Thursday, August 30, 2012


400,000 demand Trader Joe’s give up antibiotic-fed meat

Posted by Meg Bohne in
Aug 24, 2012
grilling tipsLook for these labels to ensure your meat was raised without antibiotics:
  • Organic
  • No antibiotics, Raised without antibiotics, and other similar claims
Not to be trusted: Natural. This claim is meaningless with regard to whether or not the animal was given antibiotics.
For more details, click here.
We’re dubbing these past few months the ‘Summer of Meat’ — not just for the grilling, but because hundreds of thousands of you have signed a petition asking grocer Trader Joe’s to only sell meat raised without antibiotics.
Launched in June, our Meat Without Drugs campaign is working to end the overuse of antibiotics in meat production by asking grocery stores, starting with Trader Joe’s, to only source meat from suppliers that do not routinely use antibiotics in their animals. And 400,000 Americans are standing with us — with more joining each day. (If you haven’t added your name yet, you still can do so here)!
Along with our campaign partners, the petition has seen added support from online petition and activism sites, Credo Action and Care2, which helped attract hundreds of thousands of new supporters to the cause.
That includes people like Melissa Lee, a young mom from Troutdale, Ore., whose daughter, Ruby, nearly died at 10 months of age from eating ground turkey tainted with antibiotic-resistant Salmonella.
“Trader Joe’s has taken a stand against GMOs, artificial colors, preservatives, and trans fats in their food. They should be a leader in eliminating meat from livestock treated with antibiotics. Until stores like Trader Joe’s stop this practice, families will continue to be exposed to health risks like the ones Ruby faced,” said Lee, who started a petition on’s site.
We’re also excited about the huge response from those of you who are making an even bigger impact on Trader Joe’s. Some 5,000 of you downloaded our version of Trader Joe’s ‘Fearless Flyer’ to take to your local store asking the company to only carry meat raised without antibiotics.
We’ve gotten great feedback from flyer deliverers, including one woman from Athens, Ga., whose Trader Joe’s checkout clerk told her, “There have been a lot of people dropping these off!” You can see photos of our deliverers here, and if you’d like to drop off your own flyer, you can download one here.
Trader Joe’s has said they will not meet with us, so we’ll be hand-delivering your petition signatures in a way that makes sure company execs hear what you want! Stay tuned, and help us keep the momentum going on this critical campaign.
Ready to take action?


36,075 and Counting... Can We Count on You?

Please sign
This week, OCA launched a SignOn petition asking Michelle Obama to tell the President it’s high time he honored his campaign promise to label GMOs.  We don’t know if Mrs. Obama or the President will do the right thing, but we do know this: If we can get 200,000 signatures, we will hand deliver this petition to the White House. And we’ll make sure we have plenty of media on hand to record the event.
Why does this petition matter? We want to generate awareness of - and support for - Prop 37, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act. We want to publicly remind President Obama of two things: First, that more than 90% of Americans - the people who elected him President - want GMOs labeled. Second, that in 2007, he made this promise:
“We’ll let folks know whether their food has been genetically modified, because Americans should know what they’re buying.”
We want voters in California to know that the whole country is behind them on this. And most of all, we want them to get out and vote!
Michelle Obama says she wants to end childhood obesity and she wants kids to eat more nutritious foods. GMOs have been linked to obesity, and there’s nothing nutritious about them. So we’re asking her to remind the President of his promise and to support Prop 37 which, if passed, will be this country’s first GMO labeling law.
Please help us reach 200,000 signatures by Oct. 1. Sign and share this petition today!
Sign the petition here
Watch the video of President Obama on the campaign trail here

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Farmer Debunks Corporate Propaganda Against Proposed Law to Label Genetically Modified Food

Giant corporations like Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, Pepsi and Coke have poured $25 million into the No on 37 campaign.
August 27, 2012  | 
I’ve been a farmer for more than 40 years. While I no longer live or farm in California, I do co-manage 120 acres of farmland in Vermont, and I know that a GMO labeling law passed in California will have widespread implications for consumers and farmers in every state in the country. As a farmer who has experience in both conventional and organic farming, I’m compelled to address the anti-labeling campaign’s so-called “concerns” for farmers and consumers.
But first, make no mistake: The folks who are  running and funding the campaign against California’s Proposition 37, the Nov. 6 citizens’ ballot initiative that would require mandatory labeling of GMOs, have never worked on behalf of small farmers or consumers. Why would we think they are suddenly on our side? Heading up the campaign are the same folks who, backed by Big Tobacco, fought anti-smoking initiatives in California. They are the same people who, with a little help from Big Oil, tried to repeal California’s clean energy and climate laws. The $25 million that has so far poured into the “No on 37” campaign comes from huge biotech, chemical and food processing corporations (Monsanto, DuPont, Dow AgriScience, Pepsi, Coca-Cola). These are all companies whose primary motivation is profit, not the protection of consumers or farmers.
Here’s my farmer’s-eye view of the propaganda coming out of the No on 37 campaign, which by the way is dubiously named: Stop the Deceptive Food Labeling Scheme.
Propaganda statement #1:
The initiative would close off opportunities for farmers and food producers who might want to take advantage of future advances in crops bred for disease and pest resistance, drought tolerance, improved growth, nutrition, taste or other benefits.
This is perhaps the most outrageous of the No on 37 campaign’s purported concerns, and it’s directed at us, the farmers. The GMO giants claim to be concerned that we will not get a chance to grow GMO crops. Really? After suing and harassing thousands of farmers and driving small seed dealers out of business and into court, it is beyond disingenuous for Monsanto and the GMO gang to feign concern for our interests. I can assure them that we farmers are more afraid of Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta than the biotech giants are at the prospect of losing their genetically altered seed.
Farmers in several states have tried to pass farmer protection laws against the spillage and drift of GMO seed and pollen. These laws were designed to respond to the fact that biotech companies can sue farmers for patent infringement if GMO crops inadvertently sprout up as “weeds” on their farms – the result of pollen drift or seed spillage from a neighboring or nearby farm that grows GMO crops. Most of us farmers see this differently. We believe that when GMO seeds spill onto our land, or pollen from GMO crops drifts into our non-GMO crops and contaminates them, this constitutes trespassing, not patent theft. In spite of this trespass, Monsanto alone has brought  136 cases  against more than 400 farmers. Thousands more U.S. farmers have been threatened with lawsuits by Monsanto.  Farmers growing cotton, corn, soy, and canola are in a tight spot because biotech companies have bought a majority of the seed corporations in order to control what seed can be grown. In the last several years, more than 90% of the seed available to farmers for these four crops has been genetically modified. So if a farmer wants to grow any of these commodity crops, he’s forced to grow the GMO variety –or not grow them at all.
Propaganda statement #2:
To avoid labeling a product as non-GMO will require farmers, food processors, and food distributors to document that ingredients are not produced through biotechnology. This massive new paperwork and record keeping requirement – on tens of thousands of crops and food products – will add significant cost and bureaucracy for farmers and food producers.
Exaggeration upon exaggeration. The regulation and record-keeping process is  not that difficult and there are  not tens of thousands of GE crops grown in California. When our farm first converted to organic production we were leery of the regulations and the requirements for record-keeping and documentation for organic certification, so we understand the trepidation farmers have over regulations and record-keeping. Now, however, it is a regular part of our routine. Our staff regularly documents our growing and sales practices on computers, which makes it easy to track and segregate inputs and products if necessary.
While the organic regulations are strict, their existence provides the consumer and the farmers with a guarantee that a third-party inspector is reviewing the farmer’s records and growing and sales practices, and are rooting out mistakes or any instances of deliberate cheating. Excellent and easy-to-use record-keeping  computer programs  are available for small, medium, and large farms.  Given our experience, we believe that creating an accurate paper trail for organic, GMO-free, or naturally grown products should not be seen as daunting by farmers or be used as a reason to not label GMO products. And let’s not forget – in almost 50 other countries, this process is required – and executed without undue burden on farmers.
As for the issue of “tens of thousands” of GMO crops in California, that’s simply not true. Currently, genetically engineered cotton, corn, sugar beets, soy, a bit of canola, and experimental alfalfa are grown commercially in California. These same crops are the only ones grown on large acreages in the U.S. So there are not thousands of GMO crops that are grown anyplace in the U.S. or the rest of the world. There are, however, tens of thousands of products that have genetically modified ingredients. About 75% of our processed food has GMO ingredients—and processed food accounts for 80% of the food U.S. consumers eat. That should give consumers pause.
Propaganda statement #3:
This provision (Proposition 37) would significantly impact farmers’ ability to market their foods as natural, even if there are no GE ingredients. So, for example, under the measure a raw almond could be marketed as “natural” but the same almond that has been salted and canned could not. Apples could be labeled “naturally grown,” but applesauce made from the same apples could not be advertised as “natural applesauce” simply because the apples were cooked.
If almonds are plunged into a salt bath, no matter how you look at it, it’s not natural. When do almonds ever do that naturally? When almonds have tamari or salt or garlic added they are not natural. When natural apples are made into applesauce, they are cooked, and almost all the non-organic applesauce producers add preservatives. Is this applesauce natural? This begs the question as to what is “natural.”
Since there are no government or industry guidelines or regulations governing what is or is not “natural,” food processors have stamped the word “natural” on everything from corn flakes to processed meats to shampoo. Biotech companies, cosmetic companies, and food processors all want to keep up the illusion that processed foods are “natural” and thus safer than non-natural products. Why? Because they can charge consumers more for anything with the word “natural” on it. Sales of “natural” foods have reached about $50 billion a year, compared with $32 billion in sales of certified organics.
From a farmer’s or consumer’s perspective the existence of labeling requirements for GMO foods or natural foods is an important piece of information that enables farmers to decide which seeds to plant -- and consumers to decide which foods to choose or reject for their families.
Propaganda statement #4:
 The overwhelming majority of scientists, medical experts and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration have all concluded that genetically engineered food products are safe and that requiring special labels is unnecessary.
The anti-labeling advocates repeatedly make this claim. True, the FDA has said that GMO foods and feed crops are safe. But how would the FDA know? The government agency charged with protecting the health and safety of U.S. citizens has admittedly conducted  no independent testing  of any GMO product. Instead it naively -- or perhaps conspiratorially? -- accepts the testing done by the genetic engineering corporations themselves. And we know full well that these corporations are more interested in protecting their profits than they are in protecting our food.
The world-wide  scientific consensus  is that GMOs are  not safe  which is why more than 40 countries require mandatory labeling for GMO products and some countries have banned them altogether. No long-term or multigenerational feeding studies have been conducted on GMO foods or feed grains. GMO products have been on the market for almost twenty years and all we have are a small number of short-term feeding studies. Yet even despite their brevity, those studies are alarming. French scientists reviewing 19 90-day GMO feeding studies found that 30.8% of female test animals had liver abnormalities and 43.5% of the males had kidney abnormalities. Other tests have found a consistent thickening of the intestinal wall in a high percentage of test subjects. These findings are alarming, but GMO feeding studies by independent laboratories are  not considered  in regulatory decisions made by the FDA .
Even more  recent feeding tests  suggest that significant weight gains are another unfortunate byproduct of consuming GMO food and may be a significant factor in our ballooning obesity epidemic. If GMO foods make us fat wouldn’t we want to have a label that alerts consumers that GMO ingredients are in the food?

Propaganda statement #5:
Requiring farmers and food producers to put scary sounding labels on their foods will confuse and mislead consumers.
This is just insulting. Consumers rely on labels on the foods they purchase to inform them of everything from additives to calories to protein and vitamin content. But we’re not intelligent enough to understand what “this ingredient was genetically engineered” means? Are the millions of consumers in nearly 50 other countries that require labeling dazed and confused? Or perhaps, just better informed than American consumers who are kept in the dark?

GE crops are no friend to farmers, consumers, or the environment
Biotech corporations brag that their genetically altered crops are going to eliminate hunger, reduce pesticide use, reduce chemical fertilizer use, better tolerate drought, and increase yields. If they really believe this, why would they think that a genetically modified organism (GMO) label is scary? If they are proud of their successes, if they believe their products are so superior, why be afraid to label them? Maybe they are not as superior as the biotech industry alleges. Genetic engineering’s less-than-superior results have been well-documented – and are well known by responsible, informed farmers all over the world. The failure of GMO crops has resulted in farmers being forced to use the most dangerous pesticides and worm insecticides, and these substances are now  showing up  in pregnant women and newborn babies. The second most inserted GMO product in crops is Bacillus thuringensis (Bt), a bacteria that attacks worms. This is a related organism to the Bt that organic and chemical farmers have used for years, but it is a genetically modified version. This GMO version has already begun to  show resistance  to corn rootworms. It has also  shown up  in 93% of the fallopian tubes of pregnant women.
RoundUp Ultra, the weed killer that is used with RoundUp Ready genetically altered crops, has developed resistance in 12 major U.S. weeds. That means that RoundUp Ultra will not kill most of the most pernicious weeds on millions of acres of commodity cropland. Chemical companies have responded by recommending that farmers use 2,4-D (a major ingredient in Agent Orange), Paraquat, and arsenic compounds on weeds that RoundUp will no longer kill. All of these replacement chemicals  have been proven  to be oncogenic (cause cancer) in test animals by the California EPA. To deal with this resistance problem, the genetic engineering firms are now inserting genes resistant to 2,4-D into corn and soy crops.
The promise of dramatically increased yields has also not been realized for GMO crops. All of the four major GMO crops have shown yield drags in the U.S. and total yield failures around the world (especially in India). Charles Benbrook studied yields in the U.S. and his research showed significantly lower yields in GMO soy. More  recent studies  have shown yield drags in cotton, soy, canola and no increase for corn. Since costs are higher for GMO seeds than conventional seeds, any loss of yield is doubly costly.

And just to make things a little more trying for farmers, we’re now finding that GMO corn and cotton plants are so tough they puncture tractor tires. Amusing to some, maybe, but to farmers who have to maintain expensive equipment, this is no laughing matter. Tractor tires are very expensive, but we count on them to last for five or six years on large-scale farms. On GMO farms growing corn or cotton, they are lasting for only one or two years. To replace the eight tires on a 200 horsepower John Deere costs $30,000. One tire manufacturer  is experimenting  with Kevlar-lined tires. How much are these armored tires going to cost?

Let’s be clear. Whether you’re a farmer in California or Vermont, or India or Brazil, GMO crops are nothing but trouble. Factor in the cost to the environment, and the cost – and pain – to consumers in related healthcare expenses, GMO crops are a disaster. Propaganda aside.

Will Allen has farmed both chemically and organically for more than 40 years. He is on the board of the Organic Consumers Association and currently co-manages a 122-acre farm in Vermont.


Mark BittmanA Banker Bets on Organic Farming

Mark Bittman on food and all things related.
August 28, 2012, 9:00 pm
It’s unlikely that large-scale changes in the so-called food system will happen without movement on the part of big investors. Sadly, most of these — like the corporations they support — take short-term, profit-maximizing views. (This, along with enthusiastic dabblers, is the basic reason we have bubbles.) But there are unconventional exceptions. Jeremy Grantham, the chief investment strategist for the unfortunately named G.M.O. (it stands for Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co. LLC, and he is a company co-founder), is one of those.
Grantham, widely known in the investment community as a supercontrarian, came to my attention last month when I stumbled across an article he wrote in his firm’s quarterly newsletter entitled “Welcome to Dystopia! Entering a Long-Term and Politically Dangerous Food Crisis.” Next to this unexpected headline was a photo of (forgive the stereotype) an expectedly conventional-looking investment banker. Below it, however, were two quotes: one from Bob Marley (“Them belly full but we hungry . . .”) and one from Kenneth Boulding: “Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.” My attention was caught.
Grantham has made offbeat predictions before, and he’s been right. In 2007, referring to remarks by the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, about the subprime crisis being contained, he said, “If it’s contained, the container in this case is likely to be Pandora’s.” Since then, he’s been sounding the alarm on the finite nature of resources, an undeniable state of affairs that is largely ignored by economists. And he’s concluded that the most compelling issue isn’t energy (technology will take care of that, he believes, making renewables less expensive while oil prices rise) or even metals, but food.

Grantham’s article succinctly puts economic teeth into the argument that all advocates of truly sustainable food make almost constantly: We are going to be eating sustainable, more-or-less organic and mostly regional food within a couple of generations, and the big question is whether we get to that place willingly (it might be too late for that, but one can hope) or whether we go through a dystopic convulsion first.
Citing falling grain productivity, rising resource prices (and, of course, dwindling resources; they are finite after all), snowballing water problems, declining returns from the use of chemical fertilizers, increasing energy costs, a lack of will, investment theory that is “ill-informed, manipulated, full of inertia, and corruptible,” and a newly unfavorable climate, Grantham concludes that we are “about five years into a chronic global food crisis that is unlikely to fade for many decades.”
Discussing food security and the global food crisis on the phone, Grantham was if anything more emphatic: “We have to go to an organic sustainable system or we’ll starve,” he told me. And he elegantly counters the arguments that large-scale organic agriculture (or whatever it will be called when it becomes dominant; the agro-ecological method, perhaps) cannot be profitable. (Remember, this is a guy who does profit for a living.)
He’s established foundations that are financing research in organic agriculture. After all, he said: “The U.S.D.A., the big ag schools, colleges, land grants, universities — they’re all behind standard farming, which is: sterilize the soil. Kill it dead, [then] put on fertilizer, fertilizer, fertilizer and water, and then beat the bugs back again with massive doses of insecticide and pesticide.” (At one point in the conversation, he said that most supporters of industrial agriculture, who tell “deliberate lies over and over again,” could have been taught everything they know by Goebbels.)
When he sees which research shows the highest return, Grantham intends to directly finance organic farms, on the order of 350 acres (in my book, this qualifies as “medium” in size), “and see if they can scale it up.” The first question, he said, is to accurately measure output from organic farming: is it the same as conventional, or somewhat less? Even if it’s 30 percent less, he said, because inputs are less expensive, “we save a ton of money.” Then, of course, there’s the premium in price that organic foods command.
As there is more organic product, that premium will decline, but Grantham argued, “as [conventional] input prices go up, we save relatively more … until even regular farmers will be looking closely at what we’re doing.”
None of this is going to happen quickly, or be easy: “We have no infrastructure” or training set up, and organic farming is far more “brain intensive” than industrial, he says. “Nothing against farmers, but this is much more trial and error — asking a farmer to do this is asking him to take much higher risks.
“It’s just altogether a different business — much more complicated,” he said. “But it isn’t a choice. If we keep on going the way we’re going, it will end very very badly.
“And since I think the rest of the market is in trouble,” Grantham continued, “I think a portfolio of farms that are doing state-of-the-art farming over a 20-, 30-year horizon will be the best investment money can buy. So I’m killing two birds with one stone: I want my foundation to make more money than anyone else on the planet, because that gives us much more to spend for the main event — which is saving the planet, in a nutshell.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Opinion Twitter Logo.Op-Ed Contributor

Destroying Precious Land for Gas

ON the northern tip of Delaware County, N.Y., where the Catskill Mountains curl up into little kitten hills, and Ouleout Creek slithers north into the Susquehanna River, there is a farm my parents bought before I was born. My earliest memories there are of skipping stones with my father and drinking unpasteurized milk. There are bald eagles and majestic pines, honeybees and raspberries. My mother even planted a ring of white birch trees around the property for protection.
A few months ago I was asked by a neighbor near our farm to attend a town meeting at the local high school. Some gas companies at the meeting were trying very hard to sell us on a plan to tear through our wilderness and make room for a new pipeline: infrastructure for hydraulic fracturing. Most of the residents at the meeting, many of them organic farmers, were openly defiant. The gas companies didn’t seem to care. They gave us the feeling that whether we liked it or not, they were going to fracture our little town.
In the late ’70s, when Manhattanites like Andy Warhol and Bianca Jagger were turning Montauk and East Hampton into an epicurean Shangri-La for the Studio 54 crowd, my parents, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, were looking to become amateur dairy farmers. My first introduction to a cow was being taught how to milk it by hand. I’ll never forget the realization that fresh milk could be so much sweeter than what we bought in grocery stores. Although I was rarely able to persuade my schoolmates to leave Long Island for what seemed to them an unreasonably rural escapade, I was lucky enough to experience trout fishing instead of tennis lessons, swimming holes instead of swimming pools and campfires instead of cable television.
Though my father died when I was 5, I have always felt lucky to live on land he loved dearly; land in an area that is now on the verge of being destroyed. When the gas companies showed up in our backyard, I felt I needed to do some research. I looked into Pennsylvania, where hundreds of families have been left with ruined drinking water, toxic fumes in the air, industrialized landscapes, thousands of trucks and new roads crosshatching the wilderness, and a devastating and irreversible decline in property value.
Natural gas has been sold as clean energy. But when the gas comes from fracturing bedrock with about five million gallons of toxic water per well, the word “clean” takes on a disturbingly Orwellian tone. Don’t be fooled. Fracking for shale gas is in truth dirty energy. It inevitably leaks toxic chemicals into the air and water. Industry studies show that 5 percent of wells can leak immediately, and 60 percent over 30 years. There is no such thing as pipes and concrete that won’t eventually break down. It releases a cocktail of chemicals from a menu of more than 600 toxic substances, climate-changing methane, radium and, of course, uranium.
New York is lucky enough to have some of the best drinking water in the world. The well water on my family’s farm comes from the same watersheds that supply all the reservoirs in New York State. That means if our tap water gets dirty, so does New York City’s.
Gas produced this way is not climate- friendly. Within the first 20 years, methane escaping from within and around the wells, pipelines and compressor stations is 105 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. With more than a tiny amount of methane leakage, this gas is as bad as coal is for the climate; and since over half the wells leak eventually, it is not a small amount. Even more important, shale gas contains one of the earth’s largest carbon reserves, many times more than our atmosphere can absorb. Burning more than a small fraction of it will render the climate unlivable, raise the price of food and make coastlines unstable for generations.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, when speaking for “the voices in the sensible center,” seems to think the New York State Association of County Health Officials, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the New York State Nurses Association and the Medical Society of the State of New York, not to mention Dr. Anthony R. Ingraffea’s studies at Cornell University, are “loud voices at the extremes.” The mayor’s plan to “make sure that the gas is extracted carefully and in the right places” is akin to a smoker telling you, “Smoking lighter cigarettes in the right place at the right time makes it safe to smoke.”
Few people are aware that America’s Natural Gas Alliance has spent $80 million in a publicity campaign that includes the services of Hill and Knowlton — the public relations firm that through most of the ’50s and ’60s told America that tobacco had no verifiable links to cancer. Natural gas is clean, and cigarettes are healthy — talk about disinformation. To try to counteract this, my mother and I have started a group called Artists Against Fracking.
My father could have chosen to live anywhere. I suspect he chose to live here because being a New Yorker is not about class, race or even nationality; it’s about loving New York. Even the United States Geological Survey has said New York’s draft plan fails to protect drinking water supplies, and has also acknowledged the likely link between hydraulic fracturing and recent earthquakes in the Midwest. Surely the voice of the “sensible center” would ask to stop all hydraulic fracturing so that our water, our lives and our planet could be protected and preserved for generations to come.


How to Avoid Genetically
Engineered Food

Here's the GMO - FREE shopping guide from GREENPEACE


Our Hunger Games
Hunger and malnutrition are man-made. They are hardwired in the design of the industrial, chemical model of agriculture. But just as hunger is created by design, healthy and nutritious food for all can also be designed, through food democracy.
We are repeatedly told that we will starve without chemical fertilisers. However, chemical fertilisers, which are essentially poison, undermine food security by destroying the fertility of soil by killing the biodiversity of soil organisms, friendly insects that control pests and pollinators like bees and butterflies necessary for plant reproduction and food production.
Industrial production has led to a severe ecological and social crisis. To ensure the supply of healthy food, we must move towards agro-ecological and sustainable systems of food production that work with nature and not against her. That is what movements that promote biodiversity conservation, like our NGO Navdanya, are designing on the ground.
Industrialisation of agriculture creates hunger and malnutrition, and yet further industrialisation of food systems are offered as solution to the crisis. In the Indian context, agriculture, food and nutrition are seen independent of each other, even though what food is grown and how it is grown determines its nutritional value. It also determines distribution patterns and entitlements. If we grow millets and pulses, we will have more nutrition per capita. If we grow food by using chemicals, we are growing monocultures — this means that we will have less nutrition per acre, per capita. If we grow food ecologically, with internal inputs, more food will stay with the farming household and there will be less malnutrition among rural children.
Our agriculture policy focuses on increasing yields of individual crops and not on the output of the food system and its nutritional value. The food security system — based on the public distribution system — does not address issues of nutrition and quality of food, and nutritional programmes are divorced from both agriculture and food security.
Wherever chemicals and commercial seeds have spread, farmers are in debt.
The agrarian crisis, the food crisis and the nutrition and health crisis are intimately connected. They need to be addressed together. The objective of agriculture policy cannot be based on promoting industrial processing of food. The chemicalisation of agriculture and food are recipes for “denutrification”. They cannot solve the problem of hunger and malnutrition. The solution to malnutrition begins with the soil.
Industrial agriculture, sold as the Green Revolution and the second Green Revolution to Third World countries, is chemical-intensive, capital-intensive and fossil fuel-intensive. It must, by its very structure, push farmers into debt and indebted farmers off the land. In poor countries, farmers trapped in debt for buying costly chemicals and non-renewable seeds, sell the food they grow to pay back debt. That is why hunger today is a rural phenomenon. Wherever chemicals and commercial seeds have spread, farmers are in debt. They lose entitlement to their own produce and hence get trapped in poverty and hunger.
Industrial chemical agriculture also creates hunger by displacing and destroying the biodiversity, which provides nutrition. The Green Revolution displaced pulses, an important source of proteins, as well as oilseeds, thus reducing nutrition per acre. Monocultures do not produce more food and nutrition. They take up more chemicals and fossil fuels, and hence are profitable for agrochemical companies and oil companies. They produce higher yields of individual commodities but a lower output of food and nutrition.
Industrial chemical agriculture’s measures of productivity focus on labour as the major input while externalising many energy and resource inputs. This biased productivity pushes farmers off the land and replaces them with chemicals and machines, which in turn contribute to greenhouse gases and climate change. Further, industrial agriculture focuses on producing a single crop that can be globally traded as a commodity. The focus on “yield” of individual commodities creates what I call a “monoculture of the mind”. The promotion of so-called high-yield crops leads to the destruction of biodiversity.
Biodiverse systems have higher output than monocultures, that is why organic farming is more beneficial for farmers and the earth than chemical farming.
Industrial chemical agriculture also causes hunger and malnutrition by robbing crops of nutrients. Industrially produced food is nutritionally empty but loaded with chemicals and toxins. Nutrition in food comes from the nutrients in the soil. Industrial agriculture, based on the NPK mentality of synthetic nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium-based fertilisers, lead to depletion of vital micro-nutrients and trace elements such as magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron.
Biodiverse systems have higher output than monocultures, that is why organic farming is more beneficial for farmers and the earth than chemical farming.
The increase in yields does not translate into more nutrition. In fact, it is leading to malnutrition. To get the required amount of nutrition people need to eat much more food.
The most effective and low-cost strategy for addressing hunger and malnutrition is through biodiverse organic farming. It enriches the soil and nutrient-rich soils give us nutrient-rich food.
Earthworm castings, which can amount to four to 36 tons per acre per year, contain five times more nitrogen, seven times more phosphorus, three times more exchangeable magnesium, 11 times more potash and one-and-a-half times more calcium than soil. Their work on the soil promotes the microbial activity essential to the fertility of most soils. Soils rich in micro organisms and earthworms are soils rich in nutrients. Their products, too, are rich in nutrients. On an average, organic food has been found to have 21 per cent more iron, 14 per cent more phosphorous, 78 per cent more chromium, 390 per cent more selenium, 63 per cent more calcium, 70 per cent more boron, 138 per cent more magnesium, 27 per cent more vitamin C and 10-50 per cent more vitamin E and beta-carotene. And the more biodiversity on our farms, the more is the nutrition per acre, at little cost.
Plants, people and the soil are part of one food web, which is the web of life. The test of good farming is how well it works to increase the health and resilience of the food web.
Vandana Shiva
Dr. Vandana Shiva is a philosopher, environmental activist and eco feminist. She is the founder/director of Navdanya Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology. She is author of numerous books including, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis; Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply; Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace; and Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development. Shiva has also served as an adviser to governments in India and abroad as well as NGOs, including the International Forum on Globalization, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization and the Third World Network. She has received numerous awards, including 1993 Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize) and the 2010 Sydney Peace Prize.


A bull grazes on dry wheat husks in Logan, Kansas, one of the regions hit by the record drought that is expected to drive up food prices. (photo: John Moore/Getty Images)
A bull grazes on dry wheat husks in Logan, Kansas, one of the regions hit by the record drought that is expected to drive up food prices. (photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

Food Shortages Could Force World Into Vegetarianism

By John Vidal, Guardian UK
27 August 12
Water scarcity's effect on food production means radical steps will be needed to feed population expected to reach 9bn by 2050.
eading water scientists have issued one of the sternest warnings yet about global food supplies, saying that the world's population may have to switch almost completely to a vegetarian diet over the next 40 years to avoid catastrophic shortages.
Humans derive about 20% of their protein from animal-based products now, but this may need to drop to just 5% to feed the extra 2 billion people expected to be alive by 2050, according to research by some of the world's leading water scientists.
"There will not be enough water available on current croplands to produce food for the expected 9 billion population in 2050 if we follow current trends and changes towards diets common in western nations," the report by Malik Falkenmark and colleagues at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) said.
"There will be just enough water if the proportion of animal-based foods is limited to 5% of total calories and considerable regional water deficits can be met by a ... reliable system of food trade."
Dire warnings of water scarcity limiting food production come as Oxfam and the UN prepare for a possible second global food crisis in five years. Prices for staples such as corn and wheat have risen nearly 50% on international markets since June, triggered by severe droughts in the US and Russia, and weak monsoon rains in Asia. More than 18 million people are already facing serious food shortages across the Sahel.
Oxfam has forecast that the price spike will have a devastating impact in developing countries that rely heavily on food imports, including parts of Latin America, North Africa and the Middle East. Food shortages in 2008 led to civil unrest in 28 countries.
Adopting a vegetarian diet is one option to increase the amount of water available to grow more food in an increasingly climate-erratic world, the scientists said. Animal protein-rich food consumes five to 10 times more water than a vegetarian diet. One third of the world's arable land is used to grow crops to feed animals. Other options to feed people include eliminating waste and increasing trade between countries in food surplus and those in deficit.
"Nine hundred million people already go hungry and 2 billion people are malnourished in spite of the fact that per capita food production continues to increase," they said. "With 70% of all available water being in agriculture, growing more food to feed an additional 2 billion people by 2050 will place greater pressure on available water and land."
The report is being released at the start of the annual world water conference in Stockholm, Sweden, where 2,500 politicians, UN bodies, non-governmental groups and researchers from 120 countries meet to address global water supply problems.
Competition for water between food production and other uses will intensify pressure on essential resources, the scientists said. "The UN predicts that we must increase food production by 70% by mid-century. This will place additional pressure on our already stressed water resources, at a time when we also need to allocate more water to satisfy global energy demand - which is expected to rise 60% over the coming 30 years - and to generate electricity for the 1.3 billion people currently without it," said the report.
Overeating, undernourishment and waste are all on the rise and increased food production may face future constraints from water scarcity.
"We will need a new recipe to feed the world in the future," said the report's editor, Anders Jägerskog.
A separate report from the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) said the best way for countries to protect millions of farmers from food insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia was to help them invest in small pumps and simple technology, rather than to develop expensive, large-scale irrigation projects.
"We've witnessed again and again what happens to the world's poor - the majority of whom depend on agriculture for their livelihoods and already suffer from water scarcity - when they are at the mercy of our fragile global food system," said Dr Colin Chartres, the director general.
"Farmers across the developing world are increasingly relying on and benefiting from small-scale, locally-relevant water solutions. [These] techniques could increase yields up to 300% and add tens of billions of US dollars to household revenues across sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia."

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Six Reasons Why Obama Appointing Monsanto's Buddy, Former Iowa Governor Vilsack, for USDA Head Would be a Terrible Idea


* Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack's support of genetically engineered pharmaceutical crops, especially pharmaceutical corn:

* The biggest biotechnology industry group, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, named Vilsack Governor of the Year. He was also the founder and former chair of the Governor's Biotechnology Partnership.

* When Vilsack created the Iowa Values Fund, his first poster child of economic development potential was Trans Ova and their pursuit of cloning dairy cows.

* Vilsack was the origin of the seed pre-emption bill in 2005, which many people here in Iowa fought because it took away local government's possibility of ever having a regulation on seeds- where GE would be grown, having GE-free buffers, banning pharma corn locally, etc. Representative Sandy Greiner, the Republican sponsor of the bill, bragged on the House Floor that Vilsack put her up to it right after his state of the state address.

* Vilsack has a glowing reputation as being a schill for agribusiness biotech giants like Monsanto. Sustainable ag advocated across the country were spreading the word of Vilsack's history as he was attempting to appeal to voters in his presidential bid. An activist from the west coast even made this youtube animation about Vilsack
The airplane in this animation is a referral to the controversy that Vilsack often traveled in Monsanto's jet.

*Vilsack is an ardent support of corn and soy based biofuels, which use as much or more fossil energy to produce them as they generate, while driving up world food prices and literally starving the poor.


USDA panel gets altered-crops pay plan

Updated 11:06 p.m., Friday, August 24, 2012
  • A tomato breeder shows varieties grown at a Yolo County facility of Monsanto Co., world's top producer of bioengineered seed. Photo: Noah Berger, Bloomberg / SF
Washington -- California voters this fall will decide a ballot measure that would require labeling of foods containing genetically engineered material. But the Department of Agriculture is already tied in knots over how to deal with 

the contamination of organic and conventional foods by biotech crops.
On Monday, a USDA advisory panel will consider a draft plan to compensate farmers whose crops have been contaminated by pollen, seeds or other stray genetically engineered material. The meeting is expected to be contentious, pitting the biotechnology and organic industries against each other.
The draft report acknowledged the difficulty of preventing such material from accidentally entering the food supply and concerns that the purity of traditional seeds may be threatened.
It also cited fears on both sides that official action to address contamination could send a signal to U.S. consumers and export markets in Europe, Japan and elsewhere that the purity and even safety of U.S. crops are suspect.
An official who was not authorized to speak for the record described the current stalemate as "don't ask, don't tell."
Known as AC21, the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture consists of representatives from across agriculture. Its current incarnation was created by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to appease critics after his decision in January 2011 to approve genetically engineered alfalfa, a plant that can spread easily.
Genetically engineered crops are also known as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Genetic engineering entails the insertion or deletion of genes, often from different species, into a plant to produce a desired trait. Up to now the chief traits are resistance to insects and herbicides.

U.S. corn 90% biotech

Bioengineered crops dominate U.S. commodities, including 90 percent of U.S. corn. In some states, penetration is all but complete, including 99 percent of the Arkansas cotton crop. Most processed foods contain genetically engineered material.
USDA's organic certification does not permit bioengineered material unless trace amounts show up despite a farmer's best efforts to avoid it. Many food companies do their own testing and have rejected contaminated shipments.
The biotech industry, which includes Monsanto, DuPont and other seed companies, argued that contamination is minimal. Organic growers, they said, get a premium for their crops and should "assume the economic risks associated" with certifying that their crops meet organic standards.
The organic industry said biotech companies should be responsible for containing their own genes and that contamination threatens the right of farmers to choose how to farm.
Vilsack directed the advisory committee to find a way for the two sides to co-exist. The panel has wrestled with the issue for more than a year but remains divided. The draft suggests using taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance to compensate farmers whose crops have been contaminated.
Lisa Bunin, organic policy coordinator for the Center for Food Safety, a Washington nonprofit that opposes genetic engineering, said crop insurance would put the burden of proof and the cost on the victims of contamination. She said the focus should be on preventing contamination, and that California's Proposition 37, which would require the labeling of genetically modified foods, shows that people are "waking up to the realization that there are hidden ingredients in their food."
Compensation is "just a way to hide the effects of ... contamination," Bunin said, calling the draft a "last-ditch attempt by the biotech industry to institutionalize transgenic contamination."

No guarantee

Panel member Isaura Andaluz, head of Cuatro Puertas, a nonprofit heritage seed bank in Albuquerque, issued a blistering critique of the draft earlier this month. Andaluz said she was shocked that the panel's report said "it is not realistic to suggest that commercial seed producers can guarantee zero presence" of genetically engineered material in seed varieties that are organic or not genetically engineered.
If that is true, she wrote, Vilsack's co-existence plan already has failed.
The biotech industry fears that setting a suggested threshold of 0.9 percent engineered content, above which a product would be considered contaminated, would imply a safety limit, falsely signaling to consumers and export markets that bioengineered crops are unsafe.
The draft report said methods have been developed to keep "gene flows" segregated, citing the example of sweet corn grown in fields next to popcorn.
Environmental groups worry, however, that bioengineered crops threaten wild plants, too. Engineered canola and grasses spread easily in storm winds and floods, turning up miles from where crops are planted.
Oversight is split among three agencies, USDA, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. Under a rule developed in 1992 under former Vice President Dan Quayle, bioengineering is presumed safe for food and the environment.
Carolyn Lochhead is The San Francisco Chronicle's Washington correspondent E-mail

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How Goldman Sachs Created the Food Crisis

Don't blame American appetites, rising oil prices, or genetically modified crops for rising food prices. Wall Street's at fault for the spiraling cost of food.


Demand and supply certainly matter. But there's another reason why food across the world has become so expensive: Wall Street greed.
It took the brilliant minds of Goldman Sachs to realize the simple truth that nothing is more valuable than our daily bread. And where there's value, there's money to be made. In 1991, Goldman bankers, led by their prescient president Gary Cohn, came up with a new kind of investment product, a derivative that tracked 24 raw materials, from precious metals and energy to coffee, cocoa, cattle, corn, hogs, soy, and wheat. They weighted the investment value of each element, blended and commingled the parts into sums, then reduced what had been a complicated collection of real things into a mathematical formula that could be expressed as a single manifestation, to be known henceforth as the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI).
For just under a decade, the GSCI remained a relatively static investment vehicle, as bankers remained more interested in risk and collateralized debt than in anything that could be literally sowed or reaped. Then, in 1999, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission deregulated futures markets. All of a sudden, bankers could take as large a position in grains as they liked, an opportunity that had, since the Great Depression, only been available to those who actually had something to do with the production of our food.
Change was coming to the great grain exchanges of Chicago, Minneapolis, and Kansas City -- which for 150 years had helped to moderate the peaks and valleys of global food prices. Farming may seem bucolic, but it is an inherently volatile industry, subject to the vicissitudes of weather, disease, and disaster. The grain futures trading system pioneered after the American Civil War by the founders of Archer Daniels Midland, General Mills, and Pillsbury helped to establish America as a financial juggernaut to rival and eventually surpass Europe. The grain markets also insulated American farmers and millers from the inherent risks of their profession. The basic idea was the "forward contract," an agreement between sellers and buyers of wheat for a reasonable bushel price -- even before that bushel had been grown. Not only did a grain "future" help to keep the price of a loaf of bread at the bakery -- or later, the supermarket -- stable, but the market allowed farmers to hedge against lean times, and to invest in their farms and businesses. The result: Over the course of the 20th century, the real price of wheat decreased (despite a hiccup or two, particularly during the 1970s inflationary spiral), spurring the development of American agribusiness. After World War II, the United States was routinely producing a grain surplus, which became an essential element of its Cold War political, economic, and humanitarian strategies -- not to mention the fact that American grain fed millions of hungry people across the world.
Futures markets traditionally included two kinds of players. On one side were the farmers, the millers, and the warehousemen, market players who have a real, physical stake in wheat. This group not only includes corn growers in Iowa or wheat farmers in Nebraska, but major multinational corporations like Pizza Hut, Kraft, Nestlé, Sara Lee, Tyson Foods, and McDonald's -- whose New York Stock Exchange shares rise and fall on their ability to bring food to peoples' car windows, doorsteps, and supermarket shelves at competitive prices. These market participants are called "bona fide" hedgers, because they actually need to buy and sell cereals.
On the other side is the speculator. The speculator neither produces nor consumes corn or soy or wheat, and wouldn't have a place to put the 20 tons of cereal he might buy at any given moment if ever it were delivered. Speculators make money through traditional market behavior, the arbitrage of buying low and selling high. And the physical stakeholders in grain futures have as a general rule welcomed traditional speculators to their market, for their endless stream of buy and sell orders gives the market its liquidity and provides bona fide hedgers a way to manage risk by allowing them to sell and buy just as they pleased.
But Goldman's index perverted the symmetry of this system. The structure of the GSCI paid no heed to the centuries-old buy-sell/sell-buy patterns. This newfangled derivative product was "long only," which meant the product was constructed to buy commodities, and only buy. At the bottom of this "long-only" strategy lay an intent to transform an investment in commodities (previously the purview of specialists) into something that looked a great deal like an investment in a stock -- the kind of asset class wherein anyone could park their money and let it accrue for decades (along the lines of General Electric or Apple). Once the commodity market had been made to look more like the stock market, bankers could expect new influxes of ready cash. But the long-only strategy possessed a flaw, at least for those of us who eat. The GSCI did not include a mechanism to sell or "short" a commodity.
This imbalance undermined the innate structure of the commodities markets, requiring bankers to buy and keep buying -- no matter what the price. Every time the due date of a long-only commodity index futures contract neared, bankers were required to "roll" their multi-billion dollar backlog of buy orders over into the next futures contract, two or three months down the line. And since the deflationary impact of shorting a position simply wasn't part of the GSCI, professional grain traders could make a killing by anticipating the market fluctuations these "rolls" would inevitably cause. "I make a living off the dumb money," commodity trader Emil van Essen told Businessweek last year. Commodity traders employed by the banks that had created the commodity index funds in the first place rode the tides of profit.
Bankers recognized a good system when they saw it, and dozens of speculative non-physical hedgers followed Goldman's lead and joined the commodities index game, including Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Pimco, JP Morgan Chase, AIG, Bear Stearns, and Lehman Brothers, to name but a few purveyors of commodity index funds. The scene had been set for food inflation that would eventually catch unawares some of the largest milling, processing, and retailing corporations in the United States, and send shockwaves throughout the world.
The money tells the story. Since the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000, there has been a 50-fold increase in dollars invested in commodity index funds. To put the phenomenon in real terms: In 2003, the commodities futures market still totaled a sleepy $13 billion. But when the global financial crisis sent investors running scared in early 2008, and as dollars, pounds, and euros evaded investor confidence, commodities -- including food -- seemed like the last, best place for hedge, pension, and sovereign wealth funds to park their cash. "You had people who had no clue what commodities were all about suddenly buying commodities," an analyst from the United States Department of Agriculture told me. In the first 55 days of 2008, speculators poured $55 billion into commodity markets, and by July, $318 billion was roiling the markets. Food inflation has remained steady since.
The money flowed, and the bankers were ready with a sparkling new casino of food derivatives. Spearheaded by oil and gas prices (the dominant commodities of the index funds) the new investment products ignited the markets of all the other indexed commodities, which led to a problem familiar to those versed in the history of tulips, dot-coms, and cheap real estate: a food bubble. Hard red spring wheat, which usually trades in the $4 to $6 dollar range per 60-pound bushel, broke all previous records as the futures contract climbed into the teens and kept on going until it topped $25. And so, from 2005 to 2008, the worldwide price of food rose 80 percent -- and has kept rising. "It's unprecedented how much investment capital we've seen in commodity markets," Kendell Keith, president of the National Grain and Feed Association, told me. "There's no question there's been speculation." In a recently published briefing note, Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, concluded that in 2008 "a significant portion of the price spike was due to the emergence of a speculative bubble."
What was happening to the grain markets was not the result of "speculation" in the traditional sense of buying low and selling high. Today, along with the cumulative index, the Standard & Poors GSCI provides 219 distinct index "tickers," so investors can boot up their Bloomberg system and bet on everything from palladium to soybean oil, biofuels to feeder cattle. But the boom in new speculative opportunities in global grain, edible oil, and livestock markets has created a vicious cycle. The more the price of food commodities increases, the more money pours into the sector, and the higher prices rise. Indeed, from 2003 to 2008, the volume of index fund speculation increased by 1,900 percent. "What we are experiencing is a demand shock coming from a new category of participant in the commodities futures markets," hedge fund Michael Masters testified before Congress in the midst of the 2008 food crisis.
The result of Wall Street's venture into grain and feed and livestock has been a shock to the global food production and delivery system. Not only does the world's food supply have to contend with constricted supply and increased demand for real grain, but investment bankers have engineered an artificial upward pull on the price of grain futures. The result: Imaginary wheat dominates the price of real wheat, as speculators (traditionally one-fifth of the market) now outnumber bona-fide hedgers four-to-one.
Today, bankers and traders sit at the top of the food chain -- the carnivores of the system, devouring everyone and everything below. Near the bottom toils the farmer. For him, the rising price of grain should have been a windfall, but speculation has also created spikes in everything the farmer must buy to grow his grain -- from seed to fertilizer to diesel fuel. At the very bottom lies the consumer. The average American, who spends roughly 8 to 12 percent of her weekly paycheck on food, did not immediately feel the crunch of rising costs. But for the roughly 2-billion people across the world who spend more than 50 percent of their income on food, the effects have been staggering: 250 million people joined the ranks of the hungry in 2008, bringing the total of the world's "food insecure" to a peak of 1 billion -- a number never seen before.
What's the solution? The last time I visited the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, I asked a handful of wheat brokers what would happen if the U.S. government simply outlawed long-only trading in food commodities for investment banks. Their reaction: laughter. One phone call to a bona-fide hedger like Cargill or Archer Daniels Midland and one secret swap of assets, and a bank's stake in the futures market is indistinguishable from that of an international wheat buyer. What if the government outlawed all long-only derivative products, I asked? Once again, laughter. Problem solved with another phone call, this time to a trading office in London or Hong Kong; the new food derivative markets have reached supranational proportions, beyond the reach of sovereign law.
Volatility in the food markets has also trashed what might have been a great opportunity for global cooperation. The higher the cost of corn, soy, rice, and wheat, the more the grain producing-nations of the world should cooperate in order to ensure that panicked (and generally poorer) grain-importing nations do not spark ever more dramatic contagions of food inflation and political upheaval. Instead, nervous countries have responded instead with me-first policies, from export bans to grain hoarding to neo-mercantilist land grabs in Africa. And efforts by concerned activists or international agencies to curb grain speculation have gone nowhere. All the while, the index funds continue to prosper, the bankers pocket the profits, and the world's poor teeter on the brink of starvation.