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Dear readers & followers,

I am sorry to inform you that due to unforeseeable circumstances I will not be posting on this blog anymore. It has been quite a journey and I tried my best to share alternative news so that you are able to have a wider view of world issues. At the time being I am not sure when and if I will be able to post again. Thank you for all the support and your comments. Please refer to the blogs and news sites on the left or if you wish follow the blogs/sites below which are similar to the articles I posted.

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Keep seeking the truth!

Nip this in the bud

glyphosate1en

by Aruna Rodrigues, source

The final report of the Supreme Court-appointed Technical Expert Committee (TEC) on field trials of genetically modified crops is packed with revelations on what is wrong with institutional governance and regulation in India when it comes to GMOs (genetically-modified organisms). The report’s release late last month came days before biotech giant Monsanto decided not to submit any further applications for GMOs to the European Union; a decision forced by non-acceptance on scientific grounds and rejection by civil society.

Remarkable consensus

The TEC Final Report (FR) is the fourth official report which exposes the lack of integrity, independence and scientific expertise in assessing GMO risk. It is the third official report barring GM crops or their field trials singularly or collectively. This consensus is remarkable, given the regulatory oversight and fraud that otherwise dog our agri-institutions. The pervasive conflict of interest embedded in those bodies makes sound and rigorous regulation of GMOs all but impossible.

The four reports are: The ‘Jairam Ramesh Report’ of February 2010, imposing an indefinite moratorium on Bt Brinjal, overturning the apex Regulator’s approval to commercialise it; the Sopory Committee Report (August 2012); the Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) Report on GM crops (August 2012) and now the TEC Final Report (June-July 2013). The TEC recommends that in general, there should be an indefinite stoppage of all open field trials (environmental release) of GM crops, conditional on systemic corrections, including comprehensive and rigorous risk assessment protocols. The report includes a specific focus on Bt food crops.

It also calls for a ban on the environmental release of any GMO where India is the centre of origin or diversity. It also says herbicide tolerant (HT) crops, targeted for introduction by the regulator, should not be open field-tested. The TEC “finds them completely unsuitable in the Indian context as HT crops are likely to exert a highly adverse impact over time on sustainable agriculture, rural livelihoods, and environment.”

The PSC report which preceded that of the TEC was no less scathing: it was “ […] convinced that these developments are not merely slippages due to oversight or human error but indicative of collusion of a worst kind […] field trials under any garb should be discontinued forthwith”.

Sound science and factual data form the basis of the TEC decisions. There is practical and ethical sense too. The TEC insists that the government bring in independence, scientific expertise, transparency, rigour and participative democracy into GMO regulation and policy. The accent is on bio-safety.

Assessment and performance

GMOs produce “unintended effects” that are not immediately apparent and may take years to detect. This is a laboratory-based, potent technology, described by WHO as “unnatural.” The risk assessment (RA) protocols for GMOs are an evolving process to be performed by qualified and experienced experts who must be responsive to the latest scientific knowledge. The fact is that GMOs involve us in a big experiment in the idea that human agencies can perform adequate risk assessment, which, it is expected, will deliver safety at every level/dimension of their impact on us — the environment, farming systems, preservation of biodiversity, human and animal safety.

After 20 years since the first GM crop was commercialised in the U.S., there is increasing evidence, not less, of the health and environment risks from these crops. Furthermore, we now have 20 years of crop statistics from the U.S., of two kinds of crops that currently make up over 95 per cent of all GM crops cultivated globally, (like Bt cotton) Bt and HT crops. The statistics demonstrate declining yields. GM yields are significantly lower than yields from non-GM crops. Pesticide use, the great “industry” claim on these GM crops, instead of coming down, has gone up exponentially. In India, notwithstanding the hype of the industry, the regulators and the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), Bt cotton yield is levelling off to levels barely higher than they were before the introduction of Bt.

It takes roughly $150 million to produce a GMO against $1 million through conventional breeding techniques. So where is the advantage and why are we experimenting given all the attendant risks? We have hard evidence from every U.N. study and particularly the World Bank-funded International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge and Science for Development Report, which India signed in 2008. The IAASTD was the work of over 400 scientists and took four years to complete. It was twice peer reviewed. The report states we must look to small-holder, traditional farming to deliver food security in third world countries through agri-ecological systems which are sustainable. Governments must invest in these systems. This is the clear evidence.

Conflict of interest

The response to the TEC Final Report came immediately, with the Ministry of Agriculture strongly opposing the report. The MoA is a vendor of GM crops and has no mandate for regulating GMOs. The same Ministry had lobbied and fought to include an additional member on the TEC after its interim report had been submitted. That ‘new’ member came in with several conflicts of interest, his links to the GM crops lobby being widely known. His entry was in fact a breach of the Supreme Court’s mandate for an independent TEC and provoked me to file an affidavit in the court, drawing attention to this. Oddly enough, he did not sign the final report, or even put up a note of dissent. This allowed the final report, then, to be unanimous; as indeed was the TEC’s Interim Report submitted by the original five members.

The Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) promotes PPPs (Public-Private-Partnerships) with the biotechnology industry. It does this with the active backing of the Ministry of Science and Technology. The MoA has handed Monsanto and the industry access to our agri-research public institutions placing them in a position to seriously influence agri-policy in India. You cannot have a conflict of interest larger or more alarming than this one. Today, Monsanto decides which Bt cotton hybrids are planted — and where. Monsanto owns over 90 per cent of planted cotton seed, all of it Bt cotton.

All the other staggering scams rocking the nation do have the possibility of recovery and reversal. The GM scam will be of a scale hitherto unknown. It will also not be reversible because environmental contamination over time will be indelible. We have had the National Academies of Science give a clean chit of biosafety to GM crops — doing that by using paragraphs lifted wholesale from the industry’s own literature! Likewise, Ministers in the PMO who know nothing about the risks of GMOs have similarly sung the virtues of Bt Brinjal and its safety to an erstwhile Minister of Health. They have used, literally, “cut & paste” evidence from the biotech lobby’s “puff” material. Are these officials then, “un-caged corporate parrots?”

Along with the GM-vendor Ministries of Agriculture and Science & Technology, these are the expert inputs that the Prime Minister relies on when he pleads for “structured debate, analysis and enlightenment.” The worrying truth is that these values are absent in what emanates from either the PMO or the President.

Ministries, least of all “promoting” Ministries, should not have the authority to allow the novel technology of GMOs into Indian agriculture bypassing authentic democratic processes. Those processes require the widest possible — and transparent — consultation across India. With GMOs we must proceed carefully, always anchored in the principle of bio-safety. Science and technology may be mere informants into this process. After all, it is every woman, man and child, and our animals, an entire nation that will quite literally have to eat the outcome of a GM policy that delivers up our agriculture to it: if a GMO is unsafe, it will remain irreversibly unsafe. And it will remain in the environment and that is another dimension of impact.

Torturing animals with GMOs

The Monsanto Method

by KATHERINE PAUL, source

“A Culture that views pigs as inanimate piles of protoplasmic structure to be manipulated however cleverly the human mind can conceive will view its citizens the same way – and other cultures.”

– Joe Salatin,  Restoring Health, Wealth and Respect to Food and Farming

We associate food with at most, pleasure, at the very least, survival. It’s not too different for animals. Lambs turned out on new grass move “quickly over certain grasses to get to others – to nosh on clover and mustard grass, avoiding horse nettle and fescue along the way,” writes Dan Barber in A Chef Speaks Out . Wild pigs, capable of seeking out the nutrients they need,”enjoy eating nuts, roots, fruits, mushrooms, bugs, rabbits, and, occasionally, dead animals.”

But what happens when animals are confined in cramped, filthy environments and force-fed monoculture diets of genetically modified corn and soy?

A lot can happen. Calves are born too weak to walk, with enlarged joints and limb deformities. Piglets experience rapidly deteriorating health, a “failure to thrive” so severe that they start breaking down their own tissues and organs – self-cannibalizing – to survive. Many animals suffer from weak, brittle bones that easily fracture. Dairy cows develop mastitis, a painful udder infection. Beef cattle develop liver abscesses and an excruciating condition referred to as “twisted gut.”

It all adds up to a lot of misery for animals unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of industrial agriculture’s Big GMO Experiment.

The spotlight on animal rights in CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) is typically focused on cramped spaces and blatantly inhumane treatment. But some scientists, farmers and veterinarians are talking about another form of animal abuse: stuffing animals with feed grown from genetically engineered crops drenched in glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp.

What they’ve uncovered should give us all pause. Because the symptoms veterinarians and researchers have observed in animals are not unlike many of the chronic, and increasingly prevalent, health problems plaguing humans today. Digestive disorders. Damaged organs. Infertility. Weak immune systems. Chronic depression.

“We’ve got a real mess,” says Dr. Art Dunham, an Iowa veterinarian who has treated farm animals for several decades. Dunham is a staunch believer that GMO crops are wreaking havoc with the health of animals and humans. His daughter, Leah Dunham, who tagged along with her father on many a farm visit over the years, recently wrote America’s Two-Headed Pig Drawing on her father’s clinical notes, and the work of scientists like Dr. Don Huber,  professor emeritus in plant pathology at Purdue University, Leah Dunham outlines some of the ways in which humans are adding to the suffering of farm animals by feeding them a glyphosate-tainted, GMO diet.

Leah Dunham would like to see the CAFO model drastically overhauled or abandoned. Her father believes it’s more realistic to tackle the issue of GMO feed without attacking CAFOs. But father and daughter agree that the problems associated with today’s industrial agriculture model extend beyond the health and well-being of animals:

“My father has pored over thousands of research papers in attempts to remedy the underlying causes of the illnesses described in this book. His work has embodied a commitment to healthy lands, creatures, and farms, as well as the hard work necessary to sustain them. After years of listening to him talk about his attempts to solve reoccurring health problems, I realized that most people don’t have a clue as to how modern disease complexities affect farm animals. We both hope that this book will help all medical professionals, farmers, and consumers better address the true roots of various medical conditions, including nutrient deficiencies, clostridial infections, diabetes, and Parkinsons disease.”

Leah Dunham says consumers are alarmed by news reports that focus on outbreaks of food-borne illnesses. But most are unaware that industrial GMO crops are “damaging our health in other, far more insidious ways – among them, by damaging the health of animals raised for food.”

Here are a few examples, from America’s Two-Headed Pigof how Art and Leah Dunham believe genetically modified feeds, and particularly glyphosate, inflict suffering on farm animals.

Skeletal deformities

In his many years of practice, Art Dunham hadn’t seen a single case of manganese deficiency in the herds he treated. But that changed in about 2000, when he started seeing more and more calves being born with skeletal deformities – a symptom of a manganese-deficient diet. Initially skeptical, Dunham experimented by adding manganese to the calves’ diets. Their health improved. His hunch was confirmed when lab results on some of the dead calves’ livers revealed little or no manganese.

Dunham was confused. A diet of corn, soybean meal and hay should contain enough manganese for hogs, dairy and beef cattle. But it started to make more sense when he came across a study conducted in 2007 by Dr. Huber. Huber found that by spraying manganese on soybeans 10-14 days after the soybeans were sprayed with glyphosate, farmers could increase crop yields. Why? Huber postulated that the glyphosate caused some crops to become manganese-deficient because it was binding to nutrients in the soil and plants. Crops sprayed with glyphosate were less able to metabolize the nutrients needed for proper plant function, which made the plants susceptible to disease.

Could this be why calves fed manganese-deficient crops sprayed in glyphosate showed their own symptoms of manganese deficiency, including enlarged joints, deformed limbs and crippling weakness? The evidence was convincing and the theory plausible, if unproven.

Failure to thrive

It’s both disturbing and increasingly common in North America in recent decades, according to Leah Dunham. About five to 10 days after normal, healthy piglets are weaned off their mother’s milk, they become gaunt, pale, anorexic. Their health goes south, rapidly. It’s called “post-weaning failure to thrive syndrome” or PFTS. It causes piglets to catabolize, or break down, their own tissues and organs, essentially self-cannibalizing. Next comes emaciation. Then euthanasia.

Does a virus cause PFTS? Studies suggest not, says Dunham. More likely, the cause is diet-related, as the disease manifests when the piglets begin eating food. The diet theory is supported by post-mortems showing that the affected piglets have lesions in their stomachs and intestines.

Could PFTS represent another case of something essential missing from the piglets’ diets? Possibly. Liver analyses of hogs reveal “rock-bottom” low levels of cobalt. In fact, out of 522 livers tested, none hit the normal range for cobalt, established before GMO feed came on the market. Perhaps not coincidentally, according to Dunham, researchers at Texas A & M University have found that glyphosate ties up cobalt at 102-103 times more than it ties up manganese.

Twisted gut, ulcers and other digestive disorders

Nature intended for cows to eat grass. But today, most cattle spend at least the last six months of their lives on feedlots, where they’re fattened up with a combination of grains, mostly corn, and industrial byproducts including corn distiller, a product of the ethanol manufacturing process. This mixture is supplemented with preemptive antibiotics and growth hormones, to keep the stressed animals from getting sick while making them grow larger, faster. It’s an unnatural diet that often leads to digestive disorders. Factor in the glyphosate used to grow the GMO corn, and you’ve got a recipe for a host of painful conditions, from twisted gut to bloody diarrhea, ulcers, and bloat. All of which contribute to a weak immune system, Dunham says.

A cow’s stomach has four parts: the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum. A twisted gut, or medically speaking, a displaced abomasum, occurs when a cow’s abomasum fills with gas, causing it to balloon up to the top of the cow’s abdomen, where it can become twisted. Remedies can include surgery or repositioning the abomasum by rolling the cow on its back.

That’s bad enough. But sometimes trapped gas causes a cow’s stomach to bloat. To relieve the animal’s pain and keep it “productive,” a veterinarian will insert a hollow needle into the cow’s rumen to try to release the gas. If the cow doesn’t recover enough to then start relieving the gas on its own, it will be fitted with a permanent port, similar to what a chemo patient has in order to receive regular doses of chemotherapy.

According to Dunham, twisted gut and bloat are usually related to inadequate nutrition, which leads to bacterial imbalances in the gut, which cause gas. Not unlike humans, cattle host large quantities of bacteria which they need in order to digest plants and grains and absorb available nutrients from their food. Alter the bacterial content of the cow’s gut, and the gut can become extra acidic, irritated and inflamed, says Dunham.

Consumers know that CAFO cows are routinely fed preemptive antibiotics, which alter the animals’ gut bacteria. But what many people don’t realize, says Dunham, is that the animals are consuming far more antibiotics than just those intentionally administered at the feeding lots. In fact, many of the pesticides, including glyphosate patented under the number #7771736, act not only as broad-spectrum pesticides, but as broad-spectrum biocides. And these antibiotic chemicals are applied to millions of acres of plants that end up in animal feed, Dunham says. The result? Some of the animals’ gut bacteria and parasitic organisms are no longer able to carry out important metabolic processes, says Dunham.

Is it a stretch to say that force-feeding animals GMO feed amounts to a form of torture? Damaged livers. Too weak to walk. Needles jammed into stomachs. Failure to thrive. All unnecessary suffering, all diet-related.

Leah Dunham stops short of using the word “torture,” but in her book, she argues that we can do better:

” As other food advocates have pointed out, we have learned how to dissociate what we spend from the farmers and citizens our food dollars affect. In doing so, we can avoid thinking about how our actions affect actual creatures.

I suspect that one day future generations will remember the last three decades as a ridiculous age in American agriculture. This has been an age during which too many human beings treated animals and children like guinea pigs, feeding them genetically modified, chemically coated, antibiotic resistant experiments, despite the overwhelming evidence that these foods are serious risk factors for illness and disease. In today’s world of widely accessible research and technological advances, the ability to produce abundant amounts of food without threatening biodiversity and our basic biological rights should be an expectation, not a goal.

And let’s not forget the basic biological rights of the four-legged creatures unfortunate enough to be part of industrial agriculture’s CAFO systems.

It’s not science fiction anymore: Monsanto seeks to control world’s food

glyphosate1en

by PETE DOLACK, source

The ultimate monopoly would be control of the world’s food supply. Although not the only multi-national corporation attempting to achieve the ability to dictate what you eat, Monsanto Company appears the most determined.

Already infamous for toxic chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), Agent Orange and dioxin, Monsanto’s march toward control of the world’s food supply is focused on proprietary seeds and genetically modified organisms. No corporation or corporate oligarchy possessing a food monopoly would be desirable, but Monsanto is a particularly frightening contender. So powerful is the company that a special law tailored for it was snuck into a congressional appropriations bill funding U.S. government operations.

The Farmer Assurance Provision — better known by its nickname, the “Monsanto Protection Act” — was quietly slipped into an appropriations bill in March by a Missouri senator, Roy Blunt. The appropriations bill had to be passed to avert a government shutdown, providing an opportunity to do a favor for the powerful. Slipping off-topic special measures into bills hundreds of pages long is routine in the U.S. Congress.

Efforts to remove the language from the bill have so far failed. The relevant language is this:

“Directs the Secretary [of Agriculture], if a determination of non-regulated status under the Plant Protection Act has been invalidated, to authorize movement, introduction, continued cultivation, or commercialization for the interim period necessary for the Secretary to complete any required analyses or consultations related to the petition for non-regulated status.”

In plain language, what the above passage means is the U.S. Department of Agriculture is required to ignore any court order that would halt the planting of genetically engineered crops even if the department is still conducting a safety investigation, and rubber-stamp an okay. The group Food Democracy Now! summarized the implications of that requirement:

“This dangerous provision, the Monsanto Protection Act, strips judges of their constitutional mandate to protect consumer and farmer rights and the environment, while opening up the floodgates for the planting of new untested genetically engineered crops, endangering farmers, citizens and the environment.”

The Monsanto Protection Act expires at the end of the government’s fiscal year, September 30, with the expiration of the appropriations bill of which it is a part, but the language could easily be included in next year’s appropriations bills. As outrageous as the special provision is, it is consistent with the basic methodology of public safety in the United States — new products are routinely put on the market with minimal testing (or the product’s manufacturer providing the only “research” and declaring it safe), and can’t be removed from sale until independent testing determines the product is unsafe.

Sell first, ask questions later

In other words, it’s not up the company selling a product to prove it is safe; it is up to others, after the fact, to prove that it is unsafe. This is the case with, for example, chemicals and pesticides. And it is the case for genetically modified organisms (GMOs). No corporation has more riding on GMOs than Monsanto. That is not merely because GMOs have steadily taken an increasing share of foods grown for animal and human consumption, but because of genetically engineered seeds. A report by the Center For Food Safety and Save Our Seeds puts the magnitude of this change in stark terms:

“The vast majority of the four major commodity crops in the U.S. are now genetically engineered. U.S. adoption of transgenic commodity crops has been rapid, in which [genetically engineered] varieties now make up the substantial majority: soybean (93 percent transgenic in 2010), cotton (88 percent), corn (86 percent), and canola (64 percent).” [page 5]

Seeds containing genes patented by Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company, account for more than 90 percent of soybeans grown in the U.S. and 80 percent of U.S.-grown corn, according to a separate report by Food & Watch Watch. These seeds have been engineered to be resistant to insects or to withstand the application of herbicides. The report, “Monsanto: A Corporate Profile,” states:

“Monsanto not only markets its own patented seeds, but it uses licensing agreements with other companies and distributors to spread its traits throughout the seed supply. … The acreage on which Monsanto’s [genetically engineered] crop traits are grown has increased from a total of 3 million acres in 1996 to 282.3 million acres worldwide and 151.4 million acres in the United States in 2009. … Monsanto’s products constitute approximately 40 percent of all crop acres in the [U.S.]. …

“A lawyer working for DuPont, the next largest competitor in the seed business, said ‘a seed company can’t stay in business without offering seeds with Roundup Ready in it, so if they want to stay in that business, essentially they have to do what Monsanto tells them to do.’ ” [page 8]

DuPont is one of the world’s largest chemical corporations and a major competitor in many fields. If an enterprise as powerful as DuPont finds itself at the mercy of Monsanto, what chance does a family farmer have?

The reference to “Roundup Ready” in the quote above is a reference to a suite of Monsanto agricultural products (soybeans, corn, sugar beets and other crops) that are genetically engineered to be resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. Farmers growing these crops with Monsanto seeds can thus spray more herbicides on their crops. Unfortunately, as more pesticides are sprayed, weeds and insects become more resistant, inducing farmers to spray still more and thereby introduce more poisons into the environment.

Patents on life reverses precedent

As with the consolidation of seed companies, the rise of genetically engineered crops and the right to patent living organisms is a recent development. After decades of refusal by the U.S. Congress to allow patents on food-producing plants that re-produce via seeds, it passed a law in 1970 allowing patenting of “novel” varieties produced from seeds.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued rulings in 1980 and 2001 allowing living organisms, including plants, to be patented, opening the floodgates to current corporate practices. A frenzy of acquisition of seed companies and a rapid expansion of patents on seeds and plants ensued. The report by Center For Food Safety and Save Our Seeds summarizes what these changes have wrought:

“As a consequence, what was once a freely exchanged, renewable resource is now privatized and monopolized. Current judicial interpretations have allowed utility patents on products of nature, plants, and seeds, without exceptions for research and seed saving. This revolutionary change is contrary to centuries of traditional seed breeding based on collective community knowledge and established in the public domain and for the public good.” [page 5]

The ETC Group, in its report, “Who Owns Nature?,” also highlights the privatization of a commons:

“In the first half of the 20th century, seeds were overwhelmingly in the hands of farmers and public-sector plant breeders. In the decades since, [biotechnology companies] have used intellectual property laws to commodify the world seed supply — a strategy that aims to control plant germplasm and maximize profits by eliminating farmers’ rights. … In less than three decades, a handful of multinational corporations have engineered a fast and furious corporate enclosure of the first link in the food chain.” [page 11]

Proprietary seeds now account for 82 percent of the world’s commercial seed market. Monsanto, according to the ETC Group, directly accounts 23 percent of the world’s seed sales by itself. Monsanto and the next two biggest seed companies, DuPont and Syngenta, sell almost half.

Once a farmer contracts with a giant seed company, the farmer is trapped. Standard contracts with seed companies forbid farmers from saving seeds, requiring them to buy new genetically engineered seeds from the company every year and the herbicide to which the seed has been engineered to be resistant. Monsanto aggressively litigates against farmers to enforce this provision, dictates farming practices and requires its inspectors to be given access to all records and fields. The company has even sued neighboring farmers whose fields unwillingly became contaminated with Monsanto’s seeds.

Doubts raised on ‘benefits’ of GMOs

Nobody knows the full effects on the environment or human health of these chemicals and GMOs. A recent study published in the journal Entropy found that residues of Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, are found in a variety of foods in the Western diet and in turn can cause cellular damage leading to several diseases, including gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. More than 800 scientists have signed a letter calling for a moratorium on all field trials of GMOs for at least five years, a ban on patents on life forms and declaring that genetically modified crops “offer no benefits to consumers for farmers.”

Genetically modified crops, of course, are carried along by winds and don’t stop at property boundaries. Two months ago, genetically modified wheat was discovered in the fields of a farmer in Oregon. The Guardian reports that the wheat has never been approved for human consumption and is a variety developed by Monsanto in an experiment that ended a decade ago. Several Asian countries responded to this news by banning imports of U.S. wheat and the European Union advised wheat shipped from the U.S. be tested.

Hoping to expand its reach, Monsanto (and three other corporations) are attempting to corner the market in maize in Mexico, the staple crop’s birthplace. The companies have applied to plant genetically modified maize on more than two million hectares in two Mexican states. Already, according to a report in Truthout, farmers near Mexico City have found their crops contaminated with genetically modified maize.

Sixty-four countries currently require GMO labeling, but such labeling in the United States is bitterly fought by Monsanto and other giant agribusinesses. The companies argue that GMOs are safe, but if they are so proud of their products, why do they resist them being put on a label for consumers to see? Nor does the revolving door between the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Monsanto inspire confidence.

Corporate lawyers and others who have done work for Monsanto, for instance, subsequently moved to the FDA, where they gave approval for Monsanto products. Although corporate executives going to work for the U.S. government agencies that regulate them, then going back to their companies, is a common practice, Monsanto has sent an extraordinary number of executives to government posts.

Nonetheless, this specter shouldn’t be looked at overly simplistically as Monsanto being an evil company. It and its competitors are acting in the way that capitalist competition mandates they act — grow or die is the ever present imperative. All industries move toward monopolization (a handful of companies dominating an industry, not necessarily a “pure” monopoly of one); corporations grow to such massive size that they can dominate their societies; and the surviving corporations convert ever more human activity or traditionally public spheres into their private profit centers. This is the natural result of market competition and allowing “markets” to determine social outcomes.

Monsanto happens to be the company that is most ruthless at navigating and further developing these ongoing systemic trends, just as Wal-Mart has that status among retailers forcing the moving of production to the lowest-wage countries, squeezing suppliers and exploiting workforces. That does not mean that we should be content to allow Monsanto to grab control of the world’s food supply or make life itself a commodity. Quite the contrary. The specter of any enterprise gaining a monopoly over food is too frightening to contemplate, never mind an enterprise so dedicated to squashing anybody who gets in its way.

The idea of Monsanto (or any other corporation or bloc of corporations) wresting control of the world’s food supply sounds like a bad science fiction movie or a crazy nightmare. But modern capitalism is heading toward that previously unthinkable place. The time is to organize is now, for we never have as much time as we think we do.

Impacts of chemtrails on human health: Nanoaluminum

Neurodegenerative and Neurodevelopmental Effects

by Russell L. Blaylock, source

The Internet is littered with stories of “chemtrails” and geoengineering to combat “global warming” and until recently I took these stories with a grain of salt. One of the main reasons for my skepticism was that I rarely saw what they were describing in the skies. But over the past several years I have notice a great number of these trails and I have to admit they are not like the contrails I grew up seeing in the skies. They are extensive, quite broad, are laid in a definite pattern and slowly evolve into artificial clouds. Of particular concern is that there are now so many ­dozens every day are littering the skies.

My major concern is that there is evidence that they are spraying tons of nanosized aluminum compounds. It has been demonstrated in the scientific and medical literature that nanosized particles are infinitely more reactive and induce intense inflammation in a number of tissues. Of special concern is the effect of these nanoparticles on the brain and spinal cord, as a growing list of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s dementia, Parkinson’s disease and Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) are strongly related to exposure to environmental aluminum.

Nanoparticles of aluminum are not only infinitely more inflammatory, they also easily penetrate the brain by a number of routes, including the blood and olfactory nerves (the smell nerves in the nose). Studies have shown that these particles pass along the olfactory neural tracts, which connect directly to the area of the brain that is not only most effected by Alzheimer’s disease, but also the earliest affected in the course of the disease. It also has the highest level of brain aluminum in Alzheimer’s cases.

The intranasal route of exposure makes spraying of massive amounts of nanoaluminum into the skies especially hazardous, as it will be inhaled by people of all ages, including babies and small children for many hours. We know that older people have the greatest reaction to this airborne aluminum. Because of the nanosizing of the aluminum particles being used, home filtering system will not remove the aluminum, thus prolonging exposure, even indoors.

In addition to inhaling nanoaluminum, such spraying will saturate the ground, water and vegetation with high levels of aluminum. Normally, aluminum is poorly absorbed from the GI tract, but nanoaluminum is absorbed in much higher amounts. This absorbed aluminum has been shown to be distributed to a number of organs and tissues including the brain and spinal cord. Inhaling this environmentally suspended nanoaluminum will also produce tremendous inflammatory reaction within the lungs, which will pose a significant hazard to children and adults with asthma and pulmonary diseases.

I pray that the pilots who are spraying this dangerous substance fully understand that they are destroying the life and health of their families as well. This is also true of our political officials. Once the soil, plants and water sources are heavily contaminated there will be no way to reverse the damage that has been done.

Steps need to be taken now to prevent an impending health disaster of enormous proportions if this project is not stopped immediately. Otherwise we will see an explosive increase in neurodegenerative diseases occurring in adults and the elderly in unprecedented rates as well as neurodevelopmental disorders in our children. We are already seeing a dramatic increase in these neurological disorders and it is occurring in younger people than ever before.

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Matyja E. Aluminum changes glutamate –mediated neurotoxicity in organotypic cultures of rat hippocampus. Folia Neuropathol 2000;38:47-53.
Walton JR. Aluminum in hippocampal neurons from human with Alzheimer’s disease. Neurotoxicology 2006;27:385-394.
Walton JR. An aluminum-based rat model for Alzheimer’s disease exhibits oxidative damage, inhibition of PP2A activity, hyperphosphorylated tau and granulovacuolar degeneration. J Inorg Biochem 2007;101:1275-1284.
Becaria A et al. Aluminum and copper in drinking water enhance inflammatory or oxidative events specifically in brain. J Neuroimmunol 2006;176:16-23.
Exley C. A molecular mechanism for aluminum-induced Alzheimer’s disease. J Inorg Biochem 1999;76:133-140.
Exley C. The pro-oxidant activity ofnaluminum. Free Rad Biol Med 2004;36:380-387.

US genetically engineered agriculture falling behind & GM rice trials contaminate world’s supply

US Genetically Engineered Agriculture is Outclassed by Europe’s Non-GM Approach

Source

The argument that the UK and the EU need GMO technology to increase production and improve its agriculture is flawed according to a new report. GM farming in the US is falling behind the UK and EU’s non-GM methods.

University of Canterbury (UC) researchers have found that the GM strategy used in North American staple crop production is limiting yields and increasing pesticide use compared to non-GM farming in Western Europe.

The team led by Professor Jack Heinemann analysed data on agricultural productivity in North America and Western Europe over the last 50 years.

Western Europe and North America are highly similar in types of crops grown, latitude, mechanisation and farmer education.

The findings have been published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability.

Non-GM leads the field

“We found that the combination of non-GM seed and management practices used by Western Europe is increasing corn yields faster than the use of the GM-led package chosen by the US,” said Prof. Heinemann.

The research showed rapeseed (canola) yields increasing faster in Europe without GM than in the GM-led package chosen by Canada; and is decreasing chemical herbicide and achieving even larger declines in insecticide use without sacrificing yield gains, all this whilst chemical herbicide use in the US has increased with GM seed.

Heinemann added that “Europe has learned to grow more food per hectare and use fewer chemicals in the process. The American choices in biotechnology are causing it to fall behind Europe in productivity and sustainability.”

GM hinders choice and progress

The report points out that; agriculture responds to commercial and legislative incentive systems which take the form of subsidies, intellectual property rights instruments, tax incentives, trade promotions and regulation.

It concludes that these incentive systems in North America are leading to a reliance on GM seeds and management practices that are inferior to those being adopted under the incentive systems in Europe.

This is also affecting non GM crops

US yield in non-GM wheat is falling further behind Europe, “demonstrating that American choices in biotechnology penalise both GM and non-GM crop types relative to Europe” according to Prof Heinemann.

“The decrease in annual variation in yield suggests that Europe has a superior combination of seed and crop management technology and is better suited to withstand weather variations. This is important because annual variations cause price speculations that can drive hundreds of millions of people into food poverty.”

Away from GM, towards diversity, resilience and productivity

Some frightening statistics are covered in the report, not just about GM, but of the general move toward depleted genetic diversity and the consequently potential catastrophic risk to staple food crops.

For example, according to FAO figures; ‘China, of the nearly 10,000 wheat varieties in use in 1949, only 1,000 remained in the 1970s . . . In the United States, 95 per cent of the cabbage, 91 per cent of the field maize, 94 per cent of the pea, and 81 per cent of the tomato varieties cultivated in the last century have been lost’.

GM and the control of seeds through patents, restricting farmer choice and preventing seed saving have exacerbated this problem.

Professor Heinemann, who was a lead author of the International Assessment of Agriculture Knowledge Science and Technology (IAASTD), concludes:

“We need more than agriculture; we need agricultures – a diversity of practices for growing and making food that GM does not support; we need systems that are useful, not just profit-making biotechnologies – we need systems that provide a resilient supply to feed the world well.”

Resources:

Jack A. Heinemann , Melanie Massaro , Dorien S. Coray , Sarah Zanon Agapito-Tenfen & Jiajun Dale Wen (2013): Sustainability and innovation in staple crop production in the US Midwest, International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, DOI:10.1080/14735903.2013.806408

————————————————————————————-

Genetically-modified Rice Trials in U.S. Contaminate World’s Rice Supply

by Ethan A. Huff, source

New evidence has emerged suggesting that the entire global supply of rice may have already been contaminated by unapproved, genetically-modified (GM) rice varieties manufactured by the American multinational corporation Bayer CropScience. A recent entry in the GM Contamination Register explains that between the years of 2006 and 2007, three different varieties of illegal GM rice, none of which have ever been approved for cultivation or consumption anywhere in the world, were identified in more than 30 countries worldwide.

Once again, field trials conducted by Bayer back in the mid-1990s appear to have been the cause of this widespread and irreversible genetic pollution. Though all official field trials of “Frankenrice” supposedly ended in 2002, the three GM rice varieties detected somehow made their way into the general rice supply, which has had a major negative impact on U.S. rice exports. Similar contamination involving both GM wheat and GM flax was also recently discovered in the food supply, and both a result of biotechnology company field trials.

“No GM rice has ever been grown commercially in the U.S. and the source of the contamination is believed to be field trials of herbicide tolerant rice conducted between the mid-1990s and early-2000s by Bayer CropScience (or its precursor companies Aventis CropScience and AgrEvo),” explains the GM Contamination Register entry. “At the time of discovery only one of the contaminating varieties (LLRICE62) had approval for cultivation in the U.S., the other two varieties (LLRICE601 and LLRICE604) had not.”

A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) investigation into the matter was unable to verify whether or not contamination was the result of cross-pollination, also known as gene flow, or mechanical mixing. But in either case, vagrant GM rice planted in open fields for “testing” purposes definitely escaped, and now American rice farmers are suffering the consequences as the European Union (EU), Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and others have placed strict limitations on GM rice imports. Both Russia and Bulgaria, on the other hand, have completely banned all rice imports from the U.S.

“The contamination episode has also affected seed producers,” adds the report, which is buried deep within the annals of the consumer watchdog group’s website, completely untouched by the mainstream media. “[A]n entire non-GM rice variety Clearfield 131 was banned by U.S. regulators in early 2007 when it was found to be contaminated, costing producer BASF billions of dollars in losses.”

American agriculture, the pale horse of the coming food apocalypse

So as the four horsemen of the apocalypse come galloping in on the world scene in the very near future, you can be sure that the pale horse, which symbolizes famine, was born and bred in the U.S. Yes, the world’s most aggressive and malicious purveyor of GMOs and all the horrors that come with their consumption will be the primary driving force behind the complete destruction of the global food supply via the Trojan Horse that is GMOs.

“Scientific studies confirm that GM contamination is unavoidable once GM crops are grown in a region,” explains the Earth Open Source report GMO Myths and Truths: An evidence-based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of genetically modified crops. “‘Coexistence’ rapidly results in widespread contamination of non-GM crops … through cross-pollination, spread of GM seed by farm machinery, and inadvertent mixing during storage.”

Be sure to check out the complete Earth Open Source report on GMOs here:
http://earthopensource.org

Sources for this article include:

http://www.gmcontaminationregister.org/index.php?content=nw_detail2

http://www.realfarmacy.com

http://earthopensource.org

Radiation levels skyrocket at Fukushima: After more than two years, the accident is NOT contained.

by Washington’s Blog, source

Record high levels of radioactive tritium have been observed in the harbor at Fukushima.

Japan Times notes:

The density of radioactive tritium in samples of seawater from near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant doubled over 10 days to hit a record 1,100 becquerels per liter, possibly indicating contaminated groundwater is seeping into the Pacific, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

***

Tepco said late Monday it was still analyzing the water for strontium-90, which would pose a greater danger than tritium to human health if absorbed via the food chain. The level of cesium did not show any significant change between the two sample dates, according to the embattled utility.

On June 19, Tepco revealed that a groundwater sample taken from a nearby monitoring well was contaminated with both tritium and strontium-90.

***

During a news conference Monday in Tokyo, Masayuki Ono, a Tepco executive and spokesman, this time did not deny the possibility of leakage into the sea, while he said Tepco is still trying to determine the cause of the spike.

Kyoto reports:

A sample collected Friday contained around 1,100 becquerels of tritium per liter, thehighest level detected in seawater since the nuclear crisis at the plant startedin March 2011, the utility said Monday.

***

The latest announcement was made after Tepco detected high levels of radioactive tritium and strontium in groundwater from an observation well at the plant.

Indeed, the amount of radioactive strontium has skyrocketed over the last couple of months at Fukushima.

The New York Times writes:

Tokyo Electric Power, the operator of the stricken nuclear power plant at Fukushima, said Wednesday that it had detected high levels of radioactive strontium in groundwater at the plant, raising concerns that its storage tanks are leaking contaminated water, possibly into the ocean.

***

The company has struggled to store growing amounts of contaminated runoff at the plant, but had previously denied that the site’s groundwater was highly toxic….

Xinhua reports:

Very high radioactivity levels were detected in groundwater from an observation well at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, said the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) Wednesday.

***

The observation well was set up on the Pacific side of the plant’s No. 2 reactor turbine building last December to find out the reasons why radioactivity levels in seawater near the plant remained high. The company said the sampled water could be from the contaminated water that seeped into the ground.

Reuters points out:

Testing of groundwater showed the reading for strontium-90 increased from 8.6 becquerels to 1,000 becquerels per litre between Dec. 8, 2012 and May 24.

BBC notes:

High levels of a toxic radioactive isotope have been found in groundwater at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, its operator says.

***

Strontium-90 is formed as a by-product of nuclear fission. Tests showed that levels of strontium in groundwater at the Fukushima plant had increased 100-fold since the end of last year, Toshihiko Fukuda, a Tepco official, told media.

Other types of radioactive materials will continue to pose a hazard for decades.  As nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen explains:

The radiation exposures are going up. What you’re seeing is a lot of this stuff is getting revolitalized. It’s in the first couple of inches of dust, and when the wind blows it moves into areas that have been previously cleaned.

***

This will go on for decades, as the cesium goes down in to the soil, the roots bring it back up and into the plant structures and the leaves fall on the ground and the cycle continues.

(Some portion of this radiation will hit the West Coast of North America … which may end up witheven higher radioactive cesium levels than Japan.)

The bigger picture is that the Fukushima reactors are wholly uncontained … and radiation will continue to spew for decades … or centuries.

Japan Times reports:

A U.N. nuclear watchdog team said Japan may need longer than the projected 40 years to decommission the Fukushima power plant and urged Tepco to improve stability at the facility.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency team, Juan Carlos Lentijo, said Monday that damage at the nuclear plant is so complex that it is impossible to predict how long the cleanup may last.

“As for the duration of the decommissioning project, this is something that you can define in your plans. But in my view, it will be nearly impossible to ensure the time for decommissioning such a complex facility in less than 30 to 40 years as it is currently established in the road map,” Lentijo said.

The government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. have predicted the cleanup would take up to 40 years. They still have to develop technology and equipment that can operate under fatally high radiation levels to locate and remove melted fuel. The reactors must be kept cool and the plant must stay safe and stable, and those efforts to ensure safety could slow the process down.

The plant still runs on makeshift equipment and frequently suffers glitches.

***

The problems have raised concerns about whether the plant …  can stay intact throughout a decommissioning process. The problems have prompted officials to compile risk-reduction measures and review decommissioning plans.

***

“It is expectable in such a complex site, additional incidents will occur as it happened in the nuclear plants under normal operations,” Lentijo said.

***

The IAEA team urged the utility to “improve the reliability of essential systems to assess the structural integrity of site facilities, and to enhance protection against external hazards” and promptly replace temporary equipment with a reliable, permanent system.

Indeed, the locations and condition of melted Fukushima fuel is still totally unknown.  Shimbunreports:

The workers have yet to gain a grasp of the locations and condition of the fuel debris. They have yet to develop extraction equipment and determine removal methods.

Mainichi notes:

Uncertainty over the location of melted fuel inside the crisis-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant continues to cast a shadow over plans to remove the fuel at an early date…. Reactor Nos. 1-3 at the plant contained a total of 1,496 rods of nuclear fuel in their cores….  Each fuel rod weighs about 300 kilograms, and a high level of technical expertise would be required when undertaking a remote control operation to cut up and retrieve clumps of scattered radioactive materials weighing a combined 450 tons or thereabouts…. the cores of reactors at the Fukushima plant have holes, and the task at hand is finding which parts have been damaged.

Indeed, the technology doesn’t yet exist to contain – let alone clean up – Fukushima.

Mainichi notes:

In a news conference on June 10, a representative of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy said that bringing forward the plans would be dependent on developing technology, and suggested that the plans might even end up being delayed.

Scientists are considering freezing the ground around the Fukushima reactors.  Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports:

The Japanese government has ordered the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant tofreeze the soil around its crippled reactor buildings to stop groundwater seeping in and becoming contaminated…. According to a report compiled by a government panel on Thursday, there are no previous examples of using walls created from frozen soil to isolate groundwater being used for longer than a few years. This means the project at the Fukushima plant poses “an unprecedented challenge in the world”.

Japan Times reports:

The panel’s draft report said the government and Tepco hope to create the frozen-soil walls between April and September 2015…. A rough estimate suggests that groundwater seepage into the basements would be reduced from 400 tons [every day] to 100 tons once the frozen-soil walls are built.

Another high-tech solution being proposed: injecting cement into the Fukushima reactors.

And then there are the spent fuel pools, which continue to be one of the main threats to Japan, theUnited States … and all of humanity.

Biotechnology, genetically modified crops and the destruction of the local economy

glyphosate1en

by Lesley Docksey, source

Will the biotech companies ever give up on trying to sell Europe their genetically modified crops?  Their latest PR man is the UK’s Minister for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Owen Paterson.  His website (very bland and uninformative apart from his list of engagements) says he is “a passionate supporter of localism, free enterprise and less interference in people’s lives”.  But he also loudly supports Monsanto et al, and wants all of Europe to grow and eat GM foods.  I would say that thoroughly destroys any localism, interferes in the most basic way with our lives, and any enterprise is freely handed to big corporations that already have far too much power over people.

Paterson has had environmentalists tearing their hair out since he became Minister.  As I wrote inUnnatural England, he’s promoted the destruction of buzzards and supports the killing of badgers.  He’s also greatly in favour of fracking for shale gas regardless of the damage it would do.  His statements on environmental matters display strongly-held views that are disastrous for the environment but kind to big business.  To that end he will only look at the facts as presented by companies such as Monsanto.

He failed to persuade Europe that neonicitinoid pesticides (as produced by Monsanto et al) are goodfor bees; he said that the scientific evidence linking the decline in bee numbers to neonicotinoids was faulty; and that Europe should see the results of Defra’s own field trials.  The UK Parliament’s environmental audit committee said the government was relying on ‘fundamentally flawed’ studies to push its case for preventing the Europe-wide precautionary ban of these pesticides.  It turned out these studies were not peer-reviewed or published in any reputable scientific journal, merely published on Defra’s own website – for which the EU Commission criticized the British government.

Paterson’s online information is remarkably devoid of detail: he went to school and university; his family had a background of farming and leather; he went into the leather business; he is married, with children; he became an MP, and so on.  No business interests or links of any kind are listed yet he is acting as cheerleader for the GM companies. And he made a small Freudian slip during his speech.  He used the word ‘we’, as in “We have not come up with any evidence of human health being threatened by these products.”  Just what Monsanto and Syngenta say.

On more than one occasion he has tried to persuade the public that we should all accept a diet of GM food and we stubbornly refuse to be converted.  But his speech  last week on the wonders of GM crops topped them all.  He said he was ‘certain’ that GM crops are safer than conventional varieties because “These products go through the most rigorous system.  It is extraordinarily closely regulated…”  Do I hear hollow laughter from all those independent researchers into GM foods?

He went on: “…you have the biggest field trial in human history when you think of the colossal volume of GM material that has been eaten in all those countries growing GM food.”  Sorry, Mr Paterson, but the biggest field trial in human history took place over millennia when the world was growing and eating organic food.  And perhaps he hadn’t read, or was ignoring, the very recent Friends of the Earth Europe-wide study that found weedkiller residues in over 40% of human urine samples (glyphosate, the biggest producer of which is Monsanto).

Mistake after mistake was recited as fact, and faithfully reported by most of the right-wing media – except for the Daily Mail.  Normally great supporters of all things Conservative, the Mail pulled his speech to pieces.

One of his most outrageous claims was this: “Over the last 15 years… every attempt to deploy Golden Rice (modified to boost Vitamin A) has been thwarted and in that time seven million children have gone blind or died.”  The Mail struck that down with this riposte: “Earlier this year, the International Rice Research Institute, which is working on the Golden Rice project, denied reports that it was available for commercial planting, saying it has yet to pass safety tests or prove it could reduce vitamin A deficiency.”

The Channel4’s FactCheck Blog had this to say: “(Paterson) can’t claim that by not providing the rice the blindness and deaths have occurred, as we don’t know what would have happened had the rice been provided.”  Health experts say the problem is a lack of Vitamin A, not Golden Rice – a problem solved by educating mothers how to feed their children on easily available foods containing Vitamin A.

Paterson claimed GM food was safer; “There is no substantiated case of any adverse impact on human health.”  The Mail pointed out that: “In May 2011, independent doctors in Canada reported that toxins implanted into GM crops to kill pests were reaching the bloodstreams of women and unborn babies.”

Paterson claimed that GM was good for the environment.  He said: “There is a very strong environmental case for GM,  We can farm more efficiently, using new technology and using less land. It gives a wonderful opportunity to free up land for wilderness and forestry.”  And presumably for pheasant shoots as well, that being another of Paterson’s passions.

He said there is no evidence of GM crops harming the environment but ignored, among other problems, ‘superweeds’ that are resistant to the herbicides designed to kill them.  Farmers across North America could have told him.  Farmers could tell him too of the dangers of feeding GM to theiranimals, but as the biotech companies dismiss such evidence, so too will their mouthpiece.  The Mail said the evidence showed real damage to the environment.  Following GM crop trials in the UK, where fields had been heavily sprayed with a powerful weedkiller, the result was that it not only wiped out weeds, but also wild plants and insects.

He insisted that GM crops produce higher yields than conventional crops.  He could ask Indian cotton farmers, the ones that haven’t committed suicide that is, after seeing their livelihoods ruined.  And the Mail pointed out that recently published research showed that “increases in crop yields have been much greater in countries which have not adopted GM.”

When asked by the Daily Mail he said (with some hesitation) that he would be happy to feed a GM tomato to his family, not that one tomato shared between his wife and three children would go that far.  But when the Mail contacted 17 government ministers, none of them would own to being comfortable with GM food.  They also found that all the restaurants in the Houses of Parliament have had a ‘no GM food’ policy for quite some years.  Customer choice rules, even in Westminster, despite government ministers wanting the public to eat the foods they refuse to.

This constant dishonest pressure on the public from people like Paterson to accept something they do not want must stop.  It is dishonest because their ‘facts’ are at the least unproven, and at worst, untrue.  Nor do they really care about feeding the world.  If they did they’d stop the waste of so much food and ensure people had equal access to what the earth can provide.  This is all about giving the biotech companies control over the world’s food.

Why do I personally care so much about stopping GM food?  I live in a rural area of great natural beauty.  There is a strong organic presence here, in local growers, producers and shops.  The village is full of gardeners.  We grow our own vegetables and fruit.  And we love our environment.  My own garden is full of weeds.  I call them wild flowers.  They plant themselves, helped by the birds.  They grow happily among the ‘cultivated’ plants and they provide a rich environment for bees and all the other pollinating insects.  I don’t want this rich celebration of natural life turned into the kind of wasteland that comes from growing GM crops and the accompanying heavy use of pesticides and herbicides.

This garden, this land, is my home.  I value every tiny flower and fly.  This is their home too, and they are important.  If I’m honest, I have to admit they have a more important place in the cycle of natural life than I or any human does.  If anything has to disappear from this beloved countryside it should be Owen Paterson.

GMO and Monsanto: Glyphosate weed killer found in human urine across Europe

glyphosate1en

by Friends of the Earth

People in 18 countries across Europe have been found to have traces of the weed killer glyphosate in their urine, show the results of tests commissioned by Friends of the Earth Europe and released today [1].

The findings raise concerns about increasing levels of exposure to glyphosate-based weed killers, commonly used by farmers, public authorities and gardeners across Europe. The use of glyphosate is predicted to rise further if more genetically modified (GM) crops are grown in Europe [2].

Despite its widespread use, there is currently little monitoring of glyphosate in food, water or the wider environment. This is the first time monitoring has been carried out across Europe for the presence of the weed killer in human bodies.

Friends of the Earth Europe’s spokesperson Adrian Bebb said:

“Most people will be worried to discover they may have weed killer in their bodies. We tested people living in cities in 18 countries and found traces in every country. These results suggest we are being exposed to glyphosate in our everyday lives, yet we don’t know where it is coming from, how widespread it is in the environment, or what it is doing to our health.

“Our testing highlights a serious lack of action by public authorities across Europe and indicates that this weed killer is being widely overused. Governments need to step-up their monitoring and bring in urgent measures to reduce its use. This includes rejecting any genetically modified crops that would increase the use of glyphosate.”

Friends of the Earth Europe is calling on the European Union to urgently investigate how glyphosate is finding its way into people’s bodies; to increase the levels of monitoring in the environment and in food and water; and to introduce immediate restrictions on the use of glyphosate.

Friends of the Earth Europe commissioned laboratory tests on urine samples from volunteers in 18 countries across Europe and found that on average 44% of samples contained glyphosate. The proportion of positive samples varied between countries, with Malta, Germany, the UK and Poland having the most positive tests, and lower levels detected in Macedonia and Switzerland.

All the volunteers who provided samples live in cities, and none had handled or used glyphosate products in the run-up to the tests which were carried out between March and May 2013.

Glyphosate is used on many genetically modified crops. 14 new GM crops designed to be cultivated with glyphosate are currently waiting for approval to be grown in Europe. Approval of these crops would inevitably lead to a further increase of glyphosate spraying in the EU.

The biggest producer of glyphosate is Monsanto which sells it under the brand name ‘Roundup’. Two weeks ago the US Department of Agriculture announced that it had found GM wheat developed by Monsanto that has not been approved anywhere in the world growing in a field in Oregon, leading to some countries restricting or testing US wheat imports and farmers in the US starting legal cases against the company.

Notes:

[1] Urine samples were collected from volunteers in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Macedonia, Malta, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and the UK. A total of 80/182 samples tested were found to contain glyphosate. Volunteers were all city-dwellers and included vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets. No two samples were tested from the same household. The samples were analysed by Dr Hoppe at Medical Laboratory Bremen in Germany.

The full results of ‘Determination of Glyphosate residues in human urine samples from 18 European countries’ by Medical Laboratory Bremen are available online.

Pesticides and the revolving door

Conflicts of Interest on Europe’s Menu

by DAVID CRONIN, source

For once, the European Union’s scientific advisers seem to have got something right. Three pesticides have been banned for two years after the wise boffins voiced concerns after their harmful effect on honey bees. The measure is of immense importance: about one-third of the fruit and vegetables in our diets are grown with the aid of insect pollination, so threats to bees imperil food production in general.

This isn’t the end of the story, however. While the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in Parma, Italy, should be applauded for initiating the research which led to the bans, that body continues to behave as if it is joined at the hip with big business.

The bees dossier offers a case in point.

EFSA’s assessments of whether pesticides are safe are conducted by a panel of “experts”, several of whom also undertake research financed by the chemical and agri-food industries.

One of those “experts” – Ettore Capri from Italy – even runs a “think tank”, the main purpose of which is to downplay the dangers associated with pesticides.

Known by the acronym OPERA, this outfit recently published a report titled “Bee health in Europe”. The report seeks to shift the focus from pesticides by pinning the blame for dwindling bee numbers on a “wide range of factors”.

Though the document may be liberally sprinkled with scientific terminology, it cannot be considered as objective or unbiased. A careful reading shows that it was prepared with the help of Bayer, Syngenta, Dow and BASF. All of those firms make pesticides; their bottom line depends on being able to persuade regulators to approve their products.

I contacted EFSA spokesman James Ramsay, asking him if he accepted that Capri was involved in a conflict of interests. “No,” Ramsay replied. He told me that OPERA was viewed by the authority as a “food safety organization” as it pursues “public interest objectives”.

When I got in touch directly with Capri, he insisted that he is not involved in “research projects financed by private companies on bee health” and that he had not taken part in an EFSA working group dealing with bees.

Those explanations are Jesuitical.

OPERA’s entry to the register of lobbyists run by the European Commission states that it received 50,000 euros from the private sector during 2012. If that money wasn’t used on its research and advocacy work, then what was it used on? Interior decorating? Bus fares?

Moreover, OPERA jointly organised a conference with Syngenta in Brussels during September 2012. The programme for the event says that one of the main topics addressed was biodiversity, a concept that is meaningless without bees and other insects. Are we really to believe that Syngenta did not pay at least some of the costs of organising this event?

Capri’s effort to distance himself from EFSA’s work on bees is contradicted by information on the authority’s own website. A list of participants for a “symposium” hosted by EFSA last month indicates that Capri was in attendance. You’ll never guess the topic of this confab. Bees.

Faced with accusations that they are setting the agenda followed by EU institutions, corporate lobbyists tend to point to decisions which didn’t go the way they wanted as evidence that they are not really that influential. The ban on bee-killing pesticides looks like that kind of a decision – until you examine it a bit more closely.

Firstly, the ban is of a limited duration: we can be certain that the chemicals industry will be pressing for it not to be renewed once it expires. Secondly, it has loopholes: the three pesticides may still be sprayed on winter cereals. Such crops may not attract bees directly but the use of pesticides on them means that toxic chemicals will still be released into the environment, with potentially adverse consequences for insects.

And thirdly, there are some dangerous substances not covered by the ban. Greenpeace has identified four pesticides in addition to the three ones recently banned that have been shown to “acutely affect bees”, according to the group. These pesticides are widely used throughout Europe.

EFSA, again to its credit, has issued a warning about one the four substances – fipronil – over the past few weeks. Almost definitely, it will come under pressure from the chemical industry to ease off on its work on bees. Having scientists who are favourably disposed to pesticide-makers sitting on EFSA panels undoubtedly works to that industry’s advantage.

There are bigger issues than honey bees at stake here. As I argue in my new book Corporate Europe, EFSA is in denial about how many of the “experts” it turns to for counsel are lackeys of big business. The authority has been admonished by the EU’s internal watchdogs, the Court of Auditors and the Ombudsman, on some of these matters; yet the underlying problems persist.

In 2008, EFSA suffered some embarrassment when it emerged that Suzy Renckens, who coordinated its activities on genetically modified (GM) foods, was hired by Syngenta, a maker of GM seeds (as well as pesticides). The “revolving door” case begged the question: how can regulators be expected to put manners on firms they regard as future employers?

Syngenta supports Capri’s activities but EFSA doesn’t see this as in any way problematic. Syngenta has also lobbied strenuously against the ban on bee-killers.

There’s only way of pretending there’s nothing wrong here: burying your head in the sand.

FDA approves first GMO Flu vaccine containing reprogrammed insect virus

by Jonathan Benson, source

A new vaccine for influenza has hit the market, and it is the first ever to contain genetically-modified (GM) proteins derived from insect cells. According to reports, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the vaccine, known as Flublok, which contains recombinant DNA technology and an insect virus known as baculovirus that is purported to help facilitate the more rapid production of vaccines.

According to Flublok’s package insert, the vaccine is trivalent, which means it contains GM proteins from three different flu strains. The vaccine’s manufacturer, Protein Sciences Corporation (PSC), explains that Flublok is produced by extracting cells from the fall armyworm, a type of caterpillar, and genetically altering them to produce large amounts of hemagglutinin, a flu virus protein that enables the flu virus itself to enter the body quickly.

So rather than have to produce vaccines the “traditional” way using egg cultures, vaccine manufacturers will now have the ability to rapidly produce large batches of flu virus protein using GMOs, which is sure to increase profits for the vaccine industry. But it is also sure to lead to all sorts of serious side effects, including the deadly nerve disease Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GSB), which is listed on the shot as a potential side effect.

“If Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) has occurred within six weeks of receipt of a prior influenza vaccine, the decision to give Flublock should be based on careful consideration of the potential benefits and risks,” explains a section of the vaccine’s literature entitled “Warnings and Precautions.” Other potential side effects include allergic reactions, respiratory infections, headaches, fatigue, altered immunocompetence, rhinorrhea, and myalgia.

According to clinical data provided by PSC in Flublok’s package insert, two study participants actually died during trials of the vaccine. But the company still insists Flublok is safe and effective, and that it is about 45 percent effective against all strains of influenza in circulation, rather than just one or two strains.

FDA also approves flu vaccine containing dog kidney cells

Back in November, the FDA also approved a new flu vaccine known as Flucelvax that is actually made using dog kidney cells. A product of pharmaceutical giant Novartis, Flucelvax also does away with the egg cultures, and can similarly be produced much more rapidly than traditional flu vaccines, which means vaccine companies can have it ready and waiting should the federal government declare a pandemic.

Like Flublok, Flucelvax was made possible because of a $1 billion, taxpayer-funded grant given by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to the vaccine industry back in 2006 to develop new manufacturing methods for vaccines. The ultimate goal is to be able to quickly manufacture hundreds of millions of vaccines for rapid distribution.

Meanwhile, there are reportedly two other GMO flu vaccines currently under development. One of them, which is being produced by Novavax, will utilize “bits of genetic material grown in caterpillar cells called ‘virus-like particles’ that mimic a flu virus,” according to Reuters.

Sources for this article include:

http://www.naturalnews.com

healthimpactnews.com

http://www.reuters.com

Genetically engineered wheat is destroying US agriculture: Oregon wheat found contaminated with GE wheat

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–May 31, 2013. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that unapproved genetically engineered (GE) wheat was found growing in an Oregon wheat field. The discovery has implications for U.S. trade as Japan has already indicated it would stop purchasing U.S. wheat exports.

According to USDA officials, a Oregon farmer sprayed his wheat field, intending it to lay fallow for the next year. Despite multiple sprays of RoundUp, the farmer found so-called “volunteer” crops unexpectedly persisted, just as GE crops are engineered to do. The discovery prompted him to send samples to Carol Mallery Smith, scientist at Oregon State University, who determined that the crops were infused with the RoundUp Ready gene. USDA confirmed the results but officials have declined to comment on how the seeds ended up in this farmer’s field to begin with considering Monsanto has not conducted field trials in Oregon since 2001 when it reportedly withdrew from the state.

Since 1994, Monsanto has conducted 279 field trials of RoundUp Ready wheat over more than 4,000 acres of land in 16 states. Tests have been conducted in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming. After facing intense opposition from farmers and activists, Monsanto reportedly stopped its efforts to introduce GE wheat, but restarted extensive field trials again in 2011.

Contamination of non-GE crops, particularly for USDA certified organic crops, is a serious concern. Worries about harm to human health and the environment have prompted several state legislatures to consider bills that would require labeling of products with GE ingredients so consumers know what they are eating. Additional legislation proposed by Senator Bill Bowman (R-ND) in 2002 would have allowed farmers in North Dakota the right to sue Monsanto if wheat was found to be contaminated with genetically modified crops. The discovery is likely to prompt similar legislation if not litigation.

USDA regulates GE herbicide-tolerant plants under the Plant Protection Act, however its scrutiny of the full range of potential human health and environmental effects has been challenged by environmental groups as inadequate. GE wheat is not approved to be grown in the U.S. or anywhere world-wide.

While the world’s biggest wheat importer, Egypt, has made no move to stop importing U.S. wheat, Japan has cancelled its offer to buy U.S.\ western white wheat. Meanwhile the European Union has prepared to begin testing shipments for the RoundUp Ready gene. These discoveries may have major implications for the U.S. economy, In 2012, exported wheat represented a gross sum of $18.1 billion, with 90% of Oregon’s wheat exported abroad.

“Nobody’s going to want to buy wheat from the PNW (Pacific Northwest) for a while,” said Roy Huckabay, analyst with the Linn Group in Chicago.

For more information on the environmental hazards associated with GE technology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering webpage. The best way to avoid genetically engineered foods in the marketplace is to purchase foods that have the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Organic Seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited. For many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers.

Discovery of Monsanto GMO wheat threatens US exports

RT

The discovery of a Monsanto-created, genetically modified strain of wheat in the US that was never approved by the United States Department of Agriculture has imperiled US exports of a staple world food commodity.

Japanese authorities have already opted to cancel part of a tender offer to buy US western white wheat and have suspended imports of both that variety and feed wheat, Reuters reported on Thursday.

“We will refrain from buying western white and feed wheat effective today,” Toru Hisadome, a Japanese farm ministry official in charge of wheat trading, told the agency.

Japan, the biggest buyer of US wheat behind Mexico, will continue buying hard red winter and spring wheat from the US as well as grains from Canada, which are used for the production of bread and noodles.

However, Hisadome said the government has asked US authorities to provide more details of their ongoing investigation and Japan will stop buying the suspended species of wheat until a test kit is developed to identify genetically modified produce.

There is currently no US approved test kit to identify genetically engineered wheat. The USDA has said it is developing a “rapid test” kit.

Swimming in a sea of frequencies: electromagnetic fields and us

by Alex Quinn, source

*view tables in original source*

Particularly now that wireless communications are so closely integrated into our daily lives, electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are all around us. Our cities, especially the larger ones, are perpetually shrouded in an invisible electrosmog, a ‘sea’ of EMFs through which we swim every day. But does this momentous development in civilisation come with health effects – and if so, can we do anything to reduce them?

What is ELF-EMF and what are its sources?

It’s important to realise that there are two main forms of EMF: radiofrequency (RF)-EMF and extremely low-frequency (ELF)-EMFs. The frequency range of ELF-EMF is 1–300 Hz, and the Earth’s natural geomagnetic field strength varies from around 60 μT (microtesla) at the magnetic poles to around 30 μT at the equator.

Many man-made sources of ELF-EMF exist. Prime among these artificial sources are power lines and electronic appliances, with vacuum cleaners, electric can-openers, microwave ovens, shavers and hair dryers among the most powerful. These appliances emit ELF-EMF at field intensities ranging from 17.44 to 164.75 μT, measured from 5 cm away. Since the intensity of magnetic fields decreases dramatically with increased distance from the source, the corresponding range of magnetic field intensities at 50 cm is 0.12–1.66 μT.

The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (INCIRP) has set limits of 1 mT (millitesla) for occupational exposure to ELF-EMF, and 200 μT for general public exposure. While these limits are not breached by individual man-made sources, additive effects must also be considered, as we shall see.

What is RF-EMF and what are its sources?

The frequencies of RF-EMFs are considerably higher than ELF-EMFs, ranging from 100 kHz to 300 GHz. As its name suggests, the main uses of RF-EMF are in broadcasting information. In today’s data-driven world, this means that RF-EMF is constantly around us: it is produced by things such as mobile phone base stations, cordless phones, utility ‘smart’ meters, remote control toys, wireless networks, radar and baby monitors. In addition, there are various natural sources of RF-EMF, including the Earth, the Sun and other black body radiators.

Here’s a shocking statistic: did you know that having a cordless phone base station in your house can expose you to the same level of RF-EMFs as having a mobile phone mast in your back garden?

Do EMFs pose health problems?

The mainstream view is that the only potential danger from EMFs stems from their heating effects on tissue, in the case of RF-EMF, or of electrical currents induced in the body for ELF-EMF. However, there is strong evidence to suggest that the athermal effects of ELF- and RF-EMFs also contribute to various health problems.

Childhood leukaemia

According to the BioInitiative report, evidence indicates that risk of childhood leukaemia in young boys doubles when they are exposed to ELF-EMF levels of 1.4 mG (milligauss), while other studies indicate that leukaemia risks begin at 2, 3 and 4 mG. This occurs in the context of an ICNIRP limit of 1000 mG.
The BioInitiative report also found that ELF-EMFs interfered with recovery from childhood leukaemia: if a child was exposed to levels of ≥2 mG during recovery, their risk of death increased by 300%, while at levels of ≥4 mG that risk increased to 450%.

Alzheimer’s disease

ELF-EMF has also been found to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by increasing levels of a protein called amyloid beta, a leading risk factor for Alzheimer’s.

Melatonin

EMFs have also been found to decrease the levels of melatonin in the body. Melatonin is produced in the pineal gland of the brain, which produces melatonin when it directly or indirectly detects low light levels. EMFs may interfere with this mechanism because the brain confuses them with light waves, thus suppressing the pineal gland’s melatonin production. Melatonin is an absolutely vital hormone. It acts as a powerful antioxidant, and has been found to aid in the prevention of Alzheimer’s, depression, cardiovascular diseases, insomnia, mood disorders, tinnitus and various cancers.
Brain and auditory nerve cancers

RF-EMFs have been given a 2B classification – possibly carcinogenic – by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). They have been found to be possible causes of acoustic neuromas and brain tumours called gliomas. Studies have shown that using cordless phones, which produce RF-EMFs, can increase the risk of brain tumours by up to 470% after ≥10 years of use when habitually used on one side of the head. Mobile phones, in the same scenario, can increase the risk by up to 200%. Both mobiles and cordless phones can trigger reactions in people who suffer from electrohypersensitivity.

What about interactions between EMFs and other factors?

Of course, EMFs don’t affect us in isolation: everyone living in a city, for example, is bombarded by numerous chemical toxins and other environmental pollutants, and many of them take multiple pharmaceutical drugs – in addition to constant EMF exposure. We are at an early stage of investigating and defining these complex interactions, but existing research indicates that these combinations can have both beneficial and adverse effects. For example, in vitro DNA damage was caused by a 7 mT magnetic field in combination with ferrous chloride, but not with either agent alone. Other combinations of EMFs and agents enhanced analgesia and neural performance.

Call to action: Reduce your EMF exposure!

Thus, you should take as many steps as possible to reduce your exposure to EMFs. Suggested strategies include:

Using fibre-optic cables for your broadband
Using wired connections whenever possible
Keeping mobile and cordless phones away from your body
Using wired baby monitors: children are more effected by EMFs than adults
Keeping wireless routers or cordless phones out of regularly used bedrooms or children’s bedrooms
Reducing time spent in calls when using mobile or cordless phones
Reducing children’s exposure to wireless devices as much as possible
Avoiding using microwave oven
Avoiding placing wireless computers on your lap
Avoiding allowing your children to use remote-control toys for long periods of time, if at all

Rethinking Industrial Agriculture

by Dr.Stuart Jeanne Bramhall, source

According to Michael Ableman, author of Fields of Plenty, 25% of Americans make the conscious choice to eat organic food. Those who make the switch from corporate, industrially produced food do so for a variety of reasons. The main ones are cost, health and ethical concerns. Cost is a big consideration for low income families. In an economic depression accompanied by spiking food prices, growing your own fruits and vegetables or purchasing them from a grower at a farmers’ market can save families literally thousands of dollars a year.

Ironically the economic crisis has one silver lining in inner cities, as neighborhoods organize to create urban orchards and gardens on vacant, foreclosed land. An example is Chicago Lights Urban Farm, which supplies fresh produce for the once notorious Cabrini Green subsidized housing complex. This is the first access to fresh produce in decades for many inner city residents – thanks to the mass exodus of supermarket chains in the eighties and nineties.

Health issues linked to industrial agriculture are the second biggest reason people choose locally grown organic food over the standard corporate options. The growing list includes a number of debilitating and fatal illnesses linked with endocrine disruptors (estrogen-like molecules) in chemical herbicides and pesticides; contamination with infectious organisms; severe allergies, immune problems and cancers associated with GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and nanoparticles; type II diabetes related to growth hormones fed to US cattle and the proliferation of superbugs like MRSA (methcillin resistant staphylococcus aureus) linked to antibiotics routinely fed to factory farmed animals.

Endocrine Disruptors and Food Borne Pathogens

At the moment the biggest concern for health advocates is the epidemic of breast cancer and infertility linked to the growing presence of endocrine disruptors in our water supply and food chain. Breast cancer currently affects one out of eight women, and sperm counts in American men are among the lowest in the industrialized world. However the infectious organisms arising from factory farming methods and lax regulation of slaughter facilities are also responsible for a growing number of health problems. Infectious organisms linked with severe illness and death include the prion carried by cattle that causes Creuzfield Jakob disorder (aka Mad Cow Disease); campylobacter, salmonella and pathogenic E coli from the fecal contamination associated with overcrowded livestock pens and inadequate regulation of slaughterhouse hygiene; and Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis (MAP), an increasingly common organism linked to a big spike in Crohn’s disease. Lax US food regulation and inspection regimes are worrying enough. Adding to all these concerns is the vast amount of supermarket food imported from third world countries where food production is totally unregulated.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

GMO-related health issues are another reason more and more consumers are going organic. Unlike New Zealand and most of Europe, which ban GMOs, in the US 88% of corn, 93% of soy, 90% of canola (used in cooking oil), 90% of sugar beets (the source of half of US sugar) are genetically modified. Moreover thanks to the millions Monsanto spends lobbying to block product labeling laws, the majority of US shoppers have no way of knowing whether supermarket foods contain GMOs. Knowledgeable consumers are especially angry about the so-called “Monsanto Protection Bill”. This was a clause inserted in a recent continuing budget resolution that virtually guarantees Monsanto immunity against lawsuits for GMO-related health problems and environmental damage.

Nanoparticles

The latest food controversy involves the presence of untested nanoparticles in processed foods. Nanoparticles are submicroscopic particles the food industry adds to foods and packaging to lengthen shelf life, to act as thickening agents and to seal in flavor. As You Sow, NRDC and Friends of the Earth, first raised the alarm about five years ago regarding the nanoparticles used in cosmetics. They were mainly concerned about studies which showed that inhaled nanoparticles cause the same kind of lung damage as asbestos and can lead to cancer. More recently the American Society of Safety Engineers has issued a warning about research showing that nanoparticles in food pass into the blood stream, accumulate in organs and interfere with metabolic process and immune function.

Environmental and Psychological Benefits

Aside from cost and health concerns, an increasing number of consumers eat locally produced organic food for ethical and environmental reasons. In doing so, they are consciously opting out of an insane corporate agriculture system in which food is transported halfway around the world to satisfy an artificially created demand for strawberries in the winter. They are joining food localization initiatives springing up in thousands of neighborhoods and communities to increase options for locally produced organic food. As they reconnect with local growers to start farmers’ markets (the number in the US is 3,200 and growing) and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiatives*, they find they are simultaneously rebuilding fundamental community ties their grandparents enjoyed.

Applying Design Technology to Farming

These food localization initiatives have been accompanied by radical technological advances that apply design principles to the way food is grown. The design technology employed in the rapidly growing fields of permaculture and biointensive farming is based on a radically different approach to water and soil management, modeled on nature’s ecosystem design principles. Anyone who studies natural ecosystems can’t help but notice there are no neat rows or bare soil in natural forests and prairies. Nature crams as many living organisms as possible, all with complex symbiotic relationships, into every square inch.

Ironically this “revolutionary” technology happens to be 4,000 years old. Chinese farmers discovered around 2,000 B.C. that designing their fields to replicate natural ecosystems produced the highest yields. This approach is well-described in F.H. King’s 1911 book Farmers of Forty Centuries. The US Department of Agriculture sent King to China in the early 1900s to investigate why Chinese farms were so amazingly productive. What he discovered was a highly sophisticated system of water and soil management that emphasized species diversity and rational utilization of ecological relationships among plants and between plants and animals.

The Watershed Model of Water Management

Despite King’s innovative work, it has taken English-speaking countries a full century for the lessons to sink in. Applying capitalist slash and burn mentality to farming clearly hasn’t worked. Agricultural yields in Britain and its former colonies, which all employ similar “modern” methods of water management, have destroyed tons of topsoil and essentially reduced agricultural yields by a third. In a desperate attempt to ramp up yields, chemical insecticides and herbicides were introduced after World War II. These, in turn, systematically killed off microscopic soil organisms essential to plant health.

Britain, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other former British colonies all adopted the “drainage” system of water management. In this approach, trees are systematically cleared (usually by burning) and wetlands and springs are drained. Typically land managed in this way is subject to alternating flooding and drought, creating an unending cycle of economic hardship for farmers and farming communities. Besides destroying existing crops, repeated flooding also washes away topsoil and essential plant nutrients.

In contrast traditional farmers in non-English speaking countries are more likely to use the centuries’ old “water catchment model” of water management, sometimes referred to as terraquaculture. Because they deliberately design their farms to catch and hold water, they aren’t subject to flooding, soil erosion and draught. Chinese farmers wouldn’t dream of draining their wetlands, which are always the most productive areas for high energy food crops, such as rice and other grains.

Plowing “Kills” Soil

Soil technology has also greatly advanced in the last five decades, with the discovery of complex micro-ecosystems that support optimal plant growth. These eocosystems include a myriad of soil yeasts, bacteria and other organisms that live in symbiosis with host plants. Not only do they provide nutrients to the root systems of larger plants, but they also produce a myriad of natural insecticides and herbicides to protect them against pests. Mechanically disrupting the soil through plowing kills these organisms. They can potentially recover if the soil is left undisturbed – unless the grower totally wipes them out with pesticides, herbicides or bacteriocidal GMOs.

Studies show that plant diversity is also essential to a healthy plant ecosystem. Planting a single crop in neat rows surrounded by bare soil is also perfect invitation for weeds and insects to come and attack them.

Permaculture, in contrast, discourages noxious weeds and insect pests by creating “food forests” made up of compatible food-producing trees, shrubs and ground cover crops. Unlike veggie gardens limited to annuals that have to be replanted every year, the food forest is self-sustaining with minimal input. For people worried about the economy collapsing and their gardens being invaded by barbarians from the big city, it’s also virtually indestructible.

*In a CSA (community supported agriculture) scheme, local consumers help farmers with upfront costs by pre-purchasing a share of their crops. In return, members receive a regular delivery of fresh fruits and veggies as various crops are harvested.