Saturday, February 26, 2011


You're so wrong about salmon, Mr Salmond

The new trade deal with China has terrifying implications for our wild fish stocks
  • Andrew Flitcroft   The Observer,
  • Article history
  • Visiting trade delegations do not often register on my radar. However, the high-level Chinese visit to Scotland in January was different. Apart from the inevitable "gift" to the hosts, consigning two hapless giant pandas to a life of incarceration in Edinburgh Zoo, a new trade deal on Scottish farmed salmon between the two countries was signed, allowing access for the first time to the vast Chinese market. First minister Alex Salmond crowed that the Scottish fish-farming industry may need to double salmon production to satisfy Chinese demand. The announcement a few days later that China was halting the import of Norwegian farmed salmon (China's retaliation, according to the Norwegian press, for the awarding of the Nobel peace prize to the imprisoned dissident Liu Xiaobo) lays Scottish government open to the charge that it is in effect supporting repression. But cynical politics aside, the implications of increasing significantly, let alone doubling, farmed salmon production in Scotland are terrifying. Surely it is recklessly irresponsible to contemplate any increase without first rectifying the dire existing problems, particularly the spread of deadly sea lice, caused to juvenile wild salmon and sea trout in the west Highlands and Islands by current production levels. There is little doubt that the situation is set to deteriorate. But first, for readers who are not familiar with the war between the salmon farming industry on the one hand and those trying to protect wild salmon and sea trout runs on the other, here is a brief summary of the problem. Marine cages of hundreds of thousands of farmed salmon are breeding grounds for millions of sea lice; these parasites feed on the mucus, tissue and blood of their farmed salmon hosts. The companies employ a range of measures using highly toxic chemicals to combat the lice, in order to reduce the damage and stress caused to their captive hosts. However, juvenile wild fish, which migrate from the rivers to the sea each spring, are simply not designed to cope with more than the odd louse. As these fragile young fish, known as smolts, run the gauntlet past the fish-farm cages conveniently placed on their migration routes down the sea lochs towards the open sea, they are ambushed by the unnaturally high concentrations of lice. The attachment of more than 10 lice is almost invariably fatal. The fish are literally eaten alive although death is usually hastened by secondary infections, which gain access through open wounds made by the grazing lice. This is the environmental calamity that the salmon farming industry and Scottish government is so determined to deny. Make no mistake – there is no such thing as "sustainable" farmed salmon, no matter what the evocative packaging on the supermarket shelves tries to convey. Indeed, all such packaging should be approached with scepticism. M&S's Lochmuir salmon comes from an entirely fictitious location. Now evidence is growing that salmon farms in Scotland are fast losing the battle against sea lice, mirroring the situation in Norway, where the head of the Directorate for Nature Management (the equivalent of Scottish Natural Heritage) has just called for a 50% cut in salmon production because, for the second year running, the average number of lice on each caged fish in several regions of Norway has exceeded the official limit of one mature female louse or five lice in total with increasing resistance to chemical treatment. He said that such a cut might not be enough to save Norway's fragile wild salmon stocks as: "The problem is very big and it is not under control." It is perhaps no wonder the salmon farming industry in Scotland is so sensitive on the sea lice issue. Witness their gagging of Scottish government last year to prevent publication of Marine Scotland's farm inspection reports. Analysis of these reports, obtained by Salmon and Trout Association's Guy Linley-Adams under FOI, confirms instances where sea lice have been completely out of control, necessitating early slaughter on several farms. Compared to five years ago, Scotland's salmon farms are using far greater quantities of pesticides to kill sea lice on farmed fish as the chemicals become less and less effective and the lice develop immunity. Some are adopting desperate measures and two managers of a Shetland farm have just been charged with animal cruelty following the death of more than 6,000 farmed salmon last August. Given these problems, it is galling that Scottish government continues to trot out the same tired mantra that salmon farming is "sustainable" and there is no proven damage to wild fish populations, aided and abetted by the nauseating spin peddled by the Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation, the front for the Norwegian companies that dominate the industry in Scotland. Most galling of all is the prospect of an even bigger industry. There is one ray of hope. Solicitor Guy Linley-Adams, acting for the owners of the Ullapool river, has just submitted a formal 80-page complaint to the EU, detailing the failure of the authorities to designate an appropriate number of west coast Scottish rivers as Special Areas for Conservation for salmon under the EU Habitats Directive.
    The complaint also details the failure of the Scottish government to rein in the salmon-farming industry to provide proper protection for wild Atlantic salmon and sea trout in the west Highlands and Islands. The gloves are starting to come off.
    Andrew Flitcroft is the editor of Trout & Salmon

Friday, February 25, 2011


   First GM Plants Found in the Wild 
posted by Melissa Breyer Aug 6, 2010 4:01 pm
This is the stuff of my nightmares: Genetically-modified (GM) plants escaping the confines of agriculture and invading the wild. We thought regular invasive species were bad? They seem tame compared to genetic contamination of the wild. Even more alarming: Some of the plants had a mix of modified genes, indicating that they are reproducing on their own.
Although GM plant populations in the wild have been found in Canada, this is the first time they have been found in the United Sates.
Meredith G. Schafer, from the University of Arkansas, and colleagues established transects of land over 3000 miles long including interstate, state and county roads in North Dakota from which they collected, photographed and tested 406 canola plants.
The results show that transgenic plants have clearly established populations in the wild.  Of the 406 plants collected, 347 tested positive for CP4 EPSPS protein (resistant to glyphosate herbicide, aka Roundup) or PAT protein (resistant to glufosinate herbicide, aka LibertyLink). The finding shows that genetically modified canola plants can survive and thrive in the wild perhaps for decades–the study was presented today at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America.
The team’s key finding was two plants that each carried both types of herbicide resistance — a combination that is not commercially available. The only way this can happen in the wild is if the plants are reproducing on their own. “There were  two instances of multiple transgenes in single individuals,” said coauthor Cynthia Sagers, University of Arkansas. “Varieties with multiple transgenic traits have not yet been released commercially, so this finding suggests that feral populations are reproducing and have become established outside of cultivation. These observations have important implications for the ecology and management of native and weedy species, as well as for the management of biotech products in the U.S.”
Once a GM crop is released it cannot be unreleased, and there are no systems in place to prevent genetic contamination through pollen flow, spills or human error. Although the GM plants found by the roadside are assumed to be the result of escaped seeds during transportation, the GM plants found away from roads suggest that the plants are taking on a life of their own.


 The Truth About Frankenfoods
posted by Michelle Schoffro Cook Feb 24, 2011 5:01 pm

Would you knowingly eat a potato that needs to be transported in hazardous waste containers since every cell contains pesticides? This isn’t food terrorism (at least not the kind we recognize as a crime); this is what passes as improvements to our food supply. Perhaps one day we will learn that we can’t improve on nature.
From Flavr Savr tomatoes to Roundup Ready Soybeans, genetically modified foods are being manufactured and unleashed on an unsuspecting public whether we are ready for them or not. The Grocery Manufacturers of America estimates that 75 percent of all processed foods in America contain a genetically modified ingredient.
Governments worldwide should have insisted on extensive safety testing of genetically modified ingredients before allowing them to be unleashed on an unsuspecting public. But according to an article entitled, “Health Risks of Genetically-Modified Foods” by Dr. Joseph Mercola, the U.S. FDA even states, “The FDA has not found it necessary to conduct comprehensive scientific reviews of foods derived from bioengineered plants … consistent with its 1992 policy.”
Genetically modified (GM) foods are big business in North America, particularly in the United States. They are also supported in Brazil and to a certain extent in Asia. Europe has been appropriately cautious in its approach to GM foods and to date has limited access to the European market, much to the frustration of U.S. business. There is a very real threat that this could change in the near future.

Recent media reporting has raised the issue of food shortages as crops are diverted to bio-fuel production. In theory, replacing fossil fuels with plant-based alternatives seems like a great idea, and eventually, technology may provide solutions that do not affect the food supply, cause widespread damage to land cleared for “fuel crops,” or wipe out indigenous species for the sake of high-yield bio-fuel species.
Supporters of GM foods are exploiting this “crisis” by insisting genetically engineered crops are the only way to deal with the food shortage, to ensure crops can grow on tired, nutrient-weak, drought-susceptible soil (all signs of over-farming and potentially climate-change factors). Lobbyists have seen a crack in Europe’s closed door and they have stuck their foot in. Let us hope that the European nations stick to their guns —GM foods have become a global, uncontrolled experiment. The long-term impact is unknown and companies like Monsanto are happy to keep the public and farmers in the dark (and stuck to elaborate non-disclosure contracts, royalties on seed patents and IPR-intellectual property rights- placing ALL LIABILITY on the farmer, NOT THE SELLER of SEED, PESTICIDE, HERBICIDE, that the farmer is REQUIRED BY CONTRACT TO DOUSE ON THE CROPS) playing on their fears of food scarcity, poor harvests, or employing more ominous tactics.
Did you know 18 percent of all genetically modified seeds have been engineered to produce their own pesticides? That alone makes foods grown from these seeds potentially harmful, but there’s more: Research shows that these seeds may continue producing pesticides inside your body once you’ve eaten the food grown from them! Those potatoes are sounding even less appetizing now, aren’t they?
Adapted with permission from The Life Force Diet by Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD.
5 Crazy and New Genetically Modified Foods
First GM Plants Found in the Wild
How to Avoid GM Foods
Michelle Schoffro Cook, MSc, RNCP, ROHP, PhD, is an international best-selling and seven-time book author and doctor of traditional natural medicine, whose works include: The Life Force Diet, The Ultimate pH Solution, The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan, The Phytozyme Cure and HealthSmart News. Learn more at


Shoppers Wary of GM Foods Find They're Everywhere

You may not want to eat genetically engineered foods. Chances are, you are eating them anyway.
Genetically modified plants grown from seeds engineered in labs now provide much of the food we eat. Most corn, soybean and cotton crops grown in the United States have been genetically modified to resist pesticides or insects, and corn and soy are common food ingredients.
The Agriculture Department has approved three more genetically engineered crops in the past month, and the Food and Drug Administration could approve fast-growing genetically modified salmon for human consumption this year.
Agribusiness and the seed companies say their products help boost crop production, lower prices at the grocery store and feed the world, particularly in developing countries. The FDA and USDA say the engineered foods they've approved are safe — so safe, they don't even need to be labeled as such — and can't be significantly distinguished from conventional varieties.
Organic food companies, chefs and consumer groups have stepped up their efforts — so far, unsuccessfully — to get the government to exercise more oversight of engineered foods, arguing the seeds are floating from field to field and contaminating pure crops. The groups have been bolstered by a growing network of consumers who are wary of processed and modified foods.
Many of these opponents acknowledge that there isn't much solid evidence showing genetically modified foods are somehow dangerous or unhealthy. It just doesn't seem right, they say. It's an ethical issue.
"If you mess with nature there's a side effect somewhere," says George Siemon, CEO of Organic Valley, the nation's largest organic farming cooperative, which had more than $600 million in sales last year. "There is a growing awareness that our system makes us all guinea pigs of sorts."
The U.S. government has insisted there's not enough difference between the genetically modified seeds its agencies have approved and natural seeds to cause concern. But Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (former Monsanto man -Clean Food Earth Woman), more so than his predecessors in previous administrations, has acknowledged the debate over the issue and a growing chorus of consumers concerned about what they are eating.
"The rapid adoption of GE crops has clashed with the rapid expansion of demand for organic and other non-GE products," Vilsack (former Monsanto man) said in December as he considered whether to approve genetically modified alfalfa. "This clash led to litigation and uncertainty . . . Surely, there is a better way, a solution that acknowledges agriculture's complexity, while celebrating and promoting its diversity."
Vilsack (former Monsanto man) later approved the engineered alfalfa for use — along with sugar beets and a type of corn used in ethanol — to the disappointment of the organic industry, but he said the department would do additional research on ways to prevent contamination of natural seeds and improve detection of contamination.
Organic companies have praised Vilsack (former Monsanto man) for even acknowledging the issue, as large seed companies like Monsanto and the substantial chunk of agribusiness that use their seeds have long held sway at USDA.
The organic industry has a lot to lose. USDA regulations do not allow genetically modified seeds to be used in organic production, and organic farmers say that as engineered crops become more common, it will be harder to prevent contamination. The industry also is concerned fears of contamination could hurt its sales, especially in Europe, where consumers have been extremely hesitant about biotech foods.
While opponents of engineered foods haven't found federal agencies overly receptive to their concerns, they've been able to delay some USDA approvals with lawsuits. The alfalfa decision followed a lengthy court battle that was closely watched not only by the organic industry, but by consumers — a development that opponents believe will help their cause.
"We're seeing a level of reaction that is unprecedented," says Jeffrey Smith, an activist who has fought the expansion of genetically engineered foods since they were first introduced 15 years ago and written two books on the subject. "I personally think we are going to hit the tipping point of consumer rejection very soon."
Many consumers also have followed the Food and Drug Administration's (Headed by Michael Taylor, former Monsanto man - Clean Food Earth Woman) consideration of an engineered salmon that grows twice as fast as the conventional variety. If the FDA approves the fish for sale, it will be the first time the government has allowed genetically modified animals to be marketed for humans to eat.
Consumer interest in the issue has magnified in the past five years, along with interest in eating locally grown and organic foods, said Organic Valley's Siemon. Young, educated consumers who are driving much of the organic market have no interest in eating crops derived from a laboratory, he said. With as much as 80 percent of the foods in grocery stores containing some sort of engineered ingredient, according to the food industry, some companies have started labeling foods as non-modified to grab onto that share of the market.
Genetically modified crops were introduced to the market in 1996. That year, engineered corn accounted for less than 5 percent of the total crop. Last year, the USDA estimated that 70 percent of the nation's corn acreage was planted with corn engineered to resist herbicides and 63 percent had been planted with insect-resistant seeds. Rates for soybeans and cotton are even higher.
The federal government approves genetically modified plants and animals on a case by case basis, with the FDA (Headed by Michael Taylor, former Monsanto man ) and USDA  looking at the potential effects on food safety, agriculture and the environment. Critics say the process needs to be more thorough and more research should be done with an eye on potential dangers. Agencies often rely on companies' own data to make their decisions.
The genetic engineering industry says its products already receive far more scrutiny than most of the food people put in their mouths. It also says 15 years of consumption with no widely recognized health problems shows much of the concern is overhyped.
David B. Schmidt, who heads the International Food Information Council Foundation, a food-industry funded group that has polled consumers on genetically modified foods, said their responses depend on how the issue is framed. When pollsters tell consumers that some foods can be engineered to have health benefits — such as biotech soybeans designed to reduce trans fats in soybean oil — they become more open to them. Most consumers are more open to modifications in fruits and vegetables than in animals, he added.
Still, many people don't know what to think. About half of the consumers the foundation has polled recently have either been neutral on the subject or didn't know enough to have an opinion.
Dan Barber, a well-known New York chef who grows his own food and sits on President Barack Obama's Council on Physical Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, said the growing popularity of organic foods has given an "economic legitimacy" to the criticism.
He believes messing with nature will always have collateral damage. And, the more genetically modified crops are used, he said, the more pure crops will become compromised.
"Once you head down that road you don't turn back," Barber said.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Alert of the Week

Kraft Admits It Uses Genetically Engineered Bovine Growth Hormone

Thank you to the OCA activist who shared a recent e-mail she received from Kraft Foods which admits "We are not rejecting milk from BGH/BST supplemented herds." BGH/BST is the genetically modified Bovine Growth Hormone developed by Monsanto and now marketed by Eli Lilly. It was the first genetically modified organism to become part of the food supply. It is well-known by federal regulators that GMO bovine growth hormone produces milk that is less nutritious, contaminated with pus, and has elevated levels of IGF-1. Elevated levels of IGF-1 are correlated with increased rates of cancer.
Producers of GMO foods would prefer that their customers didn't know anything about genetically modified organisms and most people, about three quarters of US consumers, have no idea that their food has been genetically modified. Kraft is one of the few companies to admit to using GMOs - not that you'll find anything on Kraft Web sites or food packaging about it. Another famous food manufacturer that admits it uses GMOs is Kellogg's.
Let Kraft & Kellogg's know you're joining a boycott of their brands because you want to avoid GMOs!
Some of our readers have decided to take matters into their own hands. Since the Obama administration won't label GMOs, they've decided to do it ourselves. When they come across Kraft or Kellogg's products, they are sticking an "Oh No! Is It GMO?" label on it. Take a picture, download it to your computer and use the "See Me" function to attach your photo to your letters to Kraft & Kellogg's. Your photos will also appear in our activist photo album.
Write & Send Photos to Kraft
Write & Send Photos to Kellogg's
"Oh No! Is It GMO?" Stickers PDF (prints on Avery# 5160 address labels)

Source: Organic Consumers Association

Speak NOW or forever Eat your FRANKENFISH!

Urge Congress To Take A Stand Against GE Fish!

Support the bipartisan legislation to ban GE fish, require labeling
Despite nearly 400,000 comments in opposition, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to announce its approval of genetically engineered (GE) salmon any day now. To make matters worse, FDA argues that these GE salmon don’t even need to be labeled! 
In response to FDA’s imminent approval, Congress is taking action. Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Representative Don Young (R-Alaska) recently introduced bipartisan legislation in Congress that would ban GE fish (Bill# S. 230/H.R. 521) and require mandatory labeling for consumers if approved (Bill# S. 229/H.R. 520). 
Please send your email to Congress in support of these important bills!
The legislation has been endorsed by 64 consumer, worker, religious and environmental groups, along with commercial, recreational and subsistence fisheries associations, food businesses and retailers—including the Center for Food Safety, Ocean Conservancy, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development, the Alaska Trollers Association, Food and Water Watch, the National Cooperative Grocers Association and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations among others—who know that the approval of GE salmon would represent a serious threat to the survival of native salmon populations, many of which have already suffered severe declines related to salmon farms and other man-made impacts. Wild Atlantic salmon are already on the Endangered Species List in the U.S.; approving these GE Atlantic salmon could be the final blow to these wild stocks. Additionally, the human health impacts of eating GE fish are entirely unknown. If GE salmon are approved, these fish must be labeled so people can make informed choices.

Please write your U.S. Senators and Representative and urge them to protect fishers, consumers and the environment by co-sponsoring S. 230/H.R. 521 and S. 229/H.R. 520!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Local and Organic Food and Farming: The Gold Standard

by Will Allen and Ronnie Cummins and Kate Desterberg
More and more consumers and corporations are touting the benefits of “local” foods, often described as “sustainable,” “healthy,” or “natural.” According to the trade publication, Sustainable Food News, local as a marketing claim has grown by 15 percent from 2009 to 2010, and it’s likely that number will increase in the coming year.1  Even supermarket giant and junk food purveyor Wal-Mart, with total sales in 2009 of $405 billion, has jumped on the bandwagon. It has pledged to reduce food miles and increase its purchase of “local” fruits and vegetables to include 9% of its produce by 2015. 2

Those who espouse local food are now called “locavores.” But, beyond the greenwashing and co-opting of the term by Wal-Mart, the supermarket chains, and factory farms and feedlots, what does “local” food and farming really mean? What is the impact of non-organic local food and farming on public health, nutrition, soil, water, marine life, biodiversity, and climate?
Jessica Prentice coined the term locavore for World Environment Day in 2005 to promote local eating, and local consumption in general. Her goal was to challenge people to obtain as much food as possible from within a one hundred mile radius.  Her success was more than she imagined. In 2007 the New Oxford American Dictionary selected “locavore” as its word of the year. Local had arrived!
Then, the highly respected author Barbara Kingsolver published Animal, Vegetable, Miracle emphasizing the value of eating locally, and the concept spread like wildfire. 3 While the eat local/buy local concept is increasingly popular, looking beyond the label or the marketing claims, it is obvious that “local” is a rather fuzzy concept, lacking in most cases a concrete definition or a set of principles and guidelines.
By contrast, the organic system of food production has legal definitions, a handbook of rules, permitted and prohibited substances, acceptable practices, an inspection process, and labels to guide the consumers. Local has none of these guidelines, rules, inspections or protections. It has the cachet of popularity without any guarantee of safety or sustainability.
Some chemical farmers, and even poultry, egg, pork, dairy, or beef operators feeding their animals genetically modified (GMO) grains, claim that local is better than organic, because it stimulates the local economy and reduces the distance (food miles) that food travels between the farm or feedlot and your table. But does so-called local farming, utilizing toxic pesticides, GMO seeds and feed, chemical fertilizers, and animal drugs mean that the food is safe and sustainable? Obviously not. We believe that there shouldn’t have to be a choice between local and safe organic; but rather that consumers should look for food that is not only local or regionally produced, but food that is also organic and therefore safe and sustainable. Local and chemical, or local using GMO seeds and feed, is nothing more than greenwashing. Organic and local is the new gold standard!
The locavore phenomenon brings up several important concerns including: food miles, chemically grown food, greenhouse gas emissions, factory farming, genetically engineered animal feed, and the value of organic labeling. All of these crucial issues relate to the central question: what should be in your market basket?
Does Local Mean Safe?
Despite the increasing popularity of the eat-local movement, many people do not understand that “local” does not necessarily mean that food is organic or even safe. Chemically grown foods produced locally may be cheaper than organic and may aid the local economy. But they pollute the ground water, kill the soil food web, and decrease the soil’s ability to sequester climate-destabilizing greenhouse gasses, broadcast pesticides into the air, poison farmworkers, and incrementally poison consumers with toxic residues on their foods. “Local” pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and chemical fertilizers are just as poisonous as those used in California, Mexico, Chile, or China.
Frequently, local chemical farmers claim that they only use “less toxic” pesticides or herbicides such as Monsanto’s Roundup. Unfortunately, “less toxic” is a dangerously relative term! Roundup is a powerful weed-killer, and is now sprayed so heavily on the nation’s 150 million acres of genetically engineered crops that it is poisoning our water supplies, killing the soil, and creating superweeds that can only be killed with super-toxic herbicides such as 2,4 D, arsenic and paraquat. Farmers in the U.S. have used everything from arsenic, lead, cyanide, fluorine, DDT, and nerve poisons since the 1860s, and they still use massive amounts. More than 80% of all the pesticides currently used in vegetable, fruit, and flower production are nerve poisons that were used on insects and also on concentration camp victims during the first and second World Wars.
Organophosphate pesticides or nerve poisons have been linked to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children. Organophosphate nerve poisons were found in the urine and saliva of Seattle preschool children who were eating conventional (chemical) and local food from off the shelf. When the kids stopped eating chemical food and ate organic food the organophosphates disappeared from their saliva and urine. When the children returned to the chemical diet, the nerve poisons showed up in their urine and saliva again.4 Nerve poisons, whether they are used on foods that are locally, nationally, or internationally produced and distributed are dangerous hazards, especially for growing children and at-risk populations. They need to be driven off the market, as soon as possible.
Does “Pesticide Free” Mean Safe or Sustainable?
Often, growers at farmers markets will say, “ I don’t use pesticides, I only use chemical fertilizers.” Sadly, what many people do not realize is that chemical fertilizers are extremely hazardous. A high percentage of these fertilizers seep into our wells and municipal drinking water, or else run off into our streams, rivers, and finally end up in the ocean. Two-thirds of the nation’s drinking water is contaminated with hazardous levels of nitrogen fertilizer. Non-organic farmers and feedlot operators are literally poisoning us and our children with the collateral damage of chemical fertilizers. High nitrogen and phosphorous levels in rivers and oceans kill fish and other marine wildlife. When this enormous amount of excess nitrogen enters the ocean it causes dead zones and oceanic acidification.
Some “pesticide free” growers will argue that since they only use chemical fertilizers, their produce is cleaner. Their food may not have high pesticide residues. But, remind them that cleaner isn’t clean! And inform your local chemical farmer that their toxic fertilizer is polluting our drinking water, trashing the oceans, killing the soil’s ability to sequester greenhouse gases, destabilizing the nitrogen cycle of plants, and emitting billions of pounds of deadly greenhouse gasses every year. Synthetic nitrogen fertilizer is perhaps the most potent greenhouse gas emitter in the U.S. To produce each pound of fertilizer, 6.6 pounds of nitrous oxide (N2O) are emitted. Nitrous oxide accounts for a full ten percent of all climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases.
Nitrous oxide is extremely hazardous. It depletes the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere (thereby increasing skin cancer for humans). It increases ozone pollution levels at the ground level (fueling the current epidemic of asthma and respiratory diseases.) Poisonous nitrate fertilizers leaching into our rural wells and municipal drinking water supplies (where it combines into a super-toxic brew with pesticides) are a biological time bomb, a major cause of cancer, infertility, hormone disruption, and birth defects.
Perhaps most deadly of all, nitrate fertilizer kills our living soils and soil microorganisms, decreasing their ability to sequester (through plant photosynthesis) excess greenhouse gasses in the soil. Even after a century of industrial farmers dumping hundreds of billions of pounds of chemical fertilizers on farmlands, our living soils still contain two to three times as much carbon as the atmosphere, with the practical capacity to clean and safely sequester a considerable amount of greenhouse gases over the next 40 years. In other words, our living soils can save us—but only if we stop the widespread use of nitrate fertilizers, GMO crops, and pesticides and replace these deadly chemicals and mutant organisms with organic compost, compost tea, and cover crops, augmented by the biological power and fertility generated by organic, carefully planned, high-density rotational grazing of animals.
The energy-intensive manufacturing of nitrate fertilizers requires the use of massive amounts of natural gas, a resource in short supply, that will increasingly be needed to take us through the transition from fossil fuels to alternative energy. We can no longer afford to waste natural gas in order to uphold the profits of Cargill, Monsanto, and Food Inc. We can no longer afford to have chemical-intensive food and farming greenwashed as “local.”
U.S. non-organic farmers used an average of 24 billion, 661 million pounds of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer per year from 1998 to 2007. That means that more than one hundred sixty-two billion, seven hundred sixty-two million pounds of nitrous oxide (N2O) are released each year in the process of manufacturing that fertilizer. 5 Also released is the CO2 from transporting the fertilizer. Since 70% of synthetic nitrogen is imported, the transportation cost is increasingly higher each year. Beyond production and transportation emissions, enormous quantities of N2O get released when the 24.66 billion pounds of synthetic nitrogen is applied to farmland every year. Nitrous oxide is 310 times more damaging as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Every year, U.S. farmers use enough synthetic nitrogen to fill more than 12,330, railroad boxcars with a capacity of 200,000 pounds each.
Consequently, farmers and supermarkets that tout their products as local and pesticide-free, while still using synthetic fertilizers, are engaged in greenwashing. Non-organic farms poisoning the environment with chemical fertilizers are a far cry from safe or environmentally friendly, even though they promote themselves as pesticide-free and local.
“Local” Factory Farms and CAFOs: Destroying Public Health and Climate Stability
According to Wal-Mart and Food Inc.’s definition of local (anything produced within a 400-mile radius), meat, dairy, and eggs, reared on a diet of GMO grains, slaughterhouse waste, and antibiotics, qualify as “local.”  According to the USDA, the majority of the nation’s non-organic meat, dairy and eggs are now produced on massive factory farms, euphemistically called Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). 6  CAFOs are typically overcrowded, filthy, disease ridden, and inhumane, not only for the hapless animals imprisoned inside their walls, but also for the typically non-union, exploited, immigrant workers who toil in these hellish facilities. According to the EPA, the legal definition of a CAFO is a farm or a feedlot where large numbers of animals are confined and reared, beef – 1000 head; dairy – 700 head; swine – 2500 pigs weighing more than 55 lbs; poultry – 125,000 broilers or 82,000 laying hens or pullets.
Unfortunately meat, dairy, or eggs coming from CAFOs in North America are not required by law to be labeled as such. Greenwashing CAFO products as “natural” or “local” is a major source of profits for Wal-Mart, Cargill, Conagra, Perdue, Land O’ Lakes, Kraft, McDonald’s, KFC, Monsanto and chemica/GMOl farmers and ranchers. Organic consumers, farmers, and retailers need to educate the public about the hazards and inhumanity of factory farms and CAFOs. These animal factories, where GMO feed and drugs are force-fed to most of the nation's livestock and poultry, are not only poisoning consumers, but are also generating massive amounts of climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases, especially methane, which is 72 times more destructive per ton than CO2. Methane (CH4) pollution is responsible for approximately 14% of human-induced global warming.
Where does methane pollution come from? Methane pollution mainly comes from factory farms and the overproduction of non-organic meat, dairy, and eggs, from throwing hundreds of millions of tons of rotting food, paper, and lawn wastes into landfills (instead of composting them for use on farms, ranches, and gardens), and the destruction of wetlands for shrimp and fish farms, industrial agriculture, chemical-intensive rice farming, and urban development or sprawl.
How do we get rid of excess, climate-destabilizing methane? By purchasing organic foods, especially those produced by family farmers and ranchers in our regions, and by increasing consumer awareness that it is unhealthy and inhumane to purchase factory farm foods. It is becoming increasingly clear that buying or consuming meat, dairy, or eggs that come from a factory farm or CAFO is an ethical abomination and a climate crime. While calling for a boycott of factory-farmed products we must deliver the positive message that the organic, humane, healthy, food producing small farms and ranches of North America are actually greenhouse gas sequestration centers, arguably our most important allies in cooling off the planet.
Millions of consumers are still "in the dark" about how "conventional" foods--especially the cheaper brands of animal products, processed, fast, and fake foods--are produced. We must educate the public about the need to fight for Truth-in-Labeling so that CAFO products, derived in great measure from Monsanto’s GMO crops, are no longer greenwashed as “local” or “natural.”
Food Miles and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Food miles are the average miles that food travels from the farm to the consumer. Since more than 80% of the U.S. grocery purchases are now processed foods, a huge percentage of the carbon or fossil fuel footprint of industrial agriculture comes from transporting factory farm crops or animals to the processing plant or slaughterhouse and then transporting these processed foods from the processing plant to the dinner table via the supermarket. By reducing the processed foods in our diet we can greatly reduce the food miles or carbon footprint for which our households are responsible, since the shorter the distance food travels, the lower the greenhouse gas emissions.
Part of the locavore ethic is to get people to eat from their own food shed, to save energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and stimulate the local economy.  But, real “local” is also about stimulating a return to in-home food preparation, an appreciation for taste, and the joy in cooking—and eating. As folks begin to appreciate the taste of locally grown fresh organic foods, their dependence on processed foods from afar usually dwindles.
The 20% of the U.S. diet that is not processed food includes fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, farm raised meats, eggs, whole grains, cold pressed oils, raw honey, syrup, natural sugars, etc. Though only 20% of the total food budget, the sales of non-processed food are huge! Unfortunately, production of non-processed foods is largely regional with production concentrated on the southern half of both coasts and the southwest. So, even a majority of the fresh foods come from afar. This requires lots of trucking and refrigeration to get the food to local markets the across the country.
“Fresh food miles” indeed contribute to the high CO2 emissions from the U.S. food system, but these whole foods are certainly not the major greenhouse gas contributor in our food system. That dubious honor belongs to factory-farmed meat, eggs, and milk, which generate 30 to 50% of all of the U.S. greenhouse gasses, more than industry and fossil fuels combined.
Fortunately, locally and nationally, farmers have worked out strategies of how to grow fresh foods in the middle of the winter with better technology and a minimum of heat, even in extremely cold places like Maine, Vermont, Minnesota, and Montana. Consequently, farmers and consumers are growing and storing food throughout the year so that they are not responsible for so many food miles on their tables.
Our thesis is that a majority of our food miles could be chopped off if we prepare more of our food from local ingredients.  But, that begs another question. What kind of local ingredients?
Chemical and Local versus Organic and Local
Some growers and brokers argue that local, chemically grown is better than fresh organic, because so much that is organic travels long distances from the two coasts. If they are talking about comparing supermarket fresh organic with fresh chemically grown local, we should still choose supermarket organic, because, whether they are used locally or nationally, pesticides and fertilizers are more dangerous and deadly to your health and the health of the environment than chemically-free organic foods transported from outside your local region.
Chemical farmers are not inspected or reprimanded by the federal or state governments as to their use or abuse of pesticides or fertilizers unless there is an accident, whether they are local farmers or factory farmers from California, Florida, or China. The only way the abusers are caught is when there is a fish kill, a labor poisoning, a recall after multiple poisonings, or some other notable injury as a result of a spill, overuse, or carelessness.
By contrast, organic growers are inspected every year and can be inspected at any time the certifying agency or the federal government (USDA) deems it appropriate. These are the rules in California, Vermont, Chile, and all countries that grow and market certified organic products. Because organic farms are inspected (at least once a year), and their soil and water checked for toxins, consumers can be secure that the organic products are the safest on the market. Consumers can be confident that organic food does not contain poisonous pesticide residues, did not poison farmworkers, and was not grown with a fertilizer that trashed the soil, the water, the atmosphere, and the oceans.
Organic farming is a set of techniques and strategies that encourage the life to come back into the soil and into our food. Chemical fertilizers kill soil life and inhibit the accumulation of organic matter (plant residues in the soil). Chemical food has less life force because chemicals kill soil microorganisms and earthworms. Organic matter is critical to organic farmers because nutrients cling to organic matter, so the plant roots can efficiently find and mine nutrients and water at those spots.
Organic farmers add nutrients such as lime, rock phosphate, potash, and sulfur in an effort to get the soil balanced so that the maximum amount of all nutrients and water are available to foraging plant roots. This soil-balancing act is a constant process. On light and sandy soils, organic matter must be replaced every year by growing a fertilizer crop and by adding small amounts of compost, which has billions of soil microorganisms. These critters go to work breaking down the organic matter and making it available to plant roots while constantly adding to the fertility by defecating the digested organic matter (and they work 24-7, not 9 to 5).
To control pests, organic farmers rotate their crops, so that pests do not build up from continuous monocropping. Instead of toxic pesticides, organic growers use beneficial insects as predators and parasites on pests. They use bacterial sprays for certain worms and beetles. They spray clay on their apples and other fruits. They use insect traps and lures. And, they use trap crops that the insects like better than the main crop. They use disease resistant crops that are immune or less prone to disease. And, they monitor their fields often so that they can spot problems early.
The Gold Standard: Local and Organic
Local organic food and farming are the gold standard. Organic farmers gladly adhere to a set of regulations, use non-toxic products, and accept the need to be scrutinized by an independent third party inspector. Why? Because, regulation of food safety is essential to guaranteeing consumers that the farmer has their health and well being at the center of his or her business plan. The organic regulatory process is neither easy nor happily anticipated by the farmer. But it is necessary! It is our covenant with our customers.
There are no regulations governing “local” chemically grown or GMO-derived food. Anything goes! Nobody is inspecting the farm! Nobody is watching the store! As customer, you must also be the regulator of non-organic food. Instead of depending on a regulator, you as customer should ask the “local” growers what they used as a fertilizer source, how they controlled pests and diseases, and what chemicals they used to stimulate yield.
When the local chemical grower tells you that local is better than organic, tell them that they should switch to organic so that you can trust their food to be safe, clean, inspected, and environmentally friendly. Local food is not the gold standard, and may not even be safe. Local-organic is the gold standard.

1. Sustainable Food News, November 12, 2010 <>
2. Hightower, Jim, Other Words, Dec. 8, 2010, “Meet Your New Neighborhood Food Market”
3. Kingsolver, Barbara, et. al 2007 Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.         Harper-Collins, May 2007
4. Curl, Cynthia L., Fenske, Richard A., Elgethun, Kai. 2010 Organophosphorus Pesticide Exposure of Urban and Suburban Preschool Children with Organic and Conventional Diets. Department of Environmental Health, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.
5. Fertilizer Use Statistics, 1998-2007 . National Agricultural Statistical Service, United States Department of Agriculture.
6.“Factory Farm Nation,” Food and Water Watch, 2010,
7. Goodland, Robert and Anhang, Jeffery, 2009 Livestock and Climate Change. World Watch Magazine. November 1.
Will Allen is an organic farmer in Vermont, a community organizer, anti-war activist, and occasional author. His book, The War on Bugs was published by Chelsea Green in 2008. He is a policy advisory board member of the Organic Consumers Association, and a board member of Willing Hands (a local Vermont food bank). You can reach him at:
more Will Allen

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.;
more Ronnie Cummins
Kate Desterberg is an organic farmer and an organic agriculture and anti-war activist. You can view the website of the organic farm that she co-manages with Will Allen and Luke Jonis 


Climate Change and Agriculture: Biodiverse Ecological Farming Is the Answer, Not Genetic Engineering

by Vandana Shiva 

Industrial globalized agriculture is heavily implicated in climate change. It contributes to the three major greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2) from the use of fossil fuels, nitrogen oxide (N2O) from the use of chemical fertilizers and methane (CH4) from factory farming. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC), atmospheric concentration of CO2 has increased from a pre–industrial concentration of about 280 parts per million to 379 parts per million in 2005. The global atmospheric concentration of CH4 has increased from pre–industrial concentration of 715 parts per billion to 1774 parts per billion in 2005. The global atmospheric concentration of N2O, largely due to use of chemical fertilizers in agriculture, increased from about 270 parts per billion to 319 parts per billion in 2005.

Industrial agriculture is also more vulnerable to climate change which is intensifying droughts and floods. Monocultures lead to more frequent crop failure when rainfall does not come in time, or is too much or too little. Chemically fertilized soils have no capacity to withstand a drought. And cyclones and hurricanes make a food system dependent on long distance transport highly vulnerable to disruption.

Genetic engineering is embedded in an industrial model of agriculture based on fossil fuels. It is falsely being offered as a magic bullet for dealing with climate change.

Monsanto claims that Genetically Modified Organisms are a cure for both food insecurity and climate change and has been putting the following advertisement across the world in recent months.
9 billion people to feed.
A changing climate
Now what?
Producing more
Conserving more
Improving farmers lives
That’s sustainable agriculture
And that’s what Monsanto is all about.
All the claims this advertisement makes are false.

GM crops do not produce more. While Monsanto claims its GMO Bt cotton gives 1500 Kg/acre, the average is 300–400 Kg/acre.

The claim to increased yield is false because yield, like climate resilience is a multi–genetic trait. Introducing toxins into a plant through herbicide resistance or Bt. Toxin increases the “yield” of toxins, not of food or nutrition.

Even the nutrition argument is manipulated. Golden rice genetically engineered to increase Vitamin A produces 70 times less Vitamin A than available alternatives such as coriander leaves and curry leaves.

The false claim of higher food production has been dislodged by a recent study titled, Failure to Yield by Dr. Doug Gurian Sherman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, who was former biotech specialist for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and former adviser on GM to the U.S Food and Drug Administration. Sherman states, “Let us be clear. There are no commercialized GM crops that inherently increase yield. Similarly there are no GM crops on the market that were engineered to resist drought, reduce fertilizer pollution or save soil. Not one.”

There are currently two predominant applications of genetic engineering: one is herbicide resistance, the other is crops with Bt. toxin. Herbicides kill plants. Therefore they reduce return of organic matter to the soil. Herbicide resistant crops, like Round Up Ready Soya and Corn reduce soil carbon, they do not conserve it. This is why Monsanto’s attempt to use the climate negotiations to introduce Round Up and Round Up resistant crops as a climate solution is scientifically and ecologically wrong.

Monsanto’s GMOs, which are either Round Up Ready crops or Bt toxin crops do not conserve resources. They demand more water, they destroy biodiversity and they increase toxics in farming. Pesticide use has increased 13 times as a result of the use Bt cotton seeds in the region of Vidharbha, India.

Monsanto’s GMOs do not improve farmers’ lives. They have pushed farmers to suicide. 200,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide in the last decade. 84% of the suicides in Vidharbha, the region with highest suicides are linked to debt created by Bt–cotton. GMOs are non–renewable, while the open pollinated varieties that farmers have bred are renewable and can be saved year to year. The price of cotton seed was Rs 7/kg. Bt cotton seed price jumped to Rs 1,700/kg.

This is neither ecological nor economic or social sustainability. It is eco–cide and genocide.

Genetic engineering does not “create” climate resilience. In a recent article titled, “GM: Food for Thought” (Deccan Chronicle, August 26, 2009), Dr. M.S. Swaminathan wrote “we can isolate a gene responsible for conferring drought tolerance, introduce that gene into a plant, and make it drought tolerant.”

Drought tolerance is a polygenetic trait. It is therefore scientifically flawed to talk of “isolating a gene for drought tolerance.“ Genetic engineering tools are so far only able to transfer single gene traits. That is why in twenty years only two single gene traits for herbicide resistance and Bt. toxin have been commercialized through genetic engineering.

Navdanya’s recent report titled, “Biopiracy of Climate Resilient Crops: Gene Giants are Stealing farmers’ innovation of drought resistant, flood resistant and salt resistant varieties,” shows that farmers have bred corps that are resistant to climate extremes. And it is these traits which are the result of millennia of farmers’ breeding which are now being patented and pirated by the genetic engineering industry. Using farmers’ varieties as “genetic material,” the biotechnology industry is playing genetic roulette to gamble on which gene complexes are responsible for which trait. This is not done through genetic engineering; it is done through software programs like athlete. As the report states, “Athlete uses vast amounts of available genomic data (mostly public) to rapidly reach a reliable limited list of candidate key genes with high relevance to a target trait of choice. Allegorically, the Athlete platform could be viewed as a ‘machine’ that is able to choose 50–100 lottery tickets from amongst hundreds of thousands of tickets, with the high likelihood that the winning ticket will be included among them.”

Breeding is being replaced by gambling, innovation is giving way to biopiracy, and science is being substituted by propaganda. This cannot be the basis of food security in times of climate vulnerability.

While genetic engineering is a false solution, over the past 20 years, we have built Navdanya, India’s biodiversity and organic farming movement. We are increasingly realizing there is a convergence between objectives of conservation of biodiversity, reduction of climate change impact and alleviation of poverty. Biodiverse, local, organic systems produce more food and higher farm incomes, while they also reduce water use and risks of crop failure due to climate change.

Biodiversity offers resilience to recover from climate disasters. After the Orissa Super Cyclone of 1998, and the Tsunami of 2004, Navdanya distributed seeds of saline resistant rice varieties as “Seeds of Hope” to rejuvenate agriculture in lands reentered saline by the sea. We are now creating seed banks of drought resistant, flood resistant and saline resistant seed varieties to respond to climate extremities.

Navdanya’s work over the past twenty years has shown that we can grow more food and provide higher incomes to farmers without destroying the environment and killing our peasants. Our study on “Biodiversity based organic farming: A new paradigm for Food Security and Food Safety” has established that small biodiverse organic farms produce more food and provide higher incomes to farmers.

Biodiverse organic and local food systems contribute both to mitigation of and adaptation to climate change. Small, biodiverse, organic farms especially in Third World countries are totally fossil fuel free. Energy for farming operations comes from animal energy. Soil fertility is built by feeding soil organisms by recycling organic matter. This reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Biodiverse systems are also more resilient to draughts and floods because they have higher water holding capacity and hence contribute to adaption to climate change. Navdanya’s study on climate change and organic farming has indicated that organic farming increases carbon absorption by upto 55% and water holding capacity by 10% thus contributing to both mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

Biodiverse organic farms produce more food and higher incomes than industrial monocultures. Mitigating climate change, conserving biodiversity and increasing food security can thus go hand in hand.
Vandana Shiva
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.


Bi-Partisan Legislation Introduced To Ban Dangerous GE Fish, Require Labeling

Sixty-Four Organizations, Fishing Associations and Retailers Endorse Legislation; Lawmakers Cite Serious Economic, Environmental and Human Health Threats
The Center for Food Safety along with 63 other groups, businesses and retailers applaud Senators Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) as well as Representative Don Young (R-Alaska) who recently introduced bills that would ban genetically engineered (GE) fish and require mandatory labeling if approved.
“FDA’s decision to go ahead with this approval process is misguided and dangerous for consumers, the environment and our economy” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director for the Center for Food Safety.  “Congress once again has to step in to correct the failures of the Obama Administration to halt the approval of GE fish and protect our rural economies from the dangers posed by GE fish.”
The legislation comes in reaction to an announcement last August that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had begun the process for approving of the long-shelved AquaBounty transgenic salmon, the first genetically engineered (GE) animal intended for human consumption.

The legislation has been endorsed by 64 consumer, worker, religious and environmental groups, along with commercial, recreational and subsistence fisheries associations, and food businesses and retailers.  Those groups include the Center for Food Safety, Ocean Conservancy, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development, the Alaska Trollers Association, Food and Water Watch, the National Cooperative Grocers Association and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations among others.
Last fall over 300 environmental, consumer, health, and animal welfare organizations, along with salmon and fishing groups and associations, food companies, chefs and restaurants signed joint letters to the FDA opposing the approval of AquaBounty’s GE salmon.   Additionally nearly 400,000 public comments were sent to FDA from citizens demanding the agency reject this application and require mandatory labeling of this transgenic salmon should it decide to approve it.


Lab Study Establishes Glyphosate (RoundUp) Link to Birth Defects

Developmental biologists traced glyphosate birth defects to key morphogen and signalling genes
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho October 4, 2010

Four-fold increase in human birth defects prompted lab study

It started in 2002, two years after the large scale introduction of Roundup Ready soybeans to Argentina [1]. People were reporting birth defects from exposure to glyphosate sprays during pregnancy; and the problem got worse.
In regions where glyphosate-based herbicides are used, specific neural defects and craniofacial malformations were reported. This prompted Prof. Andrés Carrasco, director of the Laboratory of Molecular Embryology at the University of Buenos Aires Medical School into action. He and his colleagues carried out a laboratory study on the effects of glyphosate on the development of frog embryos. They found the same kinds of abnormalities in frog embryos incubated with a 5 000 fold diluted solution of the Roundup herbicide [2]. The findings were so serious that Carrasco decided to release the results before publication [3] (Glyphosate Herbicide Could Cause Birth Defects Glyphosate Herbicide Could Cause Birth DefectsSiS 43), and in May 2009, the Environmental Lawyers Association of Argentina initiated a lawsuit to ban the herbicide.
In April 2010, the first official report commissioned by the State Government of Chaco documented a four-fold increase in both cancer and birth defects in the ten years of 2000 – 2009 [4].
These findings are the latest addition to a long chain of evidence linking glyphosate (and others herbicides) to serious health impacts at concentrations well below the level of recommended agricultural use. In the case of glyphosate herbicides, links to cancers, miscarriages and other reproductive toxicities, liver and cell toxicities, DNA damages, lethality to amphibians and endocrine disrupting action previously made, would more than justify a worldwide ban ([5] (Ban Glyphosate Herbicides Now, SiS 43); quite apart from simultaneous evidence of ecological/agronomic disasters caused by the herbicide ([6] Scientists Reveal Glyphosate Poisons Crops and SoilSiS 47), while the spread of glyphosate resistant weeds and superweeds has rendered the GM crop and the herbicide practically useless ([7] GM Crops Facing Meltdown in the USA,SiS 46).

Lab findings in frog embryos parallel human abnormalities

In the first experiment, Xenopus laevis (the African ‘clawed toad’, which is really a frog) embryos were incubated with high dilutions of a commercial glyphosate based herbicide (Roundup Classic, Monsanto). The embryos were exposed from the 2-cell stage with dilutions of the herbicide at 3 000-, 4 000-, and 5 000-fold (the most dilute equivalent to 430 mm of glyphosate). They found highly abnormal embryos in the regions of the head and central nervous system, and shortening of the anterior-posterior axis, even at the highest dilution. These led to deformities in the head cartilages at tadpole stage.
The second experiment indicated that the abnormalities were due to the herbicide glyphosate rather than the adjuvants in the Roundup formulation. The early frog embryos were injected with pure glyphosate, and they developed very similar defects. Injection of glyphosate into one cell at the two cell stage showed that the effects were restricted to the injected cell, with the non-injected cell acting as a control (see Fig 1).
Figure  1  Effect of glyphosate injection; left to right: control embryo not injected with glyphosate; embryo injected in one cells only; and embryo injected in both cells
The researchers then treated chick embryos with glyphosate-based herbicides and found similar defects. There was a gradual loss of head features including the future eyes, and the embryos ended up with microcephaly (small head).

Embryonic defect traced to over active retinoic acid and expression of key developmental genes

To pin down the effect of glyphosate further, a reporter gene assay was carried out, which revealed that glyphosate treatment increased retinoic acid (RA) activity in the frog embryos. RA is an oxidized form of vitamin A well-known to have an important role in determining the anterior and posterior axis in embryonic development. That is why excess intake of vitamin A during pregnancy is advised against, as it can cause birth defects.
As consistent with glyphosate causing the malformations through increasing RA activity, the RA antagonist (Ro 41-5253) rescued (prevented) the teratogenic effect of glyphosate.
A previous study had indicated that women exposed during pregnancy to herbicides delivered offspring with congenital malformations, including microcephaly, anencephaly (no head), and cranial (head skeleton) malformations [8].
The increase in RA activity caused by glyphosate herbicides is also consistent with the decrease in expression of several genes in the abnormal embryos: Sonic hedgehog (Shh) signalling from the embryonic dorsal midline and otx2.
In humans, shh deficiency is associated with a holoprosencephaly syndrome (failure of forebrain development into two lobes), with a frequency of 1/250 of pregnancies and 1/10 000 of live births. Failure of Shh signalling is associated with head and face abnormalities in mice, zebrafish and the chick.
An excess of RA is also known to down regulate otx2 expression in Xenopus, chicken and mouse embryos.Otx2 in turn is necessary for the expression of shh in the ventral midbrain. All the evidence indicates that RA signalling, otx2, and shh are part of a genetic cascade critical for the development of the brain and craniofacial skeleton. Glyphosate inhibits the anterior expression of shh, reduces the domain of otx2, prevents the subdivision of the eye field (see Fig. 1), and impairs craniofacial development.
Sublethal doses of the herbicide (430 mM of glyphosate in 1/ 5 000 dilution of the glyphosate based herbicide and injections leading to a final concentration of 8 to 12 mM of glyphosate in the injected side of the embryo were sufficient to induce serious disturbances in the expression of otx2 and shh and other genes. These molecular phenotypes were correlated with a disruption of developmental mechanisms involving the neural crest, embryonic dorsal midline formation and head patterning.

Death and destruction by multiple poisoning

So how does glyphosate increase RA in the embryo to trigger the series of gene expression and developmental abnormalities?
RA activity is regulated by the degradation of RA by the CYP26 enzymes, these enzymes are members of the cytochrome P450 family (same as aromatase, which glyphosate inhibits). So it is possible that glyphosate increases RA by inhibiting the enzyme that degrades RA.
Actually, glyphosate is a generalized chelator (binder) of metal ions with systemic effects on many key enzymes that depend on multivalent ions (see [9] Glyphosate Tolerant Crops Bring Diseases and DeathSiS47). As cytochromes are iron-containing heme-based enzymes, it would not be surprising if glyphosate inhibits RA degradation through binding the heme-iron. What is becoming clear is that glyphosate can poison crops, soils, wild life, livestock, human beings and the entire ecosystem in multiple systemic ways, and a global ban is long overdue.


1. Groundbreaking study shows Roundup link to birth defects, 16 September, 2010,
2. Paganelli A, Gnazzo V, Acosta H, Lopez SL and Carrasco AD. Glyphosate-based herbicides produce teratogenic effects on vertebrates by impairing retinoic acid signalling. Chem Res Toxicol, August 9.
3. Ho MW. Glyphosate herbicide could cause birth defects. Science in Society 43, 36, 2009.
4. Chaco government report confirms link between glyphosate/agrochemicals and cancer/birth defects in Argentina
5. Ho MW. Ban glyphosate herbicides now. Scientists confirm potent hormone disrupting effects. Science in Society 43, 34-35, 2009.
6. Ho MW. Scientists reveal glyphosate poisons crops & soil, GM meltdown continues. Science in Society 47, 10-11, 2010.
7. Ho MW. GM crops facing meltdown in the USA. Science in Society 46, 24-27, 2010.
8. Benitez LS, Macchi MA and Acosta M. Malformaciones Congénitas associadas a agrotóxicos. Arch Pediatr Drug 2009, 80, 237-47.
9. Ho MW and Cherry B. Glyphosate tolerant crops bring diseases and death. Science in Society 47, 12-15, 2010.
This report has been submitted to the US Environment Protection Agency and the European Food Safety Authority, please circulate widely to your political representatives and demand a worldwide ban on glyphosate herbicides.
Reposted with permission.
(Special Thanks to Starfish for this link! -Clean Food Earth Woman )


Why Monsanto Always Wins
The USDA recently approved Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa. Government regulators openly rely on data and research provided by the biotech industry when approving GE technology. (Photo: tipsycat)

Why Monsanto Always Wins

by: Mike Ludwig, t r u t h o u t | Report
The recent approval of Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa is one of most divisive controversies in American agriculture, but in 2003, it was simply the topic at hand in a string of emails between the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Monsanto. In the emails, federal regulators and Monsanto officials shared edits to a list of the USDA's questions about Monsanto's original petition to fully legalize the alfalfa. Later emails show a USDA regulator accepted Monsanto's help with drafting the initial environmental assessment (EA) of the alfalfa and planned to "cut and paste" parts of Monsanto's revised petition right into the government's assessment.
 It's unclear if such internal cooperation continues under the current administration, but regulators still openly rely on data and research provided by the biotech industry when approving GE technology.
A federal judge temporarily banned the alfalfa in 2007 as a result of the CFS lawsuit, but last summer, the Supreme Court ruled that the USDA could reconsider deregulating the GE alfalfa after completing an environmental impact statement (EIS). The USDA fully deregulated the alfalfa on January 27, 2011.
Like the GE corn and soybeans that now dominate agribusiness, Roundup Ready alfalfa is genetically engineered to tolerate glyphosate-based herbicides like Monsanto's Roundup. Farmers can plant Roundup Ready crops and blanket their fields with the herbicide knowing that weeds will be killed and the Roundup Ready crops will be spared.
Back in 2003, USDA officials were concerned about "deficiencies" in Monsanto's original petition to deregulate the GE alfalfa seeds, so they drafted a letter with about 90 questions for Monsanto. In several emails, officials working with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) asked Monsanto officials to comment and "suggest improvements" on at least three drafts of the "deficiency letter." Monsanto was happy to redraft the letter point by point.
Monsanto withdrew its original petition in February 2004 after two undocumented conference calls with APHIS personnel. One month before the final petition was submitted in April, Monsanto regulatory officer Glen Rogan sent two emails to APHIS petition reviewer Virgil Meier indicating that Monsanto was willing to help draft the USDA's EA of Roundup Ready alfalfa. APHIS conducts EA's to assess the potential environmental impacts of proposed agricultural products.
Rogan asked Meier to consult his boss and colleagues about the possibility of Monsanto assisting in the assessment because it would be "precedent setting." Meier, who was in charge of writing the EA, accepted Monsanto's help and said he would "cut and paste" information right from petition into the EA:
If you are willing to provide assistance with the EA, I would appreciate it. At this time, no one has voiced concern with this so I am assuming that there is no problem. In a related matter, because I am supposed to write the EA, I would appreciate receiving an electronic copy of the petition (Word?) so I can do cut and paste which I think will speed up the completion of the EA.
Bill Freese, a policy analyst with CFS, said this kind of cooperation between federal regulators and the biotech industry is unacceptable. "It should go without saying that an applicant should play no role in APHIS's regulatory review of an applicant's product, beyond supplying requested information," Freese wrote in a 2009 letter to the USDA. The USDA did not respond to Freese's letter, but a spokesperson told Truthout that the USDA works closely with industry petitioners and can include some information from a petition in the EA.
Freese told Truthout that the approval process for controversial GE crops like Roundup Ready alfalfa is basically a "sham" designed to increase consumer confidence in the controversial GE crops. Freese has been fighting the battle against biotech for years, and he can't remember a single case when regulators failed to eventually grant approval of a GE crop.
Sham or not, the final EIS that led to the final approval of Roundup Ready alfalfa is a massive document that dives deep into the scientific debates over GE crops. Opponents argue that Roundup Ready alfalfa will threaten organic crops with herbicide drifts, increase the presence of an already growing list of herbicide-resistant weeds and inevitably contaminate conventional and organic alfalfa with transgenes through cross-pollination. The EIS contains evidence of these risks, but the USDA considers them inherent to modern agriculture and ruled that Roundup Ready alfalfa poses no more "plant pest risks" than conventional or organic alfalfa varieties.
The humble alfalfa crop provides more to Americans than crunchy sprouts for salads and sandwiches. Farmers plant millions of acres of alfalfa to produce forage seed and hay to feed cows and other livestock. The ever-growing organic dairy industry, for example, depends on naturally grown alfalfa products to feed its livestock, and in turn, the millions of Americans who eat organic food. The possibility that Roundup Ready alfalfa could cross-pollinate and infect non-GE organic alfalfa is a key issue for organic farmers. If the Roundup Ready transgene spreads to non-GE alfalfa - which critics like Freese claim is inevitable - then the industry may have to change the standards for determining what can be labeled "organic" and "natural," and the growing organic food industry could face millions of dollars in losses if their alfalfa is contaminated with Monsanto transgenes.
The USDA claims that the probability of gene flow between GE and non-GE alfalfa is very low, but the EIS does document several instances of transgenic contamination. About 200,000 acres of Roundup Ready alfalfa in 48 states were planted and harvested in 2005 and 2006 before the CFS lawsuit forced a ban. During this time, two alfalfa seed production firms, Dairyland and Cal/West Seeds, reported transgenic contamination in non-GE alfalfa seeds in California, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Dairyland reported contamination rates hovering around 1 percent, but in 2009, Cal/West reported that 12 percent of more than 200 alfalfa seed lots were contaminated with transgenes, and in 2008, all six of the firm's research lots tested positive for GE contamination. Preliminary data from 2009 showed that 30 percent of seed stock lots were contaminated.
Forage Genetics International, the company that developed Roundup Ready alfalfa for Monsanto, provides the largest data set on cross-contamination in the USDA's final EIS. A report conducted by Forage Genetics on the "best practices" established by the industry for growing Roundup Ready alfalfa found cross-contamination rates between 0 and .18 percent. Critics like Freese say data provided by the industry doesn't belong in the USDA's assessments, but the USDA claims the data shows "acceptable" rates of transgenic contamination.
Freese and the CFS are not the only advocates concerned about the economic impacts of cross-contamination. In June 2010, 55 members of Congress joined Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) in sending a letter to the USDA requesting the department decide against deregulating Roundup Ready alfalfa. Citing alfalfa seed markets in countries that have banned GE seeds and data provided by Dairyland and Cal/West Seeds, Leahy and his supporters claim the US could lose $197 million annually in alfalfa seed and forage exports as a result of GE contamination of organic and conventional seeds.
The letter also questions the need for Roundup Ready alfalfa when only 7 percent of alfalfa hay is currently treated with herbicides. Freese said alfalfa is often treated with chemicals sprayed by airplanes, and the CFS is concerned that aerial sprays of Roundup could drift onto conventional and organic alfalfa plots and damage crops that are not resistant to Roundup. According to some estimates, Roundup Ready alfalfa could increase herbicide use by up to 23 million pounds per year.
The increased reliance on glyphosate-based herbicides like Roundup has caused weeds to develop their own tolerance to the chemical. Herbicide-resistant weeds, sometimes called "superweeds," now infest millions of acres of cropland. Farmers now combat the weeds with cocktails of herbicides like 2,4 D - an ingredient in Agent Orange - that are know to be more toxic than glyphosate. In all, farmers have used at least 318 million more pounds of herbicides and pesticides in the past 13 years as a result of planting GE crop seeds like Roundup Ready corn and soy. The USDA, however, concluded that new glyphosate-resistant weeds would be slow to develop in Roundup Ready alfalfa stands.
Freese said the USDA chose to ignore important data in favor of outdated research and information provided by firms with close connections to the biotech industry. "APHIS cites studies on herbicide use with Roundup Ready crops that were done in the late 1990s," Freese said. "That was before any glyphosate-resistant weeds had evolved, and so before the time when their emergence began driving the big increase in herbicide use we've been seeing since 2001."
Freese said that, like the data provided on cross-contamination provided by Forage Genetics, the USDA relies on data from industry-funded groups like the National Center for Food and Agriculture Policy (NCFAP) and PG Economics.
The biotech industry plays hardball in Congress as well. One week before Roundup Ready alfalfa was deregulated, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack (Former MONSANTO man - Clean Food Earth Woman) testified before the House Committee on Agriculture, where Chairmen Frank Lucas (R-Oklahoma) led a charge to press the USDA to fully deregulate the alfalfa. A political action committee and individuals associated with Monsanto donated $11,000 to Lucas' campaign last year, and Lucas has received $1,247,844 from the agribusiness industry during his political career, according to watchdog site Since 1999, the top 50 companies holding agricultural or food patents have spent more than $572 million in campaign contributions and lobbying efforts, according to a report released last year.
The USDA does invite the American public to weigh in on controversial issues like GE crops, and the CFS reports that, last spring, 200,000 people submitted letters "highly critical" of the department's draft conclusions on Roundup Ready alfalfa. "Clearly the USDA was not listening to the public or farmers but rather to just a handful of corporations," CFS Director Anthony Kimbrell said after Roundup Ready alfalfa was fully legalized. The public comments may have fallen on deaf ears, or perhaps they were just drowned out by the booming voice of a biotech industry that refuses to take no for an answer.
(and Poko Dalmatian)