Sunday, August 30, 2009
Huffington Post, 25 August 2009
Stop eating dangerous genetically modified (GM) foods! That's the upshot of the Lyme Induced Autism (LIA) Foundation's position paper released today (http://www.lymeinducedautism.com/gmopositionpaper.html).
The patient advocacy group is not willing to wait around until research studies prove that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) cause or worsen the many diseases that are on the rise since gene-spliced foods were introduced in 1996. Like the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) earlier this year, the LIA Foundation says there is more than enough evidence of harm in GM animal feeding studies for them to "urge doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets" and for "individuals, especially those with autism, Lyme disease, and associated conditions, to avoid" GM foods.
Dr. Jannelle Love, founder of the Autism Relief Foundation, is quoted in Kimberly Wilcox's excellent article:
"It is known that children on the Autistic Spectrum suffer from fragile immune systems, significant digestive and brain inflammation, and the environmental toxin overload. Putting foreign entities such as GMO foods into such a fragile child may indeed cause further deterioration and perhaps block the delicate biochemical pathways needed for appropriate functioning and possible recovery."
The LIA Foundation calls for physicians and patient advocacy groups to explain to patients the role that GM foods may play in disease and to distribute non-GMO educational materials, including the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, which makes it easier to find brands without GM ingredients. (See www.nonGMOGuide.com). They also called for a moratorium on all GM foods and for "Research to evaluate the role of GM foods on autism, Lyme disease, and related conditions."
GMOs: pervasive and high-risk
The five main GM foods are soy, corn, cotton, canola, and sugar beets. Their derivatives are found in more than 70 percent of the foods in the supermarket. The primary reason the plants are engineered is to allow them to drink poison. They're inserted with bacterial genes that allow them to survive otherwise deadly doses of poisonous herbicide. Biotech companies sell the seed and herbicide as a package deal. Roundup Ready crops survive sprays of Roundup. Liberty Link crops survive Liberty. US farmers use hundreds of millions of pounds more herbicide because of these herbicide-tolerant crops, and the higher toxic residues end up inside of us. The LIA position paper acknowledges that "Individuals with infections that compromise immunity... and/or high toxin loads may also be especially susceptible to adverse effects from pesticides."
Some GM corn and cotton varieties are also designed to produce poison. Inserted genes from a soil bacterium produce an insect-killing poison called Bt-toxin in every cell of the plant. Bt is associated with allergic and toxic reactions in humans and animals, and may create havoc in our digestive system (see below).
All GM crops, in fact, should be considered high-risk. Irrespective of which gene you insert, the process of genetic engineering itself results in massive collateral damage within the plants' natural DNA. This can result in new or higher levels of toxins, carcinogens, allergens, or nutrient-blocking compounds in our food.
Because of a corporate takeover at the FDA (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-smith/obamas-team-includes-dang_b_147188.html), they don't require a single safety test on GMOs -- so almost none of the potential side effects are evaluated before the crops are approved for sale. The few animal feeding safety studies that have been conducted, however, show serious problems. It's obvious why those suffering from autism, Lyme, or any ailment, would want to stop being used as a guinea pig in this massive GMO feeding experiment.
AAEM physician Amy Dean, a board certified internal medicine specialist, says:
"GMOs have been shown to adversely affect the digestive and immune systems of animals in laboratory settings. Lyme and autism, on the rise in the US, are also associated with digestive and immune system dysfunction. Therefore, patients with Lyme and autism should avoid GM foods."
Autism, food allergies, and GMOs
It is noteworthy that children with autism are often allergic to corn and soy. Both are genetically engineered. Many are also allergic to dairy.
The LIA press release (http://www.lymeinducedautism.com/gmopositionpaper.html) points out, "dairy cows are usually fed GM feed and sometimes injected with GM bovine growth hormone." Although no studies have looked at the impact of eating meat or milk from GM-fed animals, secret FDA documents (http://biointegrity.org/list.html) made public from a lawsuit revealed that their Center for Veterinary Medicine was very concerned that toxins from GM foods might bioaccumulate in the livestock (http://biointegrity.org/FDAdocs/08/view1.html). If so, their milk and meat may be even more dangerous than the GM plants.
Studies on the impact of bovine growth hormone (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-smith/governor-sebelius-must-ve_b_183838.html) on the cows' milk are less ambiguous. The dairy products from treated cows contain higher amounts of puss, antibiotics, bovine growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). The last on the list is considered most dangerous. IGF-1 is linked to a much higher risk of cancer, and according to one study, may also be responsible for the high rates of fraternal twins born in the US.
GMO health risk sampler
Our Institute for Responsible Technology's Campaign for Healthier Eating in America (http://www.responsibletechnology.org/GMFree/CampaignforHealthierEatinginAmerica/index.cfm) has been very busy distributing our Non-GMO Shopping Guide to doctors around the nation, who are quite concerned about the impact of GMOs on their own and their patients' health. They are also giving patients our small pamphlet (http://www.responsibletechnology.org/GMFree/HealthRisks/HealthRisksBrochure/index.cfm) that summarizes the health dangers of GMOs. This helps to inspire people to use the Shopping Guide. Some of the health risks are included below. (Citations are posted (http://www.responsibletechnology.org/GMFree/HealthRisks/HealthRisksBrochure/index.cfm).) See if you're also "inspired."
According to GMO safety expert Arpad Pusztai, PhD, the digestive tract is the first and largest point of contact with GM foods and can reveal reactions to various toxins. Lab animals fed GM feed developed lesions in the stomach, damage intestines, and abnormal and proliferative cell growth in the walls of the stomach and intestines.
Toxic intestinal bacteria
The beneficial bacteria living inside our digestive tract is used for digestion and immunity. Excessive herbicide residues on herbicide-tolerant GM crops may kill beneficial gut flora. More importantly, the only published human feeding experiment revealed that the genetic material inserted into GM soy transfers into bacteria living inside our intestines and continues to function. This means that long after we stop eating GM foods, we may still have dangerous GM proteins continuously produced inside us. Consider, for example, if the gene that creates Bt-toxin in GM corn were also to transfer. It might turn our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories.
Compromised immune system
Virtually every animal feeding study that looked for immune changes from GMOs found them. GM-fed animals had a sluggish immune responses, damaged organs associated with immunity, altered parameters in the blood, and dangerous inflammatory and immune reactions.
No tests can guarantee that a GMO will not cause allergies. Although the World Health Organization recommends a screening protocol, GM soy and corn fail those tests--because their GM proteins have properties of known allergens.
Soon after GM soy was introduced in the UK, soy allergies skyrocketed by 50 percent. A skin prick allergy test verified that some people react to GM soy, but not to natural soy. GM soy contains as much as 7-times the amount of a known soy allergen. Both GM soy and corn contain at least one new unexpected allergen, not found in natural crops.
The biotech industry claims that Bt-toxin is harmless to humans and mammals because the natural bacteria version has been used as a spray by farmers for years. In reality, hundreds of people exposed to natural Bt spray had allergic and flu-like symptoms. Now, farm workers throughout India are getting those same symptoms from handling Bt cotton. Likewise, mice fed natural Bt had powerful immune responses; now mice and rats fed Bt corn also show immune responses.
GMOs may make you allergic to non-GM foods
Since GMOs were introduced in the US, food allergies have become a huge problem, especially for kids. Some of the foods that trigger reactions, however, are not genetically engineered. But studies show how GM foods might create sensitivity to other foods, and may in fact be contributing to this national epidemic.
GM soy, for example, drastically reduces digestive enzymes in mice. If our ability to breakdown proteins was impaired, we could become allergic to a wide variety of foods.
Mice fed Bt-toxin not only reacted to the Bt itself, they started having immune reactions to foods that were formerly harmless. The Bt-toxin in the corn we eat may have a similar impact. Mice fed experimental GM peas also started reacting to a range of other "safe" foods. The allergen responsible for this reaction may be found in GM foods on our supermarket shelves.
GMOs and liver problems
The liver is a primary detoxifier. Its condition can indicate if there are toxins in our food. Mice and rats fed GM feed had profound changes in their livers. In some cases, livers were smaller and partially atrophied. Some were significantly heavier, possibly inflamed. And certain cellular changes indicated a toxic insult from the GM diet.
Reproductive problems and infant mortality
Both male and female animals showed horrific problems when fed GM soy. More than half the babies of mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks, compared to 10 percent of the non-GM soy controls. The GM babies were also considerably smaller, and were unable to conceive in a subsequent study. Male rats and mice fed GM soy had changed testicles, including altered young sperm cells in the mice. And when both mouse parents ate GM soy, the DNA of their embryos functioned differently. GM corn also had an impact. The longer mice were fed the corn, the fewer babies they had and the smaller their babies were.
Livestock sterility, disease, and death
Many of the problems seen in laboratories are also reported by farmers and investigators in the field.
Thousands of sheep, buffalo, and goats in India died after grazing on Bt cotton plants after harvest. Others suffered poor health and serious reproductive problems.
Farmers in Europe and Asia say that cows, water buffaloes, chickens, and horses died from eating Bt corn varieties.
About two dozen US farmers report that GM corn varieties caused widespread sterility in pigs or cows.
Ready to change your diet?
Inspired? How about alarmed? Choosing non-GMO diets is not only a good idea for those suffering from disease, but for anyone wanting to eat healthy and prevent disease.
International bestselling author and filmmaker Jeffrey M. Smith is the executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology (http://www.responsibletechnology.org/GMFree/Home/index.cfm). His first book, Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating (http://www.chelseagreen.com/index/bookstore/item/seeds_of_deception/), is the world's bestselling and #1 rated book on GMOs. His second, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods (http://www.chelseagreen.com/index/bookstore/item/genetic_roulette/), documents 65 health risks of the GM foods Americans eat everyday. Both are distributed by Chelsea Green Publishing (http://www.chelseagreen.com).
Genetically modified (GM) rice may soon be part of a Chinese meal. "China has worked on research of transgenic rice and is strongly considering its commercialization," says Vice Minister of Agriculture Niu Dun. This was concurred by Cao Mengliang, a researcher on molecular rice at the China National Hybrid Rice R&D Centre, who added that: "Studies of the safety of the technology have been completed. Discussions about whether to open it up to the market are now in the final stages. Now, the safety certificate is the last thing needed before commercialized production."
China Daily reports that the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy notes that GM rice could lead to an 80 percent cut in pesticide use and that yields could increase by around 6 percent. China currently produces around 500 million tons of rice. With its population expected to grow to 1.6 billion by 2020, 630 million tons of rice will be needed.
The full article is available at http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2009-08/25/content_8611098.htm
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Democratic Underground, 21 August 2009
Yesterday it was noted that a major yet unreported story was developing that indicated that the Department of Justice and the Department of Agriculture were signalling a significant departure from Bush anti-trust guidelines and that the Obama administration reported that they were going to conduct workshops to investigate anti-trust monopolies in agriculture by mega agriculture conglomerates. (See thread: http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=132x8602763)
Further research indicates that Monsanto is the most obvious initial target of anti-trust research.
These moves have gone unreported in the media and the blogosphere beyond DU, but today at least two stock analysts connected the same dots noted yesterday and asked if Monsanto was being prepared to be "thrown under the anti-trust bus"
Is Monsanto Being Thrown Under the Anti-Trust Bus?
In July 2008, the OCM started the Crop Seed Concentration Project an initiative target specifically at Monsanto, which the group says controls 90% of the market for genetically modified seed, a figure Monsanto disputes.
"Monsanto's effort to enforce licensing agreements and protect its patent rights has dramatically altered American agriculture," the OCM (Organization for Competitive Markets) says on its Web site. "Monsanto has filed more than 100 patent infringement lawsuits against U.S. farmers."
The OCD's crop concentration campaign coincides with U.S. President Barack Obama's vow to enforce antitrust laws that were neglected by the Bush administration, and its national convention attracted the representatives from the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Monsanto Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant has a great deal to be worried about.
If you connect the dots it shows that powerful forces are lining up to take aim against Monsanto's market domination of the seed market. There are two other political reasons that the Monsanto CEO should also begin to worry:
1) The Attorney General's office inherited a number of complex legal positions that it doesn't agree with and may feel constrained to take immediate action on. Certainly the AG's office would be delighted to find some area that they can demonstrate a significant and radical change from the previous administration and show results. The AG's office has announced that it has officially "withdrawn Bush administration guidelines" on agricultural anti-trust.
2) It is a political win-win-win for the administration to pursue anti-trust against agricultural mega companies. It helps the administration build political favor in Republican areas. The fact that Monsanto is filing hundreds of lawsuits against ordinary farmers has sealed the politcal test on the issue. It also plays well to the more liberal Democratic base and it will be welcomed by consumers who will benefit from honest competition.
To understand what has happened connect these dots:
1.Monsanto projects monopoly like market projections for future profits.
Monsanto has a dominant position in the market and is now projecting huge increases in revenue (not something anti-trust investigators will have much sympathy for. Monsanto is projecting a 250% increase in gross profit from 2007 to 2012)
By 2012, Monsanto expects its gross profit from its core seeds and traits business to be between $7.3 billion and $7.5 billion - about 2.5 times its 2007 level.
2.Organization for Competitive Markets - (appears to be the leading think tank to fight big AG monopoly) launches the Seed Concentration Project in July 2008 specifically to fight Monsanto's monopoly of the seed market.
The problem of consolidation in the seed industry is well known. One company in particular, the Monsanto Company, controls a high percentage of the global seed market and continues to increase its dominance by acquiring or merging with a significant number of companies in its industry. Monsanto has acquired dozens of independent seed companies in the last decade. It controls 70% of the transgenic corn market and more than 90% of the transgenic soybean market.
In 2007, Monsanto acquired Delta and Pine Land, the nation's largest cotton seed company. OCM opposed this acquisition, as did several other farm organizations and 13 state attorneys general. Monsanto now controls about 90% of the cotton seed and cotton seed traits marketplace.
3.Monsanto sues farmers for patent lawsuits
Monsanto's effort to enforce licensing agreements and protect its patent rights has dramatically altered American agriculture. Monsanto has filed more than 100 patent infringement lawsuits against U.S. farmers. Sometimes the farmers and businesses it targets are completely innocent. Yet these farmers undergo undue financial and emotional stress in their effort to avoid costly lawsuits.
4.Monsanto sues Dupont
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Monsanto Co, the world's biggest seed company, said on Tuesday it sued chemical maker DuPont for unlawful use of its proprietary Roundup Ready herbicide tolerant technologies in soybeans and corn.
DuPont responded by accusing Monsanto of trying to deny access to alternative technologies at a time when farmers are struggling with weeds that are increasingly resistant to current Monsanto products.
"We are disappointed Monsanto chose litigation and inflammatory public statements over civil discourse," James Borel, a DuPont group vice president, said in a statement.
Monsanto said its suit was filed on Monday in federal court in St Louis against DuPont and its subsidiary, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.
5.Dupont and OCM join forces
It's likely that by "masked third parties" Grant meant the Organization for Competitive (OCM) Markets, a nonprofit group that claims Monsanto controls 90% of the market for genetically modified seed. The Lincoln, NE-based organization claims to take on big agricultural companies in defense of small farmers and consumers, but it was recently revealed DuPont gives the group financial support.
6.OCM conference on anti-trust agricultural practices attracts record attendance
The Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) drew a record crowd of ranchers, farmers, feedlot operators, seed distributors and others for its annual conference held in St. Louis on August 7th. Attendees heard panel presentations concerning the ills of market concentration and anticompetitive practices and ongoing efforts to address these issues. Featured speakers included antitrust attorneys, food retail economists and two top Obama Administration officials tasked with enforcing antitrust and competition laws in the agriculture and livestock sectors.
7.Obama administration attends OCM conference and announces major policy change on Agriculture Anti-Trust and announces workshops to investigate impact on farmers and ranchers:
The Department of Justice and USDA are interested in receiving comments on the application of antitrust laws to monopsony and vertical integration in the agricultural sector, including the scope, functionality and limits of current or potential rules.
The Department and USDA are also inviting input on additional topics that might be discussed at the workshops, including the impact of agriculture concentration on food costs, the effect of agricultural regulatory statutes or other applicable laws and programs on competition, issues relating to patent and intellectual property affecting agricultural marketing or production, and market practices such as price spreads, forward contracts, packer ownership of livestock before slaughter, market transparency, and increasing retailer concentration.
8.Market analysts start to take note:
Money morning (quoted above)
CNBC Jim Cramer: Monsanto couldn't provoke a government inquiry anymore than it already has:
"The Obama administration is stepping up its antitrust enforcement, Cramer said Thursday, and Monsanto could be the first target. Recent moves by the company seem to be daring the Justice Department to file a suit.
Believe Cramer when he says that the government has a strong case against Monsanto. A series of competition-crushing acquisitions made this biotech disguised as an agriculture outfit the market leader in genetically modified US corn, soybean and cotton seeds. And Monsanto maintains strict agreements with its farmer clients that leave them virtually no choice but to feed at the corporate trough. Plus, the company plans to push through a 42% price increase on its new seeds, and there's nothing these farmers can do about it.
Monsanto couldn't provoke a government inquiry anymore than it already has. The firm seems to have farmers and the seed market in a stranglehold. Monsanto's reputation is so noteworthy that the company serves as the villain in the new documentary Food, Inc. Cramer thought the movie's accusations alone might be enough to draw Washington's ire."
The strangest part of this whole story is how it seems to be evolving completely outside of the mainstream media (only noted by agricultural and stock analysts so far) and outside of the blogosphere.
Connecting the dots outlined above seems to indicate that this is going to be the first major clash between the Obama administration and big agriculture.
By SCOTT KILMAN
ST. LOUIS -- The Obama administration will take an extensive look at concentration in U.S. agriculture as part of its increased emphasis on antitrust enforcement, a Justice Department official said Friday.
Philip J. Weiser, a telecommunications-law expert who was recently named deputy assistant attorney general, told a farmer gathering here that federal antitrust regulators are "committed to examining" the level of competition in several agribusiness sectors, such as the marketing of genetically modified seed, dairy processing and meatpacking.
Washington has often sympathized with farmers who find themselves selling their commodities to fewer and larger processors. But the Obama administration is taking a further step, with plans for a nationwide series of sessions next year for the U.S. Agriculture Department to hear competitive concerns of farmers.
Mr. Weiser's remarks are another sign the Obama administration intends to step up enforcement of antitrust laws. In May, the Justice Department's antitrust division withdrew anti-monopoly legal guidelines issued under the Bush administration and signaled closer scrutiny of some industries.
While Mr. Weiser didn't single out any agricultural companies for criticism, his 30-minute appearance came in the hometown of St. Louis crop-biotechnology titanMonsanto Co., where he addressed the annual convention of a farmers advocacy group called the Organization for Competitive Markets. Officials of the group have complained about Monsanto's dominance over genetically modified seeds.
The vast majority of the genetically modified crops grown in the U.S. farm belt contains at least one gene from Monsanto. Its success has made the company a formidable rival of DuPont Co.'s Pioneer Hi-Bred seed unit, which has accused Monsanto of being a monopolist.
DuPont spokesman Dan Turner said Friday the Wilmington, Del., concern has "funded and supported" the OCM farmer group for years, as it has many other farmer and commodity trade groups. Mr. Turner said DuPont didn't sponsor the meeting at which Mr. Weiser spoke.
Monsanto spokesman Lee Quarles called DuPont's backing "extremely disappointing, because they are aligning themselves with an organization that is spreading false and misleading information about our business."
Friday, August 21, 2009
Nature 460, 950-951 (20 August 2009) | doi:10.1038/460950a;
As researchers discover more agents that alter mental states, the Chemical Weapons Convention needs modification to help ensure that the life sciences are not used for hostile purposes, says Malcolm Dando.
In October 2002, Chechen rebel fighters held more than 750 people hostage at a Nord-Ost production in a theatre in Moscow. The siege was broken only after special military forces used what the Russian Health Minister, Yuri Shevchenko, later described as a mixture of substances derived from fentanyl — an opiate developed in the 1950s as an anaesthetic. Widespread relief that many of the hostages were saved was tempered by 124 of them being killed by the gas.
Chemicals with effects like those of fentanyl are often known as 'incapacitating agents'. These substances affect biochemical processes and physiological systems to produce a disabling condition such as unconsciousness, and in higher concentrations can cause death. With effects that last from hours to days, they are distinct from standard riot-control agents such as CS gas, which cause sensory irritation that disappears shortly after termination of exposure.
That Russian special military forces resorted to using fentanyl in Moscow is a possible harbinger of the wider militarization of advances in the biological sciences.
Attempts to exploit benignly intended research for hostile purposes are not new. After the Second World War, the international medical community began to discover compounds that alleviated symptoms of mental illnesses such as depression and mood swings. These findings weren't accompanied by a good understanding of how the drugs worked. Nevertheless, they prompted nations to ramp up their efforts to find chemicals suited to military use. In fact, in 1959, the chairman of the UK government's secret Chemistry Committee of the Advisory Council on Scientific Research and Technical Development told his colleagues that the committee was "looking for agents which would produce, not cure, psychoses"1.
Between the early 1950s and 1970s, researchers working in laboratories that eventually became the US Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense studied chemical agents that affect the central nervous system. Indeed in 1961, the US military weaponized BZ — a drug that had originally been studied as a possible therapy for gastrointestinal diseases. BZ is one of a group of chemicals that act on the brain and can cause delirium; people exposed to it may fall into a stupor, struggle to speak, show poor coordination and have difficulty processing thoughts.
Despite the long-standing interest the defence industry has shown in drugs that alter people's physiological and mental states, a lack of knowledge has hampered attempts to use them. For example, by 1966, the US military had stockpiled munitions capable of delivering BZ, but its mode and site of action were poorly understood, and its effects varied widely from person to person. This and other problems led to its abandonment. The United States destroyed its stocks by 1990, several years before the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) entered into force in 1997.
Current biochemical threats range from lethal chemical agents to traditional and genetically modified biological agents. In general, biological agents such as anthrax cause governments the most concern. Only a few pathogens are suitable for military use, however. For example, smallpox could prove useful as a weapon because it is highly contagious; anthrax because it has a life cycle that involves the production of long-lived spores. The limited range of possibilities means that there is a good chance of developing countermeasures such as vaccines or antibiotics against these agents. Even if efforts are made to modify them — for example by introducing genes that encode antibiotic resistance — the problem of designing countermeasures is potentially surmountable because the range of effective manipulations that can be made is also limited.
But recent scientific and technological advances could transform the biochemical-threat landscape. Indeed, in 2003, military analysts from the Counterproliferation and Technology Office of the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington DC predicted that emerging biotechnologies were likely to lead to a "paradigm shift" in the development of biological warfare agents2. They warned that it would soon become possible to engineer agents to target specific human biological systems at the molecular level.
This idea of identifying crucial biochemical pathways, and then designing compounds to disrupt them is a leap from the traditional model of biological-agent development. It expands the options: there are likely to be thousands of potential molecular targets and numerous ways of disrupting each one.
Frontiers of concern
Concerns about this kind of expansion of biochemical threats have since been reiterated by scientific and medical communities. For example, in 2006, the US National Academies produced a report called Globalization, Biosecurity, and the Future of the Life Sciences. The authors argued that recent advances in our understanding of how bioregulatory compounds work, of signalling processes and of the regulation of human gene expression — combined with developments in chemistry, synthetic biology and in technologies such as nanotechnology — have "opened up new and exceedingly challenging frontiers of concern".
More recently, a 2008 US National Academies report entitled Emerging Cognitive Neuroscience and Related Technologies, similarly argued that in cases in which 'agonists' of a particular system have been found to enhance some cognitive trait, an 'antagonist' might be developed that could reduce it and vice versa. If dopamine agonists enhance attention, say, so dopamine antagonists might disrupt it. They also warned, among other things, that nanotechnologies could overcome the blood–brain barrier and "exploit existing transport mechanisms to transmit substances into the brain in analogy with the Trojan horse".
Some researchers are actively facilitating the development of new chemical weapons. For example, a research group from Pennsylvania State University in University Park has identified several drug classes as potential non-lethal agents or 'calmatives'3, including benzodiazepines and alpha2-adrenoreceptor agonists, as well as individual drugs such as diazepam and dexmedetomidine.
Similarly, at the 4th European Symposium on Non-Lethal Weapons in 2007, researchers from the Institute of Experimental Medicine and Charles University in Prague described the effects on macaque monkeys of combinations of drugs that produce a rapid loss of aggressive behaviour4. They argued that the drugs could be "used to pacify aggressive people during ... terrorist attacks". The same researchers have also investigated methods of aerosol delivery to human volunteers.
Those who support the development of incapacitating agents often argue that using them in conflict situations stops people being killed. Historical evidence suggests otherwise. At the Nord-Ost siege, for instance, terrorists exposed to the fentanyl mixture were shot dead rather than arrested. Likewise, in Vietnam, the US military used vast quantities of CS gas — a 'non-lethal' riot-control agent — to increase the effectiveness of conventional weapons by flushing the Viet Cong out of their hiding places.
Blind to misuse
The lack of engagement with this issue among life scientists in general is alarming. Some companies are already marketing oxytocin on the back of studies showing that a nasal squirt of the hormone increases trust in humans. Even though the effectiveness of commercial sprays is doubtful, such research opens up the possibility of a drug that could be used to manipulate people's emotions in a military context. Discussions with more than 2,000 practising life scientists in 13 countries over the past few years have taught me that few have considered such possible uses of their work.
There are problems with both the international conventions that protect us from the potential misuse of biological and chemicals research — the CWC and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, for instance, lacks an effective verification mechanism to ensure that nations are fulfilling their obligations.
Some have called for the CWC agreement to be amended to allow the use of novel incapacitating agents5. In the past 20 years, modern warfare has changed from predominantly large-scale clashes of armies to messy civil strife: think of Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. The chemical agents described here are particularly suited to this style of warfare; it's not hard to find people in the military world who think they would be useful5.
The CWC urgently needs modifying if it is to continue to help ensure that the modern life sciences are not used for hostile purposes. Most pressingly, the compatibility of the Convention with the development of non-lethal chemical agents for law enforcement needs careful scrutiny. Article II.9(d) states that "Law enforcement including domestic riot control" is exempt from the prohibition of the use of chemical agents. 'Law enforcement' could be taken by some to cover more than domestic riot control — which, in certain circumstances, would make it legal for the military to use agents such as fentanyl.
In my opinion, all use of novel non-lethal agents such as fentanyl for law enforcement should be prohibited, or at least heavily restricted. If, instead, we sit on our hands we must accept that new incapacitating agents are just the beginning. We will be, as the British Medical Association concluded in its 2007 study, The Use of Drugs as Weapons, "knowingly moving towards the top of a 'slippery slope' at the bottom of which is the spectre of 'militarization' of biology" including "intentional manipulation of peoples' emotions, memories, immune responses or even fertility".
1. Chemical Committee, Minutes of the 32nd Meeting, 5 March, 1959 (PRO/WO195/14637, 1959).
2. Petro, J. B., Plasse, T. R. & McNulty, J. A. Biosecur. Bioterror. 1, 161–168 (2003). | Article | PubMed
3. Lakoski, J. M., Bosseau Murray, W. & Kenny, J. M. The Advantages and Limitations of Calmatives for Use as a Non-Lethal Technique (Penn. State Univ., 2000).
4. Hess, L., Schreiberová, J., Málek, J., Votava, M. & Fusek, J. Drug-Induced Loss of Aggressiveness in the Macaque Rhesus. Proc. of the 4th European Symposium on Non-Lethal Weapons on Non-Lethal Weapons Ettlingen, Germany, 21–23 May (2007).
5. Whitbred, G .N. T. Offensive Use of Chemical Technologies by US Special Operations Forces in the Global War on Terrorism: The Nonlethal Option. Maxwell Paper No. 37 (Air Univ. Press, 2006).
1. Malcolm Dando is principal investigator for the Wellcome Trust project on Building a Sustainable Capacity in Dual-Use Bioethics, Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford, Richmond Road, Bradford, BD7 IDP, UK.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
CounterPunch, August 14-16 2009
Michael R. Taylor's appointment by the Obama administration to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on July 7th sparked immediate debate and even outrage among many food and agriculture researchers, NGOs and activists. The Vice President for Public Policy at Monsanto Corp. from 1998 until 2001, Taylor exemplifies the revolving door between the food industry and the government agencies that regulate it. He is reviled for shaping and implementing the government’s favorable agricultural biotechnology policies during the Clinton administration.
Yet what has slipped under everyone’s radar screen is Taylor’s involvement in setting U.S. policy on agricultural assistance in Africa. In collusion with the Rockefeller and Bill and Melinda Gates foundations, Taylor is once again the go-between man for Monsanto and the U.S. government, this time with the goal to open up African markets for genetically-modified (GM) seed and agrochemicals.
In the late 70s, Taylor was an attorney for the United States Department of Agriculture, then in the 80s, a private lawyer at the D.C. law firm King & Spalding, where he represented Monsanto. When Taylor returned to government as Deputy Commissioner for Policy for the FDA from 1991 to 1994, the agency approved the use of Monsanto’s GM growth hormone for dairy cows (now found in most U.S. milk) without labeling. His role in these decisions led to a federal investigation, though eventually he was exonerated of all conflict-of-interest charges.
Taylor’s re-appointment to the FDA came just after Obama and the other G-8 leaders pledged $20 billion to fight hunger in Africa over the next three years. “President Obama is currently embedded in a bubble featuring some of the fervent promoters of the biotech industry and a Green Revolution in Africa,” says Paula Crossfield in the Huffington Post. Before joining Obama's transition team, Taylor was a Senior Fellow at the D.C. think tank Resources for the Future, where he published two documents on U.S. aid for African agriculture, both of which were funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.
The Rockefeller Foundation funded the first Green Revolution in Asia and Latin America in the 1960s, and in 2006, teamed up with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to launch the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). In Taylor’s 2003 paper “American Patent Policy, Biotechnology, and African Agriculture: The Case for Policy Change,” he states: “The Green Revolution largely bypassed sub-Saharan Africa…African farmers often face difficult growing conditions, and better access to the basic Green Revolution tools of fertilizer, pesticides, improved seeds, and irrigation certainly can play an important role in improving their productivity."
In an interview with AllAfrica.com, Obama echoed Taylor's sentiment: "I'm still frustrated over the fact that the Green Revolution that we introduced into India in the '60s, we haven't yet introduced into Africa in 2009."
Yet as Crossfield points out, “There are very good reasons why we have never introduced a Green Revolution into Africa, namely because there is broad consensus that the Green Revolution in India has been a failure, with Indian farmers in debt, bound to paying high costs for seed and pesticides, committing suicide at much higher rates, and resulting in a depleted water table and a poisoned environment, and by extension, higher rates of cancer. If President Obama is lacking this information, it is his cabinet that is to blame.”
While AGRA may not benefit African farmers, it will certainly benefit Monsanto. Some estimate that Monsanto controls 90 percent of the global market for GM seeds. In Brazil, 54 percent of all soybeans are produced with Monsanto’s GM Roundup Ready© seeds, and in 2008, the country began spraying more pesticides and herbicides than the U.S. There is evidence that in 2003, Monsanto sold a Brazilian senator a farm for one-third of its market value in exchange for his help to legalize the herbicide glyphosate (the world’s most widely used herbicide), sold by the corporation as Roundup©. In 2008, Monsanto controlled 80% of the Brazilian market for glyphosate, having elevated the price by 50% since its legalization.
The “penultimate draft” of Taylor’s 2002 paper was reviewed by Dr. Robert Horsch, a Monsanto executive for more than 25 years, who left in 2006 to work at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It states, “The ultimate concern of this report is how innovative seed technology derived from patented tools of biotechnology can be developed and disseminated for the benefit of small-scale and subsistence African farmers.”
Taylor’s 2005 paper “Investing in Africa’s Future: U.S. Agricultural Development Assistance for Sub-Saharan Africa,” was co-authored by the executive director of the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa (PCHPA). Founded in 2000 and based in D.C., PCHPA is a consortium of public-private interests (Gates is one of its primary funders) that includes, among many others, Halliburton, several African heads of state, administrators from several U.S. land grant universities, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Monsanto. According to its web site, Taylor and Horsch both sit on PCHPA’s advisory committee. Horsch continues to be listed as Vice President for Product and Technology Cooperation for Monsanto, and a member of PCHPA’s working group for Capacity Building for Science and Technology.
Taylor writes of the need to change “archaic, near-subsistence agricultural economies” with a “market-oriented approach and the promotion of thriving agribusinesses.” His recipe is globalized, industrial agriculture: “applied agricultural research,” “markets for agricultural inputs and outputs”, “build rural roads and other physical infrastructure”, and “build agricultural export capacity and opportunity.” Taylor fails to adequately address how liberalized agricultural policies and unfair U.S. agricultural subsidies have been responsible for the bankruptcy of millions of African farmers. Instead, he maintains, “the financial impact of U.S. domestic cotton subsidies on Mali farmers dwarfs the impact of development assistance from USAID and other agencies.”
“Private investment and entrepreneurship are widely understood to be essential. The role of public investment is to provide the critical public goods needed to make private effort attractive and rewarding.”
Taylor maintains that due to the constraints of USAID, which has its funds allocated through congressional earmarks and is squeezed by the wards in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. needs an alternative funding strategy for African agricultural development assistance. His proposal is to broaden the reach of the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government agency established in 2004 by President George W. Bush to implement the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). “MCC is a new government corporation that operates under a different institutional and policy framework and receives funds that are not earmarked,” says Taylor. ““The MCA was intended to depart sharply from traditional U.S. development assistance by providing large amounts of assistance to select countries that create an enabling environment for economic growth through market-oriented, pro-growth policies.” African countries make up about half of the MCA-eligible countries.
In June 2008, the Rockefeller Foundation issued a press release about the “historic collaboration” between MCC and AGRA. “MCC’s investments in agriculture and in public infrastructure such as roads and irrigation complement AGRA’s investments in providing the rural poor with seeds and fertilizers to increase their incomes and production,” said MCC’s CEO Ambassador John Danilovich. The MCC-AGRA partnership focuses on five areas, including “advancing agriculture research, multiplication of seed, and distribution of inputs and technologies to small-scale farmers,” and “building roads, irrigation and other agriculture-related infrastructure.”
As it arrived in D.C., the Obama Administration received a report from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs titled “Renewing American Leadership in the Fight Against Hunger and Poverty: The Chicago Initiative on Global Agricultural Development.” The report was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and co-authored by its senior fellow Catherine Bertini. “The United States should thus remain willing to support research on all forms of modern crop biotechnology by local scientists in Sub-Saharan Africa,” it reads.
Taylor’s 2007 paper, published by PCHPA and titled “Beating Africa’s Poverty by Investing in Africa’s Infrastructure,” is cited in the Chicago Council report and listed as “key reading on African development” in its appendix. The Chicago Council report makes five specific recommendations, the third being to “increase support for rural and agricultural infrastructure, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa,” with a related priority to “accelerate disbursal of the Millennium Challenge Corporation funds already obligated for rural roads and other agricultural infrastructure projects.”
While people have been debating about whether Michael R. Taylor might support labeling of GM foods (as he is aware, a moot point in the U.S. due to widespread contamination by GM pollen), he has been literally writing the book on U.S. agricultural aid to Africa. While the motives, beliefs and interests of Taylor, the Obama administration, the Gates, Rockefellers and everyone in support of a Green Revolution in Africa are debatable, those of Monsanto are not.
“Once attached to a pool of foreign aid money, the pressure to open markets to biotechnology will be substantial,” points out Food First policy analyst Annie Shattuck.
But what will be the human and environmental costs of unleashing a Green Revolution in Africa? According to the Chicago Council report, the “most respected science academies” have concluded that “genetically engineered crops currently on the market present no new documented risk either to human health or to the environment.” Unfortunately, this is false, and the world cannot afford for Obama to follow the advice of those who support a Green Revolution in Africa.
In May, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine called for a moratorium on GM foods: “several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system.”
According to a study published by the Union of Concerned Scientists this year, GM seeds do not produce higher yields than conventional seeds. Yet they pose serious ecological risks, especially from genetic contamination from pollen. In the U.S., it is becoming impossible for the organic food industry to certify non-GM foods. In July in South Africa, three varieties of Monsanto’s GM corn produced seedless plants on over 200,000 hectares of land for about 250 farmers. Monsanto had sold some of the seeds to commercial farmers and also given some to resource-poor, rural families.
GM crops also require more chemical spraying than conventional crops, and weeds are developing tolerance to glyphosate, requiring higher and higher doses. According to a recent editorial in the New York Times, “Scientists are connecting the dots with evidence of increasing abnormalities among humans, particularly large increases in numbers of genital deformities among newborn boys…Apprehension is growing among many scientists that the cause of all this may be a class of chemicals called endocrine disruptors.”
Glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor. In March, a molecular biologist at the University of Caen named Dr. Gilles-Eric Seralini published the results of a study that found Roundup causes cells to die in human embryos. "Even in doses diluted a thousand times, the herbicide could cause malformations, miscarriages, hormonal problems, reproductive problems, and different types of cancers," said Dr. Seralini. In April, Dr. Andrés Carrasco, an embryologist at the University of Buenos Aires, published his findings that even very low doses, glyphosate can cause brain, intestinal and heart defects in frog fetuses.
Taylor’s solution to halt hunger in Africa is for its farmers to industrially produce commodities for global markets in order to generate cash to purchase toxic food at a supermarket. Yet if his goal is to meet the immediate food and nutritional security needs of poor people in sub-Saharan Africa, and given that most of them live in rural areas, his perception of appropriate land use is flawed.
Critics of AGRA assert that the most effective approach to fighting hunger in Africa would be to prioritize the agroecological production of healthy food by and for small-scale, peasant farming families, who would sell their surplus to local, regional and national markets, without being subject to unfair global markets and trade policies, or Monsanto’s Green Revolution package.
Family farms employ more people per acre than industrial farms do, and diversified small and medium farmers are more ecologically and economically resilient than those cultivating a monoculture cash crop. Local food systems consume less fossil fuel. Whereas the patenting and planting of GM seeds threaten humanity’s collective agrogenetic heritage, in a world without Monsanto, millions of family farmers would be the guardians of agrobiodiversity and indigenous farming knowledge.
One has to ask: given its support for Taylor, Monsanto and a new Green Revolution in Africa, does the Obama administration’s foreign agricultural aid program truly represent ‘change we can believe in’?
As Ben Burkett, president of the National Family Farm Coalition, a U.S. member of La Via Campesina, cautioned, “As an African American farmer who has visited farmers in Africa many times, I am deeply concerned that much of the Obama Administration’s pledge to spend $1 billion on agriculture research will be wasted on biotech research that benefits Monsanto more than it does small-scale farmers.”
Isabella Kenfield is an analyst at Americas Program and an associate at the Center for the Study of the Americas in Berkeley, California. She can be reached at isabella.kenfield(a)gmail.com.
This article was originally published by Food First.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
August 6, 2009
The staff of Congress said HR 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, didn't authorize the National Animal Identification System. Many organic groups agreed with them.
They weren't telling the truth, however, either out of ignorance or deliberate omission.
HR 2749 certainly doesn't mention "the" National Animal Identification System by name, but it definitely authorizes the program.
It also doesn't state that it is legally authorizing Good Agricultural Practices, or GAP, partially comprised of Codex guidelines on traceability and food safety and the OIE's Guide to Good Farming Practices including auditing, certification and inspections as well as disincentives for not participating in the form of fines, penalties, and loss of access to market; but it most certainly does.
Is it possible that Congress doesn't have the slightest idea what they were voting on?
Maybe, maybe not.
It doesn't come as any surprise that Congress didn't read the bill as it was changed three times in a 24-hour period before it was passed out of the House with a 283-142 vote.
Congress says it doesn't have time to read bills like HR 2749.
The bill includes that mentioned above and even more.
All one needs to do is understand what is involved in Good Agricultural Practices and how the agencies of the World Trade Organization operate within member countries to get this.
I'll explain that to you. Really, there are only a few pieces from the legislation itself that are necessary to read to fully comprehend that this is indeed what we are dealing with in HR 2749.
The international "guidelines" are much lengthier than the legislation itself.
HR 2749 is 160 pages in its final version. If you search through it, you will find the following references to international standards and guidelines:
"(B) INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS.--In issuing guidance or regulations... the Secretary shall review international hazard analysis and preventive control standards that are in existence on the date of the enactment of this Act and relevant to such guidelines or regulations to ensure that the programs.....are consistent......with such standards." (page 35)
"CONSISTENCY WITH INTERNATIONAL OBLIGATIONS.--The Secretary shall apply this paragraph consistently with United States obligations under international agreements." (page81)
"The Secretary shall issue regulations to ensure that any qualified certifying entity and its auditors are free from conflicts of interest. In issuing these regulations, the Secretary may rely on or incorporate international certification standards." (page 82)
What this actually means is that there will be a layer of auditors, certifiers, and inspectors over every aspect of food production in this country, and that these inspectors and certifiers will be trained in ISO (International Standards Organization) management program certification.
The ISO has been working with Codex Alimentarius on Food Safety Standards and in particular, a technical standard for Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) which is a consortium of the seven largest food retailers in the world, and that is ISO22000:2005.
All traceability falls under the purview of Codex, the OIE (World Animal Health Organization and the IPPC (International Plant Protection Convention) for global trade agreements.
The following excerpt from HR 2749 shows the fully interoperable global network already in existence regarding food and its production:
"Development of such guidelines shall take into account the utilization of existing unique identification schemes and compatibility with customs automated systems, such as integration with the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) and the International Trade Data System (ITDS), and any successor systems." (page 142)
So it is clear that international standards and guidelines are implicit in this legislation.
Note the usage of the command form SHALL. This isn't a 'might', 'may' or in anyway a voluntary issue on the part of the Secretary.
Then there is the section on Traceability. This is a code word in the National Animal Identification System and when one reads Sec.107 of this bill, it definitively describes components of NAIS even down to the 48 hour trace back, which cannot even be fantasized about with out individual animal identification.
".....the Secretary shall issue regulations establishing a tracing system that enables the Secretary to identify each person who grows, produces, manufactures, processes, packs, transports, holds, or sells such food in as short a timeframe as practicable but no longer than 2 business days." (=note that it says "grows"=) (page 70), and
"......use a unique identifier for each facility owned or operated by such person for such purpose..." (page69)
So we have PIN and 48 hour traceback harmonizing with international standards and guidelines along with this:
"...."(C) COORDINATION REGARDING FARM IMPACT.--In issuing regulations under this paragraph that will impact farms, the Secretary "(i) shall coordinate with the Secretary of Agriculture; and "(ii) take into account the nature of the impact of the regulations on farms." (page 71)
Now that I've killed you with legalese, it's time to let you find out just what these international standards and guidelines mean to those engaged in agriculture in this country.
Good Agricultural Practices are not a standard in and of themselves. They are more of a combination of standards and guidelines set forth by the FAO, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, through both the OIE (World Animal Health Organization) and Codex Alimentarius (Food Code) to meet the certification and auditing side of the international trade aspects of the standards set forth.
The OIE and Codex are charged with setting global standards and guidelines for the member countries of the WTO to meet to satisfy the SPS (Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary), TBT (Technical Barriers to Trade) and Equivalency agreements of the WTO for participation in international trade.
Both the OIE and CODEX have guidelines for traceability that, with the passage of HR2749 into law, would be written into regulations governing all interstate commerce within the boundaries of the United States.
The components of traceability are the pillars of NAIS that many of us have become so familiar with in the course of the battle over the past several years. Those being:
Animal Identification, and
You can't have traceability under the Codex and WTO and FAO international standards without having those three components.
One of the main issues in the implementation of these standards and guidelines within a member nation of the WTO is that they must have a legal framework through which to regulate and enforce these guidelines and standards.
HR 2749 would meet the criteria for that legal framework via the excerpts from the bill above.
In the OIE's "Guide to Good Farming Practices" the management of a livestock facility are clearly spelled out.
Some of these recommendations that would become defacto law in the US under agency rule-making on passage of HR2749 (GGFP delineates international guidelines for food safety at the farm level) are for each animal, you must keep:
All commercial and health documents enabling their exact itinerary to be traced from their farm or establishment to their final destination,
A record of all persons entering the farm,
Medical certificates of persons working with the animals,
Documents proving the water you give to the animals meet specific criteria,
Samples of all feed given to the animals,
Documents from official inspections,
Records of treatment and procedures on all animals (castration, disbudding, calving, medications, etc.)
Prevent domestic animals (cats and dogs) from roaming in and around livestock buildings,
All of these documents at the disposal of the competent authority (government or veterinary services) when it conducts farm visits.
Some of the other guidelines and standards that would come into play after the implementation of traceability for all agricultural products would be :
(from FAO COAG/17 "Development of a Framework for Good Agricultural Practices")
The adoption and implementation of international standards and codes for which Codex food safety standards and guidelines have been designed, and
The associated capacity building, training, development and field implementation in the context of the different production systems and agro-ecozones. These include:
Enhancing Food Quality and Safety by Strengthening Handling,
Processing and Marketing in the Food Chain (214A9);
Capacity Building and Risk Analysis Methodologies for Compliance with Food Safety Standards and Pesticide Control (215P1);
Food Quality Control and Consumer Protection (221P5);
Food Safety Assessment and Rapid Alert System (221P6); and
Food Quality and Safety Throughout the Food Chain (221P8)."*
To be certified as meeting the requirements of "GAP," which is synonymous with being in compliance with international standards and guidelines, we can check out GlobalGAP.org.
This is "the" certifying methodology for international trade in ag products. Here are a few excerpts from their 122 page general regulations booklet that has links to checklists for those who would be certifiers and auditors under the principles of GAP.
GAP is an organization, not a governing body under WTO agreements, that works with nations and businesses to meet the criteria regarding these GAP practices for international trade. Here is a bare minimum of excerpts from their regulation document:
(ii) Developing a Good Agricultural Practice (G.A.P.) framework for benchmarking existing assurance schemes and standards including traceability. (iii) Providing guidance for continuous improvement and the development and understanding of best practice. (iv) Establish a single, recognized framework for independent verification.
Production Location: A production unit or group of production units, covered by the same ownership, operational procedures, farm management, and GLOBALGAP (EUREPGAP) decision-making activities.
Within the context of GLOBALGAP (EUREPGAP) Integrated Farm Assurance this means tracing product from the producer's immediate customer back to the producer and certified farm.
Within the context of GLOBALGAP (EUREPGAP) Integrated Farm Assurance this means tracking product from the producer to his immediate customer.
In simple English, which appears to be highly lacking in all these guidelines, it means NAIS for everything, and for anyone who wishes to be engaged in agriculture. Remember the "grows" phrase from the earlier excerpt from HR2749.
Now let's look at some of the 'exception' clauses in HR2749.
This bill is a terrifically crafty piece of legislation that is designed to cloud the reader's understanding of the impact of the law being proposed in it.
For example, all of the exception clauses give the exception under this Act so long as you are ready to be regulated under a different Act. We'll just look at a couple of these clauses to allow you to get the gist of the lack of exception available through the exceptions....
FARMS- A farm is exempt from the requirements of this Act to the extent such farm raises animals from which food is derived that is regulated under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act, or the Egg Products Inspection Act.
"(I) such an operation that packs or holds food, provided that all food used in such activities is grown, raised, or consumed on such farm or another farm under the same ownership;
"(II) such an operation that manufactures or processes food, provided that all food used in such activities is consumed on such farm or another farm under the same ownership; (pages9 and10)
Thus, if you grow everything you feed and consume, then everything you grow--and use no minerals or salts that you don't mine yourself--you may be exempt.
Or, in plain English, don't even try to make a living in agriculture if you won't comply with these rules.
One more exception to contend with here is:
'(A) DIRECT SALES BY FARMS- Food is exempt from the requirements of this subsection if such food is--
'(i) produced on a farm; and
'(ii) sold by the owner, operator, or agent in charge of such farm directly to a consumer or to a restaurant or grocery store. (page 71)
This sounds good.
However, there are several problems with this that are not evident without some knowledge of how things are done in the traditional avenues open for market to growers.
First of all, cattle, whom you may recall as the primary target of the NAIS Business Plan, are sold either at auction barns or via potload to feedlots. It is illegal to sell beef directly from the farm to consumers in every state that I know of. People often will sell a calf ready to butcher in halves or quarters to people and deliver the calf to the slaughter facility for the consumer, but this is far from the normal route of commerce in cattle or other species of meat animals. Even if you can securely wedge your operation into this particular exemption, they get you later via the record keeping section of this bill:
'(E) RECORDKEEPING REGARDING PREVIOUS SOURCES AND SUBSEQUENT RECIPIENTS- For a food or person covered by a limitation or exemption under subparagraph (B), (C), or (D), the Secretary shall require each person who produces, receives, manufactures, processes, packs, transports, distributes, or holds such food to maintain records to identify the immediate previous sources of such food and its ingredients and the immediate subsequent recipients of such food.
'(F) RECORDKEEPING BY RESTAURANTS AND GROCERY STORES- For a food covered by an exemption under subparagraph (A), restaurants and grocery stores shall keep records documenting the farm that was the source of the food.
'(G) RECORDKEEPING BY FARMS- For a food covered by an exemption under subparagraph (A), farms shall keep records, in electronic or non-electronic format, for at least 6 months documenting the restaurant or grocery store to which the food was sold.'. (page 74 and 75)
So being exempt means you are required to keep records.
Keeping required records means you may be required to release those records. So how exempt can a person get under this legislation?
Then of course, as with any law, there are the fines and penalties. These are from $20,000 to $1,000,000 per violation. (page 122)
There is also the change under the seizure section that takes away judicial overview...(double quotations indicate amending language)
"...procedure in cases under this section shall conform, as nearly as may be, to the procedure in admiralty; except that on demand of either party any issue of fact joined in any such case shall be tried by jury, ""and except that, with respect to proceedings relating to food, Rule G of the Supplemental Rules of Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions shall not apply in any such case, exigent circumstances shall be deemed to exist for all seizures brought under this section, and the summons and arrest warrant shall be issued by the clerk of the court without court review in any such case""......pg 116
So we can just throw out that pesky Fourth Amendment to the Constitution and while we're at it, let's get rid of probable cause as well via this wording from page 117:
by striking "credible evidence or information indicating" and inserting "reason to believe;"
There are many other dangerous aspects to HR 2749, like seizures, quarantines, and licensing and whistle blower provisions, but this should leave no doubt that this bill will indeed affect ranches and farms, and has the potential to affect even home food production if an agency decides to apply the international risk analysis schemes to that venue.
Now, the questions that everyone involved in agriculture, meaning everyone who eats, must ask themselves are these:
Can regulating, fining and destroying the freedom of people to grow food create food safety?
Have the impacts of Free Trade on this nation been beneficial for the citizens of this country?
Have food safety concerns increased or decreased since we have begun to import more food under these trade agreements?
And ultimately, does the US Constitution provide for the voidance of the Bill of Rights to participate in global trade?
My copy of the Constitution clearly does not allow for any law to void the Bill of Rights which is unalienable and Constitutionally guaranteed. It's time to let our Federal representatives know in no uncertain terms, that everything to do with governance ultimately comes down to the consent of the governed, and we will not consent to being run by international agencies.
My deep thanks to Paul Griepentrog, who helped in going through the legislation and many of the ramifications and amendments to current law under this Act.
WASHINGTON - An unauthorized strain of genetically modified cotton was accidentally mixed in with other harvested cotton in Texas last month, but government officials on Wednesday played down any safety concerns.
About a quarter ton of the experimental cotton seed engineered to contain a protein that produces a pesticide was combined with about 60 tons of commercial cotton growing nearby, said Eric Flamm, a senior adviser at the Food and Drug Administration.
The mixture, grown near Lamesa in West Texas, about 300 miles west of Fort Worth, was then stored along with 20,000 tons of commercial cotton seed in a warehouse. Nearly half the crop was processed into cottonseed oil and cotton meal to use as animal feed before officials at Monsanto Co., which grows the experimental cotton on a test plot, realized the mistake.
Monsanto officials notified the government of the error on Nov. 10.
"We're talking about a very small amount, but nevertheless, a material that contains a pesticidal substance and has not been authorized for food or feed use," Flamm said on a conference call with reporters.
Flamm said most of the contaminated crop that was processed into animal feed had already been consumed at cattle feed lots.
Two truckloads of the crop were delivered to Mexico, and U.S. officials have notified that country.
The FDA, Environmental Protection Agency and Agriculture Department are investigating to determine what enforcement action is warranted against Monsanto.
Monsanto spokesman Lee Quarles said the crop was mistakenly harvested on Oct. 31, and the company learned about it eight days later when field researchers went to check on it and discovered it was not there. It is grown in a research plot adjacent to other cotton and separated by border rows.
"We've taken responsibility for this release and we're actively working to resolve it in a manner that's satisfactory with the USDA and other agencies," Quarles said.
Quarles said the protein has been determined to pose no threat to humans and approved for use in corn, but not yet in cotton. "This incident and a string of others that have come to light over the past two years show that the USDA is fundamentally incapable of protecting our food," said Karen Perry Stillerman, a food analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Monday, August 10, 2009
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(NaturalNews) If the Hippocrates maxim that "food should be considered as our first medicine" is right, we are on the brink of some really bad medicine. Recently, Obama selected as his "Food Czar", a former Monsanto executive and FDA manipulator, Michael Taylor. More recently, the Orwellian labeled Food Safety Enhancement Bill (HR 2749) was passed easily by the House of Representatives.
The bill is on a fast track for Senate and Presidential approval. If it becomes law as written, this combination of a corrupt Food Czar and misleadingly named Food Safety Bill threatens to take out the food that is medicine and leave us with the food that is poison.
The Food Safety Bill Threatens Safe Food
Before you consider most of this bill as benign or even helpful, as many main stream outlets are promoting, read on and do your own research on the ambiguity of the bill, of which interpretation and enforcement will be left to the discretion of The Food Czar.
The Food Safety Bill does next to nothing to protect consumers from the industrial foods of agribusiness giants such as Monsanto and their ilk. It has the potential to be an instrument of legal oppression for small farmers, organic farming, even farmers' markets and food co-ops. Some indicate the Bill's language is broad enough to even include home vegetable gardens!
Setting a uniform fee of $500 annual, regardless of company or farm size, for the privilege of being policed by the FDA is a relatively minor inequity. This bill, when passed into law, gives the FDA the power to have random inspections on any food producing or storage group without probable cause. There have already been raids on food co-ops, such as the Ohio Department of Agriculture La Grange co-op raid in December of 2008, where all the food was seized without testing.
According to Gunny G Online: "This astounding control will include the elimination of organic farming by eliminating manure, mandating GMO animal feed, imposing animal drugs, and ordering applications of petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides. Farmers, thus, will be locked not only into the industrialization of once normal and organic farms but into the forced purchase of industry's products."
HR 2749 creates severe criminal and civil penalties, including prison terms of up to 10 years and/or fines of up to $100,000 for each violation. Does it include judicial review, Congressional oversight, a defined and limited set of penalties and punishments for a defined set of "crimes"? Not even. The so called Food Safety Bill hands carte blanch enforcement to the whims of Obama's Food Czar.
Introducing Obama's Food Czar
"The person who may be responsible for more food-related illness and death than anyone in history has just been made the US Food Safety Czar. This is no joke", says Jeffrey Smith about Michael Taylor's appointment in a recent Huffington Post article. Jeffrey Smith is the author of Seeds of Deception and Genetic Roulette. Perhaps that is exaggerated, but Michael Taylor's history with Monsanto and the FDA through the corporate/government revolving door is scary enough to provoke such an assertion.
In the early 1990's, Michael Taylor was an attorney for Monsanto. He was parsing legalese and loopholes for the wonderful group that has brought the world DDT, PCB's, Agent Orange, NutraSweet (aspartame), bovine growth hormone, GMO foods, toxic pesticides and weed killers (Round Up), and terminator seeds.
Michael passed through the revolving door connecting the corporate world and government more than once to ensure Monsanto's unabated success with pushing profitable poisons into the world's food supply.
After functioning as a lead attorney with Monsanto, he managed to be appointed as the FDA Policy Chief. From that position he wrote a "white paper" (an authoritative official declaration) on the safety of bovine growth hormones. He ensured that dairy farmers using Monsanto's rbGH would not be required to label its milk products with the bovine growth hormone, which passes puss and toxins into the cow's milk.
This white paper also gave Monsanto the ability to sue dairy farmers who labeled their products rbGH or growth hormone free, which Monsanto zealously pursued to financially destroy small dairy farmers. Monsanto Mike also oversaw the FDA ruling that dairy farmers who labeled their products as non rbGH needed to include that the FDA has determined there is no difference between milk from rbGH cows and non rbGH cows, which is a complete lie.
Author/journalist Jeffrey Smith was tipped from a former Monsanto scientist that three colleagues at Monsanto, upon discovering the hazards of milk from rbGH injected cows, switched to organic dairy products. Some FDA scientists also knew of the dangers and the improper testing by Monsanto. But they don't make the final decisions. That's a function of the FDA Policy Chief, and that was Michael Taylor.
The revolving door swooshed around and Michael Taylor landed back in Monsanto as vice president and chief lobbyist. Only months ago the door spun around once again and Michael Taylor became the senior advisor to the FDA commissioner. Good timing. From that position he could easily be promoted into Obama's cabinet as the Food Safety Czar.
In case you may still doubt USA government collusion with Monsanto, here's an interesting item from "Monsanto Buys Terminator Seeds Company" by F. William Engdahl. "In March 1998 the US Patent Office granted Patent No. 5,723,765 to Delta & Pine Land for a patent titled, Control of Plant Gene Expression. The patent is owned jointly, according to Delta & Pine's Security & Exchange Commission 10K filing, by D&PL and the United States of America, as represented by the Secretary of Agriculture."
The title "Control of Plant Gene Expression" refers to terminator seeds. These seeds make it impossible to save seeds from a harvest for replanting the next crop, an age old tradition for most farmers. This is a nail in the coffin of independent farming world wide, as once farmers begin using GMO seeds, they have to come back to buy again and again. Monsanto bought Delta & Pine Land (D & PL) in 2008, and now the USDA shares the terminator seed patent rights for royalties with Monsanto.
When Big Business owns Government, it is called fascism. When Government owns Big Business, it is called communism. Does this mean we will now have both for our food supply?
What This Means to Consumers
It means this bill will have the FDA, along with the USDA, to act as minions directly instead of indirectly for Monsanto and other literally unhealthy corporations. The FDA would be linking up with other World Trade Organization (WTO) efforts to control farming world wide, while catering to the greedy ambitions of International Agribusiness, its related industries, and Processed Food Manufacturers. FDA, USDA, and WTO bureaucrats are sponsored and headed by the enemies of organic and wholesome food farming.
The WTO is capable of legally levying ridiculous fines or mandating trade sanctions, including food sanctions, on regions that don't comply with WTO governed organizations, such as WHO (World Health Organization), the organization that is ushering in dangerous forced vaccinations for 195 member nations. The WTO is planning severe farming regulations that are expected to be world wide.
Setting up a Food Czar from Monsanto with FDA connections via his revolving door career means that rbGH dairy, GMO's, terminator seeds and pesticides for crops will dominate in our food supply and prosper as "safe" while organic and wholesome foods will be declared dangerous and become a threatened species. The main stream media is already publicizing propaganda against organic food.
You may want to start your own organic garden by yourself or with others soon. This is what the Cubans did in defense of all the trade sanctions imposed on them. And most of Cuba's crops are now organic!
Activists don't seem to feel confident about the bill losing steam on its fast track to becoming law. They have decided the best that can be done is petitioning for rewording of key passages with the Senate to soften HR 2749 before it gets to the president for ratification.
They need your help. Perhaps you may be able to start with the first three sources in bold below.
Organic Consumers Association action page
Communist Takeover Of All Food Production From Farm To Fork Almost Complete!
The Farm Blog - GMO Real Story
Monsanto Buys Terminator Seed Company by F. William Engdahl
HR 2479: Totalitarian Control of the Food Supply
Jeffrey Smith article on Obama's Food Czar
NSSM 200 "Food as a weapon"
List of Obama Czars (before most recent selections)
Ohio ODA raid on organic food co-op
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has sent a document to Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Development Cooperation and Agriculture of members of FAO and the United Nations to consider as a declaration for adoption by the World Summit of Heads of State and Government on Food Security in November 2009 in Rome.
Secretariat contribution to defining the objectives and possible decisions of the World Summit on Food Security, calls for the complete eradication of hunger by 2025 and for secure, sufficient, safe and nutritious food supplies for a world population that is expected to reach 9.2 billion in 2050. Among the issues raised in the document include a proposal for a new world food security governance structure, public and private investment for increasing agricultural production in developing countries, institutional and capacity building, food quality and safety, and transboundary pests and diseases of plants and animals.
See the FAO press release at http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/29219/icode/
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Amateur Scientists Bioengineer from Home
TodaysTHV.com (USA), 3 August 2009
Bioengineering from home, called "biohackers", began in the United States but the popularity is spreading worldwide. Jessica Duff has more about this rapid hacker scheme in today's Web report.
Authorities say without regulations these amatuer scientists are playing with fire and it's the public that could get burned.
Amateur scientists are creating mutant microbes in labs they've set up in their own homes with the help of eBay and You Tube.
The growing group of self-styled "biohackers" say they are creating the genetically-engineered bugs in makeshift gene laboratories for fun. But authorities are concerned their unregulated activities threaten public health.
Kay Aull has a lab in her bedroom in Massachusetts. She made, or bought all her equipment second-hand from websites such as eBay.
"It's really just some simple biochemistry," says Aull. "It doesn't need to take place in the lab with scary equipment, there's no magic involved, it's chemistry. It's something you could cook up yourself."
Other biohackers are uploading videos of their experiments on to You Tube - with step by step instructions on how to make fluorescent bacteria. The movement is making authorities increasingly concerned about the public health threat from an accidental release of genetically modified organisms.
In response to the concerns, the garage geneticists are beginning to police themselves through online forums, anxious to prove that the fears are overblown.
"I'm sensing the cultural zeitgeist people have against scary biotech. I think the main danger is if you're doing it on your own - the chemicals can be considered hazardous waste so you need to know how to dispose it. Basically don't put it down the drain," says one garage geneticist.
The start-up company Ginkgo Bioworks is banking on a safe future for backroom biotechnology. It sells a kit that contains bio-bricks - small sections of dna that can be snapped together to programme living organisms. They've already been used to make bacteria that smell like bananas.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
A grant to manufacture insulin at a commercial production scale has been granted by the U.S. Patent Office to SemBioSys Genetics Inc, a Calgary, Alberta-based world leader in manufacturing high-value proteins and oils in plant seeds. The patent entitled Methods for the Production of Insulin in Plants will ensure the exclusivity of the company to commercialize the insulin-production technology in the U.S. and offers competitive advantages to potential partners who wish to supply the expanding diabetes market. "This patent further strengthens our unique proprietary position on the production of high-value pharmaceuticals using plants. Human insulin is currently the world's largest-volume protein pharmaceutical and is an ideal target for our oilbody-oleosin technology platform," said James Szarko, President and CEO of SemBioSys.
Only recently, a successful phase I/II clinical trials showed the bioequivalence between SemBioSys' plant-made insulin and Humulin(R) R. Eli Lilly's widely-used recombinant human insulin. A counterpart to this patent was issued in Europe last year, and corresponding patents are pending in Canada, Australia, Japan, China, India and Mexico.
For details, see the press release at: http://micro.newswire.ca/release.cgi?rkey=1707309704&view=36078-0&Start=0
Sunday, August 2, 2009
One of the great mysteries surrounding the spread of GMO plants around the world since the first commercial crops were released in the early 1990’s in the USA and Argentina has been the absence of independent scientific studies of possible long-term effects of a diet of GMO plants on humans or even rats. Now it has come to light the real reason. The GMO agribusiness companies like Monsanto, BASF, Pioneer, Syngenta and others prohibit independent research.
An editorial in the respected American scientific monthly magazine, Scientific American, August 2009 reveals the shocking and alarming reality behind the proliferation of GMO products throughout the food chain of the planet since 1994. There are no independent scientific studies published in any reputed scientific journal in the world for one simple reason. It is impossible to independently verify that GMO crops such as Monsanto Roundup Ready Soybeans or MON8110 GMO maize perform as the company claims, or that, as the company also claims, that they have no harmful side effects because the GMO companies forbid such tests!
That’s right. As a precondition to buy seeds, either to plant for crops or to use in research study, Monsanto and the gene giant companies must first sign an End User Agreement with the company. For the past decade, the period when the greatest proliferation of GMO seeds in agriculture has taken place, Monsanto, Pioneer (DuPont) and Syngenta require anyone buying their GMO seeds to sign an agreement that explicitly forbids that the seeds be used for any independent research. Scientists are prohibited from testing a seed to explore under what conditions it flourishes or even fails. They cannot compare any characteristics of the GMO seed with any other GMO or non-GMO seeds from another company. Most alarming, they are prohibited from examining whether the genetically modified crops lead to unintended side-effects either in the environment or in animals or humans.
The only research which is permitted to be published in reputable scientific peer-reviewed journals are studies which have been pre-approved by Monsanto and the other industry GMO firms.
The entire process by which GMO seeds have been approved in the United States, beginning with the proclamation by then President George H.W. Bush in 1992, on request of Monsanto, that no special Government tests of safety for GMO seeds would be conducted because they were deemed by the President to be “substantially equivalent” to non-GMO seeds, has been riddled with special interest corruption. Former attorneys for Monsanto were appointed responsible in EPA and FDA for rules governing GMO seeds as but one example and no Government tests of GMO seed safety to date have been carried out. All tests are provided to the US Government on GMO safety or performance by the companies themselves such as Monsanto. Little wonder that GMO sounds to positive and that Monsanto and others can falsely claim GMO is the “solution to world hunger.”
F. William Engdahl is author of Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order. He may be contacted via his website at www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 31, 2009
The House approved the first major changes to food-safety laws in 70 years Thursday, giving sweeping new authority to the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the way food is grown, harvested and processed.
The action follows a wave of food-borne illnesses over the past three years, involving products as varied as spinach and cookie dough, which has shaken consumer confidence and made the issue a priority for congressional leaders and the White House. Food illnesses sicken one in four Americans and kill 5,000 each year, according to government statistics. Tainted food has cost the food industry billions of dollars in recalls, lost sales and legal expenses.
"Americans are dying because the Food and Drug Administration does not have authority to protect them, and American producers and agriculture are being hurt," said Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), the bill's author, who has been pushing food-safety change for more than 20 years. "This will fundamentally change the way in which we ensure the safety of our food supply."
The measure passed 283 to 142. The Senate is expected to take up its version after the August recess. President Obama, who has voiced concerns about the safety of peanut butter consumed by his 8-year-old daughter, endorsed the House bill Wednesday.
The legislation affects every aspect of the U.S. food system, from farmers to manufacturers to importers. It places significant responsibilities on farmers and food processors to prevent contamination -- a departure from the country's reactive tradition, which has relied on government inspectors to catch tainted food after the fact.
The 159-page bill was backed by a raft of consumer groups and trade associations but faced opposition from some farm interests and their House Republican allies, who said it gives too much authority to the FDA and will lead to higher costs and burdensome paperwork without necessarily making food safer.
"The federal government will tell our farmers and ranchers how to do something they've been doing since the dawn of mankind," said Rep. Frank D. Lucas (R-Okla.). "It goes too far in the direction of trying to produce food from a bureaucrat's chair in Washington, D.C."
The legislation requires food producers and importers to pay an annual $500 registration fee, which would help fund stepped-up FDA inspections, enforcement and related activities such as food-safety research. About 360,000 facilities in the United States and abroad would be subject to the fees. The Congressional Budget Office reported that the fees would not cover the cost of the new system, leaving the FDA to incur a net cost of $2.2 billion over five years.
If enacted, the bill would be the first major overhaul of food laws since 1938, when Congress gave the FDA the power to oversee the safety of most foods, as well as drugs and cosmetics. At that time, the government was concerned mainly about food makers adulterating products by substituting ingredients or using additives to mask rancid meat and vegetables.
But as the food industry has changed, new threats have emerged. Deadly pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7 can contaminate foods without the knowledge of farmers, manufacturers or consumers. An increasing amount of food Americans consume -- about 15 percent -- is imported, with little known about overseas growing or processing methods. And the U.S. food supply chain has grown increasingly complex, with some manufacturers unsure where raw ingredients originate.
The legislation requires food manufacturers to identify the particular risks they face, create controls to prevent that contamination, monitor those controls to make sure they are working and update those measures regularly. Such controls have been mandatory for the seafood and juice industries since the 1990s after several high-profile contamination cases; they are widely believed to have reduced outbreaks involving those products.
The House bill calls for the FDA to set safety standards for farmers and manufacturers who process food. And it requires imported food to meet the same standards.
The legislation requires the FDA to sharply step up inspections. The FDA now inspects food facilities about once a decade. The bill would also mandate inspections of high-risk facilities at least once a year and low-risk facilities at least every three years.
The measure also gives the FDA significant authority to contain outbreaks of food-borne illnesses. The agency would be able to recall food if it suspects contamination, instead of relying on the food maker to act voluntarily. It also allows the FDA to quarantine a geographic area, blocking the distribution of suspect food to the rest of the country. And the FDA would gain access to records at farms and food production facilities.
Under the legislation, the food agency will get new enforcement powers and be able to impose beefed-up civil and criminal penalties. One provision allows the FDA to declare food "adulterated" simply if the grower or manufacturer has failed to follow safety standards, regardless of whether the food is actually tainted.
The bill does not address the fractured nature of U.S. food regulation, which is spread among 15 federal agencies, as well as thousands of state and local health departments.
Agriculture interests were able to win key concessions. Small farms are exempt from registration fees, ranchers and farmers now regulated by the Agriculture Department are excluded from the requirements of the bill and the FDA will have to consider the special concerns of small growers and organic farmers, among other provisions.