"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Genetic Contamination’

Biotech Corporations Are Patenting & Profiting From Human Genes And Tissues — Here’s Why That’s Terrifying

In Uncategorized on December 5, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Oldspeak:” Whether you like it or not, under current law a vital part of who you are actually belongs to someone else. Medical corporations are buying the property rights to the very essence of human life. Gene patents for a 1 third of the  human genome — or more than 10,000 genes — have been created, despite court precedent that says no one can own the “products of nature.”  If you’re hurt, medical research can be conducted on you without your permission. They’re putting human health second to their profit & they’re using your tax dollars and poor people’s tissues (without compensating them for using them) to do it, unscrupulously perversting the tenet of “informed consent” in their insatiable quest for more profit via patents and product monopolies. Using barely informed illiterate subjects for their medical research, their products contribute to unreported subject deaths, which help them glean the data they need to get their products approved by FDA they bought and paid for via campaign contributions to corrupt politicians who strip the FDA of any ability to regulate and populate the agency with medical industry cronies who do their bidding. Then don’t even provide access to the drugs produced to the poor people with unmet medical needs used to produce the drugs! This is the essence of  the Medical-Industrial Complex. A repeating loop profit machine, where human health is secondary, humans are guinea pigs and public dollars are used to fund private profits. Pumping out ‘medicines’ that sometimes cause more harm than good. All so a few very wealthy men can get more wealthy making drugs for people who can afford exorbitant costs for them, and not making the drugs available to the vast majority of people who need them. “Profit Is Paramount”

Related Stories:

Breast Cancer Court Case Pits Patients’ Genes vs. Gene Patents

Should Biotech Firms Be Able to Own Your Genes?

WHY GENES MUST REMAIN ELIGIBLE FOR PATENTING 

By Brad Jacobson @ AlterNet:

Do you think that granting corporations the rights of people in the Citizens United case is disturbing? Then contemplate the fact that corporations have been patenting human genes and tissues at alarming rates — in the last 30 years, more than 40,000 patents have been granted on genes alone.

As the Occupy movement fights against the unmitigated influence of corporations on our lives, author and medical ethicist Harriet Washington’s new book, Deadly Monopolies: The Shocking Corporate Takeover of Life Itself–And the Consequences for Your Health and Our Medical Future, is a timely wakeup call to protect the very essence of human life from the medical-industrial complex.

In a recent phone interview with AlterNet, Washington discussed the dark implications of corporate medical patents, how we find ourselves in this nightmarish scenario and what needs to be done to stop medical research profits from trumping human health. Washington is also the author of Medical Apartheid, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award. She has been a fellow in medical ethics at Harvard Medical School, a senior research scholar at the National Center for Bioethics at Tuskegee University and a fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Brad Jacobson: The main piece of legislation that opened the door for corporations to begin patenting human life was the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980. Can you tell us how this law was sold to the American people?

Harriet Washington: Just to recap what the Bayh-Dole Act is, basically it was a law that permitted for the first time universities to legally transfer their patents to private corporations, to sell them, license them. That had been virtually prohibited in the past because most of these new inventions had been developed with tax dollars. And the thinking had been, “If you develop things with our tax dollars, then we shouldn’t allow them to go to private corporations who can establish a monopoly with their patents.”

It was sold to the American public primarily by [former Indiana Sen.] Birch Bayh, who of course partnered with [former Kansas Sen.] Bob Dole. But it was Birch Bayh who made the argument that we have all these patents lying around, no one’s doing anything with them. If we let corporations get them, then they’ll develop them into needed medications. So people were told this is the root to get the medications and treatments that we need.

However, what’s really interesting, though — I went behind the scenes and of course I saw that, rather than being any kind of groundswell of popular support, the law actually passed on the last hour of the last day of the last congressional session because of some good ol’ boy networking.

BJ: Also in 1980, the legal counterpart for this corporate opening came with the court decision Diamond v. Chakrabarty, in which a scientist’s patenting of an oil-eating bacteria was contested. But how is this different than what had been patentable in the past?

HW: It’s certainly a good question because living things have been patented in the past. That’s a misconception people have. Louis Pasteur had patented a yeast. Takamine [Hideo] had patented adrenaline. Numerous living things had been patented before. However, there were often legal challenges by people who would say, “This patent is not really valid because you can’t patent a product of nature.”

So in 1980, when Ananda Chakrabarty, a researcher at General Electric, decided to try to patent some bacteria that he had intensively engineered to be able to “eat crude oil,” the U.S.] patent office said, “We’ll patent the process you use, but we’re not going to patent these bacteria. They’re living things and only inventions can be patented. We can’t patent products of nature.”

So Chakrabarty and General Electric sued and the patent office decided to defer to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided that, yes, living things can be patented, which is interesting because Chakrabarty insisted he was shocked by the ruling. He said that he fully expected he had made his case, but he was surprised they decided to more broadly permit the patenting of living things.

But now it’s being applied to things where the contribution of the researcher is nowhere near so extensive. So, of course, genetic sequences found in our body are being patented. Medically important animals — like Harvard’s OncoMouse which is guaranteed to get cancer — are being patented. And so these products of nature, including products of our bodies, being patented has created huge problems for us.

BJ: In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman, was being treated for cervical cancer without success at John Hopkins University. Without Henrietta’s or her family’s knowledge, John Hopkins University researcher Dr. George Gey obtained a sample of her tumor from her doctors, which eventually led to his creation of an immortalized cell line used in the development of the polio vaccine as well as drugs for numerous other diseases. It also generated millions of dollars in profits around the world, yet the Lacks family was never compensated, nor did they even have health insurance at the time. How was this case a harbinger for what would follow in the context of patient rights in regard to medical patents?

HW: I actually met with the Lacks family in the mid-1990s. I wrote about her case and I think there are some things that have been promulgated that are not exactly true. It’s true the family didn’t have any health insurance and weren’t compensated. But they never evinced concern about being paid. I think that was a focus that had been imposed later by people who I think had the best intentions in the world. Some of the people who wrote about them were very concerned they weren’t paid.

But the Lacks family expressed consistently that their mother had been a medical benefactor and no one knew this. Her name had been changed in the accounts so that nobody knew who she was. They were very upset about the autonomy.

And they didn’t like having been lied to of course.

BJ: You mention in the book the paternalistic nature that Dr. Gey had taken. The excuse he’d used was that he changed her name to protect her, but they didn’t really accept that.

HW: Her husband thought they didn’t want the world to know that this is a black lady helping science. And that seemed to be the prevailing attitude in the family. They resented that.

BJ: What’s the positive impact, however, of this cell line having never been patented?

HW: So what happened to Henrietta Lacks was an abuse of her and her family. But the dissemination of her cells very cheaply, not free but very cheaply, made a lot of medical advances possible. The reason they weren’t patented was this was before 1980 and it wasn’t legally possible. It also wasn’t part of the medical culture then. Medicine was being practiced by people in university settings. They had different motivations, not money.

Now it’s impossible to speculate about exactly what would’ve happened. But had her cells been patentable, had this happened after 1980, there’s a good chance that certainly recognizing their value, Dr. Gey or John Hopkins or some other researcher would’ve taken a patent out on it and then they would’ve, as is usual, only licensed them to the researchers and universities that would have paid them a hefty fee. Or perhaps not licensed them at all.

Which means the polio vaccine probably would still be developed, but it might’ve cost a lot more money than it did. It might not have been available to everybody as it was. So those are the differences.

BJ: John Moore, a leukemia patient in the 1980s, first had his spleen removed in 1976. Unbeknownst to him, it would lead to the creation of a cell line estimated to be worth $3 million by the pharmaceutical company Sandoz. Moore sued his doctor who had removed the spleen after he discovered the doctor had filed for a patent on his cells and proteins that led to this lucrative cell line. Can you talk about the difference between what happened in the case and its impact?

HW: When John Moore was initially treated, the Chakrabarty law had not been decided yet. Bayh-Dole hadn’t been passed. So, as living things, his cells weren’t eligible for patenting either. However, once these rulings were passed, his doctor, Dr. David Golde, and the University of California, immediately responded by taking out a patent on his cells.

His doctor recognized that his spleen and his cells were medically important. He knew that, but it was before he could take a patent out on them. I’m sure at that point he never dreamed that in a few years he would be able to take this collection and sample of his cells and tissues — that he had assiduously kept alive and was researching — and take out a patent on them and control the profits from them.

So when the law was passed, Dr. Golde had already established a laboratory to do research on it. He and another researcher and the university owned the patent. Now they went to Sandoz and established a contract for $3 million — $3 million 1980 dollars. Then [Sandoz] could plan to acquire huge profits. Before that, Dr. Golde had been interested for the usual reasons. He would be able to hopefully develop some medically useful compounds and, more to the point, become famous and get some publications. Now, there was a great deal of money to be made.

BJ: You write that today, however, as opposed to the case of Henrietta Lacks and John Moore, it is normal tissues in large quantities that provides a lot of wealth for people who hold patents. So are you saying that everyone is now vulnerable to the same kind of appropriation as what happened to Lacks and Moore?

HW: Yes. Lacks and Moore’s vulnerability was a bit different, but it was the same principle. And today, we’re all vulnerable to that. We’re vulnerable because if we undergo surgery in certain hospitals, such as the Harvard University hospitals or Duke and a number of others, we are given a consent form to sign, which will give a private corporation, in many cases Ardais [Corp.], the rights to any tissues or cells taken from our body, often described in the consent form as “discarded and worthless.” But they’re not worthless or the corporation wouldn’t have bought them.

Also, in many cities in this country — in fact, in more than half the states — have something called medical examiners laws, or presumed consent law. These laws dictate that a medical examiner or coroner in these cities, when someone dies, can take any tissues from your body that could have some medical value. Then they’re transferred to a broker or two, who then eventually transfers them to surgeons or hospitals. At each step, there is a hefty fee paid. And then the institution pays a fee. So although it’s against the law technically to sell an organ or sell these tissues, from my point of view they are actually being sold.

And then of course medical research conducted by private corporations or in which private corporations pay medical institutions to conduct research according to the corporations’ dictate, which means they control it. So one thing they have begun doing is exploiting a 1996 law that governs medical research, which says that if you are in the United States and you’re the victim of a trauma — shot in the chest, a heart attack, hit by a car — medical research can be conducted on you without your permission.

I have spoken to research subjects who had no idea that they were used in medical research until a member of their family told them. We all expect that we’re going to be offered informed consent. In medical research, this is an exception.

BJ: Is there any legislation you know of today that is being introduced to address these issues?

HW: I know of no legislation that is being promoted or that even has been suggested. I think it’s because so few members of the public even know it’s going on. You can’t fight something if you don’t know it exists. And I find it really interesting that, although a few medical journals have called me and interviewed me about this, it’s not being published someplace where a great many people will read it.

I wrote an article for a magazine — and I’ll be prudent and I won’t name it — a popular magazine with a very large circulation. They said they loved the article, they’d love to publish it, right up to the moment where I got a phone call saying they were killing it and then they paid me for it anyway.

BJ: And what about the “consensual” situation, when a patient is made to sign a consent form right before going into surgery? That might be legal, but it’s also very misleading, no?

HW: That’s consensual. But the legality of doing this is actually kind of shadowy. I don’t think it’s been well established whether it’s legal or not to take somebody’s tissues in surgery without asking their permission first. So what happened is researchers and corporations had decided to cover themselves by getting people in this scenario to sign a consent form and the difficulty, as you suggested, is whether people really understand what they’re signing.

But the piece of paper, the consent form, is not informed consent. If you have a signed consent form in a file and you go to court, that’s not proof of informed consent. That’s only one piece of evidence to support your claim that you informed the person. Actual informed consent is an ongoing process between the researcher and the subject. You have to not only tell them all the information about the study, about what’s known about the consequences, but also if new information emerges you have to keep the person apprised of that. That’s informed consent.

What they’re doing is they’re having signed a consent form to try to prove that they’ve given these people informed consent. But the truth is, you know, if you’re a hospital patient and it’s six o’clock in the morning, and you’re still groggy from your sleeping medication from the night before, you’re woken, handed a sheet of forms to sign for surgery you presumably need and there are staff people standing around you…that’s not conducive to informed consent.

Most patients don’t read it, but that’s kind of logical. You know, you need this surgery. The last thing you want to do the second before you go under the knife is antagonize the people who are doing your surgery.

BJ: How do these medical patent laws actually impede innovation?

HW: A really good example of this, because the court case is about to go to the Supreme Court soon, are the gene patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that predispose women to breast cancer. They’re very important genes and there are nine patents held on them by Myriad Genetics. And Myriad Genetics has behaved like a very smart capitalist. For a long time, it has minimized the number of people whom it will license access to the genes. Researchers who have been working with the genes, trying to find better treatments for breast cancer, have received cease and desist letters from lawyers at Myriad’s behest, saying, “We control this gene, we hold the patent, you can’t work on it without our permission,” which they often decline to give.

So that’s a problem right now. Then look at the pricing of the test for women who want to characterize their risk for breast cancer. And most women of course don’t need this test but the direct-to-consumer advertising by Myriad confuses women and really makes it look like more women do, which will of course increase their profits. It will also unnecessarily scare a lot of women and induce many more women than should to pay Myriad’s $3,000 to $4,000 fee.

A recent development is especially nasty because now you can pay the $3,000 to $4,000 fee, but there’s also an additional test, a relatively new test, based again on the genes. And if you want that, you have to pay an additional $600. Obviously if you’re a woman at risk, you’re not going to consider that $600 optional. So that’s a huge amount of money.

BJ: What happens if within the legal framework of today’s medical patent process a researcher seeks a more altruistic route, similar to what Jonas Salk did with the polio vaccine? Is that even possible today or is that individual crushed by the system?

HW: It is possible today and that’s a great question because one of the really exciting positive things that has happened is that, you know, certainly not just me and people like me who are criticizing them — a lot of medical researchers, as I said before, are seeing how damaging this paradigm is and they’re coming up with viable alternatives.

The Gates Foundation is probably the best-known example. Bill Gates has worked with a longstanding initiative to bring vaccines to the developing world — its acronym is GAVI. He’s also worked with the governments in the developing world and come up with a model called Advanced Market Directives. Basically, what they’re doing is they’re coming up with funds and pooling their funds and saying to pharmaceutical companies, “If you will develop, for example, a malaria vaccine that’s cheap and works well for the developing world, we will pay you, we will make sure you earn a profit.” And they were successful. They came up with a vaccine — quite a few actually — but one in particular costs $70 in the United States. It only cost 50 cents in Nigeria because of their model.

Now, I hasten to say, we’re not out of the woods yet because all of the pharmaceutical companies that did it — which I think is wonderful that they’re going along with the model and giving it a try — but they counted this as something beneficial that they were doing. Which is not exactly the case.

They’re doing this because they’re paid and it’s being guaranteed by others. And GAVI, the group that helped guarantee the payment is already $3 billion in debt because of it. So that means that even though this has worked in a couple of cases, I’m worried that it may not be a viable long-term model.

We’ve seen this before when pharmaceutical companies, for example, provided sleeping sickness medication, Eflornithine. They provided it only on a short-term basis, for about five years, and then they left. Now the people who are at risk, and I think that’s like 60 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, don’t have access to that drug. So to me that’s a cautionary tale because we need long-term solutions.

And there are other groups of researchers around the world who are also embracing a different non-corporate model. A man named Alan Edwards in Toronto put together a coalition of a lot of researchers. His strategy is one that has worked before for the government. He does not want their discoveries patented. So what they do is every day — whatever they’ve been working on that day, whatever solution they come up with, whatever they’ve identified or characterized that could be medically important – they put it on the Internet. They make it public knowledge, which means it can’t be patented.

So there are strategies that are now being embraced to work around corporate control of medical research.

BJ: How has the medical patent gold rush affected the accessibility of life-saving vaccines for widespread diseases?

HW: Well, simply because maximizing the profit on the patent is the focus, not curing the maximum number of people. Michael Kremer, a Harvard economist, put it best. He pointed out that during the period between 1975 and 1997, of the 1,233 new drugs the pharmaceutical industry devised, only four of them were drugs designed for people in the developing world.

The bottom line is that, although it’s possible to devise vaccines that will save the lives of people in the developing world, it’s not done because people there cannot pay the inflated prices a corporation charges. So they ignored these people in the developing world.

And as I point out in the case of African sleeping sickness, where Eflornithine was found affective against it, people in areas affected by African sleeping sickness cannot afford to pay high prices for drugs. So after that couple of years where they provided it for free, they stopped making it for African sleeping sickness and the exact same molecule, this Eflornithine, is now the active component in Vaniqa, which is used in the West to help women rid their faces of unwanted hair. So women pay $50 a month for Vaniqa, but people in the developing world can’t pay that $50 a month to keep themselves alive, to protect themselves against sleeping sickness.

BJ: In your book, you cite a 2009 study from the New England Journal of Medicine, which found that one-third of U.S. clinical trials are conducted abroad, mostly in developing countries, where drugs can be tested more cheaply. Can you discuss the inequity of the fact that most of the test subjects partaking in these trials — on which corporations are saving millions to perform there — will either never be able to afford, or have a need for, the drugs being tested on them?

HW: Usually both. But even in the cases where it’s a drug, as you say, that could help them, it’s not going to help them because they’re going to be charged the same high prices as people in the West. And knowing they can’t afford it, they don’t even provide it to people in that country.

What I find fascinating is that if you think about it, these people in the developing world are providing opportunity to conduct clinical trials that are a lot cheaper and a lot faster for these corporations. Corporations would have to pay a lot more money if they conducted those trials in the developed world. And so actually we’re the ones in their debt.

We have a new cancer medication, for example, that has been devised by testing it on people in the developing world so that you and I can take it without fear that we’re going to drop dead, hopefully. We owe the people in the developing world that. The corporations save so much money by using those people for their tests. Speed is very important because it maximizes the amount of patent time so they can make more profit from their patent. Also the FDA requires that studies be completed within two and a half years, which is sometimes difficult to do.

So providing them with drugs that they have made possible would seem to be the very least we could do. Yet there’s constant reluctance to provide medications for people in the developing world.

BJ: Clinical trials in developing countries can also involve testing subjects in dangerous circumstances that wouldn’t even be legal in this country. You point to the example of Pfizer’s clinical trials for an antibiotic in Kano, Nigeria in the 1990s. What went wrong?

HW: They tested Trovan in Kano and they waited until — this is quite typical, actually — they waited until there was a meningitis epidemic to test their meningitis drug. First of all, these are people who typically go their whole life without getting any medical care. They can’t go to the doctor, can’t buy medicines. When they’re sick they just hope and do the best they can to treat each other.

So there’s an epidemic. You’ve got people, especially children, dying wholesale. And Doctors Without Borders had flown in and were working feverishly around the clock trying to save as many children as they could. Doctors Without Borders had a huge tent there for a clinic. Pfizer flew its people in and set up shop right next to them. The people of Kano could not discern the difference between the Pfizer tent and the Doctors Without Borders tent. All they knew was that there were doctors and medicines in both tents. If they couldn’t get into one, they went into the other one.

Now I don’t believe they received informed consent. First of all, the records were lost. Pfizer [said it] lost the records that would’ve proved informed consent. Then Pfizer produced some letters from local doctors and local medical boards saying there was informed consent, but they were clearly forged. One doctor admitted that they were forged. Another doctor pointed out that the medical institution that supposedly approved this trial had not even been set up until a year or two after the trial had ended. So all the evidence points to the probability that these people did not receive informed consent.

But then I also ask myself, even if they had gotten informed consent, did they have a real choice? They wanted their children to get any kind of medicine. So it was inherently a coercive environment.

And Pfizer would give this medication and it did not follow prescribed methods of conducting research in this country. Although some of the things they did were permissible in their country. For example, the young girl whose fate I chronicled — she was given Trovan, didn’t get any better, in fact she got worse. And had she been in, say, Connecticut or New York, if she had gotten worse, then they would’ve switched her from experimental therapy to one that was known to work. They didn’t do that there. And she died, other children died, other children went deaf, other children had all kinds of neurological problems. In fact, there were so many deaths and so many permanent serious problems resulting from it, the FDA would not approve the drug.

In the aftermath, there were these lawsuits and finally Pfizer had to pay out a fine. But the fine they were asked to pay was just dwarfed by their amount of profits every year. It’s just the cost of doing business to them. Certainly in a case like this, considering the final cost to them, you could argue it was worth it to them.

BJ: Do you see U.S. Occupy protests as a direct outgrowth of this kind of corporate encroachment on our lives?

HW: That is a parallel that’s made very often. And I’m just going to plead ignorance here. As much as I read and as much as I think about that, I think that there’s the same frustration with the degree of control corporations have over things that should not be controlled by monetary interests. And yet that’s our habitual practice of medicine today. So as far as the Occupy Wall Street protests echo that sentiment, then I agree with them. There are other elements of course in which I think there is not a parallel between them and the people I talk about.

I began this book being really concerned about poor people, people in the developing world, people who I thought and I still think are impacted most heavily by this. But I quickly came to realize that it affects all of us. I mean it’s also middle-class people. Because the drug prices are so high and because the corporate control of medical research is so extensive and our health policy so extensively protects them, middle-class people are not really faring any better. Middle-class people are caught in the same bind.

So I guess that’s sort of a qualified yes [laughs].

BJ: Since the Citizens United court ruling, we’re living in a time where, in effect, corporations are considered people, while simultaneously corporations are buying the property rights to the very essence of human life. You’ve eerily described them as our “biological landlords.” This already has a nightmarish quality today. In regard to the future of medical patents, do you see the pendulum swinging back or the situation growing worse?

HW: Unfortunately, if history’s taught us anything, it’s that things can always get worse. But I don’t think it will. The pendulum can swing back, but it’s going to need a big push from us. It’s not going to swing back on its own. Because the most powerful people in this country are being well served by this. The very wealthy people don’t have the worries that most of us have. And corporations certainly don’t have the worries we have. They’re not disturbed by their high prices. They’re constantly defending them. They’re not disturbed by the lack of care for people in the developing world. They have no problem claiming that, “Hey, don’t blame us — it’s not our patent, it’s their poverty.”

It can be done, but we’re going to have to push it. And the way to push it is to repeal Bayh-Dole and find those lawmakers. There are lawmakers out there who are trying to repeal parts of this problem, patents on genes, for example. And researchers also are beginning to see that his system is dysfunctional and starting to come up with different models.

So it’s going to be up to us to push the pendulum in the other way.

Brad Jacobson is a Brooklyn-based freelance journalist and contributing reporter for AlterNet. You can follow him on Twitter@bradpjacobson

Why Is The U.S. State Department Using Public Money To Pimp For Monsanto?

In Uncategorized on November 4, 2011 at 3:15 pm

 Oldspeak:Yet another Bush Era policy carried through to the Obama Era. Why is U.S. Gov’t  still using front groups and “philanthropic” foundations to “push foreign governments to approve  genetically engineered (GE) crops and promote the worldwide interests of agribusiness giants like Monsanto and DuPont”, even though GE crops have been shown to cause “infertility and have significant impact on the health of plants, animals and humans; a whole host of deleterious effects like toxic pesticides that remain present in the blood of mothers and babies,  rises in food allergies, diabetes, obesity, autism,  immune system dysfunction, asthma, cancer and heart disease, low birth-weight babies, and infant mortality? Why is this government pressuring other governments to approve consumption of “food” they know is not good for them on behalf of private corporations, who with their products have cost the U.S. hundreds of billions in potential food export revenues. Simple really. The Corporatocracy is in control. And they want to control the population of this planet. Why else would you knowingly push for the widespread use of products known to sterilize and kill people?  Public health and well being is always secondary to profit.” My comments from the related story below, reposted. Nothing has changed since august. The U.S. Government has been funding and promoting the development of GMO’s since 1990, I don’t imagine it will change anytime soon, as far too few people are aware, or even care about the demonstrably dangerous and toxic chemicals causing long term damage in the environment, animals and humans. “Ignorance Is Strength”

Related Story:

New WikiLeaks Cables Show US Diplomats Continue To Promote Genetically Engineered Crops Worldwide

By Jill Richardson @ Alter Net:

People in India are up in arms about eggplant. Not just any eggplant — the fight, which is also raging in the Philippines, is over Monsanto’s Bt eggplant. Even as increasing scientific evidence concludes that biotechnology and its arsenal of genetically modified crops may be doing more harm than good, companies like Monsanto are still pushing them hard and they are getting help from the U.S.

The State Department is using taxpayer money to help push the agenda of Monsanto and its friends all across the world. Here’s a recent example: Assistant Secretary of State Jose W. Fernandez, addressing an event of high-level government officials from around the world, agribusiness CEOs, leaders from international organizations, and anti-hunger groups said, “Without agricultural biotechnology, our world would look vastly different. One of our challenges is how to grow more crops on the same land. This is where biotechnology plays a role.”

Many scientists would disagree with these statements, which are more controversial than Fernandez let on. The Union of Concerned Scientists found that biotech crops did not lead to reliable yield increases compared to conventional, non-GMO crops and that biotech crops actually required more pesticides than conventional crops. These conclusions are reiterated by the scientists who authored the “International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development” (IAASTD) report, a 2008 study written by 400 scientists from around the world concluding that agroecology was the best way to feed the world. And a recent 30-year study by the Rodale Institute found that organic methods provided excellent drought protection, whereas drought-tolerant GMOs are mostly still an idea of the future.

So why is Fernandez making speeches that sound like Monsanto talking points? His background prior to working at the State Department was as a lawyer specializing in international finance and mergers and acquisitions, particularly in Latin America. Now he heads up the State Department’s Bureau of Economic, Energy, and Business Affairs (EEB), which works “to promote economic security and prosperity at home and abroad.” And part of such prosperity, according to EEB, includes promoting GMOs around the world.

Within EEB lies the Office of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Textile Trade Affairs(ABT), which has worked to promote biotechnology for nearly a decade, at least. The word “biotechnology” was added to the office’s name in 2003. ABT seeks to address “barriers and opening markets for American farm products, contributing to the development of effective food aid policies, promoting rural development and increasing agricultural productivity through biotechnology.”

Among other things, ABT is responsible for doling out half a million dollars per year in Biotechnology Outreach Funds. This amounts to pennies compared to the overall federal budget, but it goes a long way, as grants are often around $20,000 apiece, especially considering the cumulative impact of their use in promoting biotechnology around the world each year since 2003. Biotech Outreach Fund requests for 2010 included:

  • request from the U.S. embassy in Ecuador for $22,900 to fly five Ecuadorian journalists to the United States “to participate in a one-week biotech tour” to influence public opinion of biotechnology.
  • request from the U.S. embassies in Brazil and Mozambique for $64,590 to hold a trilateral three-day seminar on biotechnology in Maputo, Mozambique.
  • request from the U.S. embassy in Ethiopia for $5,500 to bring biotechnology experts from South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, and possibly the U.S. to a workshop on biotechnology held by the Ethiopian government.

The requests above were revealed in secret cables leaked by WikiLeaks. While the cables did not divulge which requests were accepted, they do tell the story of State Department employees whose jobs consist of promoting biotechnology around the world. Between 2005 and 2006, then senior adviser for agricultural biotechnologyMadelyn E. Spirnak traveled to Guatemala, Egypt, Slovenia, Taiwan, Turkey, South Africa, Ghana, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Poland to promote biotechnology.

In South Africa, Spirnak spent a week meeting with “government officials, researchers, private sector representatives and officials from the New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to discuss agricultural biotechnology and biosafety issues.” The private sector representatives referred to include Monsanto and Cargill. According to a leaked State Department memo, Spirnak learned that the government of South Africa was planning to hire several new people to work on GMOs. The memo reads: “Note: we informed both Pioneer [DuPont] and Monsanto the following day about the two new positions and they immediately saw the benefits from encouraging qualified applicants to apply.”

The State Department promotion of biotechnology comes from the top. Both Hillary Clinton and Condoleeza Rice before her sent out annual memos to all U.S. embassies outlining State Department policy on biotechnology. In December 2009, Clinton wrote, “Our biotech outreach objectives for 2010 are to increase access to, and markets for, biotech as a means to help address the underlying causes of the food crisis, and to promote agricultural technology’s role in mitigating climate change and increasing biofuel production.”

ABT’s work dovetails with that of another State Department agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development. USAID’s work on biotechnology has focused on two main goals: developing GMOs for introduction in the Global South and pushing nations in Asia and Africa to write biosafety laws. Biosafety laws, a common theme in leaked State Department memos discussing biotechnology, basically mean “laws that keep Monsanto’s intellectual property rights on genetically engineered crops safe.”

USAID’s work funding the development of GMOs began in 1990, when it funded the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project (now known as ABSP I), a project based at Michigan State University’s Institute for International Agriculture that ran until 2003 but was continued in a successor project (predictably called ABSP II) that continues today.

Like its predecessor, ABSP II is funded by USAID. However, unlike ABSP I, it is led by Cornell University. ABSP II, which is ongoing, includes among its partners a number of U.S. universities, research organizations in partner countries, NGOs, foundations, and several corporations — including Monsanto. ABSP II projects include the development and commercialization of GM crops like a disease-resistant potato in India, Bangladesh and Indonesia; Roundup-Ready Bt cotton in Uganda (similar to the GM cotton already grown in the United States); and perhaps the most controversial, Bt eggplant, intended for India, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Using Monsanto’s technology, Bt eggplant includes a gene from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis in its DNA. Like the bacteria, the eggplant will produce a toxin that kills insects that prey on it. Bt is a commonly used organic insecticide. When the bacteria is applied by organic farmers, it lasts for a short time in the environment, killing the insects but ultimately having little impact on the agroecosystem, and giving the insects no real opportunity to evolve resistance to the toxin. When the gene is engineered into a crop, the crop produces the Bt toxin in every cell during the entire duration of its life. As of 2011, there are now reports of insects evolving resistance to Bt in genetically engineered crops in the United States.

MAHYCO (Maharashta Hybrid Seed Company), which is 26 percent owned by Monsanto, applied to grow Bt eggplant commercially in India, but the application was denied after massive public outcry. India is the center of origin for eggplant, the country where the crop was first domesticated, and home to incredible biodiversity in eggplant. Adoption of Bt eggplant threatened both the loss of biodiversity as farmers traded their traditional seeds for new GM ones, as well as the genetic contamination of traditional seeds and perhaps even wild eggplant relatives.

Now, Bt eggplant is facing opposition in the Philippines, where anti-GMO activists have destroyed Bt eggplant in protest. The Filipino NGO SEARICE (Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment), which works on the conservation of traditional varieties and on expanding farmers’ rights, also opposes the introduction of Bt eggplant. (And, back in India, the government of India has now gone on the offensive, filing a biopiracy suit against Monsanto over the Bt eggplant.)

Given the two decades of State Department support for GMOs — and its bullying behavior toward countries that don’t wish to grow them or eat them — the question isn’t why a senior state department official is making a major speech extolling biotechnology, but rather, why the State Department isn’t listening to experts, including U.S. citizens, who provide evidence countering the usefulness and safety of biotechnology and supporting alternative methods of agricultural development. For a government department that frequently calls for “science-based” policy, ignoring the totality of evidence on biotechnology is not very science-based.

Jill Richardson is the founder of the blog La Vida Locavore and a member of the Organic Consumers Association policy advisory board. She is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It..

Corporate Crimes In the Cereal Aisle: How Companies Are Fooling You Into Thinking Their Products Are Good For You

In Uncategorized on October 28, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Oldspeak:Generally “natural” is thought to imply the absence of pesticides and genetically engineered organisms, but a closer look at the crunchy goodness inside the boxes reveals the content of both. Tests showed as high as 100 percent genetically engineered (GE) contaminated ingredients in popular products like Kashi GoLean, Mother’s Bumpers, Nutritious Living Hi-Lo, and General Mills Kix. Even the brands explicitly claiming to be “non-GMO” failed the test, some of them containing more that 50 percent GE corn. Organic products, such as Nature’s Path certified organic corn flakes, were GMO and GE free when tested. Why does it matter? Because these companies exploit consumers’ desire for conscious consumption and make us feed the system we think we are taking a stance against: Industrial agriculture.” -Ida Hartmann The Transnational Corporate Network is hard at work trying to make you pay more for “food” you think is better for you, but in fact makes you sick. Still more evidence that the “profit-motive” is by far the most destructive force created by humans. It supersedes ethical behaviour, morality, concern for others and the environment. “Profit Is Paramount”.

Related Story:

Kashi, Burt’s Bees, Tom’s of Maine, Naked Juice: Your Favorite Good, Natural, Socially Conscious Brands? Owned By The Corporatocracy

Landmark Study Finds 93 Percent Of Unborn Babies Contaminated With Monsanto’s Genetically Modified ‘Food’ BT Toxin

Why You Can Now Kiss Organic Beef, Dairy And Many Vegetables Goodbye Courtesy Of Monsanto

USDA Approved Monsanto Alfalfa Despite Warnings Of New Infertility Causing Pathogen Discovered In Genetically Engineered Crops

By Ida Hartmann @ Alter Net:

A trip to the supermarket is an adventure into a tempting and treacherous jungle. The insatiable hunger for a ready-made breakfast that nourishes our bodies and our social conscience has made our morning bowls of cereal a hiding place for corporate charlatans. A new report, Cereal Crimes, by the Cornucopia Institute discloses the toxic truth about “natural” products and unmasks corporate faces like Kellogg’s hiding behind supposedly “family-run” businesses such as Kashi.

When these breakfast barons forage for profit, we eaters are the prey. But what are the laws of this jungle? And how do we avoid being ripped off by products that are hazardous for our health and our environment? Let’s have a look at some of these corporations’ sneaky strategies.

First, there is intentional confusion. With so many different kinds of cereal lining the shelves, figuring out which is the best requires detective work. Many make claims about health, boasting “no trans fats,” “gluten-free,” and “a boost of omega three.” Others play to environmental concerns declaring “earthy harmony,” “nature in balance,” and “sustainable soils.” With the legion of labels, separating wheat from chaff seems impossible, but the report offers one rule of thumb: Don’t confuse organic with “natural.”

Organics, certified and recognizable by the green USDA label, are required by federal law to be produced without toxic inputs and genetically engineered ingredients. “Natural,” on the other hand, is defined by the producers themselves to mislead shoppers and protect shareholders. Cornucopia’s report found that, “When determining their ‘natural’ standards, companies will consider their profitability. Environmental concerns are unlikely to weigh heavily, if at all, in this profitability equation.”

Too bad we’ve been falling for it. The report cites a 2009 poll showing 33 percent of the public trusts the “natural” label while 45 percent trust the organic label.

Generally “natural” is thought to imply the absence of pesticides and genetically engineered organisms, but a closer look at the crunchy goodness inside the boxes reveals the content of both. Tests run by the institute showed as high as 100 percent genetically engineered (GE) contaminated ingredients in popular products like Kashi GoLean, Mother’s Bumpers, Nutritious Living Hi-Lo, and General Mills Kix. Even the brands explicitly claiming to be “non-GMO” failed the test, some of them containing more that 50 percent GE corn. Organic products, such as Nature’s Path certified organic corn flakes, were GMO and GE free when tested.

Moreover, conventional ingredients, which “natural” products contain, have been found to hold traces of pesticides. The USDA found detectable neurotoxins in popular breakfast ingredients like oats, wheat, soybeans, corn, almonds, raisins, blueberries, honey and cranberries. New studies are constantly finding new health risks associated with exposure to pesticides. One such found that exposure during pregnancy increased the risk of a pervasive developmental disorder and delays of mental development at 2 to 3 years of age, while another found postnatal exposure to be associated with behavioral problems, poorer short-term memory and motor skills, and longer reaction times among children. Adding to the picture, a recent study by University of Montreal and Harvard University found association between organophosphate in children and ADHD.

It is time for us to reconsider what we associate with the term “natural.” In his book, In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan sends out a warning against health claims on food: “As a general rule it’s a whole lot easier to slap a health claim on a box of sugary cereal than on a raw potato or a carrot, with the perverse result that the most healthful foods in the supermarket sit there quietly in the produce section, silent as stroke victims, while a few aisles over in the Cereal the Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms are screaming their new found ‘whole-grain goodness’ to the rafters.”

The same applies to “natural.” Labeling broccoli “natural” would offend common sense. This is the irony of marketing: On a spectrum between whole foods and processed products, the loudest “natural” claims sound from the latter end.

So why do we eaters swallow these cereal scams? The report exposes how breakfast barons intentionally blur the line between organic and natural.

The “natural” products are predominantly camouflaged in brown and green boxes, mimicking the colors of nature, creating an association between “natural” and sustainable agriculture. Packaging images such as rolling fields, grazing cows or smiling farmers give us the impression that by throwing these products in our basket we take a stance against industrial agriculture.

And the producers market themselves as family-run, small-scale business. The Kashi Web site reads: “We are a small (after 25 years, still fewer than 70 of us) band of passionate people who believe right down to our bones that everyone has the power to make positive changes in their lives.” Conveniently absent from packages and Web site is the fact that Kellogg, the largest cereal manufacturer in the country, acquired Kashi back in 2000. Kellogg also owns Bear Naked. General Mills, the second largest breakfast company in the country owns Cascadian Farm, and Back to Nature is run by Kraft Foods, a company with almost $50 million revenue in 2010.

Why does it matter? Because these companies exploit consumers’ desire for conscious consumption and make us feed the system we think we are taking a stance against: Industrial agriculture.

But this is only the beginning of the scam.

The report reveals another strategy: Bait-and-switch. Peace Cereal eloquently performed the maneuver. The brand started out organic, but in 2008 switched to cheaper conventional ingredients and adopted the “natural” label, without changing packaging, pricing or barcode. Many shoppers and retailers did not notice that the USDA label quietly disappeared from the bottom right-hand corner.

Similarly a number of brands market their names as organic by loudly promoting the few certified products on the shelf, ignoring the fact that most of their products are mere conventional ones labeled as “natural.” Annie’s Homegrown, for example, was featured in a 12-page advertisement section in the Washington Post, paid for by the Organic Trade Organization and aimed at educating consumers on the benefits of organics. Nowhere did it mention that only one of five cereal products made by Annie’s Homegrown is organic. That takes an investigation of the fine print on the box many of us don’t perform as we race through the aisle in the short minutes we often have to shop.

But if these natural cereals are nothing but cheap conventional ones in fancy dresses, one would at least expect them to be cheaper than organic products. The report, however, shows just the opposite, and suggests that, “some companies are taking advantage of consumer confusion regarding the difference between the meaningless natural label and certified organic claims.”

So next time you find yourself with a box of organic cereal in your right hand, and a box of natural cereal in your left, remember to read the fine print. Don’t be fooled by labels that are meant to sell products, not look after your health or the environment.

 

Monsanto And Gates Foundation Push Genetically Engineered Crops On Africa

In Uncategorized on July 13, 2011 at 11:19 am

Oldspeak:“Curious. With food prices at all time highs (and financial speculators making a KILLING), never before seen drought plaguing the U.S. Southwest, Africa, Russia; floods wiping out whole crops, Monsanto and the rest of the biotechnology industry happen to be furiously developing genetically modified drought-resistant corn and wheat to ‘help fuel the worlds fight against poverty and hunger” Why is this frankenfood that has been shown to cause “infertility and have significant impact on the health of plants, animals and probably humans; a whole host of deleterious effects like toxic pesticides that remain present in the blood of mothers and babies,  rises in food allergies, diabetes, obesity, autism,  immune system dysfunction, asthma, cancer and heart disease, low birth-weight babies, and infant mortality being pushed on weak, malnourished, immunologically compromised peeple? Why are billionaire supposed ‘philanthropists’ like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates throwing so much money behind this demonstratably dangerous and inadequately researched food technology, even when the research shows that natural food production methods outperform GM food production? De-population and complete control over the world’s food supply are my guesses.”

By Mike Ludwig @ Truthout:

Skimming the Agricultural Development section of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation web site is a feel-good experience: African farmers smile in a bright slide show of images amid descriptions of the foundation’s fight against poverty and hunger. But biosafety activists in South Africa are calling a program funded by the Gates Foundation a “Trojan horse” to open the door for private agribusiness and genetically engineered (GE) seeds, including a drought-resistant corn that Monsanto hopes to have approved in the United States and abroad.

The Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) program  was launched in 2008 with a $47 million grant from mega-rich philanthropists Warrant Buffet and Bill Gates. The program is supposed to help farmers in several African countries increase their yields with drought- and heat-tolerant corn varieties, but a report released last month by the African Centre for Biosafetyclaims WEMA is threatening Africa’s food sovereignty and opening new markets for agribusiness giants like Monsanto.

The Gates Foundation claims that biotechnology, GE crops and Western agricultural methods are needed to feed the world’s growing population and programs like WEMA will help end poverty and hunger in the developing world. Critics say the foundation is using its billions to shape the global food agenda and the motivations behind WEMA were recently called into question when activists discovered the Gates foundation had spent $27.6 million on 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock between April and June 2010.

Water shortages in parts of Africa and beyond have created a market for “climate ready” crops worth an estimated $2.7 billion. Leading biotech companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow are currently racing to develop crops that will grow in drought conditions caused by climate change, and by participating in the WEMA program, Monsanto is gaining a leg up by establishing new markets and regulatory approvals for its patented transgenes in five Sub-Saharan African countries, according to the Centre’s report.

Monsanto teamed up with BASF, another industrial giant, to donate technology and transgenes to WEMA and its partner organizations. Seed companies and researchers will receive the GE seed for free and small-scale farmers can plant the corn without making the royalty payments that Monsanto usually demands from farmers each season.

Monsanto is donating the seeds for now, but the company has a reputation for aggressively defending its patents. In the past, Monsanto has sued farmers for growing crops that cross-pollinated with Monsanto crops and became contaminated with the company’s patented genetic codes.

In 2009, Monsanto and BASF discovered a gene in a bacterium that is believed to help plants like corn survive on less water and soon the companies developed a corn seed know as MON 87460. It remains unclear if MON 87460 will out-compete conventional drought-tolerant hybrids, but the United States Department of Agriculture could approve the corn for commercial use in the US as soon as July 11. Monsanto plans to make the seed available to American farmers by next year.

GE crops like MON 87460 can only be tested and sold in countries that, like the US, are friendly toward biotech agriculture. WEMA’s target areas could add five countries to that list: South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique. The Biosafety Centre reports that WEMA’s massive funding opportunities pressure politicians to pass weak biosafety laws and welcome GE crops and the agrichemical drenched growing systems that come with them. Field trials of MON 87460 and other drought-tolerant varieties are already underway in South Africa, where Monsanto already has considerable political influence. Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are expected to begin field trials of WEMA corn varieties in 2011.

The agency that is implementing WEMA is the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), a pro-biotechnology group funded completely by the US government’s USAID program, the United Kingdom and the Buffet and Gates foundations. The AATF is a nonprofit charity that lobbies African governments and promotes partnerships between public groups and private companies to make agricultural technology available in Africa. The Biosafety Centre accuses the AATF of essentially being a front group for the US government, allowing USAID to “meddle” in African politics by promoting weak biosafety regulation that makes it easier for American corporations to export biotechnology to African countries.

WEMA and AATF swim in a myriad alphabet soup of NGOs and nonprofits propped up by Western nations and wealthy philanthropists that promote everything from fertilizer to food crops with enhanced nutritional content as solutions to world hunger. Together, these groups are promoting a Second Green Revolution and sparking a worldwide debate over the future of food production. The Gates Foundation alone has committed $1.7 billion to the effort to date.

There was nothing “green” about the first Green Revolution of the 1950s and 1960s. As population skyrocketed during the last century, multinationals pushed Western agriculture’s fertilizers, irrigation, oil-thirsty machinery and pesticides on farmers in the developing world. Historians often point out that promoting industrial agriculture to keep developing countries well fed was crucial to the US effort to stop the spread of Soviet Communism.

The Second Green Revolution, which is focused on Africa, seeks to solve hunger problems with education, biotechnology, high-tech breeding, and other industrial agricultural methods popular in countries like the US, Brazil and Mexico.

Africa has landed in the center of a global food debate over a central question: with the world’s growing population expected to reach nine billion by 2045, how will farmers feed everyone, especially those in developing countries? The lines of the debate are drawn. The Second Green Revolutionaries are now facing off with activists and researchers who doubt the West’s petroleum and technology-based agricultural systems can sustainably feed the world.

The African Centre for Biosafety and its allies often point to a report recently released by IAASTD, a research group supported by the United Nations (UN), the World Health Organization, and others. IAASTD found that industrial agriculture has been successful in its goal of increasing crop yields worldwide, but has caused environmental degradation and deforestation that disproportionately affects small farmers and poorer nations. Widespread use of pesticides and fertilizer, for instance, cause dead zones in coastal areas. Massive irrigation projects now account for 70 percent of water withdrawal globally and approximately 1.6 billion people live in water-scarce basins.

Increasing crop yields is the bottom line for groups like the Gates Foundation, but the IAASTD recommends that sustainability should be the goal. The report does not rule out biotechnology, but suggests high-tech agriculture is just one tool in the toolbox. The report promotes “agroecology,” which seeks to replace the chemical and biochemical inputs of industrial agriculture with resources found in the natural environment.

In March, a UN expert released a report showing that small-scale farmers could double their food production in a decade with the simple agroecological methods. The report flies in the face of the Second Green Revolutionaries.

“Today’s scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological methods outperform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production where the hungry live – especially in unfavorable environments,” said Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and author of the report. “Malawi, a country that launched a massive chemical fertilizer subsidy program a few years ago, is now implementing agroecology, benefiting more than 1.3 million of the poorest people, with maize yields increasing from 1 ton per hectare to 2 to 3 tons per hectare.”

De Schutter said private companies like Monsanto will not invest in agroecology because it does not open new markets for agrichemicals or GE seeds, so it’s up to governments and the public to support the switch to more sustainable agriculture. But with more than a billion dollars already spent, the Second Green Revolutionaries are determined to have a say in how the world grows its food, and agroecology is not on their agenda. To them, sustainability means bringing private innovation to the developing world. The Gates Foundation can donate billions to the fight against hunger, but when private companies like Monsanto stand to benefit, it makes feeding the world look like a for-profit scheme.

When Food Kills

In Uncategorized on June 12, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Oldspeak: “Behold! The Fruits of Corporatization of Food… Food-born illness kills more people than AIDS.  But thanks to Big Ag’s Legion of Lobbyists and the Supreme Court’s Citizens United Decision, very little is being done to ensure the safety of our food supply.” Every year in the United States, 325,000 people are hospitalized because of food-borne illnesses and 5,000 die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s right: food kills one person every two hours.Yet while the terrorist attacks of 2001 led us to transform the way we approach national security, the deaths of almost twice as many people annually have still not generated basic food-safety initiatives. We have an industrial farming system that is a marvel for producing cheap food, but its lobbyists block initiatives to make food safer.’ -Nicolas D. Kristoff

By Nicolas D. Kristoff @ The New York Times:

The deaths of 31 people in Europe from a little-known strain of E. coli have raised alarms worldwide, but we shouldn’t be surprised. Our food often betrays us.

Just a few days ago, a 2-year-old girl in Dryden, Va., died in a hospital after suffering bloody diarrhea linked to another strain of E. coli. Her brother was also hospitalized but survived.

Every year in the United States, 325,000 people are hospitalized because of food-borne illnesses and 5,000 die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s right: food kills one person every two hours.

Yet while the terrorist attacks of 2001 led us to transform the way we approach national security, the deaths of almost twice as many people annually have still not generated basic food-safety initiatives. We have an industrial farming system that is a marvel for producing cheap food, but its lobbyists block initiatives to make food safer.

Perhaps the most disgraceful aspect of our agricultural system — I say this as an Oregon farmboy who once raised sheep, cattle and hogs — is the way antibiotics are recklessly stuffed into healthy animals to make them grow faster.

The Food and Drug Administration reported recently that 80 percent of antibiotics in the United States go to livestock, not humans. And 90 percent of the livestock antibiotics are administered in their food or water, typically to healthy animals to keep them from getting sick when they are confined in squalid and crowded conditions.

The single state of North Carolina uses more antibiotics for livestock than the entire United States uses for humans.

This cavalier use of low-level antibiotics creates a perfect breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant pathogens. The upshot is that ailments can become pretty much untreatable.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America, a professional organization of doctors, cites the case of Josh Nahum, a 27-year-old skydiving instructor in Colorado. He developed a fever from bacteria that would not respond to medication. The infection spread and caused tremendous pressure in his skull.

Some of his brain was pushed into his spinal column, paralyzing him. He became a quadriplegic depending on a ventilator to breathe. Then, a couple of weeks later, he died.

There’s no reason to link Nahum’s case specifically to agricultural overuse, for antibiotic resistance has multiple causes that are difficult to unravel. Doctors overprescribe them. Patients misuse them. But looking at numbers, by far the biggest element of overuse is agriculture.

We would never think of trying to keep our children healthy by adding antibiotics to school water fountains, because we know this would breed antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It’s unconscionable that Big Ag does something similar for livestock.

Louise Slaughter, the only microbiologist in the United States House of Representatives, has been fighting a lonely battle to curb this practice — but industrial agricultural interests have always blocked her legislation.

“These statistics tell the tale of an industry that is rampantly misusing antibiotics in an attempt to cover up filthy, unsanitary living conditions among animals,” Slaughter said. “As they feed antibiotics to animals to keep them healthy, they are making our families sicker by spreading these deadly strains of bacteria.”

Vegetarians may think that they’re immune, but they’re not. E. coli originates in animals but can spill into water used to irrigate vegetables, contaminating them. The European E. coli outbreak apparently arose from bean sprouts grown on an organic farm in Germany.

One of the most common antibiotic-resistant pathogens is MRSA, which now kills more Americans annually than AIDS and adds hugely to America’s medical costs. MRSA has many variants, and one of the more benign forms now is widespread in hog barns and among people who deal with hogs. An article this year in a journal called Applied and Environmental Microbiology reported that MRSA was found in 70 percent of hogs on one farm.

Another scholarly journal reported that MRSA was found in 45 percent of employees working at hog farms. And the Centers for Disease Control reported this April that this strain of bacteria has now been found in a worker at a day care center in Iowa.

Other countries are moving to ban the feeding of antibiotics to livestock. But in the United States, the agribusiness lobby still has a hold on Congress.

The European outbreak should shake people up. “It points to the whole broken system,” notes Robert Martin of the Pew Environment Group.

We need more comprehensive inspections in the food system, more testing for additional strains of E. coli, and more public education (always wash your hands after touching raw meat, and don’t use the same cutting board for meat and vegetables). A great place to start reforms would be by banning the feeding of antibiotics to healthy livestock.

I invite you to comment on this column on my blog, On the Ground. Please also join me on Facebook, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.

Landmark Study Finds 93 Percent Of Unborn Babies Contaminated With Monsanto’s Genetically Modified ‘Food’ BT Toxin

In Uncategorized on May 27, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Fragile: It is not known what effect the toxins have on the unborn fetuses

Oldspeak:“Surprise, surprise despite repeated assurances to the contrary GM ‘Food’ is not the same as naturally grown food. And it passes toxins to the blood of most people who eat it. It’s too bad these studies weren’t done before much of the world’s food supply was contaminated with this frankenfood. We are all subjects in a vast uncontrolled experiment, and this one is yielding some tragic findings. In addition to carrying a pathogen that causes infertility in plants, animals and humans, GM crops have been shown to be causally related to the significant rises in food allergies, diabetes, obesity, autism,  immune system dysfunction, asthma, cancer and heart disease, low birth-weight babies, and infant mortality. Why are we being fed poisons that have been shown to have numerous negative health effects? We have no idea what the long term effects will be of the fundamental changing of our food supply. But I’ll bet it ain’t none too good. No comment on this in corporate american media.

By Ethan A. Huff @ Natural News:

A landmark new study out of Canada exposes yet another lie propagated by the biotechnology industry, this time blowing a hole in the false claim that a certain genetic pesticide used in the cultivation of genetically-modified (GM) crops does not end up in the human body upon consumption. Researchers from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Sherbrooke Hospital Centre in Quebec, Can., have proven that Bt toxin, which is used in GM corn and other crops, definitively makes its way into the blood supply, contrary to what Big Bio claims — and this toxin was found in the bloodstreams of 93 percent of pregnant women tested.

Published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology, the study explains that Bt toxin enters the body not only through direct consumption of GMOs, but also from consumption of meat, milk and eggs from animals whose feed contains GMOs. Among all women tested, 80 percent of the pregnant group tested positive for Bt toxin in their babies’ umbilical cords, and 69 percent of non-pregnant women tested positive for Bt toxin.

The only reason many countries even approved GM crops in the first place was because they were told that GM crops were no different than conventional crops. The biotechnology industry has purported for years that the alterations and chemicals used in GM crop cultivation pose no risk whatsoever to human health, and that any GM substances that remain in food are broken down in the digestive system. Now that it has been revealed that such claims are complete fabrications, many groups are urging governments to pull GMOs from their food supplies.

“This research is a major surprise as it shows that the Bt proteins have survived the human digestive system and passed into the blood supply — something that regulators said could not happen,” said Pete Riley from GM Freeze, an alliance of organizations united against GMOs. “Regulators need to urgently reassess their opinions, and the EU should use the safeguard clauses in the regulations to prevent any further GM Bt crops being cultivated or imported for animal feed or food until the potential health implications have been fully evaluated.”

Most of the studies that have been used to validate the safety of GMOs have been conducted by the companies that created them in the first place, so they are hardly a credible source for reliable safety data. Governments in North and South America, as well as throughout Europe, have essentially welcomed GMOs into the food supply based on flimsy reassurances rather than sound science.

Related Stories:

Monsanto Shifts ALL Liability to Farmers For Losses, Injury, Damages from Monsanto Seeds

 GM food toxins found in the blood of 93% of unborn babies

Monsanto Shifts ALL Liability to Farmers For Losses, Injury, Damages from Monsanto Seeds

In Uncategorized on February 25, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Oldspeak:” So Monsanto gets to sell seed that has demonstrably deleterious effects on the environment as well as the animals and humans that consume what grows out of their seeds. And they have the gall to draw up binding contracts that make farmers the only parties liable for all the destruction caused by Monsanto seed. Monsanto’s products can contaminate organic crops, cost organic farmers their livelihoods and then Monsanto can turn around and sue organic farmers for unauthorized use of their seed. Why are corporations the only “persons” allowed under law to externalize costs/damage/liability, sell dangerous products, and internalize all the profits/benefits from those sales? In Monsanto’s case it helps to have a regulatory agency chock full of former employees.”  :-|

By Cassandra Anderson @ MORPcity:

armers like genetically modified (GM) crops because they can plant them, spray them with herbicide and then there is very little maintenance until harvest. Farmers who plant Monsanto’s GM crops probably don’t realize what they bargain for when they sign the Monsanto Technology Stewardship Agreement contract. One farmer reportedly ‘went crazy’ when he discovered the scope of the contract because it transfers ALL liability to the farmer or grower.

Here is the paragraph that defines Monsanto’s limit of liability that shifts it to the farmer:

“GROWER’S EXCLUSIVE LIMITED REMEDY: THE EXCLUSIVE REMEDY OF THE GROWER AND THE LIMIT OF THE LIABILITY OF MONSANTO OR ANY SELLER FOR ANY AND ALL LOSSES, INJURY OR DAMAGES RESULTING FROM THE USE OR HANDLING OF SEED (INCLUDING CLAIMS BASED IN CONTRACT, NEGLIGENCE, PRODUCT LIABILITY, STRICT LIABILITY, TORT, OR OTHERWISE) SHALL BE THE PRICE PAID BY THE GROWER FOR THE QUANTITY OF THE SEED INVOLVED OR, AT THE ELECTION OF MONSANTO OR THE SEED SELLER, THE REPLACEMENT OF THE SEED. IN NO EVENT SHALL MONSANTO OR ANY SELLER BE LIABLE FOR ANY INCIDENTAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, SPECIAL, OR PUNITIVE DAMAGES.”

 

G. Edward Griffin, author of ‘The Creature From Jekyll Island’, and numerous other books and documentary films, and Anthony Patchett, retired assistant Head Deputy District Attorney, Los Angeles County Environmental Crimes/ OSHA Division explain the consequences of the Monsanto contract in the video below.

Monsanto’s Technology Stewardship Agreement shifts responsibility to growers for any and all losses, injury or damages resulting from the use of Monsanto seeds. There is no expiration date on the contract. The grower may terminate the contract, but: “Grower’s responsibilities and the other terms herein shall survive…”

Also See: Mike Ludwig | Why Monsanto Always Wins

This includes contamination of other farms. Growers are purchasing seed for Spring planting right now. Alfalfa, America’s 4th largest crop, is a particular problem because it is a perennial plant and the seeds may lie dormant in the ground for 10-20 years, and WILL contaminate non-GM plants. Contaminated alfalfa cannot be recalled from the environment. The liability burden can follow the grower for decades. Farmers must be made aware of the danger of being sued before they plant GM crops (especially alfalfa because it is used for cattle feed and will affect dairy farmers).

Currently, Australian organic farmer Steve Marsh, who lost his organic certification due to contamination, is suing his GM crop-growing neighbor for the GM contamination.

Contamination of processing equipment is another risk.

There is evidence from India that GM crops are linked to livestock deaths. The Monsanto Technology Stewardship Agreement contract holds growers responsible for injuries, so this is another potential consequence for farmers planting Monsanto GM crops to consider.

The Monsanto Technology Stewardship Agreement has another clause that farmers will find disturbing: it appears that the growers agree that in order to sell their farm, the new purchaser must also sign a Monsanto Technology Stewardship Agreement. According to a top real estate broker, the contract places a covenant, condition or restriction (CCR) on the farmer’s land:

“GROWER AGREES: To accept and continue the obligations of this Monsanto Technology/Stewardship Agreement on any new land purchased or leased by Grower that has Seed planted on it by a previous owner or possessor of the land; and to notify in writing purchasers or lessees of land owned by Grower that has Seed planted on it that the Monsanto Technology is subject to this Monsanto Technology/Stewardship Agreement and they must have or obtain their own Monsanto Technology/Stewardship Agreement.”

 

Environmental attorney Anthony Patchett further elaborated on Monsanto’s contract in a letter that states “Monsanto’s agreement shifts all liability to the growers, including contamination issues or any potential future liability. All the grower receives is the price of the seed.” He further stated that this contract appears to be “Unconscionable”. Click here to view the letter.

For more information about the perils of contamination, please go to MorphCity.com to read the interview with alfalfa seed grower Phil Geertson who opposed Monsanto in the GM case heard in the Supreme Court last summer. Geertson said that Monsanto’s GM seeds are more expensive and after a few years, weeds can become tolerant to Roundup Ready and other glyphosate herbicides so farmers must return to conventional farming practices anyway. Therefore, there is no benefit to planting GM crops.

You can alert farmers to the hazard of growing GM crops and how growers can be hurt by Monsanto’s contract, if you would like to take action in opposing GM crops. Please share this article and video.

 


 

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