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.

The DARK Act coming

[What is written below is a response to a column in the Kokomo Tribune written by Isabella Chism, second vice president of the Indiana Farm Bureau. Her column was also published as a reader letter in the Kokomo Perspective.]
Isabella Chism’s column in the August 14th Kokomo Tribune about GMOs and advocating passage by the United States Senate (Act already passed the House of Representatives) of HR 1599 concerning GMOs was certainly interesting. The only problem is that it was chocked full of false or misleading information.
The Act she references is titled, “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act”. It is anything but that. The only parties benefiting from this legislation are the giant food processing corporations and the giant chemical/seed corporations; the very ones I do not trust to have the public’s interest and health at heart. Bottom line profit dollars drive them.
Let me explain. This Act silences any legislation passed by states regarding the labeling of foods containing ingredients from genetically engineered crops, largely corn and soy beans at present. It puts all authority for labeling into the hands of the federal agency that has already failed the public, the FDA. It was not the scientists in the FDA who failed us; it was the political appointees who overrode the scientists concerns. Under this Act, no food currently on the market would be required to be labeled.
Some 64 countries worldwide require foods containing genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled as containing such. This includes China and Russia and all of the European Union countries and more. The citizens in those countries wanted to know what was in the foods they purchase and feed their families so they can make personal choices. In the United States, the move is to secrecy. Sixty-four other countries cannot be wrong. The USA is one country that is…. at the behest of food, big agriculture, and chemical/seed companies. As a past newspaper publisher, I vehemently object. I hold the strong belief people have the right to know what is in food and how it is produced; no secrets.
Ms. Chism states “we can grow more crops on less land using fewer pesticides and less water and fuel”. This is blatantly false. For example, use of the primary pesticide, glyphosate (typically Roundup) has skyrocketed in recent years. The reason for genetically engineered corn and soy beans in the first place was to enable those crops to withstand massive doses of glyphosate and live while the weeds around them die. That is it. There is no benefit to the consumer who shops at the local grocery store.
The World Health Organization (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer has recently declared glyphosate to be a “probable human carcinogen”. In short, it causes cancer. Residues of this pesticide follow the crops from field to the dinner table. Glyphosate is sprayed everywhere. Wouldn’t you like to know what poison is on your plate?
Glyphosate is becoming less and less effective with the emergence of resistant weeds. What we have to look forward to next are genetically engineered crops able to withstand massive doses of 2,4,D (an Agent Orange component) and dicamba, two even more toxic poisons that will follow food to the dinner table.
Ms. Chism states the FDA, USDA, AMA, National Academy of Sciences, World Health Organization, and dozens of other scientific organizations have confirmed that GMOs are as safe for human consumption as non-GMO products. They have done no such thing. There have been no long term human safety studies conducted by independent scientists. Animal studies, mostly in other countries, have shown cause for significant concern. I already stated the WHO Cancer Agency just recently determined the primary pesticide used on GMOs (genetically engineered crops) causes cancer. The AMA sits the fence. The FDA has been politically manipulated. I could go on.
Ms. Chism writes about grapes, tangelos, broccoli and many other “modified foods” and how she has fed her family with these. She also states farmers have changed the genetic makeup of all crops grown since domestic agriculture began including organic and heirloom seeds. She wants us to believe that today’s genetic engineering of plants and animals is the same as has been going on in agriculture for centuries. Again, blatantly wrong. The technology required to transfer a gene from one organism to another is nothing like that used to select plants with desirable traits, then grow them. It is nothing like what is required to develop plant hybrids. What genetic engineering of plants does is violate biological barriers that have existed for eons in ways that are unpredictable, risky, and reckless. Her grapes, tangelos, and broccoli are not genetically engineered as the term is defined in science or molecular biology today. As one with advanced university degrees from Purdue in both toxicology and genetics, I tell you straight out that this technology is far from precise or outcomes predictable. What is predictable is that there is risk of new allergens, toxins, and disease causing rogue proteins. I think you have a right to know that.
Another reason I find Ms. Chism’s article interesting is that she is the second vice president of the Indiana Farm Bureau. This already is cause for rising of eyebrows. Her article could have been written by the public relations department of any of the giant chemical/seed companies. It is the party line. The problem is that much of that line is false. I recommend to any interested a book written a few years ago called, “Uncertain Peril”, by Claire Hope Cummings. She details the coming of genetic engineering in agriculture, how it happened and what risks are presented in much more detail than I can write here.
Finally, contrary to Ms. Chism’s urgings, I urge Senators Coats and Donnelly vote “NO” on the Senate version of HR 1599. I urge them to support labeling of genetically engineered foods. I urge them to support the public right to know what is in food and how it is produced. No secrets. No lies. If this bill passes Congress, I urge President Obama to veto it.

Agriculture Factories

There is a TEDx video that all should see. It is about factory animal production (CAFO: concentrated animal feeding operation); what they are and what they have done to agriculture.

CAFO buildings and urine/feces pits
CAFO buildings and urine/feces pits

The speaker, Michele Merkel, was an attorney that worked for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Her assignment included dealing with the problems of environmental pollution that resulted from CAFOs. She saw first hand the plight of people who lived near such animal factories. Water was polluted, air was made unfit to breathe, land was contaminated, and people were harmed. The animals were treated in ways that would horrify most people. She fought to correct those things.
That is until the George W. Bush administration came into office. She describes what happened. In short, the EPA was shut down regarding any pursuit of environmental violations by CAFOs. As a result, she quit. For over 15 years, she has opposed the EPA; she sues them over what they are not doing to protect people, the environment, and the animals.
One point made is that CAFOs are NOT agriculture as people generally think of farming. Corporations and their minions that treat animals as bioreactors are not farmers. They are corporation factory operators. Large agriculture corporations have usurped the terms “farmer” and “farming” and “agriculture” to hide behind knowing people would not support what is being done if they knew the facts. This is exactly the reason behind “AG-GAG” legislation that criminalizes the taking of photos and videos without permission of the animal operation. In some states, the laws even apply to photos taken from public locations. The corporations want absolute control and want to operate out of sight and out of mind.
In a State of the Union address as long ago as 1888, President Grover Cleveland said this:

Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and servants of the people, are fast becoming the people’s masters.

Think about this. We are fast moving there with agriculture. Animal “production” and patented seed/chemicals are in the hands of giant corporations. The only stopping is for people to become aware and to then act.
Link long address is http://www.tedxmanhattan.org/michele-merkel-using-the-legal-system-to-fight-factory-farms/

Camp Tecumseh and Hogs!

My first reaction to the Associated Press story about the proposed 9,000 hog confinement feeding operation to be located in close proximity to the YMCA Camp Tecumseh was just plain anger. Confinement Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are about as inhumane an agriculture practice that we do, but to locate one in a way that damages the YMCA camp environment is unconscionable.
Camp Tecumseh has been around for decades. It has been the experience of a life time for thousands of children and adults, too. In our times of asphalt, concrete, and electronics; having a place for an experience of nature is rare. The value is beyond measure.
I have to conclude the White County Commissioners are not the brightest lights on the block to have made a decision approving a hog farm of 9,000 animals to be within 800 yards of Tecumseh. Or could it be that Tecumseh is in Carroll County and White County Commissioners just don’t give a damn. They see only economic gain for White County.
Whatever the reasons, it is my hope and prayer that this project be ultimately defeated permanently. The lives of the children who benefit from the Tecumseh experience are more important than 9,000 hogs.

Keep Americans in the Dark Bill 4432

Your right to know what is in the food you purchase will become “keep them in the dark; they are too stupid” to know what is good for them if House Bill 4432 passes Congress. This bill is scheduled for its first reading in the House of Representatives on December 10th.
The fight is over whether you have a right to know if food you purchase at the grocery and feed to your family contains genetically modified ingredients, commonly referred to as GMOs. Sixty four countries, but not the United States, require foods to be labeled as having genetically engineered parts. Labeling is not required in the United States because giant chemical/seed companies such as Monsanto, Bayer Crop Science, Syngenta, Dow, DuPont and others that sell genetically modified seed and the poisons used to kill weeds and insects don’t want you to know. You might choose not to buy GMO containing foods.
And why should you care if you eat genetically modified foods? One reason is the pesticides (poisons) used on the crops that become food for us or for livestock follow the crop. These poisons are referred to as pesticide residues, but call them what you may, they are poisons. The government has set allowed amounts of these poisons to be in foods and then tells us they are safe for us to eat. There is one genetically engineered corn that makes its own pesticide (poison) in every cell of the plant including in every kernel of corn. Studies have shown that all of us already carry around in our bodies a load of harmful chemicals. Some are cancer causing. Some are harmful to our livers, kidneys, and other organs including our brains. Some are harmful to our hormone system that controls all sorts of bodily development and function. But what we take in from pesticide residue is safe, if you believe the government.
Genetically engineered crops were simply declared safe by government decree. The government said there was no significant difference between standard crops and those that had been genetically engineered. The 64 other countries that require labeling decided there is a difference. In the US, there have been no long term safety studies on genetically engineered crops. However, evidence continues to emerge that calls safety into serious question — safety for consumption and safety for the environment.
The big deal about HR4432 is that it would prohibit any state in the United States from passing and enforcing legislation requiring labeling of genetically engineered foods. It would place all authority for such a requirement in the hands of the very agency that has failed us in the first place, the FDA. HR4432 would literally erase bills already passed in Vermont, Connecticut, and Maine. It would block labeling efforts ongoing in many other states. When legislation requiring labeling is proposed in a state, big chemical/seed and the large food processing companies pour millions of dollars into opposition advertising. Now they are concentrating efforts into the passage of HR4432.
Indiana has nine representatives in Congress. Two of them, Todd Rokita (R-District 4) and Martin Stutzman (R-District 3) have joined Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas in sponsoring HR 4432. This bill is titled “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014”, when it should be titled “Deny Americans the Right to Know Act of 2014”. Reps Rokita and Stutzman along with big chemical/seed and food processing companies, have decided you should stay in the dark.

CAFO's

In case you don’t know what “CAFO” stands for, it is “confinement animal feeding operation”. It is claimed to be part of agriculture but in actuality it is an animal factory and should be classified as small industrial rather than agriculture.
I attended a day long conference on CAFO’s on Saturday. Most of the conference was focused on animal waste — that’s crap or poop or feces or dodo or sh–! It is a huge problem; many more times greater than the human waste in a given area. And to think that none of it is processed through a waste treatment plant as is human waste. What do you think happens to it? It gets stored in huge lagoons or in underground tanks until such a time it is spread on our agriculture crop lands. It carries with it disease organisms including antibiotic resistant ones since animals are typically dosed regularly with antibiotics (that is a whole other issue). It carries with it silage leachate, chemicals used in animal housing buildings, hormones, ammonia, heavy metals, and an abundant supply of nitrogen and phosphorous. All of this organic soup can easily contaminate ground water or be washed into nearby streams or drainage ways. What a mess….. and a sick one at that. It is not uncommon for land to receive more than the soil organisms can handle.
It gets worse. Indiana is the repository for some of the animal waste generated in Ohio. It is trucked in. It is supposed to be transferred to approved storage facilities, but too frequently gets disposed of into our streams.
Another factor is that too often the distance from a CAFO and its waste disposal is too close to commercial or residential neighbors. The odors can be oppressive and very unhealthy. Wells can become contaminated. The stink means there are things in the air that can be inhaled. Health is at risk. Would you like to live or bring children in such an environment? Stricter set back regulation are needed.
The crime of all of this is that if these operations were classified as small industrial, they would have to meet much more stringent regulations for operation and waste disposal. Some of the crap that is happening would not. Maybe it is time to push for that. Seems a reasonable answer to all but the “farmer” who operates one of these animal factories.