Friday, May 27, 2011

270,000 PLAINTIFFS TAKE ON - MONSANTO!!!! Have a Look at who is STANFING UP FOR YOU!

FTCLDF in Suit over Monsanto GMO Seed

Falls Church, Virginia (April 13, 2011) On behalf of 60 family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations, the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) filed suit on March 29 against Monsanto Company to challenge the chemical giant's patents on genetically modified seed. The organic plaintiffs were forced to sue preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should they ever become contaminated by Monsanto's genetically modified seed, something Monsanto has done to others in the past. The action seeks a ruling that would prohibit Monsanto from suing organic farmers and seed growers if contaminated by Roundup Ready seed.
The case, Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, was filed in federal district court in Manhattan and assigned to Judge Naomi Buchwald. Plaintiffs in the suit represent a broad array of family farmers, small businesses and organizations from within the organic agriculture community who are increasingly threatened by genetically modified seed contamination despite using their best efforts to avoid it. The plaintiff organizations have over 270,000 members, including thousands of certified organic family farmers. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) is a plaintiff in the suit.
"This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto's transgenic seed should land on their property," said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT's Executive Director and Lecturer of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. "It seems quite perverse that an organic farmer contaminated by transgenic seed could be accused of patent infringement, but Monsanto has made such accusations before and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement, so we had to act to protect the interests of our clients." 
Once released into the environment, genetically modified seed contaminates and destroys organic seed for the same crop. For example, soon after Monsanto introduced genetically modified seed for canola, organic canola became virtually extinct as a result of contamination. Organic corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beets and alfalfa now face the same fate, as Monsanto has released genetically modified seed for each of those crops, too. Monsanto is developing genetically modified seed for many other crops, thus putting the future of all food, and indeed all agriculture, at stake.    
In the case, PUBPAT is asking Judge Buchwald to declare that if organic farmers are ever contaminated by Monsanto's genetically modified seed, they need not fear also being accused of patent infringement. One reason justifying this result is that Monsanto's patents on genetically modified seed are invalid because they don't meet the "usefulness" requirement of patent law, according to PUBPAT's Ravicher, plaintiffs' lead attorney in the case. Evidence cited by PUBPAT in its opening filing today proves that genetically modified seed has negative economic and health effects, while the promised benefits of genetically modified seed - increased production and decreased herbicide use - are false.    
"Some say transgenic seed can coexist with organic seed, but history tells us that's not possible, and it's actually in Monsanto's financial interest to eliminate organic seed so that they can have a total monopoly over our food supply," said Ravicher. "Monsanto is the same chemical company that previously brought us Agent Orange, DDT, PCB's and other toxins, which they said were safe, but we know are not. Now Monsanto says transgenic seed is safe, but evidence clearly shows it is not." 
"Transgenic seed should not be on the market. They are a threat to the future of farming and consumer freedom of choice," asserted Pete Kennedy, Esq., President of FTCLDF. "Monsanto should not be suing farms whose land the company's products contaminate; Monsanto should be paying them damages." 
The plaintiffs in the suit represented by PUBPAT are:
Abundant Acres Adaptive Seeds, LLC
Alba Ranch Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., LLC
Bryce Stephens California Cloverleaf Farms
Canadian Organic Growers Chispas Farms LLC
Chuck Noble Comstock, Ferre & Co., LLC
Countryside Organics Cuatro Puertas
Demeter Association, Inc Donald Wright Patterson, Jr.
Family Farm Defenders Inc. Family Farmer Seed Cooperative
Farm-to-Consumer Legal
Defense Fund
FEDCO Seeds Inc.
Food Democracy Now! Frey Vineyards, Ltd.
Genesis Farm Global Organic Alliance
Gratitude Gardens Interlake Forage Seeds Ltd.
Jardin del Alma Kirschenmann Family Farms Inc.
Koskan Farms LaRhea Pepper
Levke and Peter Eggers Farm Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Mendocino Organic Network Midheaven Farms
Mumm's Sprouting Seeds Nature's Way Farm Ltd.
Navdanya International North Outback Farm
Northeast Organic Dairy
Producers Alliance
Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont
Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts
Chapter, Inc.
Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society OCIA Research and Education Inc.
Ohio Ecological Food &
Farm Association
Organic Crop Improvement Association International, Inc.
Organic Seed Growers and
Trade Association
Paul Romero
Philadelphia Community Farm, Inc Quinella Ranch
Richard Everett Farm, LLC Ron Gargasz Organic Farms
Rural Vermont Seedkeepers, LLC
Siskiyou Seeds Southeast Iowa Organic Association
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange Sow True Seed
Sustainable Living Systems T & D Willey Farms
Taylor Farms, Inc. The Cornucopia Institute
Wild Plum Farm  
Many of the plaintiffs made statements upon filing of the suit.
Jim Gerritsen, a family farmer in Maine who raises organic seed and is President of lead plaintiff Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) based in Montrose, Colorado, said, "Today is Independence Day for America. Today we are seeking protection from the Court and putting Monsanto on notice. Monsanto's threats and abuse of family farmers stops here. Monsanto's genetic contamination of organic seed and  organic crops ends now. Americans have the right to choice in the marketplace - to decide what kind of food they will feed their families - and we are taking this action on their behalf to protect that right to  choose. Organic farmers have the right to raise our organic crops for our families and our customers on our farms without the threat of invasion by Monsanto's genetic contamination and without harassment by a reckless polluter. Beginning today, America asserts her right to justice and pure food."    
Dr. Carol Goland, Ph.D., Executive Director of plaintiff Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA) said, "Consumers indicate, overwhelmingly, that they prefer foods made without genetically modified  organisms. Organic farms, by regulation, may not use GMOs, while other farmers forego using them for other reasons. Yet the truth is that we are rapidly approaching the tipping point when we will be unable to  avoid GMOs in our fields and on our plates. That is the inevitable consequence of releasing genetically engineered materials into the environment. To add injury to injury, Monsanto has a history of suing  farmers whose fields have been contaminated by Monsanto's GMOs. On behalf of farmers who must live under this cloud of uncertainty and risk, we are compelled to ask the Court to put an end to this unconscionable business practice."
Rose Marie Burroughs of plaintiff California Cloverleaf Farms said, "The devastation caused by GMO contamination is an ecological catastrophe to our world equal to the fall out of nuclear radiation. Nature, farming and health are all being affected by GMO contamination. We must protect our world by protecting our most precious, sacred resource of seed sovereignty. People must have the right to the resources of the earth for our sustenance. We must have the freedom to farm that causes no harm to the environment or to other people. We must protect the environment, farmers' livelihood, public health and people's right to non GMO food contamination."
Ed Maltby, Executive Director of plaintiff Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA)said, "It's outrageous that we find ourselves in a situation where the financial burden of GE contamination will fall  on family farmers who have not asked for or contributed to the growth of GE crops. Family farmers will face contamination of their crops by GE seed which will threaten their ability to sell crops as organically  certified or into the rapidly growing 'Buy Local' market where consumers have overwhelmingly declared they do not want any GE crops, and then family farmers may be faced by a lawsuit by Monsanto for patent infringement. We take this action to protect family farms who once again have to bear the consequences of irresponsible actions by Monsanto."
David L. Rogers, Policy Advisor for plaintiff NOFA Vermont (Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont) said, "Vermont's farmers have worked hard to meet consumers' growing demand for certified organic and non-GE food. It is of great concern to them  that Monsanto's continuing and irresponsible marketing of GE crops that contaminate non-GE plantings will increasingly place their local and regional markets at risk and threaten their livelihoods." 
Dewane Morgan of plaintiff Midheaven Farms in Park Rapids, Minnesota, said, "For organic certification, farmers are required to have a buffer zone around their perimeter fields. Crops harvested from this buffer  zone are not eligible for certification due to potential drift from herbicide and fungicide drift. Buffer zones are useless against pollen drift. Organic, biodynamic, and conventional farmers who grow identity-preserved soybeans, wheat and open-pollinated corn often save seed for replanting the next year. It is illogical that these farmers are liable for cross-pollination contamination."   
Jill Davies, Director of plaintiff Sustainable Living Systems (SLS)in Victor, Montana, said, "The building blocks of life are sacred and should be in the public domain. If scientists want to study and manipulate them for  some supposed common good, fine. Then we must remove the profit motive. The private profit motive corrupts pure science and increasingly precludes democratic participation."    
David Murphy, founder and Executive Director of plaintiff Food Democracy Now! said, "None of Monsanto's original promises regarding genetically modified seeds have come true after 15 years of wide adoption by commodity farmers. Rather than increased yields or less chemical usage, farmers are facing more crop diseases, an onslaught of herbicide-resistant superweeds, and increased costs from additional  herbicide application. Even more appalling is the fact that Monsanto's patented genes can blow onto another farmer's fields and that farmer not only loses significant revenue in the market but is frequently exposed to legal action against them by Monsanto's team of belligerent lawyers. Crop biotechnology has been a miserable failure economically and biologically and now threatens to undermine the basic freedoms that farmers and consumers have enjoyed in our constitutional democracy."
Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst for plaintiff The Cornucopia Institute said, "Family-scale farmers desperately need the judiciary branch of our government to balance the power Monsanto is able to wield  in the marketplace and in the courts. Monsanto, and the biotechnology industry, have made great investments in our executive and legislative branches through campaign contributions and powerful lobbyists in Washington. We need to court system to offset this power and protect individual farmers from corporate tyranny. Farmers have saved seeds since the beginning of agriculture by our species. It is outrageous that one corporate entity, through the trespass of what they refer to as their 'technology,' can intimidate and run roughshod over family farmers in this country. It should be the responsibility of Monsanto, and farmers licensing their technology, to ensure that genetically engineered DNA does not trespass onto neighboring farmland. It is outrageous, that through no fault of their own, farmers are being  intimidated into not saving seed for fear that they will be doggedly pursued through the court system and potentially bankrupted." 
Daniel B. Ravicher, Executive Director  
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law 
Phone:  (212) 545-5337       


Watch this two minute video, Double Dipping Danger, produced by Alex Bogusky, and then read about new evidence below showing even more harm from genetically modified foods. Click HERE to play.

Dangerous Toxins From Genetically Modified Plants Found in Women and Fetuses
by Jeffrey M. Smith
When U.S. regulators approved Monsanto's genetically modified "Bt" corn, they knew it would add a deadly poison into our food supply. That's what it was designed to do. The corn's DNA is equipped with a gene from soil bacteria called Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) that produces the Bt-toxin. It's a pesticide; it breaks open the stomach of certain insects and kills them.
But Monsanto and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) swore up and down that it was only insects that would be hurt. The Bt-toxin, they claimed, would be completely destroyed in the human digestive system and not have any impact on all of us trusting corn-eating consumers.
Oops. A study just proved them wrong.
Doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec found the corn's Bt-toxin in the blood of pregnant women and their babies, as well as in non-pregnant women. (Specifically, the toxin was identified in 93% of 30 pregnant women, 80% of umbilical blood in their babies, and 67% of 39 non-pregnant women.) The study has been accepted for publication in the peer reviewed journal Reproductive Toxicology.
According to the UK Daily Mail, this study, which "appears to blow a hole in" safety claims, "has triggered calls for a ban on imports and a total overhaul of the safety regime for genetically modified (GM) crops and food." Organizations from England to New Zealand are now calling for investigations and for GM crops to be halted due to the serious implications of this finding.
Links to allergies, auto-immune disease, and other disorders
There's already plenty of evidence that the Bt-toxin produced in GM corn and cotton plants is toxic to humans and mammals and triggers immune system responses. The fact that it flows through our blood supply, and that is passes through the placenta into fetuses, may help explain the rise in many disorders in the US since Bt crop varieties were first introduced in 1996.
In government-sponsored research in Italy, mice fed Monsanto's Bt corn showed a wide range of immune responses. Their elevated IgE and IgG antibodies, for example, are typically associated with allergies and infections. The mice had an increase in cytokines, which are associated with "allergic and inflammatory responses." The specific cytokines (interleukins) that were elevated are also higher in humans who suffer from a wide range of disorders, from arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, to MS and cancer (see chart).
Elevated interleukins Associations
IL-6 Rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, various types of cancer (multiple myeloma and prostate cancer)
IL-13 Allergy, allergic rhinitis, ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease)
MIP-1b Autoimmune disease and colitis.
IL-12p70 Inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis
The young mice in the study also had elevated T cells (gamma delta), which are increased in people with asthma, and in children with food allergies, juvenile arthritis, and connective tissue diseases. The Bt corn that was fed to these mice, MON 810, produced the same Bt-toxin that was found in the blood of women and fetuses.
When rats were fed another of Monsanto's Bt corn varieties called MON 863, their immune systems were also activated, showing higher numbers of basophils, lymphocytes, and white blood cells. These can indicate possible allergies, infections, toxins, and various disease states including cancer. There were also signs of toxicity in the liver and kidneys.
Natural Bt is dangerous
Farmers have used Bt-toxin from soil bacteria as a natural pesticide for years. But they spray it on plants, where it washes off and biodegrades in sunlight. The GM version is built-in; every plant cell has its own spray bottle. The toxin doesn't wash off; it's consumed. Furthermore, the plant-produced version of the poison is thousands of times more concentrated than the spray; is designed to be even more toxic; and has properties of known allergens—it actually fails the World Health Organization's allergen screening tests.
The biotech companies ignore the substantial difference between the GM toxin and the natural bacteria version, and boldly claim that since the natural spray has a history of safe use in agriculture, it's therefore OK to put the poison directly into our food. But even this claim of safe use of Bt spray ignores peer-reviewed studies showing just the opposite.
When natural Bt-toxin was fed to mice, they had tissue damage, immune responses as powerful as cholera toxin, and even started reacting to other foods that were formerly harmless. Farm workers exposed to Bt also showed immune responses. The EPA's own expert Scientific Advisory Panel said that these mouse and farm worker studies "suggest that Bt proteins could act as antigenic and allergenic sources."But the EPA ignored the warnings. They also overlooked studies showing that about 500 people in Washington state and Vancouver showed allergic and flu-like symptoms when they were exposed to the spray when it was used to kill gypsy moths.
Bt cotton linked to human allergies, animal deaths
Indian farm workers are suffering from rashes and itching and other symptoms after coming into contact with Bt cotton.
Now thousands of Indian farm laborers are suffering from the same allergic and flu-like symptoms as those in the Pacific Northwest simply from handling genetically engineered cotton plants that produce Bt-toxin. According to reports and records from doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies, as well as numerous investigative reports and case studies, workers are struggling with constant itching and rashes; some take antihistamines every day in order to go to work.
It gets worse.
All thirteen buffalo of a small Indian village died after grazing for a single day on Bt cotton plants.
When they allow livestock to graze on the Bt cotton plants after harvest, thousands of sheep, goats, and buffalo died. Numerous others got sick. I visited one village where for seven to eight years they allowed their buffalo to graze on natural cotton plants without incident. But on January 3rd, 2008, they allowed their 13 buffalo to graze on Bt cotton plants for the first time. After just one day's exposure, all died. The village also lost 26 goats and sheep.
One small study in Andhra Pradesh reported that all six sheep that grazed on Bt cotton plants died within a month, while the three controls fed natural cotton plants showed no adverse symptoms.
Living pesticide factories inside us?
Getting back to the Bt-toxin now circulating in the blood of North American adults and newborns—how did it get there? The study authors speculate that it was consumed in the normal diet of the Canadian middle class. They even suggest that the toxin may have come from eating meat from animals fed Bt corn—as most livestock are.
I'd like to speculate on another possible source. But I warn you, it's not pretty.
The only human feeding study every published on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) was conducted on Roundup Ready soybeans. Here's their back story: Scientists found bacteria growing in a chemical waste dump near their factory, surviving the presence of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. The herbicide normally kills bacteria, but this organism had some special gene that allowed it to survive. So Monsanto scientists figured, "Let's put it into the food supply!"
By forcing that genes from that bacterium into soybean plants' DNA, the plants then survive an otherwise deadly dose of Roundup herbicide—hence the name Roundup Ready.
In the human study, some of the subjects were found to have Roundup Ready gut bacteria! This means that sometime in the past, from eating one or more meals of GM soybeans, the gene that had been discovered in the chemical waste dump and forced into the soy, had transferred into the DNA of bacteria living inside their intestines—and continued to function. That means that long after we stop eating GMOs, we may still have dangerous GM proteins produced continuously inside of us.
When the results of the study emerged, the funding from the pro-GMO UK government mysteriously dried up, so they were not able to see if the same type of gene transfer happens with Bt genes from, say, corn chips. If it does, it means that eating Bt corn might turn our intestinal flora into living pesticide factories—continually manufacturing Bt-toxin from within our digestive systems.
I don't know of a test that can confirm that this is happening, but the Canada study may be showing the results—where Bt-toxins are found in the blood of a very high percentage of people.
If the "living pesticide factory" hypothesis is correct, we might speculate even further. Bt-toxin breaks open the stomach of insects. Could it similarly be damaging the integrity of our digestive tracts? The biotech companies insist that Bt-toxin doesn't bind or interact with the intestinal walls of mammals, and therefore humans. But here too they ignore peer-reviewed published evidence showing that Bt-toxin does bind with mouse small intestines and with intestinal tissue from rhesus monkeys. In the former study, they even found "changes in the electrophysiological properties" of the organ after the Bt-toxin came into contact.
If Bt-toxins were causing leaky gut syndrome in newborns, the passage of undigested foods and toxins into the blood from the intestines could be devastating. Scientists speculate that it may lead to autoimmune diseases and food allergies. Furthermore, since the blood-brain barrier is not developed in newborns, toxins may enter the brain causing serious cognitive problems. Some healthcare practitioners and scientists are convinced that this is the apparent mechanism for autism.
Thus, if Bt genes were colonizing the bacteria living in the digestive tract of North Americans, we might see an increase in gastrointestinal problems, autoimmune diseases, food allergies, and childhood learning disorders—since 1996 when Bt crops came on the market. Physicians have told me that they indeed are seeing such an increase.
The discovery of Bt-toxin in our blood does not confirm all this speculation, but it does provide food for thought. And hopefully, that food is non-GMO.
Our Institute for Responsible Technology joins other organizations worldwide calling for an immediate ban on GM food crops, and the commencement of rigorous independent scientific research on the safety of GMOs in general, and Bt-toxin in particular.

Action Alert: While we work for a ban on GMOs, in the mean time click here to sign a petition for President Obama to require labeling.

Jeffrey M. Smith is the Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, author of the #1 international bestselling book on GMOs, Seeds of Deception, and of Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods. To avoid GMOs, which is the advice of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, visit

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Europe Sowing the Seeds of Hunger

by Stephen Leahy
LEIPZIG, Germany - Europe is facing a hungry future unless it changes agricultural policies and makes farmers the main participants in agriculture research, a new report has found. And there is little hope of meeting Europe's recently announced goal of reducing the loss of biodiversity in ten years without making those changes.

"The kind of farming that makes most money in the shortest time is absolutely at odds with the kind of farming that could feed us, and that could continue to feed us," writes biologist and author Colin Tudge. (photo via Flickr user Andrew Stawarz) France is suffering a severe drought but Europe's seed laws prevent farmers from using a wider variety of seeds that could help them cope, says Michel Pimbert of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), non-profit research institute based in London.
"Our seed laws enforce uniformity. France can only plant approved seeds and those new varieties need a lot of water," Pimbert, the author of the report told IPS.
"Farmers’ freedom to choose the seeds they plant and to use them to develop improved crop varieties and biodiversity-rich farming will be key to Europe’s response to climate change," says Pimbert.
"Europe’s agriculture policies are preventing us from adapting to climate change. They are also bad for biodiversity since they force farmers to use an increasingly narrow range of seeds and animal breeds," he says.
Farmers are handcuffed by a system of seed laws that enforce uniformity and protect patents and intellectual property. In practice this means only the most advanced varieties can be sold on the market. But under intellectual property laws this means farmers must pay for the right to use patented genes and proprietary technologies, mostly owned by large corporations.
Scientists are in the same trap and unable to utilise the full range of seed diversity, says Pimbert.
The net result is dramatic reduction in genetic diversity across a wide variety of crops, finds the Farm Seed Opportunities report released earlier this month. The report is based on findings of the EU-funded Farm Seed Opportunities project which includes public-sector research institutes, peasant networks and organic farmers’ associations from six European countries.
Experts agree that diversity can build resilience in a food production system that will be hard hit by climate change. A diverse combination of plants, trees and animals doubled the yields in 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa in the last ten years according to a recent report by Olivier De Schutter, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to food. De Schutter calls this form of agriculture ‘agroecology’. Not only does agroecology produce more food at lower cost, it improves the health of the soil and also dramatically lowers farming's carbon footprint.
"It is fair to say that between 45 and 50 percent of all human emissions of global warming gases come from the current form of food production," De Shutter said in a previous IPS interview.
The current global food production system is "threatening to kill us all," writes biologist and author Colin Tudge, in the report’s foreword. "The kind of farming that makes most money in the shortest time is absolutely at odds with the kind of farming that could feed us, and that could continue to feed us," Tudge writes.
Agroecological farming works the way nature works, with a wide variety of living things acting synergistically. There is much evidence demonstrating that such methods produce more food and are more sustainable, he says.
Europe's Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) is a success but only in terms of making money for large agri-business corporations and producing large quantities of food at the cost of enormous carbon emissions, pollution, degradation of farmland, dramatic cuts in the numbers of farmers and dumping cheap food onto poor countries, undercutting their farmers says Pimbert. The average age of a farmer in the UK is over 60. "There is a fraction of the number of farmers in western Europe, they all been replaced by machines and captial."
The Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) is the European Union’s system of agricultural subsidies and programmes and is to be reformed in 2013. Currently the CAP is driven by neo-liberal economic policies and that has been a failure, says Carlo Petrini, president of Slow Food International.
"Every community should have the right to choose what to produce without being subjected to external influences dictated by international markets," Petrini said in a statement.
Strengthening support for local farmers must be part of the new CAP, says José Bové, French farmer, activist and vice-president of the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. "If rural communities do not have the chance to take hold of their destiny, then the situation cannot improve," Bové said in a statement.
The new CAP needs to shift research and policy priorities from a near exclusive focus on monocultures to whole farm agroecological approaches and to safeguard the biological diversity upon which our food supplies depend, says Pimbert. "Scientists are not trained to deal with complex systems, so that's a challenge." Farmers also need to be central in that effort with the freedom to exchange seeds and utilise diversity he says.
As it stands today Europe is ill-prepared to cope with climate change. "So far we've been buffered from significant impacts but what is coming is beyond our experience," concludes Pimbert.


A Turning-Point We Miss at Our Peril

We have the choice of burning all the oil left and hacking down all the remaining rainforests - or saving humanity

Sometimes, there are hinge-points in human history – moments when we have to choose between an exuberant descent into lunacy, and a still, sober voice offering us a sane way out. Usually, we can only see them when we look back from a distance. In 1793, the great democrat Thomas Paine said the French Revolution shouldn't betray its principles by killing the King, because it would trigger an orgy of blood-letting that would eventually drown them all. They threw him in jail. In 1919, the great economist John Maynard Keynes said the European powers shouldn't humiliate Germany, because it would catalyse extreme nationalism and produce another world war. They ignored him. In 1953, a handful of US President Dwight Eisenhower's advisers urged him not to destroy Iranian democracy and kidnap its Prime Minister, because it would have a reactionary ripple effect that lasted decades. He refused to listen.

Another of those seemingly small moments with a long echo is happening now. A marginalised voice is offering us a warning, and an inspiring way to save ourselves – yet this alternative seems to be passing unheard in the night. It is coming from the people of Ecuador, led by their President, Rafael Correa, and it would begin to deal with two converging crises.

In the four billion years since life on Earth began, there have been five times when there was a sudden mass extinction of life-forms. The last time was 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs were killed, probably by a meteor. But now the world's scientists agree that the sixth mass extinction is at hand. Humans have accelerated the rate of species extinction by a factor of at least 100, and the great Harvard biologist EO Wilson warns that it could reach a factor of 10,000 within the next 20 years. We are doing this largely by stripping species of their habitats. We are destroying the planet's biodiversity, and so we are making the natural chains that keep us alive much more vulnerable to collapse. This time, we are the meteor.

At the same time, we are dramatically warming the atmosphere. I know it has become terribly passé to listen to virtually all the world's scientists, but I remember the collapsing glaciers I saw in the Arctic, the drying-out I saw in Darfur, and the rising salt water I saw in Bangladesh. 2010 was the joint-hottest year ever recorded, according to Nasa. The best scientific prediction is that we are now on course for a 3ft rise in global sea levels this century. That means goodbye London, Cairo, Bangkok, Venice and Shanghai. Doubt it if you want, but the US National Academy of Sciences – the most distinguished scientific body in the world – just found that 97 per cent of scientific experts agree with the evidence.

So where does Ecuador come in? At the tip of this South American country there lies 4,000 lush square miles of rainforest where the Amazon basin, the Andes mountains and the equator come together. It is the most biodiverse place on Earth. When scientists studied a single hectare of it, they found it had more different species of tree than the whole of North America put together. It holds the world records for different species of amphibians, reptiles and bats. And – more important still – this rainforest is a crucial part of the planet's lungs, inhaling huge amounts of heat-trapping gases and keeping them out of the atmosphere.

Yet almost all the pressure from the outside world today is to saw it down. Why? Because underneath that rainforest there are almost a billion barrels of untapped oil, containing 400 million tones of planet-cooking gases. We crave it. We howl for it. Unlike biodiversity and a safe climate, it's tradable for cash.

Here is a textbook example of what is driving both the sixth great extinction and global warming. We have been putting short-term profits for a few ahead of the long-term needs of our species. Every rainforest on Earth is being reduced to the money that can be stripped from it: yesterday, Brazil's Chamber of Deputies voted to slash the amount of the Amazon that must be preserved by landowners. Except this time, for the first time, the people of Ecuador have offered us an alternative – a way to break this pattern. Alberto Acosta, the former energy minister who drew up the plan, calls it a punto de ruptura – a turning point, one that "questions the logic of extractive development" that drilled us into this species-swallowing hole.

Here's the offer. The oil beneath the rainforest is worth about $7bn. Everybody knows that a stable climate, biodiversity and functioning lungs are worth far more than that. But until now, nobody has been willing to pay. Ecuador's democratic government says that, if the rest of the world offers just half of what the oil is worth – $3.5bn – they will keep the rainforest standing and alive and working for us all. In a country where 38 per cent live in poverty and 13 per cent are on the brink of starvation, it's an incredibly generous offer, and one that is popular in the rainforest itself. As one of its residents, Julia Cerda, 45, told New Internationalist magazine: "With oil, the government just sells it to richer countries and we're left with nothing, no birds or animals or trees."

No country with oil has ever considered leaving it in the ground because the consequences of digging it up are too disastrous. This is a startling attempt to reverse one of the greatest dysfunctions in the global economic system. The market considers things like species diversity, the climate, and the rainforests to be "externalities" – factors not affected by the price and profit mechanisms, so irrelevant, and dispensable. It's a system that, as Oscar Wilde put it, "knows the price of everything and the value of nothing". The people of Ecuador are trying to find a way to get us to see the value of some of the most important things on Earth.

They first made this offer in 2006. So how has the world responded? Chile has offered $100,000. Spain has offered $1.4m. Germany initially offered $50m, then pulled out. Now President Correa is warning that they can't wait forever in a country where 13 per cent are close to starving. If they don't have $100m in the pot by the end of this year, he says, they will have no choice but to pursue Plan B – the digging and destruction of the rainforest.

If one rainforest seems a small matter to you, remember that the head of one deposed French king, the punishment of one broken country and the deposing of one Iranian prime minister seemed fairly minor once.

This, too, could be a moment where history branches into two directions. On the path to the right, we turn down the chance to restrain ourselves, and decide with a shrug to burn all the oil left in the world's soils, and hack down all the remaining rainforests. Professor James Hansen, the Nasa climatologist, explains where this ends: "We would set the planet on a course to the ice-free state, with a sea level 75 metres higher. Coastal disasters would occur continually. The only uncertainty is the time it would take for complete ice sheet disintegration."

But there is another path, where we choose to protect humanity's habitat – and are prepared to pay for it. If our governments won't accept this offer, at this late moment in these ecological crises, what are they saying about themselves – and about us?

Johann Hari is a columnist for the London Independent. He has reported from Iraq, Israel/Palestine, the Congo, the Central African Republic, Venezuela, Peru and the US, and his journalism has appeared in publications all over the world.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


House Subcommittee Budget Bill Would Hurt Consumers, Producers 

Statement from Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch

WASHINGTON - May 25, 2011 - “Yesterday the House Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies approved a budget bill for FY 2012 that undermines the federal government’s ability to protect consumers from unsafe food. It would keep independent farmers and ranchers under the thumb of corporate meatpackers, and would fail to protect hungry people around the world from Wall Street speculation that puts food out of reach for millions.
“The cuts made by the House subcommittee are not about balancing the budget. They are ideological attacks on the ability of government agencies to do their jobs. Slashing the budgets of the agencies responsible for keeping our food supply clean, safe and accessible is short-sighted and irresponsible. The rest of the House and the Senate should reject the cuts to these vital programs laid out in the subcommittee’s bill to make sure the budget bolsters our ability to provide Americans with a food system that is safe for consumers and fair to producers.”
Food Safety:
“The subcommittee bill cuts U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service by 3.6 percent from the current budget. While making this cut, the subcommittee managed to promote two programs that are detrimental to the function of FSIS’ meat and poultry inspection program. The subcommittee maintained funding for a new computer system, the Public Health Inspection System, which is proving to be unworkable in the field. It also expands a controversial pilot program called the HACCP-based Inspection Models Pilot program in poultry plants, This is a blatant attempt to reduce the number of FSIS inspectors by allowing more industry self-inspection.
The Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition budget was cut by 4.5 percent from this year’s budget. This will make it difficult for the agency to meet the new implementation and inspection duties it has under the newly passed FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.”
Livestock Marketing:
“The bill passed by the subcommittee would prevent USDA from finalizing much-anticipated livestock marketing rules that would protect farmers from abusive practices by big meatpackers and poultry companies and help ensure there are fair markets for farmers to sell their hogs and cattle. These rules are long overdue — USDA proposed the rule last June to implement provisions of the three year old farm bill to provide necessary guidance to enforce the nearly century-old Packers & Stockyards Act. Now the Republican House is trying to sabotage these rules just like they sidelined mandatory country of origin labeling, which was delayed six years through similar appropriations shenanigans.”
Commodity Speculation:
“The bill does not provide necessary funding for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to police the excessive speculation on the commodity markets that is driving up gas and food prices. Without additional funding, the CFTC cannot develop, implement and enforce necessary rules called for by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law to prevent future economic meltdowns to protect consumers, farmers and investors.”
Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink. 
CONTACT: Food & Water Watch
Darcey Rakestraw, 202-683-2467; drakestraw(at)


USDA Urged to Prohibit Antibiotic-Resistant Salmonella in Ground Meat and Poultry

Dangerous Strains Make Foodborne Illnesses Harder to Treat, Says CSPI

WASHINGTON - May 25 - Ground meat and poultry found to contain antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella should be recalled from the marketplace or withheld from commerce, according to a regulatory petition filed today by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The nonprofit food safety watchdog group wants the U.S. Department of Agriculture to declare four such Salmonella strains as “adulterants” under federal law, making products that contain them illegal to sell.
CSPI is also urging testing for antibiotic-resistant Salmonella in ground meat and poultry, citing a number of major outbreaks of foodborne illnesses linked to the four strains. Those illnesses are harder for physicians to treat, resulting in longer hospitalizations and increased mortality, according to the group.
“The only thing worse than getting sick from food is being told that no drugs exist to treat your illness,” said CSPI food safety staff attorney Sarah Klein. “And that’s what more consumers will hear if these drug-resistant pathogens keep getting into our meat.”
USDA already recalls products contaminated with antibiotic-resistant Salmonella—but only after those products have made people sick, according to CSPI. The group’s petition asks the agency to establish a testing regime for these pathogens in ground meat and poultry in the same way that it has for E. coli O157:H7. USDA declared that particularly dangerous strain of E. coli an adulterant in 1994.
“USDA should take action before people get sick, and require controls and testing for these pathogens before they reach consumers,” said CSPI food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal. “The research shows that antibiotic-resistant Salmonella in ground meat and poultry is a hazard and its time to move to a more preventive system of controlling the risks at the plant and on the farm.”
The four Salmonella strains covered by the petition, Salmonella Heidelberg, Salmonella Newport, Salmonella Hadar, and Salmonella Typhimurium, have all been linked to outbreaks.
In 2009, an outbreak of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Newport linked to Cargill beef resulted in at least 40 illnesses in four states. And this year, the USDA oversaw a recall of frozen turkey burgers contaminated with antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Hadar. That outbreak sickened at least 12. But because foodborne illness is dramatically underreported the true number of illnesses is likely much higher.
“Physicians and patients are now facing pathogens that are virtually untreatable,” said Dr. Stephen A. Lerner, a professor of medicine specializing in infectious disease at Wayne State University School of Medicine. “This petition would reduce human exposure to some dangerous drug-resistant Salmonella, which is crucial because our critically-important antibiotics are losing effectiveness and they aren’t being replaced by new ones. We must do all that we can to reduce antibiotic-resistant infections from food.”
The danger of antibiotic-resistant pathogens in the food supply is well-documented and has been recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and by USDA itself. Those agencies are working together to address the issue and recently produced a document stating that “drug resistant pathogens are a growing menace to all people,” and that “drug resistance threatens to reverse the medical advances of the last half century.”
Antibiotic resistance is an inevitable consequence of antibiotic overuse, according to CSPI. Most antibiotics used on animal farms are not used to treat disease, but to promote growth or to prevent diseases caused by overcrowding, poor hygiene, and other problems.
CSPI has long urged the FDA to stop the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics. In fact, CSPI is a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit filed today by the Natural Resources Defense Council aimed at compelling the FDA to withdraw its approval for most non-therapeutic uses of two important antibiotics, penicillin and tetracyclines, in animal feed.
Improving conditions on factory farms, thereby reducing both the need for antibiotic use and the resulting resistance, is a primary tenet of Food Day—a new grassroots mobilization CSPI is planning for October 24. Reducing overcrowding in hen houses and concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, could lead to more judicious use of antibiotics and would be beneficial for animal and human health, according to the group.
Since 1971, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has been a strong advocate for nutrition and health, food safety, alcohol policy, and sound science.


Franklin Township Rejects United Water Privatization Proposal

Statement from Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch

WASHINGTON - May 25, 2011 - “We applaud Franklin Township for unanimously rejecting a risky privatization deal that would have handed over the operation, maintenance and management of the publicly owned water system to United Water, a wholly owned subsidiary of the French company Suez Environnement. This victory for public water comes almost a year after residents in Trenton, NJ voted 5 to 1 to reject the privatization of their publicly owned water system.
“Prior to the council vote, members of the council cited concerns that the privatization was not in the financial interest of the community, a claim that bears out in water privatizations across the country. Council members also cited the role that Food & Water Watch played in their decision making process; some noting the presence of volunteers petitioning around Franklin Township to educate the public about the deal and build opposition to the proposal.
“In a clear display of public opposition, over 500 residents signed a petition, circulated by our volunteers, rejecting the concept of water privatization and demanding that the township maintain local control of this essential resource. Earlier this year at a public hearing on the proposed privatization deal, 100% of Franklin residents who spoke at the hearing were against it.
“Communities across the country can learn from the example set by Franklin Township’s council who carefully evaluated the privatization deal with public input, concluding that water privatization does not make sense.”
CONTACT: Food & Water Watch
Darcey Rakestraw, Food & Water Watch: (202) 683-2500, drakestraw(at)fwwatch(dot)org
Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.


Administration Releases Long Overdue Pesticide Data

USDA updates test results without industry spin 

WASHINGTON - May 25, 2011- The U.S. Department of Agriculture ignored the intense pressure from the produce and pesticide industry and released its extensive annual analysis of pesticide residues on fresh fruits and vegetables this week without downplaying any of the findings. The release of the data comes after leading scientists and over 50,000 EWG supporters registered objections with USDA, Environmental Protection Agency, and Food and Drug Administration to the unusual delay in making the information public. In past years, the government made test results made public in January; this year they were four months overdue.
USDA has not explained why the data took longer than usual to be released this year. The data tables are presented in the same way as past years, but the new information does include for the first time a two-page document titled: What Consumers Should Know.
“We are gratified that the agency resisted an unprecedented lobbying campaign by the pesticide and produce industry to get the government to spin the test results and downplay consumer concerns about pesticide contamination. Now consumers can use the new data to make informed choices to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables while minimizing pesticide exposure,” said Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook.
The produce lobby spent the past year aggressively pressuring the administration to combat public unease about the widespread pesticide contamination of fruits and vegetables. Part of the industry’s campaign was funded by federal taxpayer dollars through a $180,000 grant awarded by the California Department of Agriculture to support the pesticide front group, Alliance for Food and Farming, which claims that misuse of the pesticide data is to blame for decreased consumption of fruits and vegetables. The organization has more than 50 members including the lobbying group United Fresh, which represents produce growers and the world’s biggest pesticide manufacturers.
EWG has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for all of USDA’s recent communications with produce and pesticide industry representatives to shed light on whether the taxpayer-funded AFF marketing grant has been improperly used to support its lobbying efforts.
“It is the first time we have seen the produce industry go to such great lengths to do the pesticide industry’s dirty work instead of listening to consumers’ concerns about pesticides,” said Cook. “Consumer surveys have long shown that Americans want fruits and vegetables without pesticides on them. But the produce industry has decided to join the pesticide lobby in a campaign to convince consumers they’re wrong—and use taxpayers’ money to do it.”
Scientific studies have shown that a number of pesticides can cause persistent problems in children's brain development. Three recent studies showed that children born to mothers with significant pesticide exposures had IQ deficits, including one study that found a seven-point drop.
EWG scientists will use the new data to update the annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides, which ranks produce according to the amount of residues each type carries in the USDA tests. The new guide will be published in the next few weeks and will include the latest test results.
The mission of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment. EWG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, founded in 1993 by Ken Cook and Richard Wiles. 
EWG Public Affairs: 202.667.6982.


Tell President Obama & Secretary Vilsack to halt the planting of Monsanto's GMO alfalfa.

  Earlier this year when the Obama administration approved Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GMO alfalfa for planting they set off a firestorm of criticism from farmers and citizens across the country. Many felt betrayed by the administration as the approval came despite the fact that more than 200,000 American farmers and citizens submitted public comments requesting that the U.S. government deny the approval and the fact that 93% of the alfalfa hay grown in the U.S. does not use any herbicides at all, making this Roundup Ready crop unnecessary to most farmers.
Subsequent to this decision, more information came to the attention of the public when it became known that internationally-recognized plant pathologist, Dr. Don Huber, had written a letter to Secretary Vilsack. Dr. Huber asked him to delay his decision on Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa and provide support for further scientific study in light of evidence that he and a team of other scientists had discovered a link between Roundup Ready crops, massive crop failures and spontaneous abortions and infertility in mammals.
When Dr. Huber sat down for a taped interview with Food Democracy Now! in March, he detailed his grave concerns about the discovery of an unidentified organism associated with these problems farmers were seeing in their fields and livestock herds. His question to Secretary Vilsack and the USDA was: "What's the urgency?" Why add to the problem by approving more Roundup Ready crops when we have serious problems needing further scientific research, he asked.
All Dr. Huber asked for was a little more time and some assistance from the federal authorities to help complete a number of the studies that were urgently needed to help protect farmers, their animals and the public.
Click on the link below to join Dr. Huber in the call to halt the further sale and planting of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GMO alfalfa until more independent science can be conducted.
Now, the first planting of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GMO alfalfa has been put in the ground across the country and conventional non-GMO and organic farmers face the real threat of genetic contamination and the major loss of economic income that those crops bring to their farms. Experts predict that in less than 5 years, there will be no organic or conventional alfalfa left in America.
Not heeding Dr. Huber's warning could spell disaster for organics, the economic well being of farmers and potentially the health of the American people.
Click on the link below to automatically add your name to the letter to tell President Obama and Secretary Vilsack -FORMER MONSANTO MAN- to halt the sale and planting of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GMO alfalfa until more independent science can be conducted.
Please join more than 40,000 Food Democracy Now! members who have already added their voice to this letter. If we can get 50,000 co-signers, we’ll fly out to DC ourselves and deliver the letter. We’ll show Secretary Vilsack photos of affected plants and livestock, and ask him directly how he can justify letting planting go ahead while these serious questions are unanswered. 
Please join us in telling the administration and the USDA to halt the sale and planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa immediately until independent scientific research can be completed. Let this administration know that we demand that they determine the safety of genetic engineering of our food before we eat it and feed it our families.
We are committed to this fight now, more than ever - please join us. Together, our voices will create the future we deserve.
Thank you for participating in food democracy-
Dave, Lisa and the Food Democracy Now! Team

HUGE VICTORY on the way to FOOD LABELING!! See Bills:

 Today, the Center for Food Safety (CFS)  (May 24, 2011) was informed by Assemblymember Huffman’s office that they have decided to hold AB 88—the California bill which would require that all genetically engineered (GE) fish sold in California contain clear and prominent labeling—as a 2-year bill. This means it will not be up for a second vote in the Appropriations Committee this week and will instead be held until next year when it will go through the committee process again. This will give CFS and other organizations working on the bill more time to educate California legislators about the importance of this bill and its role in protecting consumer’s right to know how they’re food is produced.
The California Assembly Health Committee passed the bill on May 3rd, 2011. CFS, a co-sponsor of the bill, testified before the Committee. Unfortunately, last week the bill didn’t get enough votes to pass in the Appropriations Committee, and was to be reconsidered this week. Instead of going to a vote this week, the bill will be held until next year.
While we were hopeful that the bill would pass this year, we will still have a good shot at it again next January and we’re optimistic the bill will reach the Governor’s desk next year.
Thank you all for your tremendous support for this bill! Though the bill fell short in Appropriations Committee votes, there was strong support from several Assemblymembers. The bill’s failure in Committee came despite clear consumer demand for labeling of GE fish, as indicated by Assemblymember Gatto’s comments in moving the bill in Appropriations, stating that he had received “hundreds” of “passionate” letters from his constituents in support of the bill.
Had it not been for our True Food Network members emailing and calling Committee members, the bill would not have received the support it did. Thank you! 
For more information on GE fish, visit CFS’s campaign website
For information on federal bills:
The U.S. Senate: S. 230 (ban) and S. 229 (mandatory label)
The U.S. House: H.R. 521 (ban) and H.R. 520 (mandatory labeling)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Glencore’s Economics Lessons

By Raj on 05/5/2011 in Uncategorized,    
Reposted from The Guardian.
What does it take to make the food speculators at Goldman Sachs look like they’re playing for lunch money? A secretive Swiss-based company, and one of the world’s largest commodity trading firms, knows. With its initial public offering announced on Thursday, Glencore – a multibillion-dollar mining, energy and food trader that will soon list in London and Hong Kong – is the envy of Wall Street. 
When Goldman Sachs was floated, the then CEO Hank Paulson made off with $219m. Glencore’s chief executive, Ivan Glasenberg, has already earned the moniker “The Ten Billion Dollar Man” for his share of the bonanza.
Glencore will be the first company in 25 years to make the FTSE 100 on its first day of trading, with an estimated valuation of about $60bn. The company has had an average return on equity of 38% (compared to Goldman Sachs’s 12%). Its base in the Swiss town of Baar has freed it of even the minimal regulation US-based companies entertain. Not by accident does Glencore find itself in Switzerland. Like the mining and oil trading company Trafigura, Glencore is a descendant of the Marc Rich group. Rich fled the US in 1983 after being indicted by a federal prosecutor, Rudolph Giuliani, for tax evasion and trading with Iran (though he was pardoned by Bill Clinton). As Marcia Vickers reported in a Businessweek exposé: “Rich’s philosophy is that no law applies to him.”
In exchange for going public and raising money for further acquisitions, Glencore will now have to submit to the bared gums of UK regulators – whose rules are far less onerous than their US counterparts. With the funds from its flotation, the company looks set to dominate the fields in which it chooses to operate. Although primarily a mining and energy company, it has substantial interests in food – controlling around a quarter of the global market for barley, sunflower and rape seed, and 10% of the world’s wheat market.
In the weeks before flotation, Glencore allowed us a glimpse of the kind of power it wields. Last year Russia, the world’s third largest wheat exporter, experienced a drought the like of which had never been recorded; fires damaged tens of thousands of acres of cereal.
Glencore has now revealed its traders placed bets that the price of wheat would go up. On 2 August Glencore’s head of Russian grain trading called on Russia’s government to ban wheat exports. Three days later, that’s what it did. The price of wheat went up by 15% in two days. Of course, just because a senior executive at one of the world’s most powerful companies suggested a course of action that a country chose to follow doesn’t mean Glencore made it happen. But happen it did, and the consequences rippled round the world.
At the time, Mozambique experienced a massive uprising in response to increased food and fuel prices. Protests were organised via text messages and, in actions that foreshadowed those of governments in the Arab spring, the Mozambican state responded by shutting down text capability for pre-paid phones and sweeping up hundreds of protesters. Over a dozen people died, many were injured, and millions of dollars of damage was caused. It’s safe to say that tens of thousands were pushed further towards hunger as a result of the higher wheat prices.
According to the Financial Times, Glencore’s speculation didn’t necessarily bring riches to the company. Although the bets on the future price of wheat paid off, Glencore is so big that other parts of the company were tripped up. Its wheat customers in the Middle East had contracts that needed to be fulfilled, and the company was left scrambling after its Russian supplies were walled away.
But Glencore itself admits to prodding the boundaries of how markets ought to work – its flotation prospectus reveals that its Belgian agricultural subsidiary is embroiled in charges of corruption, allegedly involving inside information on European export subsidies.
This story may help economists who are having a hard time understanding how speculation works. In its recent thoughts on the global food market, the Economist defended speculators because “trading cannot drive prices up in the long term since for every buy, there is a sell”. By definition, for every smart or lucky trader who comes out with a yacht, some other trader loses their shirt. It’s all very nicely confined to the paddling pool of the futures exchange, and the yellow water needn’t taint the rest of the market, where the real demand is.
While the economic world ought to work this way in theory, it doesn’t in practice. Goldman Sachs has an investment structure that is only about buying food futures. Despite what the theorists say, speculators have profited from hunger. And there’s now mounting evidence from some economists that the rush of money into commodity funds is indeed driving prices higher.
But even these kinds of analysis assume that there are rational moves made by actors within the market’s confines. When financial powerhouses like Glencore are able to control and engineer the terms on which they are governed, economics has painfully little to say. Rather than being “price takers”, today’s financial behemoths are price makers. To understand the power at play, we’re better served by the insight of the French historian Fernand Braudel – that capitalism is, at its pinnacle, not about the facilitation of free exchange, but about its destruction.


FDA Acts on Food Safety Bill

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued the first new rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), meeting the initial deadlines imposed by the Act. 
The first rule addresses prior notice of food shipments imported from other countries. Under current law, anyone who is importing food that is subject to FDA's jurisdiction (i.e. anything except meat, poultry, or egg products) must submit prior notification to the FDA [See 21 C.F.R. § 1.278-1.279]. The FSMA added the new requirement that such notice include "any country to which the article has been refused entry" [FSMA Sec. 304]. The FDA's new rule amends the regulations accordingly.
The second rule addresses the standard for FDA to administratively detain food. Administrative detention is a limited enforcement power -- the agency can detain an article of food for no more than 30 days [See 21 C.F.R. § 1.379]. The purpose of the detention is to keep the food out of commerce while the FDA institutes a seizure or injunction action. 
The FSMA lowered the standard necessary for FDA to administratively detain food, from "credible evidence" that the food "presents a threat of serious adverse health consequences of death" to "reason to believe" that the food is "adulterated or misbranded." The FDA's recent interim rule incorporates the new, lower standard.
We strongly disagree with the lowering of the standard. The practical impact of the change, however, is unclear.In the preamble to the new rule, FDA notes that, while it was given authority to administratively detain food in 2002, it has never used that authority, but instead has relied on the other enforcement tools in its arsenal [76 Fed. Reg. 25538, 25540]. But the agency also noted that, with the lower standard, it is "more likely to use administrative detention" when the food "may cause temporary or medically reversible adverse health consequences" [76 Fed. Reg. 25540]. So the FDA may begin using administrative detention, but the majority of its actions are still likely to be through other methods:  immediate seizure, recalls, or by referral to State authorities (which is frequently how it attacks raw milk and raw milk cheese producers).
Both rules were issued as "interim final rules," which means that they take effect in a very short period of time. The public can submit comments on the rules, but since they both track the language of the statute precisely, there is very little chance of the agency making any changes.
It will be much more important to mobilize comments from the public when the FDA proposes rules to implement the HACCP and produce safety standard provisions of FMSA. So stay tuned for future updates and alerts.