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

Posts Tagged ‘Big Food’

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

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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?

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; owned 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 commodified and corporatized. 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.

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

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

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

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

By Ethan A. Huff @ Natural News:

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

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

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

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

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

Related Stories:

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

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

The Soy And Other ‘Natural’ Food Products In Your Kitchen May Contain A Dangerous Neurotoxin

In Uncategorized on January 3, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Oldspeak:“All too often it’s the companies playing the “natural” card that are doing the most unnatural things to your food. Hexane is toxic waste product of gasoline production,  a highly flammable EPA-listed air pollutant that is used in the manufacture of cleaning agents, glues, roof sealer, automobile tires, energy bars, veggie burgers, and soy, corn, and canola oils. Big Oil exploiting yet another revenue stream at the expense of public health. Monsanto, (conincidentally controls 93% of the soybean market) profits greatly from the widespread use of nerotoxin laden soy lecithin and other soy products in our food supply. Big Food profits from widespread consumption of cheaply produced, nutrient-deficient food. Big Pharma profits from the explosion in neurological disorders in part driven by the widespread consumption of processed food. Yet another uncontrolled experiment conducted on the human populace.

From Ari LeVaux @ Alter Net:

Food purists often fuss about the inadequacies of USDA’s organic food standards, how pitifully watered down they are from the lofty principles that built the organic movement. They have a point. After all, the USDA’s National Organic Program was created to deal with the big agribusinesses determined to exploit the lucrative organic market. But for all the complaints about federal organic standards, the non-certified alternatives — with some foods especially — can be downright scary.

It’s ironic that many of the scariest, non-certified organic foods are labeled “natural” — a term that could not mean less, or mislead more. Like “home-style” or “old-fashioned,” the label “natural” can mean whatever the labeler wants it to mean. You could put “natural” on a lab-grade jar of MSG crystals, or on a packet of 10-year-old Twinkies, without violating any law. And all too often it’s the companies playing the “natural” card that are doing the most unnatural things to your food.

Consider the widespread use of hexane, a neurotoxin, in processed foods that aren’t certified organic (those lame organic standards do at least prohibit hexane use). Hexane is a highly flammable EPA-listed air pollutant that is used in the manufacture of cleaning agents, glues, roof sealer, automobile tires, energy bars, veggie burgers, and soy, corn, and canola oils. If these food products are not certified organic, some of the ingredients have probably been processed with hexane, no matter how many times the word “natural” is stamped on the package. Since hexane is used in the manufacturing process, it’s not listed as an ingredient in the foods it helps produce, though residues find their way into the finished product. The European Union has strict standards for acceptable hexane residue levels in soy and oilseed products, but in the U.S., there are no such limits.

The organic watchdog group Cornucopia Institute arranged for a lab to test samples of U.S. soy products for hexane content. Hexane was found, in levels as high as 21 parts per million — more than twice the 10 ppm allowed by the EU in comparable products.

Technology and Solvents for Extracting Oilseeds and Nonpetroleum Oils is a manual for managers and engineers. According to this book, published in 1997, the principle reason that hexane has been the solvent of choice for oilseed extraction since the 1930s is “its availability at a reasonable cost.”

The reason hexane is so reasonably priced is that it’s a byproduct of gasoline production that would otherwise be expensive to dispose of properly. Petroleum companies gain handsomely from the fact that industrial oilseed extraction — under status quo production methods since the 1930s — provides a profitable market for its toxic waste. Oilseed extraction is currently responsible for more than two thirds of hexane use nationwide. Not surprisingly, much of the research cited in the book is funded by the likes of Exxon and Phillips Petroleum.

A chapter devoted to “Toxicity Data for Commercial Hexane” appears to give serious consideration to concerns about hexane’s impact on human health, while presenting no evidence that such concerns have been seriously investigated. The chapter explains that “commercial hexane,” the type used to extract oilseeds, is a mix of petrochemicals. One of these, n-hexane, which composes more than 50 percent of commercial hexane, has been shown to be a neurotoxin.

The chapter acknowledges that humans are about four times as sensitive as rats to n-hexane, especially over prolonged exposures. Nonetheless, in the very next paragraph it’s revealed that only one acute neurotoxicity study was considered. The study evaluated the ability of rats to retain a learned behavior immediately following inhalation of commercial hexane, and 1 and 2 days later. That’s like conducting a carcinogen trial that only monitors the subjects for signs of cancer in the two days following exposure. The chapter concludes that “commercial hexane is a relatively safe chemical,” despite the fact that it consists mostly of a known neurotoxin.

Hexane-extracted soy protein, a favorite of vegetarians and body builders, turns up in some unexpected places, according to the November Cornucopia Institute report on ways that soy proteins and chemical solvents intermingle in nutrition bars and meat alternatives.

Popular protein bars like Clif, Mojo, Balance, and Luna all contain hexane-processed soy, according to the report, as do Boca veggie burgers, Gardenburger products, Trader Joe’s veggie burgers, and many more.

Because the supply chain of many soy-containing products is long and complex, companies have some wiggle room in how they respond to inquiries from concerned consumers. According to Cornucopia, companies that make soy-based food products have responded to inquiries about hexane with answers like “Our soy ingredients are not hexane-derived” and “[Our company] does not use hexane to process soybeans.”

Both answers are worded to give the impression that the product did not come into contact with hexane. But in the first sentence, “hexane-derived” actually means “created from” hexane, rather than “treated with.” And the latter claim leaves open the possibility that the company’s supplier did the hexane-laced dirty work. I got a similar answer when I contacted Dean Foods, which owns White Wave, the company that makes Silk Soymilk: “Silk does not use hexane in the manufacturing of any of our products.”

According to the Cornucopia Institute, Silk’s non-organic “Light” and “Heart Health” soymilk products are made with soy flour instead of whole soybeans, and the “only known” sources for non-organic soy flour involve hexane. Of course, it’s possible that White Wave has found a way to source its soy flour from hexane-free sources, which buys a measure of hope for Silk lovers who are concerned about hexane.

Soy products have been under fire from many directions for more than just the hexane issue. The heavily subsidized crop isn’t easily digested without some form of processing, and there are concerns that estrogen-like molecules in soy can mess with the human hormonal system. That’s why many consumers have switched from soy milk to other non-dairy milk substitutes, like almond milk. Nonetheless, another soy product, soy lecithin, manages to make its way into most of these alternatives. And guess what? Unless the product is organic, that soy lecithin was probably processed with hexane.


Ari LeVaux writes a syndicated weekly food column, Flash in the Pan.


The Looming Threat Of Industrial Pig, Dairy And Poultry Farms On Humans And The Environment

In Uncategorized on August 24, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Oldspeak:“I’d like more arsenic in my chicken please! 😐 Big Food/Agribusiness’ business practices are inherently dangerous and unsustainable. Much of the livestock americans consume comes from petri dishes of disease and misery a.k.a. factory farms. And noone is minding the store. As we’ve seen in the Banking and Energy industries, regulation via self-policing and the honor system = a recipe for disaster.”

From Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:


David Kirby, author of the book Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy and Poultry Farms on Humans and the Environment. Website: “AnimalFactoryBook.com”http://animalfactorybook.com

AMY GOODMAN: As we talk about the largest egg recall in US history, at this point half a billion eggs, our guest is David Kirby. His book is Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy and Poultry Farms on Humans and the Environment.

Actually, David, we keep saying half a billion eggs have been pulled off the shelves. How do we know they’re pulled off the shelves?

DAVID KIRBY: Apparently they haven’t all been pulled off the shelves, because they’re still warning people to check the numbers when they get the eggs home from the market. This is a voluntary recall, which just illustrates the point that I was making before. We need more regulations, and we need enforcement of the regulations. These companies are sel- policing, and they’re operating on the honor system. And consumers are obviously paying the price. Salmonella can make you very, very sick.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, we’re talking about more than thirty labels. You don’t see DeCoster. You know, you don’t—it’s not Hillandale. It’s not these—

DAVID KIRBY: These are market—usually under supermarket brand labels. A lot of these were sold to restaurants and food service operations, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about the two factory farms in Iowa, as an example, what they look like in the community.

DAVID KIRBY: These things, when you drive down the highway in Iowa, for example, you see them one after the other after the other. They’re often interspersed, poultry factory next to a hog factory, which of course increases the chance for interspecies mingling of influenza virus. If we thought swine flu was bad, we may get an avian swine flu hybrid from the close proximity of these factories. From the outside, they look fairly innocuous. You’ve probably seen them on TV, this row after row of those tall green buildings. It’s once you go inside that the horrors really become apparent.

These chickens are kept in tiny little cages stacked one on top of the other, crammed in by the hundreds of thousands—same with pigs, oftentimes same with dairy cattle, crammed in by the hundreds into small confinements where the air is foul. They have to pump clean air at one end, and at the other end they push out all of the odors and gases and bacteria and ammonia and viruses and even antibiotics out into the atmosphere. These are not clean or sustainable operations. And without proper regulations, these kinds of diseases will keep coming.

AMY GOODMAN: What is salmonella?

DAVID KIRBY: Salmonella is a bacteria that can get into the intestine. It can get in the bloodstream. If not treated, it can cause all kinds of horrible problems, including arthritis, and it can even kill people, if it’s not treated in time.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you know if you’re affected by it? I mean, we’ve been saying now around 1,300 people. They say none have died. What symptoms are they coming down with? And how is it that the chickens contract them—salmonella?

DAVID KIRBY: The symptoms are often masked as symptoms of flu, especially in the early stages, so people don’t even realize they have salmonella. And probably the case rate is much, much higher than what’s been reported. Usually persists longer than the average stomach flu, and the symptoms become more severe—cramps, diarrhea, fever, chills.

We still don’t know exactly how these chickens got the salmonella, but there’s widespread speculation either just from the filthy conditions in the barns or it was in the feed itself. And that’s something else that Americans don’t realize. We worry about what we eat, but we also need to worry about what we eat eats. And the quality of feed can be highly compromised in these factories, where the drive to lower costs and prices is so great, and the temptation to cut corners is there, and this is the result. And we have to remember that factory farming has produced not only salmonella, but also E. coli, also mad cow disease, also swine flu, I believe, and MRSA, the drug-resistant staph infection that now kills more Americans than AIDS.

AMY GOODMAN: You say, “Swine flu. Bird flu. Unusual concentrations of cancer and other diseases. Massive fish kills from flesh-eating parasites. Recalls of meats, vegetables, and fruits because of deadly E-coli bacterial contamination.” All as a result of animal factories, as you put them.

DAVID KIRBY: Correct. Now, those diseases could conceivably emerge in any farm, even the smallest, most sustainable farm, but they’re far more likely to emerge in these large industrial factories. And again, the scale is so much larger that when you have an outbreak, you have this massive problem that’s going to cost millions and millions of dollars, just in terms of the lost eggs and productivity.

And just to mention the workshops that you were mentioning earlier with the federal government, the Obama administration has vowed to try to even the playing field a little bit more, so that we have greater access to smaller, independently raised farms. And one way, I think, to do that is to address the subsidy issue. This farm got very cheap grain from a farmer who got millions, perhaps, of dollars in our money to lower the price of that feed. If DeCoster didn’t have access to that cheap feed, he wouldn’t be able to operate in this way, and that would provide greater access to the market for smaller producers.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain the significance of feed and what’s in it.

DAVID KIRBY: Well, feed is a huge issue. And for example, with the chickens that we eat, so-called broiler chickens, they often add arsenic into that feed to make the birds grow faster and to prevent intestinal diseases. Another thing we do in this country—


DAVID KIRBY: Arsenic, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Isn’t that poison?

DAVID KIRBY: It is poison. Yes, it is poison.

AMY GOODMAN: And how does it affect humans? I mean, the chickens eat the arsenic. Why do they grow faster?

DAVID KIRBY: They don’t know. No one knows. The theory is that when you poison a chicken, it gets sick, so it eats and drinks more, consumes more, to try to get the poison out of its body. That makes a chicken grow faster, and it prevents intestinal parasites. The risk to humans, there have been studies done, and they have found residue of arsenic in some chickens. The real threat is in the litter that comes out the other end of the chicken. When that gets spread on farmland, people breathe in that arsenic dust. And there’s a town in Arkansas where cancer rates are just through the roof. There’s been over twenty pediatric cases in this tiny town of Prairie Grove with just a couple of thousand people.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to Arkansas. Don’t—let’s not shortcut this, because you have a very interesting book, where you look at families in several different communities. Arkansas—describe what are the animal factories that are there and what happens to the people in the community.

DAVID KIRBY: Most of them are so-called broiler operations. Tyson chicken is from Arkansas. The big operators, they’re in northwestern Arkansas. It’s just—it’s chicken country. And with consolidation, you’ve had the rise of these very large factory farms. And again, up until recently, Tyson was using this arsenic product in its feed, and the other companies were, as well. And around this little town of Prairie Grove, as an example, this stuff is dry spread—the litter is dry spread on the cropland. And where the school was—

AMY GOODMAN: You mean the chicken manure.

DAVID KIRBY: The chicken manure. And the dust has been found in the air filters of homes and schools in this town, and it’s been found with arsenic that has been traced back to the feed in the chicken.

Something else we feed chickens that people don’t realize is beef products. And when those chickens eat that beef product, some of it falls into their litter. Well, we produce so much chicken litter in this country, because of these factory farms, and it is so rich in phosphorus and nitrogen, its land application uses are limited. So you have surplus chicken litter and nothing to do with it. What do they do with it? They feed it to cattle. So we feed beef cows chicken crap. That chicken litter often contains bits and byproducts of cattle. So we are actually feeding cattle to cattle, which is a risk factor for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, better known as mad cow disease. We actually feed cattle products to cattle in three different ways: chicken litter, restaurant scraps, and blood products on dairy farms. And all the mad cow cases in this country came from mega-dairies where, when that calf is born, they remove it from its mother immediately, because that mother’s milk is a commodity, it’s worth money, so instead they feed that calf a formula that includes bovine blood products, and again increasing the risk of mad cow disease.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, that’s chicken factories. What about pig factories?

DAVID KIRBY: Pig factories, for me, were the hardest to witness and take in and see and hear and smell. Pigs are incredibly intelligent animals, about the same IQ as a three-year-old child, smarter than dogs. The breeding facilities, in particular, are just horrendous, where these pigs, these female sows, are kept in crates, gestation crates. They’re kept pregnant virtually their whole lives. And then, when they give birth, they’re moved into another crate where the piglets go under the bars so that the sow won’t crush the piglets. Their life is horrendous. And quite honestly, the piglets have it good, because they’re only going to live about four or five months before they go to slaughter. When you go into these facilities, they put the piglets in when they’re young, and by the time they’re done, they’re 250 pounds each, but they’re in the same space. So they’re now so big they can’t turn around. And I spent the night right across the street from a hog farm in Illinois kept up all night long—

AMY GOODMAN: Where in Illinois?

DAVID KIRBY: A little town outside of—I don’t remember, but not far from St. Louis in southwestern Illinois. Mendon. Mendon, Illinois. And at night, of course, people switch off the lights and leave. Nobody lives, typically, on a factory farm. It’s not a farm; it’s a factory. And the racket, the screaming and squealing and crying of these pigs that were obviously attacking each other and fighting and biting each other and just miserable, crammed together—they went on all night long. It sounded like a thousand children being tortured at once. It’s a sound I will never forget. And I saw and heard and smelled a lot in doing my research on this book.

AMY GOODMAN: And what happens to their manure?

DAVID KIRBY: Well, their manure is typically kept liquefied. In the Midwest, it’s kept in pits underneath where the pigs live. So they’re—when they defecate or urinate, it just goes right down into these pits, which of course creates huge amounts of ammonia and methane and hydrogen sulfide. If those fans were ever to break down, those pigs would die within minutes. That’s how bad it is. That then gets flushed out into these giant waste lagoons, and then it’s sprayed onto fields. And usually, very often, it’s overapplied. Again, these farmers operate on the honor system. They may file a manure plan with the state, but nobody is out there regulating them. And I’ve gone up in airplanes, both in the Midwest and in North Carolina, where the real hog factories are just crammed in one after another after another, and I’ve seen the spray fields, and I’ve seen those farmers out there spraying directly into creeks, applying so much of this brown water onto the fields that it pools up and you see the little rivlets and you see it running off into creeks, that bloom red, orange, purple and green with algae from all of the nutrients, and then that goes on to—we just saw a fish kill. That’s the number one cause of fish kills, including in the Gulf of Mexico every summer, a fish kill the size of New Jersey forms. That’s from agricultural runoff coming down the Mississippi River.

AMY GOODMAN: Wait, say that again. A fish kill the size of New Jersey forms where?

DAVID KIRBY: In the Gulf of Mexico, right off the coast of Louisiana, every summer. And it kills billions and billions of marine life. And we don’t hear about this. We hear about the Gulf spill. But this happens every year, and it’s almost entirely due—largely due to agricultural runoff in the Midwest.

AMY GOODMAN: CAFOs, what are they?

DAVID KIRBY: A CAFO is the government designation for what we call a factory farm, concentrated animal feeding operation. It’s any operation that has more than what’s called 1,000 animal units. An animal unit is a beef cow. So it takes about fifty pigs to make an animal unit, young pigs. And the whole idea is to feed these animals and to get them to market as quickly as possible. Nothing wrong with a farmer wanting to get their animals to market quickly, but it’s the method by which we do it. It’s the mechanization. It’s the feed additives. It’s the antibiotic use, which we haven’t talked about. It’s the conditions—

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about it.

DAVID KIRBY: Well, it’s a very serious problem, and the FDA has been very lax and, I would say, asleep at the wheel, and continues to, as Patty said, offer recommendations without putting down strict rules on the overuse of antibiotics.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, FDA Commissioner Hamburg says they have very little enforcement power, unless Congress gives them—

DAVID KIRBY: They have more than they claim, and they do have the courts. And we do have Congress, as well, and the administration. Barack Obama campaigned on a bill called PAMTA to ban the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics in agriculture. They give them these drugs for the same reason as arsenic: it makes the animals grow faster, and it prevents disease. It’s used as a prophylaxis against disease, but at subtherapeutic levels, so it allows the microbes to mutate and get around these drugs and become resistant. That’s why we see MRSA emerging. Three percent of US pork sampled had—fresh pork, had MRSA.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what MRSA is.

DAVID KIRBY: MRSA is a drug-resistant form of staph bacteria. It’s extremely—can be extremely dangerous. And it kills, like I said, more people than AIDS in this country. And lot of it is—a lot of it’s from overuse of antibiotics in hospitals, but 70 percent of the antibiotics sold in this country are given to farm animals. And a farmer can walk into the feed store and buy a big barrel of tetracycline or some antibiotic without even a prescription, and there’s just—there’s virtually no regulation at all. And it is leading to widespread antibiotic resistance that’s going to make salmonella look like a day at the beach, I’m afraid.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to David Kirby. His book is called Animal Factory. David, you not only talk about the crisis of corporate farming, but the people who are fighting back, like—well, describe the man in North Carolina—


AMY GOODMAN: —who’s taking on pig farming.

DAVID KIRBY: Sure. Yeah, my book is not really about animals, and it’s not even just about animal poop, although there’s a lot of poop in the book. It’s about the people who live near these farms, who have seen their communities overturned and, in times, destroyed, seen the water polluted, the air polluted, people like Rick Dove, who is a—comes from a very conservative Republic background. He’s a former Marine, retired colonel, a retired Marine, a JAG, moved his family to the Neuse River, which is a beautiful river in North Carolina, pristine. And then the hog factories came in, and the river started to die. This dinoflagellates called Pfiesteriastarted to appear. Rick was trying to operate a fishing business, and all of a sudden the fish were showing up dead with open sores on their sides. And the fishermen themselves were getting disoriented from the toxins being released by this protozoa. And Rick took it upon himself to—he went up in the air and saw these hog factories. And he’s still fighting them. He works with the Waterkeeper Alliance. And they are successfully suing a chicken company, Perdue, and a chicken grower in Maryland, and they’re suing some of the polluting hog farms down in North Carolina.

My other two main characters are Helen Reddout, who lives in the Yakima Valley of Washington, a cherry farmer, grandmother, and Karen Hudson, who lives in Elmwood, Illinois—all three sort of bedrock conservative Americans from small town, farmers, fishermen, not your typical environmental activists, but they have become leading national spokespeople against factory farming, because they’ve learned firsthand what’s happened. In Yakima Valley, because of the mega-dairies, the nitrate levels in the drinking water, in the groundwater, are so high, EPA—


DAVID KIRBY: From the cow manure. There’s so much cow manure being applied to the land, and the lagoons themselves tend to leak, that it’s getting into the groundwater, contaminating people’s wells. And nitrates can cause spontaneous abortions, diabetes, blue baby syndrome. It can aggravate autism symptoms, etc. And they are finding the levels are so high—the EPA now—they’re telling people not only to not drink your well water, but don’t even come in contact with your skin, don’t wash your hands with it. That’s how contaminated it is. And, of course, it’s always the poorest people who suffer the most, because they depend on well water.

AMY GOODMAN: Her home is covered in soot?

DAVID KIRBY: Well, it has been. It’s covered in odors. I describe the scene in the opening of the book. One summer night, she had the windows open and woke up, and she said it smelled like a thousand cows had crapped in her bed. And I hear this story over and over and over again. And that odor is unforgettable. And people run around trying to close all the windows in their house, but, of course, then you just end up trapping the odor in it. And the problem—odor was the number one problem everywhere I went. And it smells terrible, and it’s completely unpredictable. You have these clouds of hydrogen sulfide and methane and ammonia sort of blowing around. And if it blows in your direction, you may be outside on a summer day with your laundry, having a lunch outside, and you have to literally pick everything up and run inside. It’s the unpredictability of the odors. But when I came back from Yakima Valley—I went there two times—and also in the Central Valley of California, I came back with what they call manure flu, from just breathing in this stuff and the viruses and bacteria that’s contained in it. You get a mild fever, achy, chills. And it’s really—

AMY GOODMAN: How consolidated is the farm industry in this country?

DAVID KIRBY: Highly consolidated. I would say chickens were the first to become consolidated, and virtually every chicken you buy in the store comes from a factory farm. Now we have the egg industry. In the ’80s and ’90s, the hog industry became consolidated. Dairy industry has now largely become consolidated, with big exceptions. There’s still pasture-fed dairies, particularly in Wisconsin and Vermont. The beef industry is the least consolidated. Most beef growers are still independent operators who raise their cattle out on range, on pasture. But then, for the last two or three months of their lives, those cattle are sent to feed lots, which are essentially factory farms.

AMY GOODMAN: And now we have this latest news. Zemco Industries in Buffalo, New York, has recalled approximately 380,000 pounds of deli meat that may be contaminated with bacteria that can cause a potentially fatal disease. The products were distributed to Wal-Marts nationwide. The meats may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, which was discovered in a retail sample that was collected by inspectors in Georgia.

DAVID KIRBY: Yeah, that, to me, sounds more like a problem of processing than production. But processing is such a big key part of this story. I mentioned—and if we reduce antibiotic use in these factory farms, if we reduce the amount of subsidies they were getting, it would level the playing field between the big operators and the small operators. It’s the processing plants that are the final blockade. We have so few of them now that it’s harder for independent producers to get their products to market. But the other problem is, because we have so few processing plants and they’re so huge, that when you have a contamination issue like this, then all of a sudden tons—hundreds of thousands of tons of food is contaminated.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, farmers’ markets, community farms, family farms, do they stand a chance now? Describe the movement.

DAVID KIRBY: Well, from what I understand, you can’t find fresh eggs at the farmers’ market anymore. People are lining up to buy them. So this type of story only feeds demand for those things. Yes, of course, they can. And if we allow those operators—again, if we share some of these tax subsidies with them, if we ban antibiotics, if we create more processing plants so smaller producers can get into the market and get their product to market, that will level the playing field. That means we can bring prices of the smaller-produced items down. It may mean that the cheap stuff comes up a little bit and levels the playing field. So there’s great hope for independent producers.

AMY GOODMAN: David Kirby, I want to thank you for being with us. Animal Factory is his book, The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy and Poultry Farms on Humans and the Environment.

Genetically Modified Salmon Get Closer To The Table

In Uncategorized on July 5, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Oldspeak: “The Privatization of Food continues. Much of it with out public knowledge or comment.  The salmon’s approval would help open a path for corporations and corporate funded academic scientists developing other genetically engineered animals, like cattle resistant to mad cow disease or pigs that could supply “healthier” bacon. Next in line behind the salmon for possible approval would probably be the “enviropig,” developed at a Canadian university, which has less phosphorus pollution in its manure.”

From Andrew Pollack @ The New York Times:

The Food and Drug Administration is seriously considering whether to approve the first genetically engineered animal that people would eat — salmon that can grow at twice the normal rate.

The developer of the salmon has been trying to get approval for a decade. But the company now seems to have submitted most or all of the data the F.D.A. needs to analyze whether the salmon are safe to eat, nutritionally equivalent to other salmon and safe for the environment, according to government and biotechnology industry officials. A public meeting to discuss the salmon may be held as early as this fall.

Some consumer and environmental groups are likely to raise objections to approval. Even within the F.D.A., there has been a debate about whether the salmon should be labeled as genetically engineered (genetically engineered crops are not labeled).

The salmon was developed by a company called AquaBounty Technologies and would be raised in fish farms. It is an Atlantic salmon that contains a growth hormone gene from a Chinook salmon as well as a genetic on-switch from the ocean pout, a distant relative of the salmon.

Normally, salmon do not make growth hormone in cold weather. But the pout’s on-switch keeps production of the hormone going year round. The result is salmon that can grow to market size in 16 to 18 months instead of three years, though the company says the modified salmon will not end up any bigger than a conventional fish.

“You don’t get salmon the size of the Hindenburg,” said Ronald L. Stotish, the chief executive of AquaBounty. “You can get to those target weights in a shorter time.”

AquaBounty, which is based in Waltham, Mass., and publicly traded in London, said last week that the F.D.A. had signed off on five of the seven sets of data required to demonstrate that the fish was safe for consumption and for the environment. It said it demonstrated, for instance, that the inserted gene did not change through multiple generations and that the genetic engineering did not harm the animals.

“Perhaps in the next few months, we expect to see a final approval,” Mr. Stotish said.

But the company has been overly optimistic before.

He said it would take two or three years after approval for the salmon to reach supermarkets.

The F.D.A. confirmed it was reviewing the salmon but, because of confidentiality rules, would not comment further.

Under a policy announced in 2008, the F.D.A. is regulating genetically engineered animals as if they were veterinary drugs and using the rules for those drugs. And applications for approval of new drugs must be kept confidential by the agency.

Critics say the drug evaluation process does not allow full assessment of the possible environmental impacts of genetically altered animals and also blocks public input.

“There is no opportunity for anyone from the outside to see the data or criticize it,” said Margaret Mellon, director of the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. When consumer groups were invited to discuss biotechnology policy with top F.D.A. officials last month, Ms. Mellon said she warned the officials that approval of the salmon would generate “a firestorm of negative response.”

How consumers will react is not entirely clear. Some public opinion surveys have shown that Americans are more wary about genetically engineered animals than about the genetically engineered crops now used in a huge number of foods. But other polls suggest that many Americans would accept the animals if they offered environmental or nutritional benefits.

Mr. Stotish said the benefit of the fast-growing salmon would be to help supply the world’s food needs using fewer resources.

Government officials and industry executives say the F.D.A. is moving cautiously on the salmon. “It’s going to be a P. R. issue,” said one government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the issue.

Some of these government officials and executives said that F.D.A. officials had discussed internally whether the salmon could be labeled to give consumers the choice of avoiding them.

The government has in the past opposed mandatory labeling of foods from genetically engineered crops and animals merely because genetic engineering was used. Foods must be labeled, it says, only if they are different in their nutritional properties or other characteristics.

It would seem difficult for the government to change that policy. And experts say the administration may not have the legal authority to do so.

One possibility could be voluntary labeling by those who sell the fish.

Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, the principal deputy commissioner of the F.D.A., said in a statement: “Labeling is one of many issues involved with the review of genetically engineered animals for use in food. As has been publicly reported, the AquAdvantage Salmon is under review by the agency, and as we move forward, we will share information with the public.”

Mr. Stotish of AquaBounty said his company was not against voluntary labeling, but the matter was not in its hands because it would only be selling fish eggs to fish farms, not grown salmon to the supermarket.

He said the company had submitted data to the F.D.A. showing that its salmon was indistinguishable from nonengineered Atlantic salmon in terms of taste, color, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, proteins and other nutrients.

“Our fish is identical in every measurable way to the traditional food Atlantic salmon,” Mr. Stotish said. “If there’s no material difference, then it would be misleading to require labeling.”

Virtually all Atlantic salmon now comes from fish farms, not the wild.

The F.D.A. must also decide on the environmental risks from the salmon. Some experts have speculated that fast-growing fish could out-compete wild fish for food or mates.

Mr. Stotish said the salmon would be grown only in inland tanks or other contained facilities, not in ocean pens where they might escape into the wild. And the fish would all be female and sterile, making it impossible for them to mate.

The F.D.A. is expected to hold a public meeting of an advisory committee before deciding whether to approve the salmon. Typically at such advisory committee meetings, much of the data in support of the drug application is made public and there is some time allotted for public comment.

But Gregory Jaffe, biotechnology project director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said such meetings often do not give the public enough time to analyze the data.