Friday, April 15, 2011


The US-Colombia Trade Agreement: A Volatile Agenda on Agriculture 

by Karen Hansen-Kuhn

The new Obama trade policy, as embodied in its free-trade agreement with Colombia, sadly resembles the old Bush trade policy: promoting growth in exports and investment at the expense of local economies and resilient food systems. This is unfortunate, not only because it fails to deliver Obama’s promised “21st-century” trade agenda, but also because it ignores some of the key lessons from NAFTA and the 2008 food-price crisis. Globalization has tied our economies together so that price changes in one country transmit around the world, increasing hunger and undermining efforts to rebuild rural communities and resilient food systems.
For decades, the primary problem for agriculture had been low prices, stimulated by U.S. and European agricultural policies that compelled farmers to continue to produce more and more to make up in volume what was lost in falling prices, and to seek ever expanding markets, whether at home or abroad. Cheap imports flooded the markets of developing countries, devastating small-scale farmers in poor countries while failing to stabilize farm incomes in the U.S. and Europe. 
Trade policy is not neutral; it is a specific set of rules, embodied in agreements that tend to favor specific actors. Rather than learning the lessons of the 2008 food-price crisis, that governments need the ability to shield key markets from extremes so they can rebuild food systems, the rules in the Obama administration’s first two trade agreements proudly replicate the 20th-century model. White House fact sheets on the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement proclaim that the trade deal:
Immediately eliminates duties on almost 70 percent of U.S. farm exports including wheat, barley, soybeans, soybean meal and flour, high-quality beef, bacon, almost all fruit and vegetable products, peanuts, whey, cotton, and the vast majority of processed products.
Like NAFTA, the Colombia agreement would subject local farmers to immediate competition from U.S. exports on a broad range of products. While prices are high for now, many Colombian farmers will find it difficult to compete with goods whose prices can vary so dramatically. As in Mexico under NAFTA, tariffs on corn and a few other sensitive products will be phased out over a longer period (although the agreement does allow countries to speed up that transition). The Mexican experience—in which more than 2 million farmers have been displaced from agriculture—shows that even a long transition may be inadequate when no real alternatives for rural employment exist. Many of those farmers were compelled to migrate to urban areas or the United States to find work.
The White House fact sheet also boasts that the agreement:
Immediately eliminates Colombia’s use of Andean Price Bands (variable tariffs), thereby ensuring that Colombia stops applying high duties under this mechanism.
Colombia and other Andean countries have utilized price bands to stabilize prices. When prices are high, tariffs remain low, and when prices drop, tariffs are raised temporarily to stabilize prices. This is similar to the Special Safeguard Mechanism, one of the central proposals made by developing countries in the WTO talks to protect food security and rural livelihoods, a proposal resisted by the U.S. government since the Bush administration. Its removal could undermine Colombian farmers, as well as contribute to rising food-price volatility in other Andean countries.
While Article 2.18 of the Colombia FTA allows for temporary safeguards, they can only be triggered by sudden increases in the quantity of goods, not volatility in prices. Those safeguards could only be applied to goods not already subject to duty-free treatment. That provision also specifies that any safeguard mechanisms agreed to at the WTO would not apply to goods from parties in this agreement.
In describing “Trade and the U.S.-Colombia Partnership,” the administration cites the Colombian government’s proposals to restore land to those displaced by civil conflicts. Whatever the merits may be of that program, there is no assurance that farmers facing competition from exports, or new investments facilitated by expanded trade, would be able to stay on their land. ActionAid Guatemala has documented numerous cases of Guatemalan farmers pressured by palm oil and sugar producers to sell their land to make way for industrial-scale monocrop production. Many of these farmers had been granted titles in the wake of that country’s civil war, only to lose them again when inadequate access to credit and other inputs made it impossible for them to earn a living. Deregulation of financial services provided for in the new trade deal could reduce available farm credit. The U.S.-Colombia accord replicates most of the investment and financial services provisions in NAFTA and CAFTA.
The lessons of this export-led model are not encouraging for U.S. farmers either. Despite rising agricultural exports, the number of small but commercially viable farms has dropped by 40 percent in the last 25 years. Very small farms serving local markets (and relying on off-farm income), and very large farms, have increased substantially.  In a new report, Tim Wise documents shrinking farm incomes among small- to medium-scale farms, as “Expenses have risen to gobble up higher sales revenues, and government payments have declined because some are triggered by lower prices. With the recession, off-farm income has declined dramatically, leaving family farm households worse off than they were earlier when crop prices were low.”
U.S. farmers, like their Colombian counterparts, need reliable public support and consistent market signals so that they can invest in local, regional and national food production to feed their communities and their nations. Trade should supplement local food systems, not seek to replace them. The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement will leave farmers and consumers at the mercy of volatile prices and markets rather than learning from the very real experiences of very recent history to build a new approach that ensures fair, healthy and resilient food systems for all. We’re still waiting for a 21st-century trade policy.
Karen Hansen-Kuhn, director of IATP’s International program, has been working on trade and economic justice since the beginning of the NAFTA debate, focusing especially on bringing developing countries’ perspectives into public debates on trade, food security and economic policy.


Sign the Petition

Yes, we love Girl Scout cookies. They support the important work of the Girl Scouts, and they're ridiculously tasty.
Here's the problem: Almost every type of Girl Scout cookie contains palm oil, which is commonly harvested through the clearing and burning of irreplaceable tropical rainforests. 
This method harms the global ecosytem, endangers local indigenous populations, and threatens the survival of orangutans, humankind's closest relative.   
It would be easy to change -- Girl Guides, an equivalent organization in the United Kingdom, recently eliminated palm oil from its cookies and has even offered Girl Scouts USA help to do the same. 
Girl Scouts Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen, both 15-year-olds from Michigan are urging Girl Scouts USA to make the switch. Click here to add your name to their petition. 
Five years ago, while doing research for a Girl Scouts Bronze Award, Madison and Rhiannon were horrified to learn that the cookies they sold contributed to this serious global problem. The two girls have written letters and made presentations to Girl Scouts USA, and even launched something called Project ORANGS (Orangutans Really Need and Appreciate Girl Scouts).
These girls are the embodiment of the Girl Scouts' mission to build "girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place." But instead of becoming poster children for the organization, Girl Scouts USA is still giving their campaign the run-around.
Madison and Rhiannon need our support. They've launched a campaign on with the help of the Rainforest Action Network. Please sign their petition today:
Thanks for taking action,
- Judith and the team

Thursday, April 14, 2011


French radiation organization says exposure risks are no longer negligible

By Victoria Schlesinger
Just as farmers markets are swinging into full bloom, there’s very disturbing news about radiation from Japan reaching new levels in Europe. And if it’s high there, it’s significantly higher along the West Coast.
A French research organization that monitors radiation, CRIIRAD, says the risk of exposure to the radioisotope iodine-131 has risen from “negligible” to warning against “risky behavior” in France and neighboring countries. Children under two years of age are most at risk and it advises pregnant and breastfeeding women to avoid consuming fresh cheese, milk, and large-leafed vegetables. It also advises against consuming rainwater or directly watering plants with rainwater.
Vegetables such as kale, chard, and spinach whose broad leaves absorb more rainwater, should be avoided, it says. And milk from goats and sheep may be more contaminated than milk from cows.
The report (in French) says West Coast concentrations of iodine-131 concentration are 8-10 times higher than in the EU.
Meanwhile, EPA chief Lisa Jackson testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works today that Fukushima Daiichi radiation levels in the U.S. were too low to impact human health.

One Response to French radiation organization says exposure risks are no longer negligible


Pesticide Action Network PAN Updates

Urge the EPA to take decisive, precautionary action

Bees need help Tell EPA to act now to pull pesticides that harm bees.

Dear K,
In the last four months, 1.2 million people around the world have raised their voices on behalf of bees – urging officials to take decisive, precautionary action by suspending a class of pesticides (neonicotinoids) known to undermine honey bee immunity.
Following the "leaked memo" in December, 10,000+ PAN supporters petitioned the agency to pull clothianidin (a neonicotinoid) until the science supporting its registration is re-done right and in partnership with beekeepers. You’re a part of this global movement, and your support made it possible for PAN to work behind the scenes to break that “leaked memo” story. Thank you.
Apparently, it’s time to get louder» EPA responded to the pressure, agreeing to move up their review of this family of pesticides and improve the science behind bee decisions (which is good!). But they declined to take action on a timeline that will be meaningful for bees or beekeepers. We don't have the 5+ years it will take for these decisions to play out. Bees need help now. Sign our petition to help us get this message through loud and clear.
It’s true that the science hasn’t yet settled on any one cause of Colony Collapse Disorder, and likely it won’t because there are multiple causes acting in concert. Here’s what we know:
  • Scientists believe that immune system suppression is at the root of CCD and the declines in other indicator species such as frogs and bats. Neonicotinoids that are known to suppress honey bees’ immune systems in microscopic doses.
  • Bees face a combination of stressors, including pathogens, habitat loss (in part from broad-spectrum herbicides) and dozens of combined pesticides found in their hives. One common fungicide increases a neonicotinoid’s toxicity 1,000-fold. 
  • Neonicotinoids are long-lasting, systemic pesticides that move through soil and water, and are taken up in a plant’s vascular system. These insecticides are everywhere, accumulating, and genetically bees are especially sensitive to their neurotoxic effects.
  • Bees are a keystone, indicator species. Their decline points to, and will likely precipitate, broader ecosystem degradation.
In other words, we know enough and we’d better act quickly if we want to save this $15+ billion a year industry on which so much rides.
We know enough to act» Join us as we work with beekeepers and partners from around the country to push for decisive, precautionary action on a timeline that matters.

PAN Alerts are a service to provide you with opportunities to take action and to stay informed about our most pressing local, state, national and international efforts to reduce pesticide use. It's produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide. We gladly accept donations for our work and all contributions are tax deductible in the United States.
Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) 49 Powell St., Suite 500, San Francisco, CA 94102 USA
Phone: (415) 981-1771 Fax: (415) 981-1991 Email: Web:


Frankenfoods in Your “Natural” Foods Store: Whole Foods or Whole Hypocrisy?

“The reality is that no grocery store in the United States, no matter what size or type of business, can claim they are GE-free. While we have been and will continue to be staunch supporters of non-GE foods, we are not going to mislead our customers with an inaccurate claim… We have advocated for mandatory labeling of GE foods since 1992…
Whole Foods Market
Internal Company Memo 1/30/2011
“Whole Foods claim they support mandatory labeling of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). Well, where are the labels on the vast array of non-organic foods in their stores that contain genetically engineered soybeans, corn, canola, cottonseed oil, or sugar beets? Where are the labels on their so-called “natural” meat, eggs, or dairy products, reared on GMO grains and animal drugs?”
Protester in front of a San Francisco Whole Foods Market,
April 11, 2011
Join the Millions Against Monsanto Campaign. (photo by Flickr user martha_jean)After two decades of biotech bullying by Monsanto and Food Inc., aided and abetted by Democrats and Republicans alike in Washington D.C., a grassroots movement of organic consumers and farmers is rising up across the United States. Inspired by the success of their European counterparts in driving genetically engineered crops and foods off the market, not through an EU ban, but through mandatory labeling, several thousand protesters took to the streets on March 26 in 30 different cities, under the banner of  “Rally for the Right to Know,” and “Millions Against Monsanto.”
At the same time, anti-GMO activists have stepped up the pace of grassroots lobbying, successfully pressuring state legislators in at least 14 states to introduce bills calling for mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.
Reflecting widespread public concern over the health and environmental hazards of GMOs, recent polls by National Public Radio and MSNBC have found that more than 90% of Americans support mandatory labeling. Mandatory labeling of GMOs, of course, is bitterly opposed by Monsanto and the supermarket lobby, who understand, as a Monsanto executive admitted, "If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it." (Why? Because they ARE IN FACT POISON? - Clean Food Earth Woman)
Angered by the Obama administration’s recent controversial approvals of GMO alfalfa, salmon, sugar beets, and corn, and the compromise or surrender of organic industry leaders, including Whole Foods, in agreeing to accept the “co-existence,” of GMO and organic crops and foods, organic consumers across the U.S. have decided to take matters into their own hands.
Spearheaded by the industry watchdog group, the Organic Consumers Association, and powerful alternative health consumer networks such as Natural and, millions of health and environmental-minded consumers are starting to demand that the $60 billion “natural” products industry take GMO products off their shelves, or at least clearly label them (or cut the price down to the nub instead of doubling and tripling prices on these items - Clean Food Earth Woman), so that consumers can seek certified organic and other GMO-free alternatives.
In an interview at the Green Festival in San Francisco on April 9, Alexis Baden-Mayer, OCA Campaign Director, explained the strategy behind the Millions Against Monsanto Truth-in-Labeling Campaign.
“Over 90% of Americans want GE-tainted foods labeled. Why? So that we can avoid buying these foods.  This is a major reason why millions of us are buying certified organic products, which preclude the use of GE ingredients, as well as toxic chemicals and animal drugs. Since the politicians in Washington apparently prefer to listen to Monsanto rather than their constituents, we need to put our efforts where we currently have the most power, in our local communities, especially at the retail grocery store level, where 50 million of us are regularly buying certified organic and so-called ‘natural’ foods.
“What most green consumers don’t understand yet, is that most of the so-called “natural” processed foods and animal products (which make up 2/3 of the sales of Whole Foods Market) that we are still buying are GMO-contaminated. Either they contain GMO ingredients like soy, corn, canola, cottonseed oil or sugar beet sweetener, or else the animals have been force-fed fed a steady diet of GMO grains and drugs.
“We need to clean up our act and walk our talk in the green and natural products sector. We need to tell natural food giants like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s that you can’t claim to support GMO labeling, and then proceed to sell billions of dollars of unlabeled GMO food in your stores, greenwashed as ‘natural.’ We’re protesting this week in front  of Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s to make our views on GMOs absolutely clear. Like our banners say: ‘GMOs: Don’t buy them! Don’t sell them! Don’t grow them!’ Once we drive GMOs out of our organic and natural food stores, or at least force retailers to label them, we will then be able to turn our attention to conventional supermarkets and do the same thing.”
“But this means we’ve got to build a mass movement of Millions Against Monsanto. By World Food Day, October 16 we plan to mobilize a powerful and unprecedented coalition that can pressure, and if necessary boycott, industry leaders such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s…”
Across the U.S. and the world, people are fed up. Moving beyond ineffectual compromise and co-existence with a greenwashed business as usual and politics as usual, more and more of us are drawing lines in the sand. Nuclear power, genetic engineering, dirty coal and other out-of-control technologies have revealed themselves for what they really are: deadly threats to our survival. Monsanto has deservedly become one of the most hated corporations on earth. It’s time to drive their evil products out of the marketplace, starting with the green or natural products sector, utilizing the most powerful tools at our disposal, public education, agitation, and Truth-in-Labeling. Get up. Stand up for your rights. Join the Millions Against Monsanto Campaign.
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.;

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Filmmaker Deborah Koons Calls Out Sewage-Sludgers for Ecoterrorism Smear

SAN DIEGO - April 13 - Watch this video:
It was filmed at  the currently occurring BioCycle magazine conference in San Diego, CA.  On Tuesday, 4/12/11,  keynote speaker Deborah Koons Garcia, director of the films "The Future of Food" and "Symphony of the Soil," condemns dumping toxic sewage sludge onto farms and gardens, a deceptive and widespread practice.  She strongly criticizes her hosts and especially co-keynoter Sally Brown, a BioCycle columnist, for smearing opponents of toxic sludge as "ecoterrorists." BioCycle and Brown, a U of WA associate professor, promote growing food in sewage sludge which they always call by its PR term "biosolids," or simply refer to as "compost."
The Food Rights Network and the Organic Consumers Association are calling on Brown and Goldstein to retract their smear and apologize. See this News Release: Sally Brown and BioCycle Magazine, Supporters of Growing Food in Sewage Sludge, Call Organic Food Advocates “Ecoterrorists”

The conference is continuing in San Diego.  For more info:
Phone: (608) 260-9713

April 13, 2011
7:19 PM
CONTACT: Food Rights Network
John Stauber, Senior Adviser, Food Rights Network
(608) 260-9713; (608) 279-4044

QUEEN OF THE SUN film: USA has LOST 100-300 BILLION BEES (they polinate OUR CROPS)

Industry’s war on nature: ‘What are the bees telling us?’

Honey Bee/Wikimedia Commons image
Rady Ananda, Contributing Writer
Activist Post  Sunday, April 10, 2011

While industries continue to pollute the planet with their toxic chemicals, toxic waste and toxic spills, Earth’s pollinators sing a swan song that leaves no doubt as to the folly of modern civilization.  Our ability to hear and appropriately respond to the crisis of declining pollinators will determine humanity’s survival.

“In 1923, Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian scientist, philosopher and social innovator, predicted that in 80 to 100 years honeybees would collapse.”  Queen of the Sun

Steiner believed the industrialization of bees would lead to their demise. It looks like he was right. In the past two decades, the United States has lost 100-300 billion bees, and the problem has spread to Europe and beyond. But several factors above industrialized beekeeping operations contribute to this massive die-off.

Pollinators are further sickened by lack of a diverse diet from the tens of millions of monoculture acres. By ingesting genetically modified crops, pollinators also ingest GM microbes, to their detriment. By and far, though, agrochemicals contribute most to pollinator decimation. In a last ditch effort to save the hive, some bees seal off hive cells that contain inordinate amounts of pesticide. But even these hives eventually die.

Bolstering industry’s multi-factor assault on nature, the ubiquitous communications industry adds electromagnetic pollution, causing bees (and birds) to lose their ability to navigate. Taking advantage of weakened, disoriented bees, exotic pathogens like the Varroa mite, imported via globalized trade, suck the remaining life out of them. And, so, we see the collapse of the honeybee and North American bats.

Much of this we learn in Taggart Siegel’s part philosophical love story, part documentary, Queen of the Sun: What are the bees telling us? Theatrically released on March 25, the award-winning film is further supported by a newly released report from the United Nations Environment Programme, Global Bee Colony Disorders and other Threats to Insect Pollinators.

A sure way to collapse an ecosystem is to decimate a keystone species – one from which the entire localized web of life radiates. Pollinators contribute nearly ten percent to the global food economy, or about $218 billion USD (€153 billion) a year. Of the 100 or so crop species that provide 90% of the world’s food, bees pollinate 71 of them, according to UNEP’s report. Among the 20,000 known bee species worldwide, the honeybee, Apis mellifera, is most important, contributing between $33 and $82 billion annually (€22.8 to €57 billion).

So while we are witnessing the planet’s sixth extinction spasm (popularly detailed in Ed Wilson’s The Diversity of Life), it is the bee that garners our deserved attention.

“Bees are the legs of plants,” Michael Pollan explains in Queen of the Sun. They co-evolved so that the sessile organism feeds the aerial one in exchange for propagation. That mutualism supports much of life today. Without pollinators, crops will collapse. As crops collapse, myriads of species, including humans, will starve.

When pollinators go, so will flowering plants.
The chain reaction collapse can easily then lead to the end of the Age of Mammals. This would be similar to the end of the Age of Dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. The “terrible lizards” will have outlasted us by 100 million years. Only about half of all species survived that last extinction spasm – notably alligators and crocodiles. But human survival is hardly guaranteed if 40% of our food sources vanish. While gators and crocs can go a year or more without eating – and this survival mechanism vastly contributes to the species’ longevity – humans cannot.

The UNEP report lists eight reasons for colony collapse disorder: Habitat destruction, invasive species (like the parasitic mite, Varroa destructor), air pollution, electromagnetic pollution, pesticides and other chemical pollution, industrial transport (where a million bees die each year), colony splitting, and diet. The report does not mention genetically engineered crops as a contributing factor to bee decline, but does attack monocultures:

“It is increasingly difficult for pollinators to obtain sufficient pollen sources for all their essential amino acids. Consequently, this can weaken the insects’ immune system, making them more vulnerable to various pathogens.”

In Queen of the Sun, several speakers have no doubt. When plants are genetically altered (via a crude gun method), the process is so unreliable that only one out of thousands of cells transmutes. Dr Vandana Shiva explains that, because of this, antibiotic resistant genes and viral promoters have to be added. “Every genetically engineered seed is a bundle of bacteria, toxins, and viral promoters.”

These GM bacteria, toxins, and viral promoters are transferred into our gut (and that of bees), where they continue to function within the host. Only now, we’re the host. The bee is the host. And bees aren’t doing so well. Science has shown that high fructose corn syrup, a GM product fed to bees, inhibits genetic expression of immunity and detox functions.

Queen of the Sun highlights the delicate balance among the various members of an ecosystem, making the point that genetic integrity is required for the system to work.  In order for the bee (or the flowering plant) to be the best at what it does, its DNA must remain intact.

Both the film and the UNEP report leave no doubt that the collapse of pollinators is the most urgent problem facing humanity today. Both make several suggestions to agribusiness and individuals, including: Stop (or greatly slow) the use of pesticides, grow bee friendly crops, buy organic, provide habitat and fresh water, and become a sustainable beekeeper. The UNEP report notes that pollinator conservation efforts should also plan nursery habitats, since the requirements of larval stages differ from winged adults.

Given that bee and bat decline is most severe in the United States, which has the longest history of deploying GM crops and which uses more agrochemicals than any other nation, the culprit seems pretty obvious. The top six agrochemical companies, Syngenta, Bayer CropScience, BASF, Monsanto, Dow Agrosciences, and DuPont, also spread genetically modified crops.

Pollinators are keeping score of the corporate war on nature. They are telling us that pesticides, biotechnology, and cell phones are winning.  The tragedy is that when pollinators go, so will flowering plants and, likely, the Age of Mammals.

Check here for a list of upcoming screenings and see this list of 10 things you can do to help bees.

Rady Ananda holds a B.S. in Natural Resources and administers the sites, Food Freedom and COTO Report.


Monsanto Cash Helped Fund Bill to Stifle Whistleblowers In Iowa

Submitted by Lois Rain on April 11, 2011 – 5:31 pm2 Comments
As if Monsanto isn’t a big enough giant, they constantly throw money to influence serious legislation! Oh, but this isn’t an act of pretentious altruism for farmers. They have a vulnerable hide to cover if they don’t get their way in seeing that Iowa’s anti-whistleblower farm bill passes into law. Similar to other bills in legislation like the Florida farm photos bill, it’s to keep public scrutiny out by threatening the probing “criminal” with lengthy prison time.
So far, the focus has been on animal cruelty and keeping animal activists from recording questionable behavior in Big Ag operations. But these proposed laws keep all prying eyes out, including anyone who might discover Monsanto’s hand in “crop operations,” their seed houses, research areas, and pesticide manufacturing.
What makes this a real Judas-kiss is that Monsanto pretends to act on the behalf of farmers. Monsanto will make sure you don’t go snooping around, but they will continue to trespass on farms to sample plants so they can sue that farmer for patent infringement if they find GM seed. And yes, there will be provisions in Iowa’s bill to allow Monsanto to trespass and carry out their witch hunt. Don’t you dare try to uncover animal cruelty and “seedy” operations, but Monsanto can continue to pose as undercover land mappers and local fellow AA members to trap unsuspecting farmers.
Got pitchforks?
~Health Freedoms

Speaking of Monsanto, it turns out they are playing a role in Iowa’s proposed anti-whistleblower bill – a bill focused primarily on agriculture. Should the bill pass, it will become illegal to produce undercover videos at various types of agricultural facilities (as well as to get a job at a facility with the express intent of producing a video). Sarah Damian of the Government Accountability Project, a “whistleblower advocacy organization,” observes over at the Food Integrity Campaign’s blog that Monsanto has been throwing lobbying dollars behind Iowa’s effort to draw a steel curtain around food production. And not without reason:
… Monsanto has more facilities in Iowa than in any other state in the country, with more than 25 offices. The company is heavily invested in the bill’s outcome because “crop operations” are also covered, which would apply to Monsanto’s seed houses, pesticide manufacturing plants and research facilities throughout Iowa. The biotech and crop chemical giant wouldn’t want any undercover videos produced on its clock, apparently.
That’s a bit ironic, however, given the fact that Monsanto investigators are notorious for trespassing on farmers’ property and going to extreme measures to produce evidence of seed patent infringement, including posing as land mappers or even joining a local Alcohol Anonymous group to gain the farmers’ trust and gain video access to their fields. Talk about undercover.
And don’t think that Monsanto hasn’t planned ahead. According to Damian, there are provisions in the bill that would allow Monsanto to continue snooping around farmers’ fields in its ongoing search for so-called “seed thieves” aka “patent infringers.”
Despite occasional setbacks and even uncertainty in the marketplace, let it not be said that Monsanto has lost its taste for playing the heavy.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Radiation Detected In Drinking Water In 13 More US Cities, Cesium-137 In Vermont Milk

by Jeff McMahon   
Radiation from Japan has been detected in drinking water in 13 more American cities, and cesium-137 has been found in American milk—in Montpelier, Vermont—for the first time since the Japan nuclear disaster began, according to data released by the Environmental Protection Agency late Friday.
Radiation has reached the EPA's maximum contaminant level in some milk samples (Royalty-free image collection via flickr) Milk samples from Phoenix and Los Angeles contained iodine-131 at levels roughly equal to the maximum contaminant level permitted by EPA, the data shows. The Phoenix sample contained 3.2 picoCuries per liter of iodine-131. The Los Angeles sample contained 2.9. The EPA maximum contaminant level is 3.0, but this is a conservative standard designed to minimize exposure over a lifetime, so EPA does not consider these levels to pose a health threat.
The cesium-137 found in milk in Vermont is the first cesium detected in milk since the Fukushima-Daichi nuclear accident occurred last month. The sample contained 1.9 picoCuries per liter of cesium-137, which falls under the same 3.0 standard.
Radioactive isotopes accumulate in milk after they spread through the atmosphere, fall to earth in rain or dust, and settle on vegetation, where they are ingested by grazing cattle. Iodine-131 is known to accumulate in the thyroid gland, where it can cause cancer and other thyroid diseases. Cesium-137 accumulates in the body’s soft tissues, where it increases risk of cancer, according to EPA.
Airborne contamination continues to cross the western states, the new data shows, and Boise has seen the highest concentrations of radioactive isotopes in rain so far.
A rainwater sample collected in Boise on March 27 contained 390 picocures per liter of iodine-131, plus 41 of cesium-134 and 36 of cesium-137. EPA released this result for the first time yesterday. Typically several days pass between sample collection and data release because of the time required to collect, transport and analyze the samples.
In most of the data released Friday the levels of contaminants detected are far below the standards observed by EPA and other U.S. agencies.
But the EPA drinking-water data includes one outlier—an unusually, but not dangerously, high reading in a drinking water sample from Chatanooga, Tennessee.
The sample was collected at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Sequoyah nuclear plant. A Tennessee official told the Chatanooga Times last week that radiation from Japan had been detected at Sequoyah but is “1,000 to 10,000 times below any levels of concern.” The 1.6 picocures per liter reported by the EPA on Friday is slightly more than half the maximum contaminant level permitted in drinking water, but more uniquely, it is many times higher than all the other drinking water samples collected in the U.S.
[UPDATE: EPA released new data Saturday revealing higher levels than reported here in Little Rock milk and Philadelphia drinking water]
The EPA released this new data through a new interactive open-data system it quietly launched on the EPA website Wednesday. The new interface is to be regularly updated, replacing EPA’s periodic news releases and pdf data charts. Here are more details of the data released Friday:

Drinking Water

Radioactive Iodine-131 was found in drinking water samples from 13 cities. Those cities are listed below, with the amount of Iodine-131 in picocuries per liter. The EPA’s maximum contaminant level for Iodine-131 in drinking water is 3 picocuries per liter.
  • Oak Ridge, TN collected 3/28: 0.63
  • Oak Ridge, TN collected at three sites 3/29: 0.28, 0.20, 0.18
  • Chatanooga, TN collected 3/28: 1.6
  • Helena, MT collected 3/28: 0.18
  • Columbia, PA collected 3/29: 0.20
  • Cincinatti, OH collected 3/28: 0.13
  • Pittsburgh, PA collected 3/28: 0.36
  • East Liverpool, OH collected 3/30: 0.42
  • Painesville, OH collected 3/29: 0.43
  • Denver, CO  collected 3/30: 0.17
  • Detroit, MI collected 3/31: 0.28
  • Trenton, NJ collected 3/31: 0.38
  • Waretown, NJ collected 3/31: 0.38
  • Muscle Shoals, AL collected 3/31: 0.16


In the data released Friday, iodine-131 was found in rainwater samples from the following locations:
  • Salt Lake City, UT collected 3/17: 8.1
  • Boston, MA collected 3/22: 92
  • Montgomery, Alabama collected 3/30: 3.7
  • Boise, ID collected 3/27: 390
As reported above, the Boise sample also contained 42 pC/m3 of Cesium-134, and 36 of Cesium-137.


In the most recent data, iodine-131 was found in air filters in the following locations. In the case of air samples, the radiation is measured in picoCuries per cubic meter.
  • Montgomery, AL collected 3/31: 0.055
  • Nome AK collected 3/30: 0.17
  • Nome AK collected 3/29: 0.36
  • Nome AK collected 3/27: 0.36
  • Nome AK collected 3/26: 0.46
  • Nome AK collected 3/25: 0.26
  • Juneau AKcollected 3/26: 0.43
  • Juneau AK collected 3/27: 0.38
  • Juneau AK collected 3/30: 0.28
  • Dutch Harbor AK collected 3/30: 0.14
  • Dutch Harbor AK collected 3/29: 0.11
  • Dutch Harbor AK colleccted 3/26: 0.21
  • Boise, ID collected 3/27: 0.22
  • Boise, ID collected 3/29: 0.27
  • Boise, ID collected 3/28: 0.32
  • Las Vegas NV collected 3/28: 0.30
  • Las Vegas, NV collected 3/30:: 0.088
  • Las Vegas, NV collected 3/29: 0.044
No other types of isotopes were found in the most recent data from air samples, even though EPA is also on the lookout for barium-140, cobalt-60, cesium-134, cesium-136, cesium-137, iodine-132, iodine-133, tellurium-129, and tellurium-132.
In older samples, isotopes of cesium and tellurium were found in Boise; Las Vegas; Nome and Dutch Harbor; Honolulu, Kauai and Oahu, Hawaii; Anaheim, Riverside, San Francisco, and San Bernardino, California; Jacksonville and Orlando, Florida; Salt Lake City, Utah; Guam, and Saipan on the Marina Islands.
Some of these locations had not been previously reported in EPA news releases.
The EPA has said it will continue to monitor radiation levels in air, precipitation, drinking water, and milk even if the budget impasse shuts down the government next week.
There is more discussion of maximum contaminant levels and health concerns in the related links below and their associated comments:
Related Posts:
How To Remove Iodine-131 From Drinking Water
Three Sites Where You Can Monitor U.S. Radiation Levels
First US Drinking Water Samples Show Radiation from Japan