Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Get Trained to Gather Signatures

November 22, 2011

Join the Campaign for GMO Labeling

Last week we wrote to tell you the great news about the filing of our coalition's "Right to Know" initiative, which will require labeling of GMO ingredients in food. Over 1500 of you have enlisted in this historic battle by volunteering to collect signatures. That's a great start and we're confident that we can get this on the ballot but our strategists calculate that we need 8,000 volunteers in order to reach our goal of 850,000 signatures by April. If you haven't yet, please send us an email with the following information:
Full Name:
Mailing Address:
Zip Code:
Phone Number:
Email Address:
A local leader from your area will contact you by phone with all the information you will need to attend a signature gathering activist training session.

Upcoming Events

Attend a Signature Gathering Training in Your City

Trainings are lead by ballot initiative signature gathering guru Ken Masterton who has succeeded in getting every initiative he's worked with on the ballot. Come to learn, ask questions, and meet other volunteers. See you there!
Humboldt County
Thursday, December 1, 4pm- 5pm
Garberville Veterans Hall, Garberville, Ca
RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=175721885851596
Thursday, December 1, 7PM
Location TBA

Nevada City/Grass Valley

Saturday, Dec 3rd, 10:00 AM to Noon
RSVP to gvlabelgmo@gmail.com
Monday, December 5th, 7-8pm
6262 Patterson Pass Rd, Ste B, Livermore
Please feel free to contact Ashley with any questions at labelgmoslivermore@gmail.com
RSVP: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=196152967129707
Wednesday Dec 7th , 6:45-8PM
Fairfax Library
2097 Sir Francis Drake Blvd
Thursday, December 8, 7-8pm
Sacramento Grange Hall located at 3830 U St
Corte Madera
Saturday, Dec 17th, 10am - 11am
Sunrise Center
645 Tamalpais Drive, Suite A
To learn more about the initiative and the process, please visit the Organic Consumers Fund website.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Bottled Water Companies Target Minorities, Poor

by Elizabeth Whitman
NEW YORK - Water is the lifeblood of this planet, whose inhabitants are watching its accelerated spiral into crisis mode even as they struggle to address the issues and lifestyles that are stretching the earth's resources thin.
A 2008 investigation by the Environmental Working Group found bottled water to be "chemically indistinguishable from tap water". Outwardly, the global water crisis appears straightforward - people simply consume too much water. A key factor in this spiral is the fact that water has been morphing from a natural resource into a marketable - and costly - product, experts and reports have shown.
Exploring different aspects of the global water crisis, from privatization of water to corporations marketing to minorities, reveals that water - as a human right, as a product, as a natural resource - is firmly entangled with a host of issues in areas, including public health.
By 2025, 1.8 billion people will live in areas with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world's population - projected to reach eight billion by then - will be under stress conditions. Some 1.4 billion currently lack access to safe water.
Humans consume water at a rate more than twice that of population growth, according to the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In 60 percent of European cities with a population greater than 100,000, groundwater is used more quickly than it is replenished, said the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
Yet even though humans consume more water than is sustainable, some would say that people do not drink enough water, and when they do, they're often being tricked into doing so.
Water, the commodity
Early in November, the watchdog group Corporate Accountability International (CAI) accused the Swiss transnational Nestle of manipulative marketing.
"Pure Life marketing specifically targets Latino immigrants in the United States, many of whom have suffered the consequences of poor public water infrastructure in other parts of the world," said a fact sheet from CAI.
"For the past 30 years, bottled water corporations like Nestle, Pepsi and Coke have helped build a 15 billion dollar U.S. bottled water market by casting doubts on public drinking water systems," a CAI press release added.
An article published in Forbes Magazine in August also pointed out how corporations including Coca Cola, Las Oleadas and Ravinia Partners create brands that are Latino-specific, for instance, or target minority mothers.
It also noted how water companies' slogans often promise water that is utterly natural, pure or fresh. A label on an ordinary Poland Springs bottle, for instance, which is produced by a Nestle subsidiary, reads "Pure Quality" and "100 percent natural spring water" and features a picturesque mountain peak and in the background.
When asked whether Nestle does market specifically to minority communities, Jane Lazgin, director of corporate communications for Nestlé Waters North America, told IPS, "That's correct."
"Nestle Pure Life is a meaningful brand in the Hispanic population," she said, but added that it is "widely distributed across many, many different audiences".
Lazgin acknowledged that Nestle Pure Life water "comes from wells or municipal systems", but emphasized that it undergoes an "intensive purification process".
Still, a 2008 investigation by the Environmental Working Group found bottled water to be "chemically indistinguishable from tap water", the summary of the investigation said.
"But with promotional campaigns saturated with images of mountain springs, and prices 1,900 times the price of tap water, consumers are clearly led to believe that they are buying a product that has been purified to a level beyond the water that comes out of the garden hose," it added.
Water v. soda
Targeting minorities can be seen as exploitation - a recent study found that Latino and black parents are three times more like to choose bottled water over tap water for their children - but the situation is not so black and white.
Hispanic children, according to the New York Department of Health, are at a higher risk of obesity than other groups.
"Marketing for sugary drinks also may be targeted disproportionately more often to minority and low-income youth who consume more of these products and are at higher risk of obesity and related diseases," found a recent report by Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.
In addition, beverage companies spend 948 million dollars in advertising sugary drinks and energy drinks in 2010, according to the report. Coca Cola alone spent nearly 180 million.
By comparison, Nestle Pure Life spent 9.7 million dollars in advertising expenditures in 2009, according to a Food and Water Watch report.
No longer is the problem merely the fact that bottle water has become a commodity that is marketed to a targeted audience.
Water is inarguably a healthier alternative to soda, so perhaps marketing water, albeit bottled, to the very audiences who are at higher risk of obesity, for instance, serves as a meager counterbalance to companies selling sugary drinks, even if many believe water should not be sold as a commodity in the first place.


Green vegetables directly influence immune defences and help maintain intestinal health

13th October 2011

Marc Veldhoen
Leafy greens, widely recognised as containing essential ingredients for ensuring optimum health and wellbeing, have been shown to influence our intestinal health by delivering a protective factor to certain cells of the immune system. These findings, reported today online in the journal Cell, have implications for better understanding the basis of intestinal inflammatory disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and may offer new opportunities for therapeutic intervention.
The collaboration between UK-based researchers at the Babraham Institute, which receives strategic funding from the BBSRC, and the Medical Research Council’s National Institute for Medical Research provides new insight into how one chemical component found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, governs the survival of a special type of white blood cell, part of the body's front line defence against infections and important in wound repair.
The cells in question, known as intra-epithelial lymphocytes (IELs), exist as a network just beneath the epithelial cells that form the barrier along the body's surfaces.They play a critical role in monitoring the large number of sections micro-organisms present in the intestine, keeping infections at bay and maintaining a healthy gut. The research shows for the first time that mice fed a diet low in vegetables rapidly lose these specialised immune cells (IELs) lining the intestinal tract, but not other immune cells.
“This was surprising, since the new diet contained all other known essential ingredients such as minerals and vitamins,” said Dr Marc Veldhoen, senior author of the paper who conducted a large part of these studies in Dr Brigitta Stockinger’s department  at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research prior to taking up a position as Group Leader at the Babraham Institute. “I would have expected that cells at the surface would play some role in the interaction with the outside world, but such a clear cut interaction with the diet was unexpected. After feeding otherwise healthy mice a vegetable-poor diet for two to three weeks, I was amazed to see that 70 to 80% of these [protective] cells disappeared."
IELs are involved in maintaining the integrity of the intestinal surface by preventing bacteria from entering and by stimulating epithelial cell growth. Dr Veldhoen explained, “The consequences of losing these immune cells are two-fold. There is a failure to control the tightly regulated make-up of the intestinal bacteria, normally composed of beneficial species that aid digestive processes but which now contains more opportunistic, potentially harmful bacteria. It also results in a more fragile intestinal lining, elevating the risk of intestinal inflammation.”
The team discovered that a particular receptor molecule present at high levels on IELs – the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) – is central to understanding the connection between diet, numbers of IELs and a healthy gut. Earlier studies showed that the receptor’s activity can be triggered by dietary ingredients found at high levels in vegetables from the mustard or cabbage families; indole-3-carbinol (I3C) for instance can activate AhR, especially after contact with stomach acid.
Mice fed a purified synthetic diet almost completely devoid of vegetables showed a significant decrease in AhR activity and a loss of IELs, compared to those fed a normal diet, while supplementation of the low vegetable diet with I3C only maintained the intestinal IELs. Mice genetically lacking the AhR receptor were found to have no IELs and to lose control over the microbes living on the intestinal surface, both in terms of their numbers and composition. While the presence of AhR on IELs is directly important for their survival in the intestine, it is not needed for their generation or positioning in the intestine.
Animals lacking AhR activity for either genetic or dietary reasons showed lower levels of antimicrobial proteins, heightened immune activation and greater susceptibility to injury. And when the researchers mildly damaged the intestinal surface in animals eating a diet lacking in vegetables, the mice were not as quick to repair that damage.
Dr Brigitta Stockinger, Head of Division of Molecular Immunology at the National Institute for Medical Research added:  “The food we eat plays a crucial role in influencing our immune system and we have been looking at the intricate biology that determines how  cells in our intestines maintain an intrinsic protection against microbes. This study in mice is an important step towards increasing our understanding of how environmental signals shape immune responses at barrier sites such as the intestine. Marc Veldhoen's continuing studies at the Babraham institute will no doubt take this onto the next step.”
The implications to human intestinal immunity are currently not known. However, as an immunologist, Veldhoen says he hopes the findings will generate interest in the medical community, since some of the characteristics observed in the mice, on either a low vegetable diet or lacking AhR, are consistent with some clinical observations seen in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. These include increased levels of immune inflammation, increased susceptibility to intestinal damage, an altered composition and number of the intestinal bacteria and changes in the production of bactericidal factors. Interestingly, epidemiological studies have correlated a diet low in fruit and vegetables with an increased risk of IBD.
"It's tempting to extrapolate to humans," he said. "The problem is that there are many other factors that might play a role. It’s already known to be a good idea to eat your greens. Our results provide a molecular basis for the importance of cruciferous vegetable-derived phyto-nutrients as part of a healthy diet."
The discovery will also enable scientists to ask fundamental questions about the frequent interactions of cells of the immune system with external environmental factors. This was highlighted with the additional finding that IELs present in the mouse skin also crucially depend on the activation of AhR. While the nature of the interactions preserving skin IELs is currently unknown, it may provide a rationale for the reported association between some intestinal and skin disorders, the most frequent of which is psoriasis, as well as diet choices.
The research was funded initially by MRC and also by BBSRC at the Babraham Institute, which undertakes world-leading life sciences research to generate new knowledge of biological mechanisms underpinning ageing, development and the maintenance of health.
Professor Michael Wakelam, Director of the Babraham Institute said, “This research, in collaboration with the National Institute for Medical Research, is giving important insight into how dietary insufficiencies can adversely impact the immune system. This is also providing a greater understanding of the mechanisms behind intestinal inflammation, which is of direct relevance to promoting a healthier lifespan, supporting BBSRC’s mission to drive advances in fundamental bioscience for better health and wellbeing.”
Publication details:
Li Y, Innocentin S, Withers DR, Roberts NA, Gallagher AR, Grigorieva EF, Wilhelm C, Veldhoen M (In press)
Exogenous stimuli maintain intraepithelial lymphocytes via aryl hydrocarbon receptor activation.

Contact details:
Dr Claire Cockcroft    
Head, External Relations
Email:   claire.cockcroft@babraham.ac.uk
Tel:       +44 (0)1223 496260
Mobile: +44 (0)7786 335978
Dr. Marc Veldhoen
Email:   marc.veldhoen@babraham.ac.uk
The Babraham Institute
Babraham Research Campus
Cambridge CB22 3AT
United Kingdom

Notes to Editors:
The Babraham Institute
The Babraham Institute, which receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), undertakes international quality life sciences research to generate new knowledge of biological mechanisms underpinning ageing, development and the maintenance of health. The institute received £22.4M investment from BBSRC in 2010-11.The Institute’s research provides greater understanding of the biological events that underlie the normal functions of cells and the implication of failure or abnormalities in these processes. Research focuses on signalling and genome regulation, particularly the interplay between the two and how epigenetic signals can influence important physiological adaptations during the lifespan of an organism. By determining how the body reacts to dietary and environmental stimuli and manages microbial and viral interactions, we aim to improve wellbeing and healthier ageing. (www.babraham.ac.uk)
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £445M, we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk
For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/institutes

About the Medical Research Council (MRC)
For almost 100 years the Medical Research Council has improved the health of people in the UK and around the world by supporting the highest quality science. The MRC invests in world-class scientists. It has produced 29 Nobel Prize winners and sustains a flourishing environment for internationally recognised research. The MRC focuses on making an impact and provides the financial muscle and scientific expertise behind medical breakthroughs, including one of the first antibiotics penicillin, the structure of DNA and the lethal link between smoking and cancer. Today MRC funded scientists tackle research into the major health challenges of the 21st century. www.mrc.ac.uk
Source:  http://www.babraham.ac.uk/news2011/oct-13.html


Eat Your Greens, or Your Gut Gets It
| Wed Nov. 16, 2011 4:00 AM PST
While Big Food rams its Tater Tots and frozen pizza school lunch agenda through Congress, we're learning more about the effects of diets high in starchy foods and low in green vegetables. And it's not pretty.
I pointed yesterday to a vast recent Harvard study finding that heavy consumption of potatoes—even in nonfried forms—leads to unhealthy weight gain.
Now, from UK scientists, comes a study (press release here; abstract here) suggesting that green vegetables may have even more dietary importance than we previously thought. (Hat tip Atlantic Life.) The researchers subjected mice to a diet stripped of vegetables and found that after just three weeks, the mice lost 70 to 80 percent of a kind of white blood cell called intraepithelial lymphocytes, which, the press release states, "play a critical role in monitoring the large number of micro-organisms present in the intestine, keeping infections at bay and maintaining a healthy gut."
One of the researchers, Marc Veldhoen, remarked that, "since the new diet contained all other known essential ingredients such as minerals and vitamins," the results surprised him.
Image: Babraham InstituteImage: Babraham Institute
But I'm not surprised at all. Foodstuffs are complex; they are not the sum of their vitamins and minerals, calories and fiber, fat and protein, or any other isolated substance currently being fetishized or demonized by the food industry. As this study shows, you can't calculate the level of vitamins and minerals found in leafy greens, synthesize them, combine them in a vitamin pill, and then happily dispense with leafy greens. Whole foods interact with our bodies in ways we are only beginning to understand.
I predict someone will be inspired by this study to isolate indole-3-carbinol, synthesize it for a mass-produced pill, and market it as an immune-enhancing wonder supplement. If it happens, I'm willing to bet that that researchers will find that indole-3-carbinol supplements don't do the work of leafy greens, either. Recall that when scientists discovered the benefits of antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables, the supplement industry rushed out with all manner of antioxidant potions—which proved to be worthless. It turns out that isolated beta-carotene added to a pill or a can of soda doesn't offer the same benefits as beta-carotene in the context of a carrot. Unfortunately, a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that more than two-thirds of US adults fail to meet the recommended daily intake of at least five fruits and vegetables per day.
"Eat real veggies" is something we could be teaching kids in school cafeterias. Instead, we're going to keep teaching them to scarf down stuff like "potato smiles."
Source:   http://motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2011/11/eat-your-greens-or-your-gut-gets-it