Over a year now since the terrible Japanese Tsunami and nuclear disaster hit the world news there are a series of abandoned vessels showing up close to or in North american waters. Many of us observers might see this as an omen of the fact that such a disaster does not easily go away. With regards to the nuclear fallout, much has been revealed since the disaster and much remains hidden. Obviously this was an event that was not supposed to happen and yet it did. Someone I know has a brother in law who was close to Fukushima on that fateful day. He is currently dying from radiation poisoning in a Western Australian hospital and yet we are told all is well. Watch the phantom boat below and contemplate the question of lurking unspoken truths.
It seems to me that we must do our own searching and take our own remedial steps if we are to come out on top of what might be considered a web of lies.
When it comes to gardening, most avid participants in the ancient art of gardening will at some point in their life’s outdoor experience come to understand that the secret is in the soil. This is so much more of a satisfying approach than doing battle with nature, the most common mainstream agricultural pursuit, which sees farmers using huge quantities of pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilizers to dominate nature. Nature must both laugh and cry at this onslaught, seeing ignorant members of blind humans bombard the soils with substances that destroy nature, thinking they know the answers.
After decades of different agricultural revolutions, those of us who are perceptive enough to begin to unveil the mysteries of nature are now more fully coming to grips with the fact that for the soils of the world to continue to provide us with the bounty we need and desire, we must continuously be working to restore fertility in our age depleted soils.Organic matter is the key to this rebuilding, as are soil based microbes, earthworms and more that work to break down organic matter and nutrients in the soil, thus rendering them in a perfect state for plants to absorb them.
In the field of biodynamics, permaculture and organics there are many solutions to build up soil. It is the key to our future health and that of our children. Healthy plants that do not need pesticides and herbicides depend upon a healthy soil.
The Color of Any Matter Is a Key to Its Use in the Garden
Sunday, February 5, 2012
By Virginia Hayes
The key to healthy soil is organic matter. Every gardening guide says so, so it must be true. And it is. But all organic matter is not equal. Composting tends to even the playing field, eventually. Larger pieces and woodier material will break down along with the tender leaves and stems resulting in compost that is fine, crumbly, and sweet-smelling.
There are shortcuts. Some refuse can go directly into the garden to cycle back into essential nutrients right in place, bypassing the layering and turning of the compost bin.
Fresh, green clippings like grass and other tender leaves and stems, as well as kitchen scraps—from carrot and apple peels to tough green bean strings and pea pods—can be thinly layered on the surface of the garden or added sparingly to soil when preparing for planting. Seaweeds fit in this category, as well, but remember to rinse oceanic plants thoroughly to remove excess salt. Beware: Too thick a layer of these fresh greens may result in an impenetrable mat that doesn’t break down and even can impede water percolation.
Dry leaves and other dry, but fairly thin, plant stems, such as straw and pine needles, take a little longer and can be used as mulch and layered on the soil up to 4 inches deep. Don’t try to use them directly into a planting hole. Large and very woody bits (think those chips from the tree service) should only be used as a top dressing. They take a really long time to break down, even in a nice hot composting system. Don’t worry; there are microbes and fungi that will eventually convert them into dark, crumbly, beautiful humus. Nearly magical, this substance is the key to healthy soil. In fact, the color of any organic material will be a key to its use in the garden. All green waste will eventually take on this dark hue, and the darker the material, the better it is to incorporate when planting.
There is yet another class of organics to consider: manures. Most manures should not be used immediately after their production by the animals in question. Garden gurus speak of “hot” manure, meaning that it is of recent origin and contains a high concentration of ammonia. It takes time and some helpful bacteria to make this compound into a more easily assimilable source of nitrogen for plants. If it stinks, it’s too strong for delicate roots. Horse manure may be the most readily available, from area riding stables, and is usually mixed with some type of bedding material (straw or fine wood chips). It still needs time, either in the compost pile with all the other garden clippings or in a pile of its own to break down a bit.
Gardeners are increasingly growing chickens, rabbits, goats, or other beasts, and all of their droppings are also valuable sources of nitrogen and organic components. The mammals are herbivores and produce dung that has a fair amount of plant fiber since they eat only grasses and grains. Avian droppings are more concentrated (they also eat insects, snails, and almost anything small enough to pass their craw), so it needs to be used sparingly when fresh or composted well. Keeping a goat or a few chickens is an excellent way to process garden and kitchen clippings, however. Toss the raw ingredients into the coop or corral, and they will be crunched, digested, excreted, and mixed together with no extra effort; ready-made soil amendments.
As you can read in the article above, there are many strategies to recycle organic material into the soil and thus build it up, thus creating a rich foundation for nourishing us on many levels.
Have you lost confidence in congress? Are you wondering if the democratic process simply continues to place mostly corrupt or at least corruptible individuals into office. Well I have to say that, unfortunately, you are mostly correct in that respect. In order to illustrate the point take a few minutes to view this video about just what goes on in Washington.
I presume that you would agree that change is in desperate need in our nation’s capital.
In this article by Char Miller from the site KCET.org you will learn more about how fracking is bringing jobs to South Texas in an unprecedented manner with such horrendous underlying, ignored future costs as to be inconceivable.
“You can’t believe the flood of money that’s pouring into San Antonio!”
That’s Steve talking, a close friend and an accountant with his finger on the financial pulse of the nation’s seventh largest city. At a time when many other communities are struggling to make ends meet, the Alamo City seems flush.
The source of this new pelf lies a couple of hours to its south, down I-35 and US 281, deep in the brush country of south Texas. To be more precise, its origins lie thousands of feet below the rolling coastal plain, in the gas-and-oil deposits locked in the Eagle Ford Shale formation; this seam runs beneath more than 20 counties that stretch from the Rio Grande Valley north and east into central Texas.
To tap those resources, major energy companies (and smaller ones, too), are offering upwards of seven-figures for an annual lease, eye-popping dollars for hardscrabble ranchers who in the past have had to take a second or third job just to hold on to their lands, let alone maintain their livestock operations. To that kind of payday, Steve observed, “not many are saying no.”
Ditto for those just seeking a steady paycheck: roughnecks have swelled the population of a town like Alice; or Cotulla, Dilley, Yorktown and Cuero. Once quiet Farm-to-Market roads are jammed with fast-moving drilling rigs, pipe-carrying flatbeds, tankers and shiny pickups. Motels and diners are overwhelmed with business, too, economic activity that has put a lot of money on a lot of tables.
Map courtesy Railroad Commission of Texas
Even in distant San Antonio, which has become the play’s service hub for finance, information technology, infrastructure and transportation. Steve laughed: “Just try renting a truck in town – you can’t do it.”
This being dusty south Texas, there is a lot of grit beneath that glitter. Used to booms and busts, everyone is waiting for this bubble to pop – and it will. When it does it will have predictable impact on now-inflated prices for food, clothing and lodging; the sidewalks and streets will empty out – lots of sorrow after a burst of short-term material gain. Here’s hoping that county governments and tax-dependent school districts, currently reveling in their good fortune, have put some of it into rainy-day funds.
More devastating, because they’ll be more enduring, are the environmental losses that are already putting the region on edge. The Eagle Ford fossil-fuel strike, like so many around the world, is driven by the hydraulic-fracturing technologies. To capture oil and gas buried so far underground, and trapped in dense shale, energy companies are wielding this new tool to blast under high-pressure millions of gallons of water, tons of sand, and a toxic cocktail of chemicals, thereby fracturing the rock and releasing trapped reserves of oil and natural gas; these molecules are then captured and pumped to the surface.
This dynamic system is earning record profits for energy companies like ConocoPhillips and Chesapeake Energy, and service-giant Halliburton, and there is financial trickle down for the localities in which fracking occurs. In 2010, according to a recent report, Eagle Ford has generated an estimated $3 billion in revenue for producers and local governments.
But there is an immediate cost to that gain, as south Texans are beginning to realize: In a region that does not get a lot of precipitation, and whose rivers are more dry than wet, the extensive pumping of local aquifers to be injected into the thousands of hydro-fracking wells are or will soon dot the arid landscape is creating a problem for generations to come.
It is not simply that a single, high-volume injection well can use astonishing amounts of water; or that this sudden rate of pumping – multiplied by the thousands – will be almost impossible to replace given how little rain sweeps over this flat, sandy terrain. Added to these dilemmas is another: This extracted water is laced with chemicals, a toxicity that is difficult to wash out; in some cases disposed of as if it was hazardous waste. Once it’s gone, it is gone.
Painting of a Vaquero in action roping cattle during 1830s Spanish California | Public domain image
Painting of a Vaquero in action roping cattle during 1830s Spanish California | Public domain image
The Spanish would have been stunned by this casual destruction of this essential life-sustaining resource. When its first explorers pushed north out of Mexico to expand its imperial boundaries, they marveled at what one of them called a “fine country with broad plains – the finest in New Spain.” Yet as rich as these grasslands were, the Spanish were not fooled into thinking this was a well-watered environment.
Recognizing, in the words of Texas State University historian Frank de la Teja, that “land was plentiful, water was not,” they constructed a legal regime across northern Mexico and what would become southern Texas that compelled human habitation to adapt to this environmental constraint. Because this “countryside is deserted and sterile,” argued military engineer Agustin de la Camara Alta, because it had negligible surface water, “which is only available in the Rio Bravo [Grande] and Nueces River and a few small watering holes,” the territory was “worthless except for raising cattle.”
Aridity in turn shaped land-owning patterns: For grazing to be successful, Spanish, and later Mexican, officials understood, large acreage was essential. “Richard King and the cattle barons who followed recognized the suitability of many of the adaptations made by rancheros and vaqueros,” writes de la Teja, particularly the definitive power of limited water, making it “the central theme in regional development.”
Nothing has changed since then, argues Hugh Fitzsimmons. A fifth generation rancher in south Texas, and a good friend from when I lived in San Antonio, his family’s spread covers roughly 20-square miles insuring since the mid-nineteenth century that its livestock has had decent access to water. He’s rightly worried, though, that fracking will destroy the fragile balance that his ancestors were able to maintain on this rough ground.
Start with the rapid pumping out of the Carrizo Aquifer, and then couple that with a multi-year, crippling drought: Are south Texas’ ranching days numbered? That’s what’s worrying Hugh, and led him to push back politically. “I have tried to marshal support for limiting the amount of water that can be extracted from the Carrizo,” he wrote me recently, but with little success. “Money is being thrown around like there is no tomorrow, which there certainly will not be if this keeps up.”
Yet the local agency charged with regulating water resources so far has failed to uphold its mission: “our ground water conservation district is so backward that they are still focusing on rain enhancement through cloud seeding. Last month I hired a hydrologist to come down and do a presentation that I hoped would lead to a one-day public workshop/symposium. The board turned it down because they said they did not want to spend taxpayer money on something that no one would attend.”
Local governments across the country have exhibited the same puzzling resistance to protect the public’s health and welfare, from California and Colorado to Pennsylvania and West Virginia; our future water supplies may have a limited future, a hidden cost we are only beginning to appreciate.
At the Dirty Energy Week strategy conference in Durban, South Africa | Photo: Friends of the Earth International/Flickr/Creative Commons License
This pattern is being replicated overseas, too. Ranchers in South Africa, for example, have been confounded by their elected officials’ unwillingness to defend local water resources and thus the livelihoods of those who for a century or more have worked the nation’s arid central region known as Karoo (which means, appropriately enough, “thirsty land”). Shell and other global energy corporations anticipate drilling thousands of hydraulic-fracking wells in the coming years, which may well serve as a death knell to the small communities that dot this flatland. Should Shell’s exploratory wells come up empty, or prove unprofitable, there will be some relieved folks in the South African outback.
South Texas’ resources are already in full development, so its need for relief is more pressing. There are several small, hopeful signs. On February 1, a new law takes effect in Texas: Frackers will be required to identify the specific chemicals used in their injection processes, and they will also have to disclose the exact amount of water they pump. As reported in the New York Times, the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association indicates that fracking wells may use upwards of five million gallons over a three-to-five day span; and at that rate by 2020 the state’s rural counties will be water-stressed. A new website will monitor this new data – fracfocus.org – and if successful it might alter Texas’ deplorable reputation for holding energy companies accountable. For up until now, says Mark A. Engle, a USGS geologist, Texas has ranked “pretty much dead last of any state I’ve worked with for keeping track of that sort of data.”
Another potential bright spot is the use of Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) as a substitute for water as a fracking agent. “My understanding is that there is no danger of cross contamination with LPG and that the recoverability is enhanced also,” Fitzsimmons notes, and then pauses: “the downside is that it is like having an atom bomb in your backyard.”
OK, water is less volatile. How ironic then that the celerity with which energy companies are sucking up it up may detonate the Eagle Ford play prematurely. So worried are wellfield producers that they might run out of water before they have extracted every ounce of oil and gas from this formation that at least one of them has approached the San Antonio Water System to secure more than 6000 acre-feet of recycled water a year; and has agreed to pay all costs associated with transferring this flow to the production sites, netting the water purveyor a tidy annual profit of two million dollars.
If this arrangement comes to pass, it will be yet one more example of how San Antonio will make bank out of the South Texas boom.
Char Miller is the Director and W.M. Keck Professor of Environmental Analysis at Pomona College, and editor of the just-published “Cities and Nature in the American West.” He comments every week on environmental issues.
I wrote about this issue back in 2011 and it is a key one in the field of Organic Agriculture, basically the standards we must all abide by or not to consider food truly organic.Big players in the Organic World are playing Russian Roulette with Organic Standards and the opponents they are getting into bed with are the very dastardly people at Monsanto, who themselves have kept a very unhealthy bedmate, the USDA, as their concubine for many years.We consumers rely upon Organic pioneers to support the industry, not cower to those who would weaken it. Learn more below!
In this article below by Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers’ Association, Ronnie responds to reader comments with a new article: Monsanto Nation: Exposing Monsanto’s Minions
“The policy set for GE alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other GE crops as well. True coexistence is a must.” — Whole Foods Market, Jan. 21, 2011
In the wake of a 12-year battle to keep Monsanto’s Genetically Engineered (GE) crops from contaminating the nation’s 25,000 organic farms and ranches, America’s organic consumers and producers are facing betrayal. A self-appointed cabal of the Organic Elite, spearheaded by Whole Foods Market, Organic Valley, and Stonyfield Farm, has decided it’s time to surrender to Monsanto. Top executives from these companies have publicly admitted that they no longer oppose the mass commercialization of GE crops, such as Monsanto’s controversial Roundup Ready alfalfa, and are prepared to sit down and cut a deal for “coexistence” with Monsanto and USDA biotech cheerleader Tom Vilsack.
In a cleverly worded, but profoundly misleading email sent to its customers last week, Whole Foods Market, while proclaiming their support for organics and “seed purity,” gave the green light to USDA bureaucrats to approve the “conditional deregulation” of Monsanto’s genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant alfalfa. Beyond the regulatory euphemism of “conditional deregulation,” this means that WFM and their colleagues are willing to go along with the massive planting of a chemical and energy-intensive GE perennial crop, alfalfa; guaranteed to spread its mutant genes and seeds across the nation; guaranteed to contaminate the alfalfa fed to organic animals; guaranteed to lead to massive poisoning of farm workers and destruction of the essential soil food web by the toxic herbicide, Roundup; and guaranteed to produce Roundup-resistant superweeds that will require even more deadly herbicides such as 2,4 D to be sprayed on millions of acres of alfalfa across the U.S.
In exchange for allowing Monsanto’s premeditated pollution of the alfalfa gene pool, WFM wants “compensation.” In exchange for a new assault on farmworkers and rural communities (a recent large-scale Swedish study found that spraying Roundup doubles farm workers’ and rural residents’ risk of getting cancer), WFM expects the pro-biotech USDA to begin to regulate rather than cheerlead for Monsanto. In payment for a new broad spectrum attack on the soil’s crucial ability to provide nutrition for food crops and to sequester dangerous greenhouse gases (recent studies show that Roundup devastates essential soil microorganisms that provide plant nutrition and sequester climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases), WFM wants the Biotech Bully of St. Louis to agree to pay “compensation” (i.e. hush money) to farmers “for any losses related to the contamination of his crop.”
In its email of Jan. 21, 2011 WFM calls for “public oversight by the USDA rather than reliance on the biotechnology industry,” even though WFM knows full well that federal regulations on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) do not require pre-market safety testing, nor labeling; and that even federal judges have repeatedly ruled that so-called government “oversight” of Frankencrops such as Monsanto’s sugar beets and alfalfa is basically a farce. At the end of its email, WFM admits that its surrender to Monsanto is permanent: “The policy set for GE alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other GE crops as well True coexistence is a must.”
Why Is Organic Inc. Surrendering?
According to informed sources, the CEOs of WFM and Stonyfield are personal friends of former Iowa governor, now USDA Secretary, Tom Vilsack, and in fact made financial contributions to Vilsack’s previous electoral campaigns. Vilsack was hailed as “Governor of the Year” in 2001 by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and traveled in a Monsanto corporate jet on the campaign trail. Perhaps even more fundamental to Organic Inc.’s abject surrender is the fact that the organic elite has become more and more isolated from the concerns and passions of organic consumers and locavores. The Organic Inc. CEOs are tired of activist pressure, boycotts, and petitions. Several of them have told me this to my face. They apparently believe that the battle against GMOs has been lost, and that it’s time to reach for the consolation prize. The consolation prize they seek is a so-called “coexistence” between the biotech Behemoth and the organic community that will lull the public to sleep and greenwash the unpleasant fact that Monsanto’s unlabeled and unregulated genetically engineered crops are now spreading their toxic genes on 1/3 of U.S. (and 1/10 of global) crop land.
WFM and most of the largest organic companies have deliberately separated themselves from anti-GMO efforts and cut off all funding to campaigns working to label or ban GMOs. The so-called Non-GMO Project, funded by Whole Foods and giant wholesaler United Natural Foods (UNFI) is basically a greenwashing effort (although the 100% organic companies involved in this project seem to be operating in good faith) to show that certified organic foods are basically free from GMOs (we already know this since GMOs are banned in organic production), while failing to focus on so-called “natural” foods, which constitute most of WFM and UNFI’s sales and are routinely contaminated with GMOs.
From their “business as usual” perspective, successful lawsuits against GMOs filed by public interest groups such as the Center for Food Safety; or noisy attacks on Monsanto by groups like the Organic Consumers Association, create bad publicity, rattle their big customers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Kroger, Costco, Supervalu, Publix and Safeway; and remind consumers that organic crops and foods such as corn, soybeans, and canola are slowly but surely becoming contaminated by Monsanto’s GMOs.
Whole Food’s Dirty Little Secret: Most of the So-Called “Natural” Processed Foods and Animal Products They Sell Are Contaminated with GMOs
The main reason, however, why Whole Foods is pleading for coexistence with Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, Syngenta, BASF and the rest of the biotech bullies, is that they desperately want the controversy surrounding genetically engineered foods and crops to go away. Why? Because they know, just as we do, that 2/3 of WFM’s $9 billion annual sales is derived from so-called “natural” processed foods and animal products that are contaminated with GMOs. We and our allies have tested their so-called “natural” products (no doubt WFM’s lab has too) containing non-organic corn and soy, and guess what: they’re all contaminated with GMOs, in contrast to their certified organic products, which are basically free of GMOs, or else contain barely detectable trace amounts.
Approximately 2/3 of the products sold by Whole Foods Market and their main distributor, United Natural Foods (UNFI) are not certified organic, but rather are conventional (chemical-intensive and GMO-tainted) foods and products disguised as “natural.”
Unprecedented wholesale and retail control of the organic marketplace by UNFI and Whole Foods, employing a business model of selling twice as much so-called “natural” food as certified organic food, coupled with the takeover of many organic companies by multinational food corporations such as Dean Foods, threatens the growth of the organic movement.
Covering Up GMO Contamination: Perpetrating “Natural” Fraud
Many well-meaning consumers are confused about the difference between conventional products marketed as “natural,” and those nutritionally/environmentally superior and climate-friendly products that are “certified organic.”
Retail stores like WFM and wholesale distributors like UNFI have failed to educate their customers about the qualitative difference between natural and certified organic, conveniently glossing over the fact that nearly all of the processed “natural” foods and products they sell contain GMOs, or else come from a “natural” supply chain where animals are force-fed GMO grains in factory farms or Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).
A troubling trend in organics today is the calculated shift on the part of certain large formerly organic brands from certified organic ingredients and products to so-called “natural” ingredients. With the exception of the “grass-fed and grass-finished” meat sector, most “natural” meat, dairy, and eggs are coming from animals reared on GMO grains and drugs, and confined, entirely, or for a good portion of their lives, in CAFOs.
Whole Foods and UNFI are maximizing their profits by selling quasi-natural products at premium organic prices. Organic consumers are increasingly left without certified organic choices while genuine organic farmers and ranchers continue to lose market share to “natural” imposters. It’s no wonder that less than 1% of American farmland is certified organic, while well-intentioned but misled consumers have boosted organic and “natural” purchases to $80 billion annually-approximately 12% of all grocery store sales.
The Solution: Truth-in-Labeling Will Enable Consumers to Drive So-Called “Natural” GMO and CAFO-Tainted Foods Off the Market
There can be no such thing as “coexistence” with a reckless industry that undermines public health, destroys biodiversity, damages the environment, tortures and poisons animals, destabilizes the climate, and economically devastates the world’s 1.5 billion seed-saving small farmers. There is no such thing as coexistence between GMOs and organics in the European Union. Why? Because in the EU there are almost no GMO crops under cultivation, nor GM consumer food products on supermarket shelves. And why is this? Because under EU law, all foods containing GMOs or GMO ingredients must be labeled. Consumers have the freedom to choose or not to choose GMOs; while farmers, food processors, and retailers have (at least legally) the right to lace foods with GMOs, as long as they are safety-tested and labeled. Of course the EU food industry understands that consumers, for the most part, do not want to purchase or consume GE foods. European farmers and food companies, even junk food purveyors like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart, understand quite well the concept expressed by a Monsanto executive when GMOs first came on the market: “If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.”
The biotech industry and Organic Inc. are supremely conscious of the fact that North American consumers, like their European counterparts, are wary and suspicious of GMO foods. Even without a PhD, consumers understand you don’t want your food safety or environmental sustainability decisions to be made by out-of-control chemical companies like Monsanto, Dow, or Dupont – the same people who brought you toxic pesticides, Agent Orange, PCBs, and now global warming. Industry leaders are acutely aware of the fact that every single industry or government poll over the last 16 years has shown that 85-95% of American consumers want mandatory labels on GMO foods. Why? So that we can avoid buying them. GMO foods have absolutely no benefits for consumers or the environment, only hazards. This is why Monsanto and their friends in the Bush, Clinton, and Obama administrations have prevented consumer GMO truth-in-labeling laws from getting a public discussion in Congress.
Although Congressman Dennis Kucinich (Democrat, Ohio) recently introduced a bill in Congress calling for mandatory labeling and safety testing for GMOs, don’t hold your breath for Congress to take a stand for truth-in-labeling and consumers’ right to know what’s in their food. Especially since the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the so-called “Citizens United” case gave big corporations and billionaires the right to spend unlimited amounts of money (and remain anonymous, as they do so) to buy media coverage and elections, our chances of passing federal GMO labeling laws against the wishes of Monsanto and Food Inc. are all but non-existent. Perfectly dramatizing the “Revolving Door” between Monsanto and the Federal Government, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, formerly chief counsel for Monsanto, delivered one of the decisive votes in the Citizens United case, in effect giving Monsanto and other biotech bullies the right to buy the votes it needs in the U.S. Congress.
With big money controlling Congress and the media, we have little choice but to shift our focus and go local. We’ve got to concentrate our forces where our leverage and power lie, in the marketplace, at the retail level; pressuring retail food stores to voluntarily label their products; while on the legislative front we must organize a broad coalition to pass mandatory GMO (and CAFO) labeling laws, at the city, county, and state levels.
The Organic Consumers Association, joined by our consumer, farmer, environmental, and labor allies, has just launched a nationwide Truth-in-Labeling campaign to stop Monsanto and the Biotech Bullies from force-feeding unlabeled GMOs to animals and humans.
Utilizing scientific data, legal precedent, and consumer power the OCA and our local coalitions will educate and mobilize at the grassroots level to pressure giant supermarket chains (Wal-Mart, Kroger, Costco, Safeway, Supervalu, and Publix) and natural food retailers such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s to voluntarily implement “truth-in-labeling” practices for GMOs and CAFO products; while simultaneously organizing a critical mass to pass mandatory local and state truth-in-labeling ordinances – similar to labeling laws already in effect for country of origin, irradiated food, allergens, and carcinogens. If local and state government bodies refuse to take action, wherever possible we must attempt to gather sufficient petition signatures and place these truth-in-labeling initiatives directly on the ballot in 2011 or 2012. If you’re interesting in helping organize or coordinate a Millions Against Monsanto and Factory Farms Truth-in-Labeling campaign in your local community, sign up here.
To pressure the nation’s largest supermarket chains to voluntarily adopt truth-in-labeling practices sign here, and circulate this petition widely.
To pressure Whole Foods Market to take the lead, sign here, and circulate this petition widely.
And please stay tuned to Organic Bytes for the latest developments in our campaigns.
Power to the People! Not the Corporations!
Insider trading. Why the rules for congress and the senate allow them to do things that would end us up in jail.
The playing field is not level for you and I when it comes to insiders trading. Members of Congress do it all the time and it is LEGAL! You and I would be investigated, spend tens of thousands if not hundreds on lawyers, go to jail and pay hefty fines. I suppose it is yet another part of the ‘retirement’ plan for Congressional members! The video below points out just how unfair the game is when it comes to the markets and trading!
The State of the nation from an outsider (through a friend of mine). Another interesting perspective.
This morning I received a commentary from a friend about our state of the Nation. It seems that our government is really out of touch.
Here is an excerpt from an article written recently by a financial analyst who recently visited Amersterdam, Holland and Zurich, Switzerland. I find some of his comments about what’s going on here and abroad chilling. Our Republican candidates for president stand up and tell people that they want to give the rest of the world the kind of freedom that we have. Really? Some countries might not want our brand of “freedom.”
“Listening to President Obama’s State of the Union address last week, I was impressed with two things. First, he is still an eloquent speaker who knows exactly what is on the public’s mind. Second, he seems to have become disconnected from their reality and is unable or unwilling to take action in the direction of his analysis of the problems. In fact, his actions are in almost complete opposition to his correct analysis of the problems, time and time again (i.e. his comments about “too much regulation,” yet he is the leader of this “Era of Regulations,” or, “every one should pay their fair share of taxes,” yet 47% of population pay no income tax. A “fair share” would be a flat tax, which would be very unpopular for his support base).
One statement in particular that highlights this awareness occurred when he stated that many people think the USA is in a state of decline, and “… those people don’t know what they are talking about.” Really? Does he not look at the rate of acceleration of the government’s debt? Is he not aware that the debt ceiling is about to be increased $1.2 trillion to $16.4 trillion within days, which – according to Rick Santelli on CNBC – represents a debt of $52,409 for every single person living in the USA? That’s an increase of over 60% just since the end of 2008! Does he not realize that the USA credit worthiness was downgraded for the first time in its history and it is on watch to be downgraded again soon if nothing changes? Does this support the idea that the country is NOT in decline? This is the “debt explosion”. . .). The fuse is lit and it is exploding on his watch.
But more to the point about the disconnect. It is not just between Obama and the American people, but between the government and the people who elected them to serve. Let me share two examples of this disconnection from my recent trip to Zurich and Amsterdam.
At my workshop on Financial Market Timing on Saturday, January 7, in Zurich, I had the privilege of sitting at lunch with three very fine people. One was a Swiss banker. He was there with one of his special clients – one my subscribers, who is a very successful businesswoman with residences in both Switzerland and Vero Beach, Florida. At a certain point, I asked this young banker if he comes often to the United States. “Not anymore. We can’t. Our banks will not let us travel to the USA.”
“Why not?” I asked, for this seemed like a very strange policy for a bank.
“Your country now detains all Swiss bankers who enter the USA. They are asked to give up the names of their American clients so they can be checked to see if they are avoiding payment of taxes in the USA. If we do that, we lose our clients and the bank fires us. If we don’t, your government detains us for several weeks, months, even years. Therefore none of us, as Swiss bankers, can travel to the USA at this time.” You see, it is a violation of Swiss banking laws of confidentiality to reveal their clients to anyone. At the same time, the USA now has a policy where banks from other nations cannot conduct business in the USA unless they reveal the identities of all of their USA clients. As a comparison, imagine that you are a doctor, lawyer. . . psychologist, and someone from law enforcement asks you to reveal confidential information about one of your clients, under threat of detainment or even incarceration. What do you do? What does your employer do if he/she knows you will be put into such a compromising situation?
Two weeks later, after the mini-symposium on “Forecast 2012” in Amsterdam on Saturday, January 21, I had another experience that would surprise many USA citizens, and again demonstrates the disconnect that has subtly evolved between the government and the people it serves. After the very successful mini-Congress, the organizer – Irma Schogt of Schogt Market Timing – invited two other symposia participants and myself to dinner at a well-known French restaurant. We split a fine bottle of wine. We had dessert, and then left to take me back to my apartment. As we drove along the main thoroughfare, the traffic was diverted to the right of the road. We were in a queue. Irma, the driver, said this diversion was for drivers to be given a breath-alyzer test for alcohol. This is what they do at this hour on Saturday night in Amsterdam. It is an “agreement” between the people and the police. No one wants people driving who are drunk and may be a threat to the safety of others. After a few minutes, it was time for Irma to take the breath-alyzer. I was nervous, because I know what happens in the USA if you are pulled over and found to have a blood alcohol limit that is ”too high.” But Irma passed the test just fine.
“What would have happened if you had failed, Irma?” I asked.
“They would have pulled me over and asked me to step out of the car and go eat or walk, or do something, and then come back and take it again until I was under the limit for safety.”
I am thinking. “This isn’t real.” But it was and it is. In Amsterdam, the focus is on prevention of problems via cooperation between the people and its government to provide safety for its people. It is a quite different relationship here in the USA.
Why and how have we become so disconnected from our government, or vice-versa? Why is it that the rest of the world is living our dream, the dream of our founding fathers for a cooperation between the government and the people who elect it to serve? Are we losing touch with this aspect of our national character? Is it true that we are not in a state of decline from these founding principles, as President Obama stated? Can we ever get it back? Answer me that!”
More and more people are waking up to understand just how insecure our food system is these days and how far we have moved from our relationship with our food. At the root of this crisis is the crisis over viable seed, a crisis precipitated by large agricultural interests that promote vegetable and fruit varieties that are easy to transport and have a longer shelf life , rather than varieties that are more nutritious.In this article below on seed saving by kay Baxter, learn what some are doing around the world to remedy this situation.
In our changing and unstable world, the question of food security is becoming increasingly relevant. Our ability to grow healthy food locally and sustainably is dependent in many ways on the quality of our seeds. It has been a focus of the Koanga Institute for many years to support home gardeners with the skills needed for self reliance, and understanding the process of saving high quality seed that is well adapted to local climates is fundamental to this. Almost all seed available commercially today is grown by large companies either in Europe or the USA. This leaves the home gardener extremely vulnerable to global instability if they are not saving their own seeds. Genetic diversity in our food crops has been lost on a drastic scale due to the industrialisation of our food production. The incredible diversity we once had, with thousands of genetically unique varieties, has been reduced to a tiny number of varieties that have been selected for their suitability to commercial applications (not the requirements of a home gardener).
The Koanga Institute holds a significant and valuable collection of NZ heritage seed (vegetables, herbs and flowers), and has international recognition for their unique work in the field of seed saving and seed production. The founder of the Institute — Kay Baxter — has been dedicated to saving these seeds and making them available in NZ. Over the past 30 years, Kay’s work for the Institute has ensured the survival of more than 800 NZ heritage seed lines, many of which are now available to members and home gardeners. A major focus of our research in the past few years has been finding ways for home gardeners to increase the nutritional density of their produce, adapting biological agricultural methods to suit home gardeners.
Very few soils have the complete balance of minerals required to grow produce to support optimum human health. This is not such an issue while we have food available to us from many parts of the world, but as we look towards self reliance (be it on a family scale or a local community scale) human health will suffer if these deficiencies aren’t addressed. Once the minerals have been balanced, then it becomes possible to manage the recycling and regeneration of these nutrients.
As community based organisations develop skills and networks that foster local sustainability and community self reliance, the question of seed saving becomes increasingly important. While seed saving is not difficult, there are many things to take into account if you are serious about ensuring food security, and the survival of specific varieties.
This 5-day workshop will give you the skills and understanding to grow and save your own seeds, and to ensure that the seeds you save will be high quality, for longevity and with the potential for optimal nutrition. Whether you are planning to set up a seed bank for a larger community, or would like to address food security for your immediate family, here you will find the skills and resources required. Processes taught are very low tech, and could be adapted to suit any situation, including rural villages without electricity or technology.
Though we loathe to admit it, the truth is that false flag events have been repeatedly used to justify wars around the world. Check out the video below for more specific information. Let’s stay informed!
As the biotech industry continues to spread its insidious tentacles into our entire food production system, it becomes more and more apparent just how weak our government is becoming and just how unwilling, unable or downright paid off they are.
This article below by Mike Ludwig from Truthout goes into more detail on the subject.
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. [Click 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. A list 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.
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.
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.”