The Monsanto Dam

The dam has been breached; FINALLY! Monsanto’s Roundup poison has been judged by two juries to be cancer causing. Four years ago, the International Agency for Research on Cancer designated glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Roundup, as “probably carcinogenic to humans”. This is their highest designation for cancer causing based upon laboratory animal studies.

Two juries now have awarded judgments in favor of two people who pointed to glyphosate (Roundup) as the cause of their cancers. In the first case, DeWayne Johnson was awarded $289 million which was later reduced to $80 million upon appeal by Monsanto. The second case brought by Edwin Hardeman has now been brought to conclusion as well. The jury decided Roundup was a “substantial factor” in causing the lymphoma of the 70-year old who had used this toxic chemical on his property for many years. The award to Mr. Hardeman is also $80 million. There are thousands of law suits in waiting.

Recently, we learned that Costco, the large big-box retailer, has banned Roundup from its shelves. We also learned that Viet Nam has now banned the importation of glyphosate-based weed killers. This is the country we dosed with Agent Orange decades ago which became a never ending nightmare for the Vietnamese as well as for our veterans who served there. We have learned glyphosate residues have shown up in beers, cereals, snack bars, and some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. France banned a version of Roundup in January due to health concerns. Several other countries have done likewise. Even the city of Miami has banned the use of herbicides containing glyphosate. Headlines say these chemicals are “killing Biscayne Bay”.

Roundup has been the most widely used glyphosate based herbicide (poison) in the United States for nearly 20 years. It is everywhere.

Why is that important to us? We are surrounded every year with fields of corn and soy beans. Most corn and soy beans here have been genetically engineered to withstand doses of Roundup and survive while the weeds in the fields are supposed to die. Roundup is sprayed on the fields around us by the hundreds or maybe even the thousands of gallons. We live in a sea of Roundup. More is used each year since “super weeds” have developed that refuse to die. More and different toxic pesticides are added each year.

And have you been to your local hardware store lately? You will see rows of Roundup on many shelves ready for you to buy and use around your homes. You will see it ready for use around schools and parks and other public property where we find both adults and more importantly, our children.

It is time for government officials, industrial farmers, and homeowners to seriously question the use of glyphosate (Roundup); a toxic chemical found to be potentially cancer causing to themselves and their families. In the meanwhile while use continues, all of us including our children could be faced with cancers that did not have to be.

Growing and pesticide season will be coming soon.

Oceans in Trouble

Current world human population is 7,600,000,000 and increasing. Of this, more than 1 billion people worldwide depend on seafood as a main source of protein, and about 100 million people rely directly on fishing for their income according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The problem: 93% of ocean fisheries are either fully fished or over fished! It is estimated current catch is 250% of the level that is maximally sustainable. In other words, we are killing off the very resource so many depend upon. One large reason for this is subsidies from governments to industrial size operators for fuel, fishing gear, and vessel construction. The problem is not with the little guy but with those who run out miles of net and/or suck up everything from the ocean via large trawlers. This cannot continue. The piper will be paid.

Over fishing is not only a threat to fish stocks but also to the health of the oceans themselves. Healthy fish stocks are vital to health marine ecosystems and to the food security and livelihoods of billions of people. Healthy fish stocks contribute to the balance needed for the oceans to remain viable as a human resource.

Simply, there are too many boats chasing too few fish. One way to correct this is by curtailing capacity-enhancing subsidies to reduce pressure on fish stocks. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is encouraging members to adopt a binding agreement that will limit or eliminate harmful subsidies that cause over fishing.

My thought is this will not happen on any enforceable level, but the cost of inaction is high. What can happen is for the United States of America to aggressively enforce sustainable fishing limits in its territorial waters and eliminate any and all taxpayer subsidies to the fishing industry. We can do that. We can manage and allow scientifically calculated harvest of the marine resources in our waters.

There will be some who will vociferously oppose any limits for catch or exposure time. They will say it never has been so and that they are being robbed of their livelihood. But the problem as with about all environmental problems is too many people and too few resources. Hard decisions by government — the only means of control — are required.

Genetically Engineered Salmon

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is not known for good decisions, but they got this one right. A couple of weeks ago they denied the FDA’s latest attempt to hide thousands of pages of key government documents related to the agency’s approval of genetically engineered (GE) salmon for human consumption.

That’s right. You read it correctly. Genetically engineered salmon are now destined for a place on your grocers counter and you will never know it. The FDA did not want the public to know details of the approval process gone through by the agency charged with the responsibility of keeping our food supply safe. Trust us, they said. The FDA did not want you to know why they approved an engineered salmon that contains DNA from the Atlantic salmon, the deep water ocean eelpout, and the Pacific Chinook salmon. This would be the first time any genetically engineered animal has been approved for commercial sale and ultimate human consumption.

What is the big deal about this fish? It is different. The GE version is intended to grow faster than conventionally farmed or wild-caught salmon. The reason: new DNA has been engineered in. The new DNA is a growth hormone gene that is turned on all the time. The GE salmon is claimed to get to commercial size in half the time. Further, it is claimed by the FDA to not be significantly different from wild-caught or farm raised salmon. The truth: it may look the same from the outside, but it is different genetically.
One big concern is if the GE fish were to escape into the wild. It could threaten wild salmon populations by out-competing them for scarce resources and habitat, by mating with endangered salmon species, and by introducing new diseases. The FDA has been heavily criticized for failing to fully evaluate these potential impacts. The developers claim these concerns are meaningless because the GE fish are to be sterile females all raised in confinement tanks. Even that raises additional questions. How are the GE fish becoming 100% female?

In short, the FDA wants to hide. The pubic has a right to know in detail how the agency came to its approval decision for genetically engineered salmon, especially because the FDA’s approach will likely serve as a precedent for the assessment of future GE food animals. The FDA is funded by tax dollars which means the records they create can and should be available to the public and to citizens seeking to know all. The only exceptions should be withholding information critical to national security.

Under the court ruling, the FDA is required to fully complete the record with all relevant documents regarding its approval of genetically engineered salmon. In this case, the public right to know is being protected. It is vital all government agencies get the message hiding is not acceptable. Are you listening EPA and USDA?

Poison Time

When driving through the countryside this week on my way to Marion, I came across a sight I hate to see. It was an agriculture tank spray rig with 16 foot booms extended over rows of soy beans. The multiple nozzles on those booms were spewing glyphosate (Roundup) toxic poison. The odor of that herbicide filled the air. You have seen these rigs on the road as they move from field to field. You know, they are the ones that sit way off the ground so high you wonder if you could drive your car under the middle of them to get on your way as they poke down the road.
What you may not realize is they are the purveyors of death. The poisons they spread are supposed to only kill any “weeds” between the rows of soy beans or corn. What is the problem with that you may say. The problem is that this chemical called a herbicide or pesticide causes cancer in humans. This was the determination of the World Health Organization International Agency on Cancer Research. They call it a “probable human cancinogen”. This is the highest designation they can give using only laboratory animals for testing. Pretty tough to use humans. Of course, Monsanto and other companies who now manufacture glyphosate deny this. Some countries have banned its use.
The truth is glyphosate does kill plants. It also kills soil organisms necessary to keep our agriculture lands healthy. It kills life in streams and rivers when it is washed into them by rains and runoff. Think about it. In our neck of the woods, there is virtually no field that does not have tile under the soil to take away soaking rain water along with any fertilizers and pesticides that have been applied to the land. Where does this go? We have a dead zone over 150 miles in radius at the mouth of the Mississippi river as it empties into the Gulf of Mexico.
And what else? Roundup or glyphosate is used on genetically engineered corn and soy beans. The corn and soy have been genetically modified so they can withstand massive doses of pesticide and live while all vegetation around is supposed to die. Two problems: this has been going on so long now the weeds that were supposed to die are becoming immune to glyphosate. Answer: add more toxic chemicals like 2,4,D; a component of Agent Orange. Or add dicamba, another nasty pesticide that has a habit of not staying where it is applied. The other problem: the chemicals follow the crop to your dinner table. It is almost certain now that if you were tested for glyphosate, you would test positive for it in your body. That stuff is everywhere. Take a look at your local box store shelves as you enter.
But there is trouble for the manufacturers of glyphosate. Multiple law suits have already been filed by people who believe their cancers have been caused by this pesticide. Answer for you: DON’T use it. Stay away from it.

Pigs VS Produce

The smell. That is the big one between rural residents and pig factory production facilities claiming to be farms. Those facilities are also known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, CAFOs, where thousands of pigs or hogs are crowed together in high numbers, by the thousands, in buildings where they are fed out for eventual sending to slaughter to such as the Indiana Packers Corporation plant in Delphi.
Carson Gerber, Kokomo Tribune reporter, had it right in his April 23rd KT article: it is a battle between pigs and produce. Hog CAFOs are anything but farming in the traditional sense. The concentration of hogs in one location produces huge amounts of urine and feces (that’s bowel waste or “crap”) that must be stored in lagoons or tanks until pumped out and taken elsewhere for disposal. In the meanwhile, the operation stinks.
It would be one thing if the stink stayed on the site where it originated. The problem is that it does not. The stink travels miles subject only to the whims of the wind. And it is offensive. Ray Reichard is worried about his flower and vegetable operation that is near where new hog CAFOs are proposed. He worries about people being offended by the odor from hog waste wafting into his greenhouse or lingering on the produce and flowers he takes to farmers markets. He should be worried.
There is a fact that most people do not get. If you can smell something, it means that molecules or “pieces” of whatever is causing the stink are in the air and that these molecules are being drawn into your nose and lungs. Crap and urine in. Reichard worries about his produce carrying the stink to market. What he is really saying is that feces and urine molecules from hogs will have landed on the food and flowers he has produced and have stuck there. Somehow, I do not think people want to be eating this produce or having these flowers in their homes.
Have you ever driven behind a semi-truck hauling hogs? It stinks. Waste and bacterial molecules are being blown off of the truck and hogs into the air and into the air intakes of your car. If you do not want these molecules in your lungs, you need to back off and put your car air system on interior air only, not take air in from the outside.
Hog operations are not what they once were. In the old days, farmers (not animal factory operators) raised hogs, cattle, chickens and other livestock in balance with land that was cropped with a variety of corn, soybeans, and more. Crops were rotated. The waste from animals became fertilizer for fields. All in balance.
If you have not noticed, there is movement toward more local production of healthy food. Farmers markets are more and more popular. People want farms to be healthier with use of fewer chemicals and antibiotics. CAFOs are not compatible with this trend. CAFOs stink.

Rural and Urban Indiana

[letter to Dr. Michael Hicks in response to his Kokomo Tribune column of April 3rd in which he encourages more investment in urban development in Indiana. He believes rural places are at risk and that the best chance for the future is in solid connection to labor markets in “healthy, vibrant and growing regional cities”. I think he missed some things.]
Dr. Hicks:
I am writing in response to your recent column about the decline in rural, small-town Indiana and your position that more investment is needed in urban centers. I have a couple of observations to make.
First, about the decline of rural, small-towns in Indiana: I believe this has largely come about due to the adoption of what has turned out to be devastating agriculture policy following World War II. One of the leaders in this movement was Dr. Earl Butz, former Secretary of Agriculture and Dean of the School of Agriculture at Purdue. He told farmers to “get big or get out” and to produce chickens and pigs like “Fords and Chevys”. This was at the beginning of large, corporate owned agriculture in what has come to be dominated by the giant chemical/seed companies. Today, I believe for several reasons we have a train wreck waiting to happen.
Steve Daily, former mayor of Kokomo, and his family are a prime example of what has resulted. He has told me that at one time there were 13 members of his family involved in agriculture as a way to make a living. After his retirement from Ivy Tech recently, he has gone back to farming; now organic farming. He says that only one other member of his family remains in agriculture. If the Daily family is typical, and I believe it is, it is clear how this would impact small, rural communities.
I believe there is growing recognition of the damage done by ill-advised agriculture policy. We see now that genetically engineered foods will be labeled; one positive step toward recognition of the risks of biotechnology for both people and the environment and of the toxins typically involved that follow food to the dinner table. We see the growth of local farmers’ markets and the increase in demand for “organic” or chemical-free foods. We see the growth of demand for foods produced closer to home; not shipped all over the country or from other countries. I believe we will see a gradual growth of the number of people involved in agriculture and, perhaps, even a reversal in population trends in rural areas.
You suggest we need more investment in urban areas. I suggest as well we need more encouragement in growing healthy food in Indiana. What a difference this would make. Both you and I live in areas dominated by wall-to-wall corn and soy beans, most of which has been genetically modified to withstand massive doses of glyphosate (Roundup) that has now been determined to be carcinogenic. And we wonder why the cancer rate in our nation is the highest in the world.
Finally, an over-arching question: when is enough, enough? Everyone talks about “growth and development” when they really mean more population and more jobs. When is it time to stabilize population and work on increasing standard of living only. I, for one, do not want Kokomo (a regional center) to become an “Indianapolis” or anything even close. Except for the impact of immigration, most of the developed nations of the world are at near zero population growth, but that is a whole other subject for discussion.
Regards, Kent Blacklidge

Mitch Daniels and GMOs

[Purdue President Mitch Daniels on February 25th gave a talk to the Agriculture Outlook Forum meeting in Arlington, VA. The thrust of his talk was that any who do not accept genetic engineering of crops are anti-science, ignorant, and immoral. My response to him is below.]
President Daniels:
I was shocked when I read the Wall Street Journal article about your talk to the Agriculture Outlook Forum in Arlington, VA; “Mitch Daniels on Anti-GMO Cruelty”. Your conclusions about genetically engineered crops and foods could have come right out of the playbook of any of the large chemical/seed corporations public relations departments.
In my opinion, the way biotechnology is currently being used in agriculture is both risky and reckless. It is risky for human health, for livestock, and for the environment. The primary reason for GE crops to date has been to allow them to be massively dosed with pesticide that kills surrounding “weeds” but does not kill the crop. The principle pesticide, glyphosate, has been determined to be carcinogenic. We spray it everywhere. All kinds of problems and questions are emerging regarding the chemicals and the genetically engineered crops that become either feed or food.
I have included with this letter a document to read. Please note it is extensively documented. In addition, Dr. Don Huber, Purdue professor emeritus, has it right in spite of the fact he has been called, “an embarrassment to Purdue” by one ranking academic at Purdue. If you have not, I suggest you read some of what Dr. Huber has written as well.
Large corporate agriculture is headed in the wrong direction. It is a train wreck waiting to happen. Many in Europe have already recognized this. It is encouraging to know that there are some at Purdue that know this as well; I have heard them.
Purdue does have an opportunity to lead. It is my hope it leads in directions healthier for people and the environment.
Sincerely,
Kent H. Blacklidge
Past Publisher/ The Kokomo Tribune
Purdue Degrees:
Ph.D. Genetics
MS Aquatic Toxicology and Fish Biology
MS Conservation of Natural Resources
BS Industrial Management
Note: the document included with the Daniels letter is titled, “10 Reasons we don’t need GM foods”. It is available in full at www.gmwatch.org/files/10-reasons-we-dont-need-GM-foods.pdf
 

Vermont in Your Kitchen

[Below is a letter to the Editor of the Wall Street Journal in response to an editorial  in the WSJ on March 7th opposing the labeling of genetically engineered foods]
Editor….
The Vermont law requiring labeling of all foods containing genetically engineered ingredients goes into effect on July 1st this year. You oppose it. Your editorial on March 7th could have been written by the public relations department of any of the giant chemical/seed corporations. The problem is that it contains just plain false information.
You said, “No agricultural innovation has been more maligned than GMOs, though the technology has proven safe, reliable, affordable and good for the environment”. None of that is true. The technology has not been proven safe. It is haphazard, reckless, and risky. The techniques are crude and potentially very disruptive to native genomes with potentially catastrophic consequences to human health and the environment. To now, the primary reason for GE corn and soy (the major crops) has been to allow them to be massively dosed with glyphosate or other pesticides without killing the crop but killing all vegetation around it. Now glyphosate has been determined to be carcinogenic. Pesticide residues follow the crop to livestock and to the dinner table. Studies have shown serious health consequences to livestock fed genetically engineered feed. So, there are serious safety issues about the genetically engineered crops themselves and as a result of the pesticides found with them.
As a past daily newspaper publisher and as a genetic scientist, I am an adamant believer in the right of the public to know all that is involved in the raising and production of the food they put on their families tables. It is the right of people to make that decision. It is not the right of the chemical/seed companies and corporate farmers to make decisions about what to tell and what not to tell in secret.
Over 60 countries world wide made the decision to either ban or label genetically engineered foods. Several now are considering banning genetically engineered crops altogether. Of those who did adopt genetically engineered crops and used the pesticides designed for them, many are seeing very serious health issues in their populations, particularly among farm workers. I add that over 60 countries cannot be wrong.
The WSJ needs to do more homework. The bill now in the US Senate should never see the light of day. As you concluded… “let the consumers decide what to eat”. Vermont leads the way.

Spring is Coming

It is only February, but soon the countryside will be filled with tractors plowing and planting crops for this year. About all that will be seen from horizon to horizon are fields dedicated to growing genetically modified, or genetically engineered, corn and soybeans. The final destinations for these crops following harvest this fall will be livestock feed and, in one form or another, food for our tables. No one will know that though because none will be labeled, “GMO”, or genetically modified.
That label is required for GMO’s in over 60 countries worldwide. These include all of Europe, Australia, Japan, Russia and dozens of others. Some countries ban genetically modified foods altogether. One has to wonder if other countries know something we don’t. The big seed and chemical companies do not want labels. They have successfully stopped labeling in the United States so far. They do not want people to know what is in the food they eat. It is a secret to be kept by them only.
There are many questions concerning genetically modified foods and their long term safety for people and the environment. More and more evidence is accumulating saying all is not well. All is not well for people and animals that eat these foods. All is not well for the natural environment and the genetic contamination GMOs bring. All is not well with the use of toxic chemical poisons, herbicides and pesticides, used on the crops or in the case of GMO corn with the pesticide that each and every cell in the plant produces on its own — and that wind up every corn kernel. All is not well with the pesticide residues on harvested crops. All is not well. But all that is to be kept secret, too.
The historical record shows that even the scientists in the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) were concerned about the safety of genetically modified crops over 20 years ago. That did not matter because the people that approved them were political appointees. One key appointee at the FDA was an attorney for a firm doing work for Monsanto before he came to the FDA. Although he has been in and out of the FDA and Monsanto more than once, he is even now in a key food safety position at the FDA in the Obama administration.
Many states have had GMO labeling legislation introduced. The most visible one was California. The big agriculture and food corporations spent about $45 million on a publicity campaign to narrowly defeat Proposition 37 there. That is a lot of money. The private citizens who believe they have a right to know what is in their food could not match that kind of steamrolling propaganda effort. One wonders what there is to hide if that kind of money is spent to defeat a law that would simply tell people what is in their food.
This is reminiscent of the tobacco companies that kept people in the dark for decades about the bad long term health effects of smoking. The corporate executives even lied to Congress. The largest GMO seed and chemical corporation that wants us to trust them is the one that gave us DDT, Dioxin, PCBs, Agent Orange and more. Do you trust them?

GMO labeling — again!

In a Tribune “Sound Off” letter on September 24, the Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Growers Association came out as strong advocates of HR 1599 (now in the Senate), the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act”. It is anything but that. These groups repeated almost word for word the message by the Indiana Farm Bureau in the Tribune on August 14. The message could well have been crafted by the same public relations department of any of several large chemical/seed companies, processed food producers or corporate agriculture. The message is misleading at best and lies at worst
They claim the World Health Organization, American Medical Association, the National Academy of Sciences and over 2,000 peer-reviewed studies, have concluded that “genetically modified foods are safe for human consumption”. They have done no such thing. There have been no long term human health studies conducted by independent researchers. Studies with research animals, mostly in other countries, have shown results for concern.
The Soybean Alliance and the Corn Growers go on to talk about the altering of crops and livestock over thousands of years in an attempt to lull us into the belief genetic engineering is no different than improvement by selection of the best plants or by hybridization. I assure you genetic engineering is nothing like either of these. Neither selection nor hybridization violates biological barriers that have existed since the origin of life. There is risk in doing that.
Then, pesticides. I challenge you to look at the use of the primary pesticide used on genetically engineered crops: glyphosate (commonly, Roundup). They claim pesticide use is down when it has skyrocketed. The World Health Organization has declared glyphosate to be a carcinogen (causes cancer). We spray that chemical all over the place on corn, soy beans, and more. In the near future, we are to be blessed with crops that can withstand 2,4,D and dicamba; even more toxic chemicals that follow the crop to the dinner table. A primary component of Agent Orange was 2,4,D. We know what that did to thousands of veterans.
The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act would void all action taken by any state to require labeling. It puts all authority into the hands of the Federal Drug Administration that has failed us already. To our detriment, decisions about genetically engineered crops and foods have been made by political appointees rather than FDA scientists. No food currently on the market would be required to be labeled. Labeling is required in 64 other countries, so it can be done. And there does not have to be a patchwork of food labeling laws. What is needed is for the federal government to require labeling of GMOs uniformly across the United States. It is the right of people to know what is in food and how it is produced. Secrecy is not the answer.
It is not the anti-GMO groups that are waging a misinformation campaign. It is big chemical/seed, corporate agriculture, and large food processors. Those that till the land will someday come to realize that.