking slogan — “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” — and then explained details in a few pages. But although the agency’s advisory committee suggested a “shift . . . toward a more plant-based diet,” the report itself backs “a healthy eating pattern,” and then, over 100-plus pages, proceeds to imprecision to avoid offending meat and sugar lobbies. (The salt lobby is evidently puny.)
In its attempts to upset no one powerful, the U.S.D.A. offers a typically contorted message. The advice people need is to cook and eat more real food, at the expense of the junk served in most restaurants and take-out places. In fact, most of the mysterious SOFAS come from so-called “fast” and “convenient” food, as does most sodium. (The salt shaker is not the culprit .)
It isn’t easy to cook with the junk that makes junk food junky, but the agency spends little energy boosting cooking. There is the, “Cook and eat more meals at home . . . include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and protein foods that provide fewer calories and more nutrients.” But it stands almost alone, and could have been far simpler and stronger. Why isn’t it? Because “protein foods that provide fewer calories” doesn’t offend the meat industry, as Pollan’s motto does.
Which brings us to the powerful person: Oprah. Ms. Winfrey, who has been on more diets than the rest of us combined, challenged her staff to “go vegan” for a week. Intriguing, except her idea of surviving without meat and dairy — no explanation given for why we should go from too much to none — is to fill your shopping cart with fake versions of both, like meatless chicken breasts and dairy-less cheese.
Related Blog Post
Beyond the Acronyms, Feb. 9. 2011
But the goal is not universal veganism, which is pie-in-the-sky; it’s health and sustainability. And we get there by preparing real food, vegan or not. (Remember: Coke, Tostitos and Reese’s Peanut Butter Puffs — yum! — are all vegan.) The answer is not fake animal products, whose advocates argue that they’re transitional to a kinder-to-animal diet. Indeed, that’s good, but a real food diet is better.
Finally, our powerful corporation — Wal-Mart — whose alliance with Michelle Obama looks pretty good, at least at first. We are promised more affordable produce, which undoubtedly means that Wal-Mart will beat the living daylights out of produce suppliers, crushing a few thousand more small farmers. (In fact, what we need is higher-quality and probably more expensive produce, that which is less damaging to the environment, laborers, and consumers, but that gets into the “how do we afford it?” argument, which must wait for another day. (NO, Let's  get real about affording real, fresh, organic foods: CUT THE BIG AG, BIG CHEM, BIG PHARMA SUBSIDIES, Mark!!! - Clean Food Earth Woman.) Let’s leave it that we like Wal-Mart’s goal of selling more produce.) (No, Let's NOT! -Clean Food Earth Woman)
The real problem, again, is Wal-Mart’s other promise: “healthier” packaged foods. And whether baked, low-salt chips are “better” than fried ones, is not only arguable — the baked ones are more likely to be chemical-laden — but misses the point which, again, is that real foods are superior in every way.
The truly healthy alternative to that chip is not a fake chip; it’s a carrot. Likewise, the alternative to sausage is not vegan sausage; it’s less sausage. This is really all pretty simple, and pretty clear. But the messages we’ve heard recently are as clear as . . . well, a SOFA.
You want an acronym? Let’s try ERF: Eat Real Food.
Visit my blog, where you can find out more about my last column, or what I just cooked. You can also join me on Facebook or Twitter.

What's In A NAME???? (The Many Names for Sweet...Poison?????)

25 Names for Sugar

Sugar (in one form or another) is added to more food products than you can imagine. There are also a large number of "variants" of sugar - depending on the kind of processing that has occurred.
Here is a list to get you started in identifying sugars. I'm sure you can come up with many more names for sugar.
  1. Brown sugar
  2. Corn syrup
  3. Demerara Sugar
  4. Dextrose
  5. Free Flowing Brown Sugars
  6. Fructose
  7. Galactose
  8. Glucose
  9. High Fructose Corn Syrup
  10. Honey
  11. Invert Sugar
  12. Lactose
  13. Malt
  14. Maltodextrin
  15. Maltose
  16. Maple syrup
  17. Molasses
  18. Muscovado or Barbados Sugar
  19. Panocha
  20. Powdered or confectioner's sugar
  21. Rice Syrup
  22. Sucrose
  23. Sugar (granulated)
  24. Treacle
  25. Turbinado sugar

Another List - MORE:

Most of us enjoy sweet stuff occasionally. But, if you’re trying to cut back, it’s really helpful to know the different names for sugar, otherwise you could end up eating much more than you expected. Sugar is added to so many food products, and with such a large number of other names for ’sugar,’ it can be really difficult to know what to look out for on the food label.
Note: After reading this, you may also be interested in How to Reduce Sugar Intake or discovering is there’s such a thing as Healthy Sugar.
So, here is a list to help you identify the different forms of sugar in your food:
  1. Barley malt
  2. Beet sugar
  3. Brown sugar
  4. Buttered syrup
  5. Cane juice crystals
  6. Cane sugar
  7. Caramel
  8. Corn syrup
  9. Corn syrup solids
  10. Confectioner’s sugar
  11. Carob syrup
  12. Castor sugar
  13. Date sugar
  14. Demerara sugar
  15. Dextran
  16. Dextrose
  17. Diastatic malt
  18. Diatase
  19. Ethyl maltol
  20. Fructose
  21. Fruit juice
  22. Fruit juice concentrate
  23. Galactose
  24. Glucose
  25. Glucose solids
  26. Golden sugar
  27. Golden syrup
  28. Grape sugar
  29. High-fructose corn syrup
  30. Honey
  31. Icing sugar
  32. Invert sugar
  33. Lactose
  34. Maltodextrin
  35. Maltose
  36. Malt syrup
  37. Maple syrup
  38. Molasses
  39. Muscovado sugar
  40. Panocha
  41. Raw sugar
  42. Refiner’s syrup
  43. Rice syrup
  44. Sorbitol
  45. Sorghum syrup
  46. Sucrose
  47. Sugar
  48. Treacle
  49. Turbinado sugar
  50. Yellow sugar
What other names for sugar can you think of?
Did you realise there were so many different terms used? It’s no wonder reading food labels can be confusing at times!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


PBS INTERVIEW OF VANDANA SHIVA: Originally Aired: March 23, 2007 | Re-Aired: January 1, 2008Environmental Activist Questions the Goals of Globalization 
In the fourth installment in a series of conversations about the impact of globalization, NewsHour economics correspondent Paul
Solman interviews Vandana Shiva, an activist at the forefront of the fight against globalization for nearly three decades.
PAUL SOLMAN: For three decades, physicist Vandana Shiva has been a key activist in the fight
against globalization, especially in her native India, where she says it threatens hundreds of millions
of peasants still down on the farm. Vandana Shiva.
She's accused beverage companies of stealing the people's water in India, this footage by a new
documentary by Swedish filmmakers PeA Holmquist and Suzanne Khardalian.
Outside the European patent office, Shiva challenged corporate patents of seeds, what she calls the
biopiracy of natural resources.
VANDANA SHIVA, Physicist: Our world is not for sale.
PAUL SOLMAN: She joined protests against the World Trade Organization in Cancun.
VANDANA SHIVA: WTO is an instrument of corporate unilateralism.
PAUL SOLMAN: At home at the foot of the Himalayan Mountains, Shiva is trying to hold back the
forces of globalization, and return to what she says would be a more sustainable way of life,
traditional agriculture. She's using the Indian farm she grew up on to preserve native crops by
maintaining a seed bank, promoting the use of India's equally native fertilizer.
This had led the likes of free-market think tanker Barun Mitra to bestow a B.S. award on Shiva for
sustaining global poverty.
VANDANA SHIVA: Why did you give me an award in Johannesburg for making the world starve
because of organic farming?
MAN: It is because the agriculture today is not economically viable.
PAUL SOLMAN: Everywhere she goes, Shiva fights globalization. We met up with her recently at
the University of Oregon Law school, and its 25th annual Public Interest Environmental Law
Conference, where Dr. Shiva was to give a keynote speech, before which she sat down to answer
some questions -- among them, doesn't Barun Mitra have a point, that small-scale farming isn't
VANDANA SHIVA: Farming on small plots of land is viable if it's done without generating superprofits
for agribusiness and the seed corporations.
Our farmers in the organic movement are doubling their incomes and their production, and are not in
a desperate situation. Farming, as a vocation, is something the small farmer of India or the small
farmer of Africa or the small farmer of Latin America is not voluntarily giving up.
PAUL SOLMAN: But we have a term, a phrase in America: How are you going to you keep them
down on the farm after they have seen Paris? There's a draw to urban areas, to the excitement of
the city, to the idea that you can better yourself. You don't have to stay down on the farm.
VANDANA SHIVA: Yes, but for one indicator. The new national sample survey of India, which is the
official data collection, shows there's absolutely no growth of employment in urban areas at all.
Slums are being cleared out. Earlier, you get flushed out of the rural areas, went and settled in the
slum, somehow did some petty servicing, and made a living. Today, for the poor, either it is a
dignified and free life as a peasant or nothing, because the options in the cities that used to be able
to become the alternative are also closing down under globalization.
They have to now become investment centers for foreign direct investment. Cities have to get
cleaned up of people.

When measured in terms of national economies, there's growth. But, when measured in terms of
the worker, the peasant, the farmer, the woman, there's a huge, huge disenfranchisement.
Disenfranchisement of workers.
PAUL SOLMAN: Meanwhile, in the countryside, says Shiva, the government, in the name of
globalization, clears out farmers to create corporate-friendly, tax-free enterprise zones to build their
VANDANA SHIVA: No environmental law, no labor law, foreign territories within India, that's the way
these corporations compete. They compete on a totally false economy. They have every advantage
against any honest industry that is domestic, against any honest farmer who works through hard
PAUL SOLMAN: But the history of economic progress and growth has been exactly the -- the
process that you're now trying to resist.
VANDANA SHIVA: In the last decade, one-third of the world's hungry and malnourished kids are
now in India, in the India that is growing at 9 percent.
And I think we need to recognize that globalization means that we get larger and larger-sized
middlemen, fewer and fewer of them making bigger and bigger margins, and therefore leading to a
growth figure. When measured in terms of national economies, there's growth. But, when measured
in terms of the worker, the peasant, the farmer, the woman, there's a huge, huge
PAUL SOLMAN: If we didn't have this market system that you're condemning, would we have the
bicycle, for example? Would we have penicillin?
VANDANA SHIVA: Well, the penicillin came out of the will to do public good, the treatment for
malaria, the -- most of the medicines, most of the antibiotics...
PAUL SOLMAN: The bicycle? The bicycle came out of somebody's desire to do public good? It was
somebody trying to figure out how he or she could make more money, no?
VANDANA SHIVA: But I think that's one of the biggest false assumptions, particularly in America is
prevalent, that you don't think unless you can privately profit out of it. In fact, the entire intellectual
property edifice is built on that.
Understanding biopiracy
PAUL SOLMAN: To Shiva, by contrast, intellectual property is often piracy by the rich from the rest
of us. Take the neem tree for example, N-E-E-M.
VANDANA SHIVA: It's called the village pharmacy in India. It can be used for hundreds of things.
PAUL SOLMAN: People brushing their...
Vandana Shiva
Why should people die for horrible toxic pesticides, when we have wonderful trees, like neem, which give
us pest control?
VANDANA SHIVA: We brush our teeth with it. We use it for skin treatment. It's even used as a
contraceptive, the oil. We use the oil for lighting, but we also use the oil for therapeutics. It's
ayurvedic medicine. It's -- it's wonderful to get rid of pimples. It's the magic treatment.
PAUL SOLMAN: Wait a second. This is...I think you're selling me a bill of goods here.
VANDANA SHIVA: No, but it is.
PAUL SOLMAN: The magic neem tree? I mean...
VANDANA SHIVA: It is. It is magic.
PAUL SOLMAN: Magic enough, anyway, to make an organic pesticide from neem seed oil.
When the infamous union carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, leaked poison gas in 1984, killing
thousands, Shiva asked herself a question.
VANDANA SHIVA: Why should people die for horrible toxic pesticides, when we have wonderful
trees, like neem, which give us pest control?
And I started to plant trees. I started to distribute neem to farmers, train them. And then, in 1994, I
find a patent held by W.R. Grace. Well, Grace claims to have invented the neem, invented the use of
neem for biopesticide.
So, we challenged a patent held jointly by them and the United States Department of Agriculture. We
fought that case 11 years. We won it. But this was a case of biopiracy.
PAUL SOLMAN: Biopiracy, says Shiva, further encouraged by globalization's new trade regime,
since it's committed to protecting intellectual property.
VANDANA SHIVA: There's a case of basmati. A company in Texas called RiceTec claims to have
invented the basmati that grows in our valley.
So, when I find RiceTec in Texas claims to have invented the height of the plant, the length of the
grain, the aroma, and the methods of cooking, I said that, my grandmother taught me when I was a
6-year-old, took on that challenge. We fought that one four years.
And, then, much later, Monsanto, who claims to always invent new seeds, had the cheek to steal an
old Indian wheat variety and patent it as an invention. That was struck down in a four-month legal
battle in the European patent office.
Vandana Shiva
I think we are in a deep, deep mess, in terms of providing well- Problems with industrial society
PAUL SOLMAN: But you're not saying that a patent is necessarily a bad thing. I mean, don't you
want companies and entrepreneurs to have the incentive to create something?
VANDANA SHIVA: I would like them to have an honest incentive for an honest innovation.
PAUL SOLMAN: More than that, she thinks, we need to rethink globalization, so-called wealth
creation, at the expense of our common property, our natural resources, our environment.
VANDANA SHIVA: I think we are in a deep, deep mess, in terms of providing well-being and
satisfaction for people. And we can't use the assumption of today's industrialized society with huge
pressure on the world's climate, as the model.
PAUL SOLMAN: So, a key part of your critique, then, is that there are all these hidden costs
associated with the way we do things that...
VANDANA SHIVA: Totally, totally.
PAUL SOLMAN: And we're just not acknowledging them, at our peril?
VANDANA SHIVA: That, to me, is the heart of the issue, that the so-called growth, as defined in the
indicators that have been evolved to suit those who control the wealth of the world and the political
decision-making in the world, that that growth hides behind it huge amounts of destruction in the
lives of people, in the lives of the Third World, and in the planet's life.
PAUL SOLMAN: Well, how would you measure economic growth?
About Us Feedback Subscriptions/Feeds Privacy being and satisfaction for people. And we can't use the
assumption of today's industrialized society with huge pressure on the world's climate, as the model.
VANDANA SHIVA: I would measure economic growth by seeing, how much food are people eating,
how much clean water do they have in their rivers and their wells, how much clothing do they have
access to, how much education and health services can -- are they provided as public systems?
PAUL SOLMAN: You're trained as a quantum mechanics nuclear physicist, right? How did you make
the leap from that to one of the world's most vocal and -- and, in some sense, most extreme activists
on environmental issues?
VANDANA SHIVA: If globalization had not been forced on us, I can imagine I would have gone back
to doing my puzzles with quantum theory. But now that we have, A, the WTO and its massive destruction -- and I can't watch our farmers die as if they were flies that are being swatted in a global economy. And then you have climate change. And I do feel we need a massive shift in thinking, massive shift in the way we live. We could crash in the next 20 years, not just as a civilization, but as a species.
PAUL SOLMAN: Vandana Shiva, thank you very much.
VANDANA SHIVA: Thank you, Paul.
JIM LEHRER: In his next conversation, Paul will speak with students from other countries about