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Posts Tagged ‘USDA’

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

 

 

Under Industry Pressure USDA Works To Speed Approval Of Monsanto’s Genetically Engineered Crops & Allow “Self-Regulation”

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Oldspeak:” ‘Under a new two-year pilot program at the USDA, regulators are training the world’s biggest biotech firms, including Monsanto, BASF and Syngenta, to conduct environmental reviews of their own transgenic seed products as part of the government’s deregulation process.’ –Mike Ludwig. It’s the equivalent of letting BP do their own Environmental Assessment of a new rig’ –Bill Freese, Center for Food Safety I don’t know what part of demostratably dangerous effects on humans, animals and the environment these people don’t understand. In one of the Bastions of GMO, Brazil a 2 headed baby was just born. I guess when this starts happening more regularly, people will start paying attention to the poison in their food, that has been shown to cause among many things birth defects. o_O “Ignorance Is Strength”

By Mike Ludwig @ Truthout

For years, biotech agriculture opponents have accused regulators of working too closely with big biotech firms when deregulating genetically engineered (GE) crops. Now, their worst fears could be coming true: under a new two-year pilot program at the USDA, regulators are training the world’s biggest biotech firms, including Monsanto, BASF and Syngenta, to conduct environmental reviews of their own transgenic seed products as part of the government’s deregulation process.

This would eliminate a critical level of oversight for the production of GE crops. Regulators are also testing new cost-sharing agreements that allow biotech firms to help pay private contractors to prepare mandatory environmental statements on GE plants the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is considering deregulating.

The USDA launched the pilot project in April and, in November, the USDA announced vague plans to “streamline” the deregulation petition process for GE organisms. A USDA spokesperson said the streamlining effort is not part of the pilot project, but both efforts appear to address a backlog of pending GE crop deregulation petitions that has angered big biotech firms seeking to rollout new products.

Documents obtained by Truthout under a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request reveal that biotech companies, lawmakers and industry groups have put mounting pressure on the USDA in recent years to speed up the petition process, limit environmental impact assessments and approve more GE crops. One group went as far as sending USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack a timeline of GE soybean development that reads like a deregulation wish list. [Clickhere and here to download and read some of the documents released to Truthout.]

The pilot program is named the NEPA Pilot Project, after the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which mandates that agencies prepare statements on the potential environmental impacts of proposed actions by the federal government, such as deregulating transgenic plants. On July 14, USDA officials held a training workshop to help representatives from biotech firms (see a full list here) to understand the NEPA process and prepare Environmental Reports on biotech products they have petitioned the USDA to deregulate.

Regulators can now independently review the Environmental Reports and can use them to prepare their own legally mandated reviews, instead of simply reviewing the company’s petitions for deregulation. The pilot project aims to speed up the deregulation process by allowing petitioning companies to do some of the legwork and help pay contractors to prepare regulatory documents and, for its part, the USDA has kept the pilot fairly transparent. Alist of 22 biotech seeds that could be reviewed under the pilot program includes Monsanto drought-tolerant corn, a “non-browning” apple, freeze tolerant eucalyptus trees and several crops engineered to tolerate the controversial herbicides glyphosate and 2,4 D.

Activists say biotech firms like Monsanto are concerned only with profit and routinely supply regulators with one-sided information on the risks their GE seeds – and the pesticides sprayed on and produced by them – pose to consumers, animals and the agricultural environment. (The Natural Society recently declared Monsanto the worst company of 2011.) Bill Freese, a policy expert with the Center for Food Safety (CFS), told Truthout that the NEPA pilot gives already powerful biotech companies too much influence over the review process.

“It’s the equivalent of letting BP do their own Environmental Assessment of a new rig,” Freese said.

Monsanto Goes to Court

Freese and the Center for Food Safety have been on the frontlines of the battle to reform the USDA’s regulatory approval process for GE crops. The group was a plaintiff in recent lawsuits challenging the deregulation – which basically means approval for planting without oversight – of Monsanto’s patented alfalfa and sugar beets that are genetically engineered to tolerate glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide. Farmers can spray entire fields of Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” crops with Roundup to kill unwanted weeds while sparing the GE crops, but in recent years, some weeds have developed a tolerance to glyphosate, Roundup’s active ingredient. The cases kept the crops out of America’s fields for years and prompted biotech companies to put heavy pressure on top USDA officials to streamline and speed up the deregulation process, practically setting the stage for the NEPA pilot underway today.

Under NEPA, agencies like the USDA must prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) to determine if the proposed action, such as deregulating a transgenic organism, would have an impact on the environment. If some type of significant impact is likely, the agency must then prepare a more in-depth Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to explore potential impacts and alternative actions. NEPA requires an EIS for actions “significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.” Preparing a full impact statement for a biotech plant implies the government does not think GE crops are safe and the biotech industry has routinely butted heads with environmentalists while attempting to convince regulators and consumers otherwise. In the Monsanto beets and alfalfa cases, the CFS and other plaintiffs argued that the USDA should have prepared an EIS, not just a simple EA, before deregulating both Monsanto crops.

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In the alfalfa case, the CFS and its co-plaintiffs claimed the crop could have significant impacts by crossbreeding and contaminating conventional and organic alfalfa with transgenes. They also argued the crop would increase the use of herbicides and promote the spread of herbicide-tolerant weeds known as “super weeds.” A federal district court agreed and vacated the USDA’s original approval, halting plantings across the country. Monsanto challenged the decision and the alfalfa case landed in the Supreme Court in 2010.  The high court overturned an injunction preventing farmers from planting the alfalfa, but also ordered the USDA to prepare an EIS and issue another deregulation decision. The sugar beet case ended in similar fashion and the USDA recently released a draft EIS on the crop, which is expected to be deregulated in early 2012.

Monsanto won the right to sell its GE alfalfa seed in February 2011, but the lengthy and expensive legal battle captured the attention of food lovers and agriculturalists across the country. Americans debated the potential dangers of GE crops and the merits of the regulatory system that is supposed to protect farmers and consumers. As documents unearthed by a Truthout FOIA request reveal, the biotech industry did not sit idly by as activists challenged the regulatory status quo.

Mounting Pressure

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) is a powerful group that represents dozens of biotech companies such as Monsanto, BASF and Bayer, and has spent more than $67 million lobbying Congress since 2000. In April 2010, BIO sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack as the Monsanto alfalfa case made its way through the courts. BIO warned Vilsack that the American biotech agriculture industry could be crippled if the legal precedents required the USDA to prepare an EIS for every GE crop up for deregulation:

With 19 deregulation petitions pending with more on the way, requiring an EIS for each product would amount to a de facto moratorium on commercialization and would send an unprecedented message that USDA believes that these products do have an environmental impact, when in fact most do not. Any suggestion by USDA that biotechnology plants as a category are likely to cause significant adverse effects on the quality of the human environment (i.e., require an EIS) would make approvals by other trading partners virtually impossible …

BIO claimed that such a policy would be an “over-reaction to the current judicial decisions” and would threaten America’s economic dominance in the agricultural biotechnology market. Such a policy, BIO representatives stated, would send a message to European countries that American regulators believe GE crops impact the environment, making approvals of GE crops by the European Union “virtually impossible” and allowing “Brazil and China to surpass the United States as world leaders in biotechnology.” BIO also claimed that more rigorous assessments would “undercut” positions consistently take by the Obama and Bush administrations on the safety of biotech agriculture.

Vilsack received similar letters requesting the USDA continue relying on EAs instead of EISs to deregulate GE crops from the Americas Soybean Association and the American Seed Trade Association. Both groups worried that an increase in oversight – precipitated by the more in-depth impact evaluation – could back up approvals for years. The soybean association included in its letter a pipeline chart of 25 GE soybean varieties it “expected” to be approved for commercialization within a decade.

A policy requiring an EIS for every GE seed is exactly what critics of Monsanto and the rest of the industry have spent years fighting for. Unlike the industry, they believe the herbicides that blanket GE crops and the potential for transgenic contamination are potential threats to the agricultural environment and human health.

Vilsack wrote a steady-handed reply to each trade group, reassuring them that the NEPA policy would not change and the USDA would continue preparing an EA for new GE seeds and an EIS only when necessary. Vilsack also wrote that he was “pleased” to recently meet with biotech industry representatives and “discuss improving the efficiency of the biotechnology regulatory process.” Such improvements, he wrote, are “directly related” to the USDA’s “objective of ensuring the United State leads the world in sustainable crop production and biotech crop exports.” He took the opportunity to announce that the USDA would reorganize the Biotechnology Regulatory Services agency and create a new NEPA team “dedicated to creating high quality and defensible documents to better inform our regulatory decisions.” This new NEPA team would go on to develop the NEPA Pilot Project and begin streamlining the approval process.

To Freese, it appears that Vilsack used to the word “defensible” in reference to legal challenges like the ones his group made to Monsanto alfalfa and sugar beets. “Their whole focus is on ‘defensible’ Environmental Assessments,” Freese said after reading the letters. “From our perspective, that’s the wrong goal … it presumes the crop is going to be approved.”

Freese said the correspondence between Vilsack and the industry groups highlights the need for a culture change at the USDA. Regulators should be concerned about the safety of new GE products, not ensuring American exports compete with Brazil and China.

“It should be all about doing good assessments and making sure the crops that are approved are safe,” Freese said.

A USDA spokesperson declined to comment when asked if the agency would like to respond to criticisms of the NEPA Pilot Project and said updates on the project will be made available online.

Watchdogs like Freese know that regulators already work closely with the industry and the NEPA Pilot Project could simply make their work more efficient. Regulators already rely heavily on data provided by private contractors and by biotech companies to prepare EAs. During the Monsanto alfalfa case, internal emails between regulators and Monsanto officials surfaced and revealed the company worked closely with regulators to edit its original petition to deregulate the alfalfa. One regulator even accepted Monsanto’s help in conducting the USDA’s original EA of the GE alfalfa before it was initially approved in 2005.

Genetically engineered and modified crops continue to cause controversy across the globe, but in America they are a fact of life. The Obama and Bush administrations have actively promoted biotech agriculture both at home and abroad. Countries like China, Argentina and Brazil have also embraced biotech agriculture. Regulators in European countries – including crucial trade partners like France and Spain – have been much more cautious and, in some cases, even hostile toward the industry. GE crops are banned in Hungary and Peru, and earlier this year officials in Hungary destroyed 1,000 acres of corn containing Monsanto transgenes. The US, however, continues to allow big biotech companies to cultivate considerable power and influence and, as the letters uncovered by FOIA reveal, top regulators are ready to meet their demands.

“The USDA regards its own regulatory system as a rubber stamp,” Freese said after reading the letters. “At least at the upper levels, there’s always been this presumption that [GE crops] must be approved.”

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?

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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?

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.”

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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.

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

In Uncategorized on February 25, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Oldspeak: “Now we learn we’ll all be eating, via our genetically contaminated livestock, “organic” crops and unlabeled GM food crops in very high concentrations, a pathogen that is believed to cause infertility and have significant impact on ” the health of plants, animals and probably humans.”  Behold the fruits of deregulation and regulatory agency capture. In a case of  life imitating art, a world like that depicted in “Children Of Men”soon come.”I wonder why if Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide has been shown to weaken plants natural defenses, be less and less effective over time, eventually giving rise to “superweeds” resistant to Roundup, and could itself be a promoter or co-factor of this deadly pathogen in our food, what are the real reasons for its continued use? We know the top one is profit…but what are the others?! I shudder to think.

By Mike Ludwig @ Truthout:

Just two weeks before the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) fully deregulated Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa, a senior soil scientist alerted the department about a newly discovered, microscopic pathogen found in high concentrations of Roundup Ready corn and soy that researchers believe could be causing infertility in livestock and diseases in crops that could threaten the entire domestic food supply.

Dr. Don Huber, a plant pathologist and retired Purdue University professor, wrote in a letter to the USDA that the pathogen is new to science and appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals and probably humans.

“For the past 40 years, I have been a scientist in the professional and military agencies that evaluate and prepare for natural and manmade biological threats, including germ warfare and disease outbreaks,” Huber wrote in his January 16letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Based on this experience, I believe the threat we are facing from this pathogen is unique and of a high risk status. In layman’s terms, it should be treated as an emergency.”

Huber called for an immediate moratorium on approvals of Roundup Ready crops, but on January 27, the USDA fully deregulated Roundup Ready alfalfa after nearly five years of legal battles with farmers and environmental groups. The USDA partially deregulated Roundup Ready sugar beats on February 4.

The pathogen is about the size of a virus and reproduces like a micro-fungal organism. According to Huber, the organism may be the first micro-fungus of its kind ever discovered, and there is evidence that the infectious pathogen causes diseases in both plants and animals, which is very rare.

The pathogen is prevalent in soy crops suffering from a disease called sudden death syndrome and corn crops suffering from goss’ wilt disease.

Laboratory tests show that the pathogen is present in a “wide variety” of livestock suffering from infertility and spontaneous abortions. Huber warned that the pathogen could be responsible for reports of increased infertility rates in dairy cows and rates of spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45 percent.

Huber is concerned that the pathogen could be spreading because of overreliance on Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops systems, which have come todominate American agribusiness during the past decade.

Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn, soy, cotton and alfalfa are genetically engineered to be resistant to glyphosate-base herbicides like Monsanto’s Roundup. Farmers can blanket fields of Roundup Ready crops with glyphosate knowing that unwanted weeds will be killed and the genetically engineered crops will not.

“We are informing the USDA of our findings at this early stage, specifically due to your pending decision regarding approval of alfalfa,” Huber wrote. “Naturally, if either the Roundup Ready gene or Roundup itself is a promoter or co-factor of this pathogen, then such approval could be a calamity.”

Critics like Huber have long criticized glyphosate products like Roundup for weakening crops’ natural defense systems and promoting the spread of glyphosate-resistant “superweeds” that have developed their own tolerance to glyphosate and infested millions of acres of farmland in the US alone.

“We are now seeing an unprecedented trend of increasing plant and animal diseases and disorders,” Huber wrote. “This pathogen may be instrumental to understanding and solving this problem. It deserves immediate attention with significant resources to avoid a general collapse of our critical agricultural infrastructure.”

Huber is a longstanding critic of biotech crops and coordinates a committee of the American Phytopathological Society as part of the USDA National Plant Disease Recovery System.