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

Posts Tagged ‘Big Agriculture’

USGS Study: Drop In U.S. Underground Water Levels Has Accelerated; 3 Times Greater Than At Any Time In 20th Century

In Uncategorized on May 24, 2013 at 7:00 pm

U.S. Drought Monitor map from March 19, 2013Oldspeak: “Tell your crew use the H2 in wise amounts since/it’s the New World Water; and every drop counts/You can laugh and take it as a joke if you wanna/But it don’t rain for four weeks some summers/And it’s about to get real wild in the half/You be buying Evian just to take a fuckin bath -Yasiin Bey, “New World Water”
“With the U.S. currently embroiled in historic drought with no end in sight and nearly 80 percent of farmland experiencing drought, this is definitely not good. No surprise, petrochemical/”natural” gas extraction and petrochemical based factory farming are the largest users of water from aquifers. Coincidentally, the process of  extracting of petrochemicals that serve as fertilizer and energy to produce food, has the wonderful side effect of poisoning these same rapidly depleting aquifers with hundreds of secret proprietary “fracking” chemicals that sicken and or kill all life that comes into prolonged contact with them. The burning of these petrochemicals, pollutes the air, and continuously pumps dangerous amounts of  greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which has the nifty side effect of warming the planet to prehistoric levels, causing “less rain and snow filtering underground to replenish what was being pumped out“. Mix it all together and you have a completely avoidable, undeniably man-made slow motion shitshow of a global ecological catastrophe. Human activity is significantly disrupting the water cycle. We are using/poisoning more water than can be replenished naturally. We need to abandon energy and food production that is destroying our water supply.  There’s only so much left. We can’t continue to use water as if it’s supply is infinite. Over 1 Billion have no access to clean drinking water. Count on that number to rise. With that rise will come a rise in disease, as around 80% of all disease in the world stems from unclean water, poor sanitation, or crude living conditions (hygiene). We must put the safety our most vital and indispensable resource ahead of profit.  Water is the Eco-currency we can’t afford to run out of.”

By Deborah Zabarenko @ Reuters:

Water levels in U.S. aquifers, the vast underground storage areas tapped for agriculture, energy and human consumption, between 2000 and 2008 dropped at a rate that was almost three times as great as any time during the 20th century, U.S. officials said on Monday.

The accelerated decline in the subterranean reservoirs is due to a combination of factors, most of them linked to rising population in the United States, according to Leonard Konikow, a research hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey.

The big rise in water use started in 1950, at the time of an economic boom and the spread of U.S. suburbs. However, the steep increase in water use and the drop in groundwater levels that followed World War 2 were eclipsed by the changes during the first years of the 21st century, the study showed.

As consumers, farms and industry used more water starting in 2000, aquifers were also affected by climate changes, with less rain and snow filtering underground to replenish what was being pumped out, Konikow said in a telephone interview from Reston, Virginia.

Depletion of groundwater can cause land to subside, cut yields from existing wells, and diminish the flow of water from springs and streams.

Agricultural irrigation is the biggest user of water from aquifers in the United States, though the energy industry, including oil and coal extraction, is also a big user.

The USGS study looked at 40 different aquifers from 1900 through 2008 and found that the historical average of groundwater depletion – the amount the underground reservoirs lost each year – was 7.5 million acre-feet (9.2 cubic kilometers).

From 2000 to 2008, the average was 20.2 million acre-feet (25 cubic kilometers) a year. (An acre-foot is the volume of water needed to cover an acre to the depth of one foot.)

One of the best-known aquifers, the High Plains Aquifer, also known as the Oglala, had the highest levels of groundwater depletion starting in the 1960s. It lies beneath parts of South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico, where water demand from agriculture is high and where recent drought has hit hard.

Because it costs more to pump water from lower levels in an aquifer, some farmers may give up, or irrigate fewer fields, Konikow said. Another problem with low water levels underground is that water quality can deteriorate, ultimately becoming too salty to use for irrigation.

“That’s a real limit on water,” Konikow said. “You could always say that if we have enough money, you build a desalization plant and solve the problem, but that really is expensive.”

(Reporting by Deborah Zabarenko; Editing by Leslie Adler)

“Meducation” In America: Poor, Otherwise Healthy Children Given Powerful Antipsychotic & Psychotropic Stimulants To “Improve” Behavior, Academic Performance

In Uncategorized on October 12, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Oldspeak:”“There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution.”Aldous Huxley And just like that, with little or no fanfare, doctors and parents clamoring for it, we have arrived as a society at Huxley’s “A Brave New World”.  9 year olds on psychiatric medication.  We are medicating our children with powerful, addictive, antipsychotic and psychotropic medications to modify their behavior.  Designing our children’s behavior.  Making children more docile, “manageable”, “better able to concentrate” to  “increase academic performance”.  Replacing parenting, counseling, teaching, social and emotional development with pharmacological drugs.  Making no significant efforts to address inequality, poverty, scarce resources, austerity measures or most importantly: DIET. No examination or acknowledgement of the numerous documented deleterious effects of the many poisons children, particularly poor children consume.  Cheap, Genetically modified, highly processed, nutrient deficient, chemical additive, sugar & pesticide laden frankenfood.  These children’s brains are literally malfunctioning from exposure to the poisons, and rather than cleaning out & optimizing their systems with real, whole foods, doctors are suggesting introducing more toxins, more poisons, that induce frighting and dangerous possible side effects. Tics, hearing voices that aren’t there,  suicidal ideation, and sudden death are the most serious ones. In this punitive and inherently unfair funds for resources public education system lately known as “race to the top”, grades and performance on the standardized tests funds are tied to are more important than children’s health and well being. This disturbing trend represents a windfall for pharmaceutical corporations, exposing children to their highly addictive and toxic products, makes for life-long non-critically thinking, chemically dependent customers. Children’s freedom to be, well, children, scatterbrained, hyper, excitable, energetic, inquisitive, unique, expressive, creative, angry, depressed, etc etc; is being medicated away. As are children’s ability to deal effectively with challenges, hardships & emotions. All this, with no concrete idea of the long term effects these drugs  will have on children’s brains, they are basically participating in yet another giant uncontrolled experiment. Behold the fruits of austerity era education in America! “Ignorance Is Strength”

By Alan Schwartz @ The New York Times:

The pills boost focus and impulse control in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Although A.D.H.D is the diagnosis Dr. Anderson makes, he calls the disorder “made up” and “an excuse” to prescribe the pills to treat what he considers the children’s true ill — poor academic performance in inadequate schools.

“I don’t have a whole lot of choice,” said Dr. Anderson, a pediatrician for many poor families in Cherokee County, north of Atlanta. “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid.”

Dr. Anderson is one of the more outspoken proponents of an idea that is gaining interest among some physicians. They are prescribing stimulants to struggling students in schools starved of extra money — not to treat A.D.H.D., necessarily, but to boost their academic performance.

It is not yet clear whether Dr. Anderson is representative of a widening trend. But some experts note that as wealthy students abuse stimulants to raise already-good grades in colleges and high schools, the medications are being used on low-income elementary school children with faltering grades and parents eager to see them succeed.

“We as a society have been unwilling to invest in very effective nonpharmaceutical interventions for these children and their families,” said Dr. Ramesh Raghavan, a child mental-health services researcher at Washington University in St. Louis and an expert in prescription drug use among low-income children. “We are effectively forcing local community psychiatrists to use the only tool at their disposal, which is psychotropic medications.”

Dr. Nancy Rappaport, a child psychiatrist in Cambridge, Mass., who works primarily with lower-income children and their schools, added: “We are seeing this more and more. We are using a chemical straitjacket instead of doing things that are just as important to also do, sometimes more.”

Dr. Anderson’s instinct, he said, is that of a “social justice thinker” who is “evening the scales a little bit.” He said that the children he sees with academic problems are essentially “mismatched with their environment” — square pegs chafing the round holes of public education. Because their families can rarely afford behavior-based therapies like tutoring and family counseling, he said, medication becomes the most reliable and pragmatic way to redirect the student toward success.

“People who are getting A’s and B’s, I won’t give it to them,” he said. For some parents the pills provide great relief. Jacqueline Williams said she can’t thank Dr. Anderson enough for diagnosing A.D.H.D. in her children — Eric, 15; Chekiara, 14; and Shamya, 11 — and prescribing Concerta, a long-acting stimulant, for them all. She said each was having trouble listening to instructions and concentrating on schoolwork.

“My kids don’t want to take it, but I told them, ‘These are your grades when you’re taking it, this is when you don’t,’ and they understood,” Ms. Williams said, noting that Medicaid covers almost every penny of her doctor and prescription costs.

Some experts see little harm in a responsible physician using A.D.H.D. medications to help a struggling student. Others — even among the many like Dr. Rappaport who praise the use of stimulants as treatment for classic A.D.H.D. — fear that doctors are exposing children to unwarranted physical and psychological risks. Reported side effects of the drugs have included growth suppression, increased blood pressure and, in rare cases, psychotic episodes.

The disorder, which is characterized by severe inattention and impulsivity, is an increasingly common psychiatric diagnosis among American youth: about 9.5 percent of Americans ages 4 to 17 were judged to have it in 2007, or about 5.4 million children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The reported prevalence of the disorder has risen steadily for more than a decade, with some doctors gratified by its widening recognition but others fearful that the diagnosis, and the drugs to treat it, are handed out too loosely and at the exclusion of nonpharmaceutical therapies.

The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies these medications as Schedule II Controlled Substances because they are particularly addictive. Long-term effects of extended use are not well understood, said many medical experts. Some of them worry that children can become dependent on the medication well into adulthood, long after any A.D.H.D. symptoms can dissipate.

According to guidelines published last year by the American Academy of Pediatrics, physicians should use one of several behavior rating scales, some of which feature dozens of categories, to make sure that a child not only fits criteria for A.D.H.D., but also has no related condition like dyslexia or oppositional defiant disorder, in which intense anger is directed toward authority figures. However, a 2010 study in the Journal of Attention Disorders suggested that at least 20 percent of doctors said they did not follow this protocol when making their A.D.H.D. diagnoses, with many of them following personal instinct.

On the Rocafort family’s kitchen shelf in Ball Ground, Ga., next to the peanut butter and chicken broth, sits a wire basket brimming with bottles of the children’s medications, prescribed by Dr. Anderson: Adderall for Alexis, 12; and Ethan, 9; Risperdal (an antipsychotic for mood stabilization) for Quintn and Perry, both 11; and Clonidine (a sleep aid to counteract the other medications) for all four, taken nightly.

Quintn began taking Adderall for A.D.H.D. about five years ago, when his disruptive school behavior led to calls home and in-school suspensions. He immediately settled down and became a more earnest, attentive student — a little bit more like Perry, who also took Adderall for his A.D.H.D.

When puberty’s chemical maelstrom began at about 10, though, Quintn got into fights at school because, he said, other children were insulting his mother. The problem was, they were not; Quintn was seeing people and hearing voices that were not there, a rare but recognized side effect of Adderall. After Quintn admitted to being suicidal, Dr. Anderson prescribed a week in a local psychiatric hospital, and a switch to Risperdal.

While telling this story, the Rocaforts called Quintn into the kitchen and asked him to describe why he had been given Adderall.

“To help me focus on my school work, my homework, listening to Mom and Dad, and not doing what I used to do to my teachers, to make them mad,” he said. He described the week in the hospital and the effects of Risperdal: “If I don’t take my medicine I’d be having attitudes. I’d be disrespecting my parents. I wouldn’t be like this.”

Despite Quintn’s experience with Adderall, the Rocaforts decided to use it with their 12-year-old daughter, Alexis, and 9-year-old son, Ethan. These children don’t have A.D.H.D., their parents said. The Adderall is merely to help their grades, and because Alexis was, in her father’s words, “a little blah.”

”We’ve seen both sides of the spectrum: we’ve seen positive, we’ve seen negative,” the father, Rocky Rocafort, said. Acknowledging that Alexis’s use of Adderall is “cosmetic,” he added, “If they’re feeling positive, happy, socializing more, and it’s helping them, why wouldn’t you? Why not?”

Dr. William Graf, a pediatrician and child neurologist who serves many poor families in New Haven, said that a family should be able to choose for itself whether Adderall can benefit its non-A.D.H.D. child, and that a physician can ethically prescribe a trial as long as side effects are closely monitored. He expressed concern, however, that the rising use of stimulants in this manner can threaten what he called “the authenticity of development.”

“These children are still in the developmental phase, and we still don’t know how these drugs biologically affect the developing brain,” he said. “There’s an obligation for parents, doctors and teachers to respect the authenticity issue, and I’m not sure that’s always happening.”

Dr. Anderson said that every child he treats with A.D.H.D. medication has met qualifications. But he also railed against those criteria, saying they were codified only to “make something completely subjective look objective.” He added that teacher reports almost invariably come back as citing the behaviors that would warrant a diagnosis, a decision he called more economic than medical.

“The school said if they had other ideas they would,” Dr. Anderson said. “But the other ideas cost money and resources compared to meds.”

Dr. Anderson cited William G. Hasty Elementary School here in Canton as one school he deals with often. Izell McGruder, the school’s principal, did not respond to several messages seeking comment.

Several educators contacted for this article considered the subject of A.D.H.D. so controversial — the diagnosis was misused at times, they said, but for many children it is a serious learning disability — that they declined to comment. The superintendent of one major school district in California, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, noted that diagnosis rates of A.D.H.D. have risen as sharply as school funding has declined.

“It’s scary to think that this is what we’ve come to; how not funding public education to meet the needs of all kids has led to this,” said the superintendent, referring to the use of stimulants in children without classic A.D.H.D. “I don’t know, but it could be happening right here. Maybe not as knowingly, but it could be a consequence of a doctor who sees a kid failing in overcrowded classes with 42 other kids and the frustrated parents asking what they can do. The doctor says, ‘Maybe it’s A.D.H.D., let’s give this a try.’ ”

When told that the Rocaforts insist that their two children on Adderall do not have A.D.H.D. and never did, Dr. Anderson said he was surprised. He consulted their charts and found the parent questionnaire. Every category, which assessed the severity of behaviors associated with A.D.H.D., received a five out of five except one, which was a four.

“This is my whole angst about the thing,” Dr. Anderson said. “We put a label on something that isn’t binary — you have it or you don’t. We won’t just say that there is a student who has problems in school, problems at home, and probably, according to the doctor with agreement of the parents, will try medical treatment.”

He added, “We might not know the long-term effects, but we do know the short-term costs of school failure, which are real. I am looking to the individual person and where they are right now. I am the doctor for the patient, not for society.”

With Corn Feed Scarcer, Costlier Than Ever, U.S. Farmers Feed Cookies, Marshmellows & Fruit Loops To Cattle

In Uncategorized on September 25, 2012 at 11:37 am

Oldspeak:”In the mix are cookies, gummy worms, marshmallows, fruit loops, orange peels, even dried cranberries. Cattlemen are feeding virtually anything they can get their hands on that will replace the starchy sugar content traditionally delivered to the animals through corn. “-Carey Gillam Is there a more perfect descriptor of the utter and complete absurdity of industrial scale agriculture? Rather thank let their cattle graze on grass, as farmers have done for the bulk of human history, BigAg farmers in a desperate attempt to cut feeding costs, are feeding their cattle even more unnatural,  less healthy & nutritious junk food. America, as the most gluttonously obese nation on the planet literally is what it eats. Junk.  Junk in, Junk out.  A junk economy. Junk politics, Junk science. Junk education. Junk spirituality. Junk laws. Etc etc etc… This is a perfect illustration of the madness that Casino Capitalism begets.  Poisons Proliferate. Profit is Paramount. Wall Street “Speculators” gamble with the global food supply. Greed defies logic. It skirts safety. It makes human and animal health mere “externalities”.  This is unsustainable. We will reap what we sow.”

By Carey Gillam @ Reuters:

Mike Yoder’s herd of dairy cattle are living the sweet life. With corn feed scarcer and costlier than ever, Yoder increasingly is looking for cheaper alternatives — and this summer he found a good deal on ice cream sprinkles.

“It’s a pretty colorful load,” said Yoder, who operates about 450 dairy cows on his farm in northern Indiana. “Anything that keeps the feed costs down.”

As the worst drought in half a century has ravaged this year’s U.S. corn crop and driven corn prices sky high, the market for alternative feed rations for beef and dairy cows has also skyrocketed. Brokers are gathering up discarded food products and putting them out for the highest bid to feed lot operators and dairy producers, who are scrambling to keep their animals fed.

In the mix are cookies, gummy worms, marshmallows, fruit loops, orange peels, even dried cranberries. Cattlemen are feeding virtually anything they can get their hands on that will replace the starchy sugar content traditionally delivered to the animals through corn.

“Everybody is looking for alternatives,” said Ki Fanning, a nutritionist with Great Plains Livestock Consulting in Eagle, Nebraska. “It’s kind of funny the first time you see it but it works well. The big advantage to that is you can turn something you normally throw away into something that can be consumed. The amazing thing about a ruminant, a cow, you can take those type of ingredients and turn them into food.”

PRICING VARIES

Feed is generally the largest single production expense for cattle operators. Whatever is fed needs to supply energy and protein levels that meet the animals’ nutritional needs. High prices for soy has operators seeking alternatives for both corn and soy.

Corn alternatives are in particular demand as supplies are so tight that in some areas of the country, feed corn is not available at any price.

Pricing and availability of the many different “co-products” as they are called, varies from place to place, but buyers report savings of 10 percent to 50 percent.

The savings for operators are shrinking, however, as savvy resellers tie pricing for their alternative offerings to the price of corn, which surged to record highs this summer due to drought damage.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said last month the harvest now underway will yield the smallest corn crop in six years due to the drought that is still gripping more than half of the nation.

“They are using less corn in a number of these rations, but as corn prices go up, prices for really every other co-product go up too,” said Greg Lardy, head of the animal sciences department at North Dakota State University.

Operators must be careful to follow detailed nutritional analyses for their animals to make sure they are getting a healthy mix of nutrients, animal nutritionists caution. But ruminant animals such as cattle can safely ingest a wide variety of feedstuffs that chickens and hogs can’t.

The candy and cookies are only a small part of a broad mix of alternative feed offerings for cattle. Many operators use distillers grains, a byproduct that comes from the manufacture of ethanol. Other common non-corn alternatives include cottonseed hulls, rice products, potato products, peanut pellet.

Wheat “middlings,” a byproduct of milling wheat for flour that contain particles of flour, bran, and wheat germ, also are fed.

And every now and then, there is a little chocolate for the hungry cows.

Hansen Mueller Grain out of Omaha, Nebraska, which markets chocolate bars alongside oats and peanut pellets, said it all comes down to fat, sugar and energy.

“That’s all it is,” said Bran Dill, a spokesman at Hansen Mueller. Demand is high, he said.

But he also said increasing prices are making alternatives less attractive.

“The price of this stuff has gone up so much it’s gotten ridiculous,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Michael Hirtzer in Chicago; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

While 40% Of Food Is Uneaten, Millions Go Hungry In The U.S., Congress Considers Food Stamp Cuts As Drought Threatens Food Supply

In Uncategorized on August 24, 2012 at 4:59 pm

DroughtOldspeak: “Austerity Measures are still coming home to roost, with much more to come.  “With millions of Americans struggling to stave off hunger, anti-poverty groups are asking that Congress abandon proposals to cut off support for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which supplies assistance commonly called food stamps. “The numbers underscore the point that people still continue to struggle, and that cuts some in Congress are proposing to our nation’s nutrition safety net will only worsen a bad situation,” -Jim Weill  coincidentally, conditions are perfect, for Monsanto and the rest of the Biotech Bigs to introduce their genetically modified drought-resistant corn and wheat to ‘help fuel the worlds fight against poverty and hunger” 

By Mike Ludwig @ Truthout:

Nearly one in five Americans could not afford the food they or their families needed at some point in the past year, and now anti-poverty advocates are pressing Congress to abandon proposed food stamp cuts as a historic drought threatens to drive up food prices across the country.

A Gallup poll released this week shows that 18.2 percent of Americans did not have enough money to buy the food they or their families needed at least once during the past year. In 15 states, at least 1 in 5 Americans polled in the first half of 2012 reported struggling to pay for food during the past 12 months.

Little has changed since 2011, when 18.6 percent of Americans reported struggling to afford food, but proposed food stamp cuts in Congress and the worst drought in half a century could soon make matters worse.

The drought has impacted 80 percent of the country’s agricultural lands, and the US Department of Agriculture predicts that consumers will see meat and dairy prices increase within two months. Increases in the cost of packaged products, such as cereal, containing corn and flour are expected in about 10 to 12 months.

The rate of Americans facing food hardship peaked in late 2008 as the economy fell into a deep recession. The rate spiked from 16.3 percent in the first quarter of 2008 to 19.5 percent in the last quarter.

Congress Considers Cutting Food Stamps

With millions of Americans struggling to stave off hunger, anti-poverty groups are asking that Congress abandon proposals to cut off support for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which supplies assistance commonly called food stamps.

“The numbers underscore the point that people still continue to struggle, and that cuts some in Congress are proposing to our nation’s nutrition safety net will only worsen a bad situation,” said Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center.

 

SNAP funding is included in the 2013 omnibus agriculture appropriations bill. The Senate version would cut $4.4 billion over ten years and would cause about 500,000 households to lose an average of $90 in nutritional assistance each month.

SNAP cuts in the House version, which seeks about $16 billion in SNAP reductions, would make the same cuts and change eligibility requirements to push at least 1.8 million people out of the food stamp program.

“These cuts to SNAP will particularly harm seniors, children and working families, taking food away from the poorest and most vulnerable among us,” Weill said, echoing concerns shared by the White House and Democrats in Congress.

The White House opposes the deep SNAP cuts proposed in the House, which are largely supported by Republicans eager to cut domestic spending.

The number of participants in SNAP programs has been at a historic high since the recession began, and SNAP spending increased from $30 billion in 2007 to $73 billion in 2011, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Regional Food Disparity

In general, more people living in Southern states report struggling to pay for food. Mississippi tops the national Gallup list, with 24.9 percent of those polled in the state reporting struggling to pay for groceries during the past year. Alabama, Delaware, Georgia and Nevada join Mississippi as the top five states where people face food hardships.

People living in Southern states will also be hardest hit by increases in food prices due to drought, according to Gallup. People living in the Mountain Plains and Midwest states that make up America’s breadbasket are least likely to face food hardship. North and South Dakota top the list of states where residents are least likely to go hungry.

Despite the troubling data on food hardship, vast amounts of America’s food supply goes to waste. The National Resources Defense Council reported this week that 40 percent of food produced in the United States goes uneaten. That’s about 20 pounds of food per person every month.

 

The Real Cause Of The Global Obesity Epidemic: Are Toxic Chemicals Making Us Fat?

In Uncategorized on March 31, 2012 at 2:57 pm

 

Oldspeak:“Studies conducted jointly by researchers at Imperial College London and Harvard University, published in the medical journal The Lancet, show that obesity worldwide almost doubled in the decades between 1980 and 2008. The prevalence of obesity in infants under 6 months had risen 73 percent since 1980. “This epidemic  poses a problem for conventional explanations of the fattening of America. Since they’re eating only formula or breast milk, and never exactly got a lot of exercise, the obvious explanations for obesity don’t work for babies, You have to look beyond the obvious.” Robert Lustig , Endocrinologist, UC San Francisco Ain’t ‘progress’ grand? In our insatiable lust for ‘more’ convenience, faster, easier, lighter, smaller, ‘safer’, our wondrous technological innovation has led to us poisoning ourselves and our environment in a myriad of yet unknown ways. We’re made to believe it’s all our fault. It’s our poor food choices, our lack of exercise, our lack of discipline and while that may be true in some instances, the problem is much more insidious and variegated than we can imagine. We’ve through genetic modification and chemical manipulation turned our food, our naturally perfect and nutritional sustenance against us. There can be no sadder commentary on the sign of our times than the fact that we wrap our food in petrochemical derived plastics. We literally wrap our food in the derivations of the fossilized remains of ancient dead plants and animals, and have convinced ourselves that it’s safe. “Ignorance Is Strength”

By Washington’s Blog:

World Wide Obesity Epidemic

Some 68% of all Americans are overweight, and obesity has almost doubled in the last couple of decades worldwide. As International Business Tribune reports:

Studies conducted jointly by researchers at Imperial College London and Harvard University, published in the medical journal The Lancet, show that obesity worldwide almost doubled in the decades between 1980 and 2008.

***

68 per cent of Americans were found to be overweight while close to 34 percent were obese.

Sure, people are eating too much and exercising too little (this post is not meant as an excuse for lack of discipline and poor choices). The processed foods and refined flours and sugars don’t help. And additives like high fructose corn syrup – which are added to many processed foods – are stuffing us with empty calories.

But given that there is an epidemic of obesity even in 6 month old infants (see below), there is clearly something else going on as well.

Are Toxic Chemicals Making Us Fat?

The toxins all around us might be making us fat.

As the Washington Post reported in 2007:

Several recent animal studies suggest that environmental exposure to widely used chemicals may also help make people fat.

The evidence is preliminary, but a number of researchers are pursuing indications that the chemicals, which have been shown to cause abnormal changes in animals’ sexual development, can also trigger fat-cell activity — a process scientists call adipogenesis.

The chemicals under scrutiny are used in products from marine paints and pesticides to food and beverage containers. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found one chemical, bisphenol A, in 95 percent of the people tested, at levels at or above those that affected development in animals.

These findings were presented at last month’s annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. A spokesman for the chemical industry later dismissed the concerns, but Jerry Heindel, a top official of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), who chaired the AAAS session, said the suspected link between obesity and exposure to “endocrine disrupters,” as the chemicals are called because of their hormone-like effects, is “plausible and possible.”

Bruce Blumberg, a developmental and cell biologist at the University of California at Irvine, one of those presenting research at the meeting, called them “obesogens” — chemicals that promote obesity.

***

Exposed mice became obese adults and remained obese even on reduced calorie and increased exercise regimes. Like tributyltin, DES [which for decades was added to animal feed and routinely given to pregnant women] appeared to permanently disrupt the hormonal mechanisms regulating body weight.

“Once these genetic changes happen in utero, they are irreversible and with the individual for life,” Newbold said.

***

“Exposure to bisphenol A is continuous,” said Frederick vom Saal, professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri at Columbia. Bisphenol A is an ingredient in polycarbonate plastics used in many products, including refillable water containers and baby bottles, and in epoxy resins that line the inside of food cans and are used as dental sealants. [It is also added to store receipts.] In 2003, U.S. industry consumed about 2 billion pounds of bisphenol A.

Researchers have studied bisphenol A’s effects on estrogen function for more than a decade. Vom Saal’s research indicates that developmental exposure to low doses of bisphenol A activates genetic mechanisms that promote fat-cell activity. “These in-utero effects are lifetime effects, and they occur at phenomenally small levels” of exposure, vom Saal said.

***

Research into the impact of endocrine-disrupting chemicals on obesity has been done only in laboratory animals, but the genetic receptors that control fat cell activity are functionally identical across species. “They work virtually the same way in fish as they do in rodents and humans,” Blumberg said. “Fat cells are an endocrine organ.”

Ongoing studies are monitoring human levels of bisphenol A, but none have been done of tributyltin, which has been used since the 1960s and is persistent in the marine food web. “Tributyltin is the only endocrine disrupting chemical that has been shown without substantial argument to have an effect at levels at which it’s found in the environment,” Blumberg said.

Concern over tributyltin’s reproductive effects on marine animals has resulted in an international agreement discontinuing its use in anti-fouling paints used on ships. The EPA has said it plans next year to assess its other applications, including as an antimicrobial agent in livestock operations, fish hatcheries and hospitals.

Bisphenol A is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in consumer products, and the agency says the amount of bisphenol A or tributyltin that might leach from products is too low to be of concern. But the National Toxicology Program, part of the National Institutes of Health, is reviewing bisphenol A, and concerns about its estrogenic effects prompted California legislators to propose banning it from certain products sold in-state, a move industry has fought vigorously.

Similarly, the Daily Beast noted in 2010:

[Bad habits] cannot explain the ballooning of one particular segment of the population, a segment that doesn’t go to movies, can’t chew, and was never that much into exercise: babies. In 2006 scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health reported that the prevalence of obesity in infants under 6 months had risen 73 percent since 1980. “This epidemic of obese 6-month-olds,” as endocrinologist Robert Lustig of the University of California, San Francisco, calls it, poses a problem for conventional explanations of the fattening of America. “Since they’re eating only formula or breast milk, and never exactly got a lot of exercise, the obvious explanations for obesity don’t work for babies,” he points out. “You have to look beyond the obvious.”

The search for the non-obvious has led to a familiar villain: early-life exposure to traces of chemicals in the environment. Evidence has been steadily accumulating that certain hormone-mimicking pollutants, ubiquitous in the food chain, have two previously unsuspected effects. They act on genes in the developing fetus and newborn to turn more precursor cells into fat cells, which stay with you for life. And they may alter metabolic rate, so that the body hoards calories rather than burning them, like a physiological Scrooge. “The evidence now emerging says that being overweight is not just the result of personal choices about what you eat, combined with inactivity,” says Retha Newbold of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in North Carolina, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “Exposure to environmental chemicals during development may be contributing to the obesity epidemic.” They are not the cause of extra pounds in every person who is overweight—for older adults, who were less likely to be exposed to so many of the compounds before birth, the standard explanations of genetics and lifestyle probably suffice—but environmental chemicals may well account for a good part of the current epidemic, especially in those under 50. And at the individual level, exposure to the compounds during a critical period of development may explain one of the most frustrating aspects of weight gain: you eat no more than your slim friends, and exercise no less, yet are still unable to shed pounds.

***

Newbold gave low doses (equivalent to what people are exposed to in the environment) of hormone-mimicking compounds to newborn mice. In six months, the mice were 20 percent heavier and had 36 percent more body fat than unexposed mice. Strangely, these results seemed to contradict the first law of thermodynamics, which implies that weight gain equals calories consumed minus calories burned. “What was so odd was that the overweight mice were not eating more or moving less than the normal mice,” Newbold says. “We measured that very carefully, and there was no statistical difference.”

***

`Programming the fetus to make more fat cells leaves an enduring physiological legacy. “The more [fat cells], the fatter you are,” says UCSF’s Lustig. But [fat cells] are more than passive storage sites. They also fine-tune appetite, producing hormones that act on the brain to make us feel hungry or sated. With more [fat cells], an animal is doubly cursed: it is hungrier more often, and the extra food it eats has more places to go—and remain.

***

In 2005 scientists in Spain reported that the more pesticides children were exposed to as fetuses, the greater their risk of being overweight as toddlers. And last January scientists in Belgium found that children exposed to higher levels of PCBs and DDE (the breakdown product of the pesticide DDT) before birth were fatter than those exposed to lower levels. Neither study proves causation, but they “support the findings in experimental animals,” says Newbold. They “show a link between exposure to environmental chemicals … and the development of obesity.” [See this for more information on the potential link between pesticides and obesity.]

***

This fall, scientists from NIH, the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and academia will discuss obesogens at the largest-ever government-sponsored meeting on the topic. “The main message is that obesogens are a factor that we hadn’t thought about at all before this,” says Blumberg. But they’re one that could clear up at least some of the mystery of why so many of us put on pounds that refuse to come off.

Consumption of the widely used food additive monosodium glutamate (MSG) has been linked to obesity.

Pthalates – commonly used in many plastics – have been linked to obesity. See this and this.  So has a chemical used to make Teflon, stain-resistant carpets and other products.

Most of the meat we eat these days contains estrogen, antibiotics and  powerful chemicals which change hormone levels. Modern corn-fed beef also contains much higher levels of saturated fat than grass-fed beef. So the meat we are eating is also making us fat.

Arsenic may also be linked with obesity, via it’s effect on the thyroid gland. Arsenic is often fed to chickens and pigs to fatten them up, and we end up ingesting it on our dinner plate. It’s ending up in other foods as well.

A lot of endocrine-disrupting pharmaceuticals and medications are also ending up in tap water.

Moreover, the National Research Council has found:

The effects of fluoride on various aspects of endocrine function should be examined further, particularly with respect to a possible role in the development of several diseases or mental states in the United States.

Some hypothesize that too much fluoride affects the thyroid gland, which may in turn lead to weight gain.

Antibiotics also used to be handed out like candy by doctors.  However, ingesting too many antibiotics has also been linked to obesity, as it kills helpful intestinal bacteria. See this and this.

Moreover, many crops in the U.S. are now genetically modified.  For example, 93 percent of soybeans grown in the US are genetically engineered, as are:

Some allege that Roundup kills healthy gut bacteria, and that genetically modified crops cause other health problems.

And Cornell University’s newspaper – the Cornell Sun – reports that our  intestinal bacteria also substantially affect our ability to eliminate toxins instead of letting them make us fat:

Cornell scientists researching the effects of environmental toxins to the onset of obesity and Type II Diabetes, discovered that—unlike other factors such as eating too many unhealthy foods—the extent of damage caused by pollutants depends not on what a person puts into her mouth, but on what is already living within her gut.

Prof. Suzanne Snedeker, food science, and Prof. Anthony Hay, microbiology, researched the contribution that microorganisms in the gut and environmental toxins known as “obesogens” have on ever rising obesity levels. Their work, which was published last October in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, reported a link between composition of gut microbiota, exposure to environmental chemicals and the development of obesity and diabetes. The review, “Do Interactions Between Gut Ecology and Environmental Chemicals Contribute to Obesity and Diabetes?”  combined three main ideas: predisposed gut microbe composition can increase an individual’s risk of obesity and Type II Diabetes, gut microbe activity can determine an individual’s metabolic reaction to persistent pollutants such as DDT and PCB and certain pharmaceuticals can also be metabolized differently depending on the community of microbes in the gut.

The microbe community influences many metabolic pathways within the gut, Snedeker said.  Our bodies metabolize chemicals, but how they are metabolized, and how much fat is stored, depends on gut ecology. Microbes are responsible not only for collecting usable energy from digested food, but also for monitoring insulin levels, storage of fat and appetite. Gut microbes also play an integral role in dealing with any chemicals that enter the body. According to Snedeker, differences in gut microbiota can cause drugs like acetaminophen to act as a toxin in some people while providing no problems for others.  While pharmaceutical and microbe interactions are well understood, there is little information in the area of microbe response to environmental toxins.

She said, there are more than three dozen chemicals called obesogenic compounds, that can cause weight gain by altering the body’s normal metabolic responses and lipid production.

“It seems probable that gut microbes are affecting how our bodies handle these environmental chemicals,” Snedeker said. According to Snedeker, enzymes that are influenced by interactions of gut microbes break down approximately two-thirds of the known environmental toxins. Therefore, differences in the gut microbe community strongly affect our bodies’ ability to get rid of environmental pollutants. Obesogens can alter normal metabolic behavior by changing the levels of fat that our bodies store. Snedeker and Hay suggested that the microbes in the gut of humans determine the way in which these chemicals are metabolized and thus could contribute to obesity.

Snedeker and Hay concluded that although high levels of obesogenic chemicals are bound to cause some kind of disruption in the gut microbe community responsible for breaking these chemicals down, the degree of the disturbance is dependent upon gut microbial composition. In other words, the amount of weight an individual is likely to gain when exposed to environmental toxins, or her risk of acquiring Type II Diabetes, could depend on the microorganism community in their gut.

No, Everything Won‘t Kill You

In response to information about toxic chemicals in our food, water and air, many people change the subject by saying “well, everything will kill you”. In other words, they try to change the topic by assuming that we would have to go back to the stone age to avoid exposure to toxic chemicals.

But this is missing the point entirely. In fact, companies add nasty chemicals to their products and use fattening food-producing strategies to cut corners and make more money.

In the same way that the financial crisis, BP oil spill and Fukushima nuclear disaster were caused by fraud and greed, we are daily exposed to obesity-causing chemicals because companies make an extra buck by lying about what is in their product, cutting every corner in the book, and escaping any consequences for their health-damaging actions.

In fattening their bottom line, the fat cats are creating an epidemic of obesity for the little guy.

What Can We Do To Fight Back?

Eating grass-fed meat instead of industrially-produced corn fed beef will reduce your exposure to obesity-causing chemicals.

Use glass instead of plastic whenever you can, to reduce exposure to pthalates and other hormone-altering plastics.

Try to avoid canned food, or at least look for cans that are free of bisphenol A.  (For example, the Eden company sells food in bpa-free cans.)  Buy and store food in glass jars whenever possible.   And wash your hands after handling store receipts (they still contain bpa).

Eat yogurt or other food containing good bacteria to help restore your healthy intestinal flora.   If you don’t like yogurt, you can take “probiotic” (i.e. good bacteria) supplements from your local health food store.

And don’t forget to tell your grocery store that you demand real food that doesn’t contain bpa, pthalates, hormones, antibiotics or other junk.  If we vote with our pocketbooks, the big food companies will get the message.

70% Of Ground Beef Contains Ammonia-Soaked “Pink Slime”; USDA Bought 7 Million Pounds For School Lunches

In Uncategorized on March 13, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Oldspeak:“So the stuff that the Ghostbusters struggled to contain is in ground beef, that’s being served to kids in copious amounts, despite the fact that there are no significant cost savings from adding it to meat. Why? Big Agra has so thoroughly corrupted and captured its toothless regulatory agency that the agency is buying demonstrably dangerous food additives that  facilitate Big Agra’s dangerous and toxic industrial scale food production methods.”There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” -Nelson Mandela

Is Red Meat – Or FAKE Meat – Killing Us?

Safety of Beef Processing Method Is Questioned

By Washington’s Blog:

ABC news notes:

“Pink slime,” a cheap meat filler, is in 70 percent of the ground beef sold at supermarkets and up to 25 percent of each American hamburger patty, by some estimates.

The USDA just bought 7 million pounds of pink slime to add to school lunches (up from 5.5 million pounds in 2009).

Jamie Oliver gave a must-watch demonstration on the subject a year ago:

But at least we know where the real meat part of ground beef comes from … right?

Nope … the World Trade Organization struck down American laws requiring labeling of beef to disclose the country of origin:

But at least beef is being tested for horrible diseases like mad cow disease, right?

Negatory: the government does very little testing … and prohibits private citizens such as ranchers or meat packers from testing it themselves.

What Should We Do?

So what’s the answer?

You could buy a pot roast or another cut of meat and grind it yourself. That way, you’ll be sure there’s nothing but real meat. (Talk to the butcher in your grocery store’s meat department; he’ll help you buy the right cut.)

Or you could buy grass-fed beef. Organic, grass-fed usually contains no pink slime.

And all grass-fed beef – organic or not – has a much lower risk for mad cow than other types of beef.

Why?

Because mad cow disease is most commonly caused by feeding animal products to cows. For example, Wikipedia notes:

A British inquiry into BSE [the scientific abbreviation for mad cow] concluded that the [disease] was caused by cattle, who are normally herbivores, being fed the remains of other cattle in the form of meat and bone meal (MBM), which caused the infectious agent to spread.

If they are fed grass – their natural food – they are much less likely to get sick.

Stores like Trader Joe’s label grass fed, so it is easy to find.

Grass-fed beef also contains more Omega 3s than beef from cows fed corn, meat or other “modern” feeds. See this and this.

Why is this important? Because eating Omega 3 rich foods can increase gray matter in adults and boost neurological development in children. Conversely, low dietary levels of Omega 3s in mothers can reduce their kids’ IQ. (This is not entirely surprising, given that (1) our brains are about 60% fat, and (2) leading nutritionists say that humans evolved to consume alot of Omega 3 fatty acids in the wild game and fish which they ate (more), and that a low Omega 3 diet is a very new trend within the last 100 years or so).

And if you think that asking for organic beef is a counterculture hippy thing, note that Ronald Reagan insisted on organic meat.

Partners In Slime: Feds Keep Buying Ammonia-Treated Ground Beef For School Lunches

By David Knowles:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s continued purchase of so-called pink slime for school lunches makes no sense, according to two former microbiologists at the Food Safety Inspection Service.

“I have a 2-year-old son,” microbiologist Gerald Zirnstein told The Daily. “And you better believe I don’t want him eating pink slime when he starts going to school.”

It was Zirnstein who first coined the term “pink slime” after touring a Beef Products Inc. production facility in 2002 as part of an investigation into salmonella contamination in packaged ground beef. In an email to his colleagues shortly after the visit, Zirnstein said he did not “consider the stuff to be ground beef.”

Made by grinding together connective tissue and beef scraps normally destined for dog food and rendering, BPI’s Lean Beef Trimmings are then treated with ammonia hydroxide, a process that kills pathogens such as salmonella and E. coli.

The resulting pinkish substance is later blended into traditional ground beef and hamburger patties.

For retired microbiologist Carl Custer, a 35-year veteran of the Food Safety Inspection Service, the idea of mixing in BPI’s Lean Beef Trimmings into more nutritious, pure ground beef was itself problematic.

“We originally called it soylent pink,” Custer told The Daily. “We looked at the product and we objected to it because it used connective tissues instead of muscle. It was simply not nutritionally equivalent [to ground beef]. My main objection was that it was not meat.”

Custer said he first encountered the product — which gained fame recently as “pink slime” in part due to the efforts of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver — back in the late 1990s. Despite voicing his concerns to other officials at the food inspection service, however, the USDA ruled that Lean Beef Trimmings were safe. “The word in the office was that undersecretary JoAnn Smith pushed it through, and that was that,” Custer said.

Appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1989, Smith had deep ties with the beef industry, serving as president of both the Florida Cattlemen’s Association and the of the National Cattlemen’s Association.

“Scientists in D.C. were pressured to approve this stuff with minimal safety approval,” Zirnstein said.

A baseline study conducted by Zirstein and Custer classified the trimmings as a “high risk product.” Zirnstein says the food inspection service ignored their findings, and commissioned a separate study to assess the safety of BPI’s meat.

The USDA, which plans to buy 7 million pounds of Lean Beef Trimmings from BPI in the coming months for the national school lunch program, said in a statement that all of its ground beef purchases “meet the highest standard for food safety.” USDA officials also noted that the sole role of the food inspection service is to determine the overall safety of the nation’s food supply, not to make judgments on a product’s relative merits.

But Zirnstein and Custer say that the USDA now finds itself in the odd position of purchasing a product that has recently been dropped by fast-food giants McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell.

“My objection with having it in the schools is that it’s not meat,” Custer said.

In 2005, the USDA limited the amount of ammonia-treated Lean Beef Trimmings in a serving of ground beef to 15 percent, but lax labeling requirements mean that it is virtually impossible as a consumer — and for parents of children at a schools where “pink slime” is a part of lunch — to know whether a given package of ground beef or hamburger patty contains it.

“The USDA-AMS [Agricultural Marketing Service] does allow for the inclusion of BPI Boneless Lean Beef in the ground beef they procure for all their federal food programs and, according to federal labeling requirements, it is not a raw material that is uniquely labeled,” Amy Bell, spokeswoman for the California Department of Education Food Distribution Program, told The Daily in an email. “Accordingly, there is no way to tell from simply looking at a package of finished product if BPI Boneless Lean Beef is in the product mix.”

Last year, the USDA said that 6.5 percent of the beef it purchased for the national school lunch program came from BPI.

In part, it’s the lack of clear labeling that rankles both Zirnstein and Custer.

“It’s more like Jell-O than hamburger, plus it’s treated with ammonia, an additive that is not declared anywhere,” Custer said.

“They’ve taken a processed product, without labeling it, and added it to raw ground beef,” Zirnstein said. “Science is the truth, and pink slime at this point in time is a fraudulent lie.”

Neither BPI, nor Smith, who now serves on the board of directors at Tyson Foods, responded to The Daily’s request for comment on this story.

David.Knowles@thedaily.com

 

 

Stop Buying Tainted “Food” That Makes You Sick From Billion Dollar Transnational Corporations. Buy Local!

In Uncategorized on December 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Oldspeak:“It’s all connected. ‘Our trillion dollar food and farming System has been corrupted and manipulated by Wall Street, Corporate Agribusiness, and Big Food Inc. into what can only be described as a weapon of mass destruction, severely damaging public health, the environment, and the climate; torturing animals in filthy, disease-ridden factory farms; exploiting immigrant farm workers and food industry workers; and destroying the livelihoods of small farmers and rural communities.’ – Robbie Cummins ‘I have not spoken to one farmer who doesn’t understand the message of Occupy Wall Street, the message that so many people keep saying is nebulous. It’s very clear. Because of business and corporate participation in agriculture, local farmers are losing their livelihoods. And if it goes on like this, all we’re going to have to eat in this country is unregulated, imported, genetically modified produce. That’s not a healthy food system.”  Jim Gerritsen, a Maine organic farmer. We’ve seen that boycotts work. If we as a people took it upon ourselves to educate ourselves about what we’re putting into our bodies and refuse to eat what’s been shown to make us sick, Agribusiness corporations would have no choice but to stop producing nutrient-deficient food and start producing nutrient-rich food. It’s worth a try at least. Better than being slowly poisoned and starved to death with the shit that passes as ‘food’ these days. Sadly, billions are mindlessly and ravenously consuming frankenfood, that makes them sick. “Americans fear only one thing: inconvenience” What will it take for folks to awaken to the reality of their self/ecological multilation?

Related Story

A Maine Farmer Speaks

Related Video

Fresh

By Robbie Cummins @ Common Dreams:

“I have not spoken to one farmer who doesn’t understand the message of Occupy Wall Street, the message that so many people keep saying is nebulous. It’s very clear. Because of business and corporate participation in agriculture, farmers are losing their livelihoods…  And if it goes on like this, all we’re going to have to eat in this country is unregulated, imported, genetically modified produce. That’s not a healthy food system.”  Jim Gerritsen, a Maine organic farmer.

“A Farmer Speaks to Wall Street,” The New York Times, December 5, 2011

For the first time since the late-1960s, the American elite and their indentured politicians are losing legitimacy, part of a deepening global crisis that is simultaneously political, economic, and ecological. In the powerful wake of the 2011 Arab Spring, the European Summer of the Indignados (the indignant ones), and the Occupy Wall Street movement, rebellion is in the air. As protestors in New York put it “The one thing we all have in common is that we are the 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.”

Across the U.S. and planet, the corporate elite is under attack. An emerging army of indignados are starting to act on the premise that minor policy adjustments in corporate boardrooms, or a cosmetic reshuffling of faces in Washington, are not enough. What the Earth and the 99% underclass need, including consumers and farmers, is a grassroots revolution—a fundamental transfer of power from the corporatocracy to the people. What is required in the face of economic meltdown, deteriorating public health, and climate disaster is a full-scale mutiny on the USA Titanic, a radical change of course before the 21st Century suicide economy of Wall Street and Corporate America puts an end to the human species and life on Earth.

Perhaps the first order of business on the USA Titanic is to stop stuffing money in the pockets of the greedy 1% who are steering us toward disaster. This is why a million consumers, and thousands of community organizations, unions, and churches, have started to strike back against the “banksters,” staging sit-ins and protests and moving billions of dollars out of Wall Street and the big banks into community credit unions and local banks. As the internet campaign http://moveyourmoneyproject.org proclaims, it’s time to “invest in Main Street, not Wall Street, and to lend a hand to local businesses.”

Following a similar trajectory a debtors’ campaign is gathering steam among students and ex-students to stop paying their onerous student loans, which now total one trillion dollars, and demand the implementation of a federal program of free college tuition and jobs for youth and the unemployed. Approximately 11% of student loans in the U.S. are already in arrears. Similarly millions of Americans are turning away from Big Pharma’s drug pushers and embracing holistic, preventive medicine.

The time has come for America’s 300 million food consumers to join the mutiny. Our trillion dollar food and farming System has been corrupted and manipulated by Wall Street, Corporate Agribusiness, and Big Food Inc. into what can only be described as a weapon of mass destruction, severely damaging public health, the environment, and the climate; torturing animals in filthy, disease-ridden factory farms; exploiting immigrant farm workers and food industry workers; and destroying the livelihoods of small farmers and rural communities.

As the first official Declaration of Occupy Wall Street explained on September 29: “They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization…”

Food Democracy or Corporatocracy?

Did you ever vote to allow corporate agribusiness to spray a billion pounds of toxic pesticides, and dump 24 billion pounds of climate-destabilizing chemical fertilizers on U.S. crops and farmlands every year? Did you give the OK for factory farms, so-called Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), to feed billions of hapless creatures massive amounts of genetically engineered grain, antibiotics, hormones, steroids, blood, manure, and slaughterhouse waste? Did you give Monsanto, Dow, and Dupont permission to “modify” so-called “conventional” supermarket, school cafeteria, and restaurant food with genetically engineered bacteria, viruses, foreign DNA, and antibiotic-resistant genes? Did you sign a permission slip for the USDA or your local school system to feed students, including your children, greasy, fatty, unhealthy, chemical food in the cafeteria?

If we intend to break the stranglehold of the corporatocracy over the economy, including what and how American farmers grow and what most people eat, it’s time to stand up. If we believe that a healthy, organic, and equitable system of food and farming are essential to our health and the health of the planet, we need to think twice before we pull out our wallets at the supermarket or sit down for a meal in a restaurant or a fast food joint. Do you want to be supersized by Monsanto, Wal-Mart, or McDonald’s, and allow biotechnocrats, factory farms, and chemical food manufacturers to dictate your food choices?

It’s time to vote with our food dollars at the grocery check-out aisle. It’s time to rein in elected public officials who take money from corporate agribusiness and Monsanto in the voting booth. It’s time for the Great Boycott of Big Food Inc., and a culinary strike against all of their chemical, genetically engineered, sugar, and fat-laden processed foods and beverages. It’s time to put the fat cats on a diet, shrink the profits of Wall Street, and drastically reduce the collateral damage of chemical agribusiness, Big Box food stores, and billion dollar junk food restaurants. It’s time to Occupy our food chains, kitchens, lunchrooms, and school cafeterias, and transform our $30 billion local and organic food and farming system from being the niche alternative to being the norm in the nation’s trillion dollar food economy.

The good news is that most people already know that chemical food is bad for them, bad for their children, and bad for the environment. No one wants to eat Big Ag or Big Biotech’s pesticide residues, antibiotics, hormones, or feces-tainted meat. No one is enthusiastic about food that has been irradiated, genetically engineered, or grown with municipal sewage sludge. A recent national poll found that 54% of Americans prefer organic food, especially locally-produced organic food. Millions say they’d buy more organic products if only they had a decent paying job, or less mortgage, medical, or school loan debt. That’s partly why millions of us are becoming backyard organic gardeners, or small “market farmers” growing our own. That’s why a new generation of food lovers and health addicts are swearing off corporate food and marching to the kitchen, cooking from scratch and celebrating the joys of home-cooked fare with our friends and our families.

Millions of us are starting to break the chains of corporate control in our lives, by supporting organic, fair made, and locally produced products and businesses.

Tired of the quality and range of our daily essentials being dictated and degraded by a powerful network of Brand Name Bullies and Big Box chains? Tired of profit-at-any cost, Wall Street-traded corporations “outsourcing” from sweatshops in the factories and fields, cutting corners on public health and the environment, and sucking up billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies? “Basta,” enough already.

So make your pledge today to put the fat cats on a diet. Buy organic and fair made/fair trade products, preferably locally produced. Boycott factory farmed meat and animal products. Eat more raw food, dairy, and vegetables. And if you can, start growing some of your own, even if for now, your “garden” on consists of potted herbs or tomatoes on your window sill or a sprout-making machine in your kitchen. And finally keep in mind that where you buy a healthy, sustainable product has a very large impact on the economy, the environment, and climate stability. Do you really want to buy your organic food or your fair trade coffee from a multi-billion dollar corporation like Wal-Mart, Safeway, Starbucks, or even Whole Foods Market and Trader Joes?

ConAgra Sued Over GMO ’100% Natural’ Cooking Oils

In Uncategorized on August 24, 2011 at 3:41 pm


Oldspeak:
According to the Center for Food Safety: “upwards of 70 percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves — from soda to soup, crackers to condiments — contain genetically-engineered ingredients.” While it’s unclear how many of these products also claim to be natural, given all the greenwashing going on these days, it’s likely to number in the thousands.  Specifically, up to 85 percent of U.S. corn is genetically engineered as are 91 percent of soybeans, both extremely common ingredients in processed foods. Numerous groups including the Center for Food Safety have been calling attention to the potential hazards of GMOs for years. From their websiteA number of studies over the past decade have revealed that genetically engineered foods can pose serious risks to humans, domesticated animals, wildlife and the environment. Human health effects can include higher risks of toxicity, allergenicity, antibiotic resistance, immune-suppression and cancer.” -Michelle Simon. Fully 91% of the U.S. food supply is contaminated with artificially created substances known to cause rises in food allergies, diabetes, obesity, autism,  immune system dysfunction, asthma, cancer and heart disease, low birth-weight babies , and infant mortality. And it’s knowingly being passed off as “natural”. Why the need to hide its presence? Why object to truth in labeling efforts? The goal is to get you to believe that the frankenfood your eating is real. That it’s good for you. That it’s not making you sick. People have to begin rejecting it en masse for changes, like those that have taken place in other countries, to happen here. Spread the word about its dangers, to everyone you know an encourage them to limit their consumption of it. Knowledge is Power.”

By Michelle Simon @ Food Safety News: 

If you use Wesson brand cooking oils, you may be able to join a class action against food giant ConAgra for deceptively marketing the products as natural.
These days it’s hard to walk down a supermarket aisle without bumping into a food product that claims to be “all-natural.” If you’ve ever wondered how even some junk food products can claim this moniker (witness: Cheetos Natural Puff White Cheddar Cheese Flavored Snacks - doesn’t that sound like it came straight from your garden?) the answer is simple if illogical: the Food and Drug Administration has not defined the term natural.

So food marketers, knowing that many shoppers are increasingly concerned about healthful eating, figured: why not just slap the natural label on anything we can get away with? That wishful thinking may soon be coming to an end if a few clever consumer lawyers have anything to say about it.

While various lawsuits have been filed in recent years claiming that food companies using the term natural are engaging in deceptive marketing, a suit filed in June in California against ConAgra could make the entire industrial food complex shake in its boots.

The plaintiff claims he relied on Wesson oils “100% natural” label, when the products are actually made from genetically modified organisms.

GMOs Not Exactly Natural, So Says Monsanto

Ironically, the complaint cites a definition of GMOs by none other than Monsanto, the company most notorious for its promotion of the technology. According to Monsanto, GMOs are: “Plants or animals that have had their genetic makeup altered to exhibit traits that are not naturally theirs.”

The complaint also quotes a GMO definition from the World Health Organization: “Organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally.”
Four Wesson varieties are implicated in the case: Canola Oil, Vegetable Oil, Corn Oil, and Best Blend. And it’s not just on the label that ConAgra is using the natural claim, but also online and in print advertisements. (Additional silly health claims on the website include “cholesterol free”–vegetable oils couldn’t possibly contain cholesterol anyway.)

The complaint describes the extent of ConAgra’s deception, alleging the “labels are intended to evoke a natural, wholesome product.” And further:

The “100% Natural” statement is, like much of the label on Wesson Oils, displayed in vibrant green. The “Wesson” name is haloed by the image of the sun, and the Canola Oil features a picture of a green heart.

A green heart — you just can’t get any healthier than that. However, as registered dietitian Andy Bellatti told me: “These oils are high in omega 6 fatty acids, which in excessive amounts are actually bad for your heart.” Guess they left that part out of the green heart icon.

Supermarkets Chock-full of GMOs

But what makes this lawsuit especially intriguing is its potentially far-ranging impact. According to the Center for Food Safety: “upwards of 70 percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves — from soda to soup, crackers to condiments — contain genetically-engineered ingredients.” While it’s unclear how many of these products also claim to be natural, given all the greenwashing going on these days, it’s likely to number in the thousands.

Specifically, up to 85 percent of U.S. corn is genetically engineered as are 91 percent of soybeans, both extremely common ingredients in processed foods. Numerous groups including the Center for Food Safety have been calling attention to the potential hazards of GMOs for years. From their website:

A number of studies over the past decade have revealed that genetically engineered foods can pose serious risks to humans, domesticated animals, wildlife and the environment. Human health effects can include higher risks of toxicity, allergenicity, antibiotic resistance, immune-suppression and cancer.

Not exactly the stuff that green hearts are made of. The legal complaint also notes that on its corporate website (“but not on the Wesson site that consumers are more likely to visit”), ConAgra implies that its oils are genetically engineered. The company concludes: “Ultimately, consumers will decide what is acceptable in the marketplace based on the best science and public information available.”

But by being told the oils are “100% natural,” consumers can no longer make an informed decision as they are being misled.

Which reminds me of a great quote from Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser: “If they have to put the word ‘natural’ on a box to convince you, it probably isn’t.”

————————-

Michele Simon is a public health lawyer specializing in industry marketing and lobbying tactics. She is the author of Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back, and research and policy director at Marin Institute, an alcohol industry watchdog group.

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.

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

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Oldspeak: “Burt’s Bees; owed by Clorox. Tom’s of Maine; Owned by Colgate-Palmolive. Kashi Cereals; Owned by Kellogg’s. Naked Juice; owned by PepsiCo. The Body Shop; owned by L’oreal/Nestle. Most all “Naturally Produced Spring Water”  is actually corporate owned tap water. Deliberately deceptive ‘Marketing strategies have been fooling us to trust that the niche brands continue to be small, environmentally conscious businesses that combine ecologically sound practices with a political agenda to put products out on the market under a business model of “the Greater Good.” In fact, they are frequently cogs in the giant corporate wheel.‘ –  Andrea Whitfill Most all socially conscious, environmentally friendly brands are now nothing more than revenue streams for profit-hungry Megaconglomorates. The commons, social, environmental, political, media, have been commoditized and privatized. Is there no way to escape giving our hard-earned dollars to the decidedly anti-social, anti-environmentally friendly entities that are destroying and exploiting our planet and peoples alike? But I guess the fundamental Catch 22 question as discussed in the article is this: “If you want to change what people consume on a grand scale, you have to penetrate mass markets. ‘And you can’t do that if you’re a small, specialist brand stuck in the organic or whole-food niche, even if that means you are on supermarket shelves. It is a familiar dilemma: stay pure and have a big impact on a small scale, or compromise and have a small impact on a grand scale.’ -Roger Cowe

By Andrea Whitfill @ Alter Net:

My first introduction to natural, organic and eco-friendly products stems back to the early ’90s, when I stumbled upon Burt’s Bees lip balm at an independently owned health food store in the heart of Westport, Kansas City, Mo.

Before the eyesore invasion of ’98, when Starbucks frothed its way into the neighborhood, leading to its ultimate demise, Westport was the kind of  ‘hood I still yearn for. It was saturated with historically preserved, hip and funky, mom-and-pop-type establishments, delivering their goods people to people.

I was surprised more recently when I saw Burt’s Bees products everywhere — in grocery stores, drug stores, corner bodegas and big-box stores like Target and Wal-Mart. I thought to myself, fantastic; the marketplace is working, and good for Burt. He has made his mark, and the demand for his products is on the rise.

Needless to say, I was shocked when I recently found out that Burt’s Bees is now owned by Clorox, a massive corporate company that has historically cared very little about the environment, but whose main industry is directly associated with harmful chemicals, some of which require warning labels for legal sale.

Clorox; yes, that’s right — the bleach company with an estimated revenue of $ 4.8 billion that employs nearly 7,600 workers (now bees) and sells products like Liquid-Plumr, Pine-Sol and Armor All, a far cry from the origins of Burt.

I now understood. The reason Burt’s Bees products were everywhere was precisely because they now had a powerful corporation in the driver’s seat, with big marketing budgets and existing distribution systems.

The story of Burt is a charming one gone bad. Burt Shavitz, a beekeeper in Dexter, Maine, lived an extremely humble life selling honey in pickle jars from the back of his pickup truck and resided in the wilderness inside a turkey coop without running water or electricity.

In the summer of 1984, Shavitz was driving down the road and spotted a hitchhiker who needed a lift to the post office. He pulled over and picked up Roxanne Quimby, a 34-year-old woman who eventually became Shavitz’s lover and business partner. Quimby started helping him tend to the beehives, and that eventually led to the all natural-inspired health care products made with Shavitz’s honey and the birth of Burt’s Bees products.

Burt’s story and very powerful narrative gave Burt’s Bees products their legitimacy in my book. Creative entrepreneurs and knowledgeable consumers together working their magic; not the results of a corporate behemoth out to dominate the marketplace.

However, Quimby and Shavitz’s relationship became ‘sticky’ in the late ’90s for reasons unclear, yet probably having little to do with honey. Their romantic break up carried over to the split of their business partnership as well. In 1999, Quimby bought out Shavitz’s shares of the company for a small six-figure sum. Quimby then continued, becoming phenomenally successfully and growing sales to $43.5 million by 2002.

In 2003, a private equity firm, AEA investors, purchased 80 percent of Burt’s Bees from Quimby, with her retaining a 20 percent share and a seat on the board. In 2006, John Replogle, the former general manager of Unilever’s skin-care division became CEO and president of Burt’s Bees. The company was sold to Clorox in late October 2007 for $925 million.

Quimby was paid more than $300 million for her stake in Burt’s Bees. At the time of that deal, Shavitz reportedly demanded more money, and Quimby agreed to pay him $4 million. Quimby now refurbishes fancy, swank homes in Florida, travels the world and buys massive chunks of land in her free time. Our bearded man Shavitz, on the other hand, now 73 and unchanged, continues to reside amidst nature in his now-expanded turkey coop, which still remains absent of electricity or running water.

The Burt’s Bees story is disconcerting. I vaguely remembered long ago that one of my favorite ice cream products, Ben & Jerry’s, sold out. Unilever (which also owns Breyers), the giant conglomerate with an estimated market cap of $50 billion and close to 174,000 employees, bought Ben & Jerry’s in 2000 for $326 million.

I began to wonder about the other products I liked, trusted and respected for their independence and their social responsibility. How many were really owned by big corporations, who were going out of their way to hide the link between the big corporate company with the small, socially responsible brand? It didn’t take long for my list of disappointments to grow and grow.

Upon first meeting someone, I can usually tell a quite a lot about them by the contents of their bathroom. The brand I see most often behind medicine cabinets of people I consider to be environmentally conscious is Tom’s of Maine. What Tom’s says to me about the person is that they are willing to spend a little bit of extra cash in order to take proactive steps to help green the Earth.

Well, no more. My bathroom assessments will never be the same. Tom’s of Maine is owned by Colgate-Palmolive, a massive, tank-like company with an estimated 36,000 employees and revenue of approximately $11.4 billion. Its big products include: Ajax, Anbesol and Speedstick.

I am only left to wonder, is Trader Joe’s, popularly known to showcase Tom’s of Maine in its hygiene department, just as much in the dark about all of this as I have been? Or is Joe’s simply another conduit for big corporate products?

As my curiosity grew, I took a little field trip to the grocery store with one of my friends to be a “brand anthropologist.” “Let’s get to the bottom of this,” I said, aiming to check out all of the brands that I and countless other good consumers were buying in our efforts to support grassroots business and not corporate behemoths. Little did I know how deep the hole was going to be, and in some cases, how hard to find out who owns what.

Thinking Dairy

In the dairy section sit many flavors of Stoneyfield Farm Yogurt. I knew its socially conscious CEO, Gary Hirshberg, had created major organic brand recognition to become the No. 1 seller of organic yogurt in the United States, but since then Danone, the French conglomerate (which also owns Brown Cow), acquired a majority holding in Stoneyfield. This is the same Danone that had to recall large quantities of its yogurt in 2007 after it was found to contain unsafe levels of dioxins. (In an interesting twist, the still-active Hirshberg sits on the board of Dannon U.S.A. Unlike most of the early entrepreneurs, who took the dough and left the scene, Hirshberg is still involved. )

Meanwhile, I learned that Horizon Organic milk was bought out by the largest dairy company in the U.S., Dean Foods Co., in 2005.

Thirsty? Juices and Water

Next I ventured to the juice section. Drinking Odwalla juices was an expensive habit I had justified for years because of its healthy California brand. The ubiquitous refrigerators in thousands of stores should have given it away that Odwalla wasn’t the small company it once was. It is now owned by Coca-Cola. Almost as soon as Coca-Cola bought the company, back in 2001 for $181 million, it stopped selling the fresh-squeezed OJ that had made Odwalla famous and popular among the healthy set. With its massive distribution system, fresh squeezed wouldn’t last the days and weeks the juices are in transit or on the shelf.

Not to be outdone (although it took it a while), Pepsi bought Naked Juice in 2006 for $450 million, in order to compete with Odwalla. Smuckers, the brand we are told is the “brand we can trust”, grabbed several juice mainstays from the health food store shelves: After the fall — R.W. Knudsen and Santa Cruz Organic.

Turns out that Coca-Cola also owns Glaceau, the company once known for its “fresh new approach to bottled water that is inspired by nature and enhanced by science.” Glaceau is the maker of Vitamin Water, Fruit Water, Smart Water and Vitamin Energy — all bottled waters that are adorably marketed and loaded with sugar. It’s no wonder Coca-Cola was slapped with a lawsuit in 2006 for making deceptive and unsubstantiated health claims in its Vitamin Water marketing strategies; they are selling glorified sugar water.

As for bottled water, egads! That’s a whole article in and of itself. The scourge of bottled water, of course, is an environmental disaster on many levels, as corporations have moved in to take control of water local supplies, while some of the same companies and their mega advertising budgets have created a giant market for bottled water, with enormous waste from plastic bottles and giant carbon foot prints as water is shipped over many thousands of miles from Fiji for example, or Italy, when pretty much no bottled water is needed. Frequently, tap water is of higher quality and more closely tested than bottled water.

And as Michael Blanding notes on AlterNet, “In fact, many times bottled water is tap water. Contrary to the image of water flowing from pristine mountain springs, more than a quarter of bottled water actually comes from municipal water supplies. The industry is dominated by three companies, who together control more than half the market: Coca-Cola, which produces Dasani; Pepsi, which produces Aquafina; and Nestle, which produces several “local” brands, including Poland Spring, Arrowhead, Deer Park, Ozarka and Calistoga. Both Coke and Pepsi exclusively use tap water for their sources, while Nestle uses tap water in some brands.

The Breakfast Nook

Over in the breakfast aisle, my friend was a bit apoplectic when we learned that the “super healthy” Kashi cereals, the favorites of millions of healthy breakfast eaters, was bought in July 2000 for an “undisclosed sum” by Kellogg’s, the 12th-largest company in North American food sales, according to Food Processing. I picked up a box of Kashi’s “Go Lean Crunch” and searched every word; not one mention of the fact that Kellogg’s owns them. That change was rally below the radar. In 2004, Kraft Foods, known for processed cheeses and Kool-Aid, bought the natural cereal maker Back to Nature. Kraft is a subsidiary of Altria, which also owns Philip Morris USA, one of the world’s largest producers of cigarettes.

According to the New York Times, “Many of the alternative cereal brands are owned by larger companies, including Kellogg and General Mills.”

“Cereals, like milk, are one of the primary entrance points for use of organics,” said Lara Christenson of Spins, a market research group for the natural products industry, “which is pretty closely tied to children — health concerns, keeping pesticides, especially antibiotics, out of the diets of children. These large firms wanted to get a foothold in the natural and organic marketplace. Because of the mind-set of consumers, branding of these products has to be very different than traditional cereals.”

These corporate connections are often kept quiet. “There is frequently a backlash when a big cereal package-goods company buys a natural or organic company,” Christenson said. “I don’t want to say it’s manipulative, but consumers are led to believe these brands are pure, natural or organic brands. It’s very purposely done.”

A little more digging shows that General Mills owns Cascadian Farm; Barbara’s Bakery is owned by Weetabix, the leading British cereal company, which is owned by a private investment firm in England; Mother’s makes it clear that it is owned by Quaker Oats (which is owned by PepsiCo); Health Valley and Arrowhead Mills are owned by Hain Celestial Group, a natural food company traded on the NASDAQ, with H.J. Heinz owning 16 percent of that company.

The Sweet Tooth

After the Kashi news, I wondered what was next? I didn’t have to go any further than the organic chocolate aisle of my favorite deli to find Green and Black’s organic chocolate was taken over in 2005 by Schweppes, the 10th-largest company in North American packaged-food sales. And even more surprising to chocolate lovers is that Dagoba Chocolate, which had a little cult chocolate following for a while, is surprise, surprise, owned by Hershey Foods.

There seems to be an apt analogy between the huge growth in the “naturalization” of packaged goods in grocery stores and supermarket aisles and the massive transformation of organic fresh foods. Organic farming began as a grassroots movement to produce food that was healthier and better for the land. But it is now a huge, $20 billion industry, increasingly dominated by large agribusiness companies. Furthermore, when the government certifies food as “organic,” it has nothing to do with the original values of locally grown produce, workers being treated fairly, etc.

So it may cheer some to know that on the East Coast, McDonald’s has served fair-trade-certified Newman’s Own organic coffee in stores, while others may cringe at the words of Lee Scott, former CEO of WalMart, when he said, “We are particularly excited about organic food, the fastest-growing category in all of food.”

“What’s important to keep in mind is that these big corporations are getting into organics not because they have doubts about their prior business practices or doubts about chemical, industrial agriculture,” said Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association. “They’re getting in because they want to make a lot of money — they want to make it fast.” He said the companies couldn’t care less about “family farmers making the transition to organic farms.”

What does this all mean? One conclusion it is easy to come to is that big food companies and the stores and supermarkets that deliver their goods have stretched and abused descriptions of food until they are sometimes almost meaningless, and consumers believe that they are getting more benefits than they actually are. Consumers “walk down the aisle in the grocery stores’ health and beauty area, and they’re confronted with ‘natural’ at every turn,” says Daniel Fabricant, vice president for scientific and regulatory affairs at the Natural Products Association. “We just don’t want to see the term misused any longer.”

On the other hand, Roger Cowe, a financial commentator states: “If you want to change what people consume on a grand scale, you have to penetrate mass markets. And you can’t do that if you’re a small, specialist brand stuck in the organic or whole-food niche, even if that means you are on supermarket shelves. It is a familiar dilemma: stay pure and have a big impact on a small scale, or compromise and have a small impact on a grand scale.”

Some think that socially responsible business sellers don’t lose it all when selling out. Both Craig Sams from Green and Black chocolate and the late Anita Roddick from the Body Shop ( sold to L’Oreal/Nestle — one of the most vilified of multinational companies) have said that they believe that an acquired ethical company can influence its new parent to improve its corporate behavior.

Others are not so positive about this turn of events. Judy Wickes from the Social Venture Network describes corporate takeovers of socially responsible businesses as “a threat to democracy when wealth and power are concentrated into a few hands.” And David Korten, in his book,When Corporations Rule the World, explained how sustainable business “should be human scale — not necessarily tiny firms, but preferably not more than 500 people — always with a bias to smaller is better.”

It is clear that so-called organic brands are a rapidly growing portion of the consumer dollar, and that every major food corporation has invested deeply in buying these already-established brands.

Marketing strategies have been fooling us to trust that the niche brands continue to be small, environmentally conscious businesses that combine ecologically sound practices with a political agenda to put products out on the market under a business model of “the Greater Good.”

In fact, they are frequently cogs in the giant corporate wheel. I like to refer to this “other” business model as “We’ve Been Had.” It is time for we, the consumer, to question how much the ownership and neglectful marketing of these “pseudo” responsible brands warrant crossing them off our shopping list.

And it is time to find products more in tune with our values, which include thinking small. At least until they, too, get bought out by some large conglomerate.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 398 other followers