Friday, January 27, 2017


California clears hurdle for cancer warning label on Roundup
January 27, 2017 by Scott Smith
California fights Monsanto on labels for popular weed killer
Containers of Roundup, left, a weed killer is seen on a shelf with other products for sale at a hardware store in Los Angeles on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017. 

A battle over the main ingredient in Roundup, the popular weed killer sprayed by …more
California can require Monsanto to label its popular weed-killer Roundup as a possible cancer threat despite an insistence from the chemical giant that it poses no risk to people, a judge tentatively ruled Friday.

California would be the first state to order such labeling if it carries out the proposal.
Monsanto had sued the nation's leading agricultural state, saying California officials illegally based their decision for carrying the warnings on an international health organization based in France.

Monsanto attorney Trenton Norris argued in court Friday that the labels would have immediate financial consequences for the company. He said many consumers would see the labels and stop buying Roundup.

"It will absolutely be used in ways that will harm Monsanto," he said.
After the hearing, the firm said in a statement that it will challenge the tentative ruling.
Critics take issue with Roundup's main ingredient, glyphosate, which has no color or smell. Monsanto introduced it in 1974 as an effective way of killing weeds while leaving crops and plants intact.

It's sold in more than 160 countries, and farmers in California use it on 250 types of crops.
The chemical is not restricted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which says it has "low toxicity" and recommends people avoid entering a field for 12 hours after it has been applied.
But the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a Lyon, France-based branch of the U.N. World Health Organization, classified the chemical as a "probable human carcinogen."

Shortly afterward, the most populated U.S. state took its first step in 2015 to require the warning labels.

St. Louis-based Monsanto contends that California is delegating its authority to an unelected foreign body with no accountability to U.S. or state officials in violation of the California Constitution.

Attorneys for California consider the International Agency for Research on Cancer the "gold standard" for identifying carcinogens, and they rely on its findings along with several states, the federal government and other countries, court papers say.
Fresno County Superior Court Judge Kristi Kapetan still must issue a formal decision, which she said would come soon.

California regulators are waiting for the formal ruling before moving forward with the warnings, said Sam Delson, a spokesman for the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

Once a chemical is added to a list of probable carcinogens, the manufacturer has a year before it must attach the label, he said.

Teri McCall believes a warning would have saved her husband, Jack, who toted a backpack of Roundup for more than 30 years to spray weeds on their 20-acre avocado and apple farm. He died of cancer in late 2015.

"I just don't think my husband would have taken that risk if he had known," said Teri McCall, one of dozens nationwide who are suing Monsanto, claiming the chemical gave them or a loved one cancer.

But farmer Paul Betancourt, who has been using Roundup for more than three decades on his almond and cotton crops, says he does not know anyone who has gotten sick from it.

"You've got to treat it with a level of respect, like anything else," he said. "Gasoline will cause cancer if you bathe in the stuff."

Thursday, January 26, 2017


Organic Checkoff Program Advances

Can industry funds help the organic industry strengthen and clarify its brand for confused consumers?

BY SARAH SHEMKUS  |  AgroecologyFood Policy
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today released a proposal intended to get more organic food onto shopping lists and dinner plates across the country by pooling money from organic farmers, handlers, and processors to promote the sector, educate consumers, and conduct research on organic production methods. Once up and running, the program could invest more than $30 million annually, according to estimates by the Organic Trade Association (OTA).
“We’re really pleased the USDA is moving forward this well vetted proposal,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of the OTA. “It is an industry self-investment that makes a lot of sense now and will make a lot of sense in the new administration as well.”
The proposal appeared on the Federal Register today, and it’s a big step in a process that has already taken over two years of collaboration by multiple stakeholders. It also arrives at a critical moment for the organic industry. Though organic food is increasingly popular—sales were up 11 percent to $43.5 billion in 2015—U.S.-grown supply isn’t keeping up with demand. Despite the growing market, the complicated and costly process of becoming a certified organic grower keeps many farmers from attempting the transition. At the same time, labels like “natural” and “non-GMO” are sowing confusion with consumers about the true meaning and value of the organic designation.
The proposed program is designed to address these challenges.
Similar plans—called “checkoff” programs—have long existed for commodities such as milk, beef, and eggs. Producers are required to pay into a central fund, and the money goes to education, research, and promotions—think “Got Milk?” or “Pork: The Other White Meat.”
In 2014, a new Farm Bill was signed into law. The legislation allowed organic producers to opt out of conventional commodity checkoffs and called for the creation of an organic program if there was sufficient interest. For the first time, a checkoff program could be defined by how a food is produced rather than by what it is. OTA then submitted an application in May 2015 to the USDA to get the process started.
Here’s how it would work, according to the current proposal: The program, called GRO Organic (Generic Research and Promotion Order for Organic), would be run by a 17-member board of directors, independent of the OTA. Any larger business with an organic certification—from the farmer who grows the organic cucumbers to the processor who turns them into organic pickles—would contribute, unless it already belongs to another checkoff program and chooses to stay with that group. Small businesses—those with less than $250,000 in revenue—are not required to join but can opt in. The board will be made up of a split between farmers and handlers.
“The entire value chain is inextricably linked,” Batcha said. “Acknowledging that, the program is built so that everybody participates.”
Supporters of the proposal include leaders of Organic Valley’s dairy cooperative, Stonyfield Farm, Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs, and Late July Snacks.
The board would run educational initiatives and promotional campaigns intended to boost demand by helping consumers understand the benefits of organic foods. Growing demand, in turn, should help lure more farmers into making the leap from conventional agriculture.
According to the checkoff’s supporters, farmers and processors wouldn’t be the only ones to benefit, however. Together, greater supply and more efficient farming should make organic a more affordable option, said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group.
“Over time, real prices should fall,” said Cook. “That’s a positive thing for consumers.”
At the same time, the program would conduct research into areas such as farming technology and more effective pest control techniques, making production more efficient. At least 25 percent of the GRO Organic funds would go to local and regional research. These funds would also support technical assistance, helping organic farmers improve their growing practices.
Support for the proposal, however, is far from universal.
“The concern we have is checkoffs have not done what they are designed to do,” said John Bobbe, executive director of the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing, which opposes the proposed program.
Checkoff organizations have a long history of mismanagement and abuse, he said, pointing for example to recent allegations that the American Egg Board illegally used funds to conspire against the vegan mayonnaise company Hampton Creek. Furthermore, he worries that the needs of processors and handlers could override the interests of farmers—who have traditionally received a small portion of the profit from the $40 billion-and-growing organic market.
Batcha stresses that the proposal is designed to avoid the pitfalls that have plagued some conventional commodity checkoffs. Board members are limited to two three-year terms to prevent any one person from accumulating too much influence. In addition, members of the program would have to vote on whether to continue the checkoff every seven years, to hold the organization accountable to those it represents, Batcha said.
“Stakeholders paying in have the comfort that they get to evaluate every seven years whether it’s working,” she said.
Still, some are skeptical of any program overseen by the government. Checkoffs overseen by the USDA are not allowed to disparage other products; some wonder whether it makes sense to promote organic foods without claiming that they are healthier or safer than their less-pricey conventional alternatives.
“You can be more flexible with your messaging and even more efficient with the dollars if you’re not tied to the government,” said Harriet Behar, senior organic specialist with the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES).
And there are alternatives to going through the USDA, she noted. Pistachio growers, for example, have formed a voluntary, independent checkoff that is not subject to the same governmental restrictions.
The proposal released today will be open for public comment for 60 days. Supporters are hoping the incoming administration won’t do anything to interfere with the program.
“This is an industry that came to Washington and said, ‘We want regulation so we can grow,’” Cook said. “That kind of entrepreneurial zeal should not be discouraged.”
Once the proposal has been finalized, organic farmers and processors will get to vote on whether to make the program a reality.

“A yes vote in this referendum would begin this grand seven-year experiment, to see whether industry coordination can make a difference,” Batcha said.


New Paper Justifies Moratorium of GMOs

On Dec 19, 2016 a team of scientists published a new paper* revealing that GMO corn, NK603 a Roundup-tolerant variety, showed alarming differences from non GMO corn. The variety showed to have metabolism disturbances caused by the GMO process and the presence of cadaverine and putrescine, chemicals which can be toxic. The presence of these differences show that concern for harm, when GMOs are consumed by humans, is warranted. The impact of these disturbances and chemicals are unknown. The rise of health conditions in the USA is a known however, since the introduction of GMOs, food allergies have increased 400%. Currently 1 out 2 American children have a chronic illness such as autoimmune disease, asthma, allergies, autism, diabetes or obesity.
As described in the paper, metabolism disturbances, cadaverine, and putrescine found in NK603, prove that this GMO corn is significantly different from non GMO corn and therefore the basis for the FDA’s approval of GMOs, “GRAS” - Generally Recognized As Safe- is unfounded. The basis for the GRAS approval was on the claim that GMOs are not substantially different from non GMO food and therefore should not require any additional safety testing. This claim is also how companies like Monsanto persuaded the FDA to classify GMOs as a “process” and not an “additive”. “Additives” in food require long term safety testing and labeling, “processes” do not. Clearly however, a genetically engineered food undergoes both the process of genetic manipulation and the addition of genetic material or changes to the DNA or RNAi, which are additional. Further testing will detect GMO proteins and changes to the food.
The paper points out some disturbing changes and impacts from the genetic engineering: Regarding the presence of cadaverine and putrescine: “toxicological effects such as nausea, headaches, rashes and changes in blood pressure are provoked by the consumption of foods with high concentrations of polyamines (cadaverine and putrescine) 56.
This section reminded me of when my family went out to eat and my son ate a corn tortilla and onion rings, likely cooked in GMO corn or canola oil, and within minutes he had nausea, headache, rash, and felt like he would faint. The area around his mouth went white and he began shaking.  After getting up and walking around, he improved, but he is now determined to only eat organic, and his health has benefited tremendously.
The paper continues:
“Putrescine and cadaverine have been reported as potentiators of the effects of histamine, and both have been implicated in the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines with nitrite in meat products"
Histamine is connected to food allergy reactions, which kill hundreds of children a year in the USA, a phenomena which was unheard of 30 years ago.
It would be speculative to say that my son’s reaction is connected this particular type of corn, as I have no idea what kind of corn it was, but the fact that GMO corn has been proven to create polyamines raises great concern for the hundreds of GMOs which make up 85-100% of major food crops on the market. Who knows what toxins were in the GMO canola, soy, corn and sugar he likely ate that night? I assert that they must all be tested and until proven safe, a moratorium on GMOs must be enacted.
Cancer rates are also skyrocketing: 1 out of 2 males and 1 out of 3 females are expected to get cancer in the USA. Should we really be consuming GMO food and chemicals which have been linked to cancer?
And finally:
“Glutathione metabolism was significantly altered in the NK603 when Roundup was sprayed during cultivation. Glutathione is known to be an important antioxidant in most living organisms, preventing damage to important cellular components caused by several environmental pollutants, including agrochemicals
This reminded me of my best friend’s daughter who developed a cerebral palsy type condition after her 3 month vaccines. Her mother was told that her daughter had a severe deficiency in the ability to produce glutathione. We have since tested vaccines and found glyphosate (Roundup) to be present in all 5 childhood vaccines. Could these circumstances be linked? Could the fact that glyphosate is also present in so many American foods be linked to the overall spike in childhood illnesses?
The significance of these findings of substantial non-equivalence, which was long expected, and proven in other ways in other studies, provides more evidence that the FDA is not doing their job to protect the American people and livestock. This evidence shows that the FDA should immediately put a moratorium on all GMOs until proven safe.
It is astonishing that the FDA has been bullied and/or bribed into overlooking the studies showing harm and have allowed GMO products in our food supply. Yet, they have: GMO products have expanded into corn, soy, sugar from sugar beets, cotton seed, canola, Hawaiian Papaya, some zucchini and yellow squash, potatoes, apples, pineapples, salmon,  and soon, bananas. Hundreds of varieties of GMO wait in the pipeline.
Poisoning our population simply must stop.
While many consumers call for a moratorium on GMOs, waiting for the FDA to protect us, however, is not sensible, we must protect our families now. Mothers and women make 90% of the household purchasing decision. We buy most of the food. If we simply say that we will not buy GMO food, then they cannot sell it. If we put a moratorium on GMO in our households, eventually farmers will not grow them, and we can, on our own, eliminate GMOs in the market place.
It makes a difference when we put down the corn chip Doritos and pick up the organic chips or an organic apple instead. It makes a difference when we buy organic milk, eggs and bread. With every organic purchase we make we send the message that we do not want GMO and chemical farming. We do not want toxins in our food. We put the safety of our children and the future of our country FIRST.
Zen Honeycutt
Moms Across America Executive Director