Organic Bytes #53
Food and Consumer News Tidbits with an Edge! 3/28/2005
MONSANTO WARNS TWO BILLION FARMERS: "STOP SAVING YOUR SEEDS"
Since the advent of farming, thousands of years ago, farmers have carefully collected seeds at harvest so as to have enough seed for the next year's planting. Concerned that seed saving by farmers reduces their profits, seed and biotech giants like Monsanto have rammed though controversial "intellectual property laws" in numerous countries that make traditional seed saving a crime. Last year, Monsanto harassed and/or sued more than 500 U.S. farmers who saved their seeds, forcing them to pay the company over $15 million in fines, including up to 8 month long prison sentences. http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/seedsaving031405.cfm
MONSANTO HELPS KEEP A NOTORIOUS TOXIC PESTICIDE ON THE MARKET
This week, Minnesota became the first U.S. state to attempt to follow the lead of the European Union and ban Atrazine. The commonly used corn pesticide has been directly linked to cancer, low sperm counts and widespread deformities in frogs, and has been showing up at increasing rates in wells and municipal water supplies. In response to the proposed law, chemically-dependent corn farmers and distributors of the pesticide, including Monsanto and Syngenta, successfully flexed their lobbying muscle and convinced lawmakers to reject the bill, claiming that Atrazine is safe, and that a ban would negatively impact profits. http://www.organicconsumers.org/toxic/atrazine031705.cfm
JUDGE RULES AGAINST ONE MILLION VIETNAMESE IN FAVOR OF MONSANTO
On March 10, conservative Judge Jack B. Weinstein ruled against compensating Vietnamese children and adults who have suffered serious health damage due to the intensive spraying of the herbicide Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. Agent Orange was widely applied to remove forest cover, despite being categorized as a highly toxic dioxin to humans. Backed by legal teams that only billions of dollars in annual sales can provide, the Monsanto Corporation (the original producer of Agent Orange), Dow, and others claimed the chemical is not toxic, even though it is now globally banned for that very reason. Over a million Vietnamese suffer serious health problems, ranging from cancer to birth defects, due to exposure to Agent Orange, which still persists in the nation's environment. Birth defect rates are among the highest in the world in regions where Agent Orange was applied. Here, children are frequently born without eyes, limbs, or are even missing internal organs. In making his ruling in favor of Monsanto and Dow, Judge Weinstein claimed that pesticides and birth defects are not related, saying, "There is no basis for any of the claims of plaintiffs. The case is dismissed." http://www.organicconsumers.org/Politics/agentorange031405.cfm
IN THE WORDS OF THE U.S. GOVERNMENT
"Studies evaluating the role of pesticides in birth defects have found an association between maternal and paternal exposure to pesticides and increased risks of offspring having or dying from birth defects."
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (America's Children and the Environment)
For more U.S. Government statements on the health effects of pesticides check out this Fact Sheet (PDF)
MILLIONS OF CITIZENS COUNTERING MONSANTO'S BUSINESS PRACTICES
Given Monsanto's ongoing, criminally irresponsible record of disregarding human health and the environment, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is stepping up the pace in our "Millions Against Monsanto" campaign. If you're talking about Agent Orange, rBGH, water privatization, PCBs, or DDT, you're talking about Monsanto. Sign the "Millions Against Monsanto" petition now, and forward this Alert to your friends and colleagues. TAKE ACTION HERE: http://www.organicconsumers.org/monlink.html
We really need your financial support right now to keep up the pressure on Monsanto and the biotech industry. Strike a blow against Frankenfoods, pesticides, and corporate bullying by helping us in our efforts. DONATE HERE: http://www.organicconsumers.org/donations.htm
BIRTH DEFECT RATES SKYROCKET ON FLORIDA FARMS
The state of Florida launched an investigation last week into illegally exposing migrant workers to pesticides. Records show that at least 4,609 pesticide regulations were violated in the last ten years, but only 7.6% of those resulted in penalties. As a result, migrant farm workers are unknowingly facing highly dangerous working conditions in order to supply the nation with cheap produce. For example, in Immokalee, Florida, migrant workers in pesticide intensive tomato fields have witnessed three children born with severe birth defects in the last three months alone. "People have mentioned to me that maybe this has to do with chemicals," says Francisca Herrera, who was told it was "safe" to work in the tomato fields for most of her pregnancy. Recently Francisca's new baby was born without arms or legs. http://www.organicconsumers.org/OFGU/birthdefects031405.cfm
QUICK FOOD COMPANY NEWS MUNCHIES
TACO BELL: In an effort to end a three year long boycott of Taco Bell restaurants by the Coalition of Immokalee Worker's (CIW), Taco Bell has agreed to address the substandard wages and working conditions of Florida tomato workers by guaranteeing to pay field workers a full penny per pound of tomatoes purchased by the restaurant chain. http://www.organicconsumers.org/Politics/tacobell32205.cfm
WENDY'S: A woman eating at a Wendy's restaurant in San Jose California found a human finger in her chili. Authorities are running fingerprints on the 1 1/2" long digit to find its owner, who is likely an employee of one of the restaurant chain's food processing plants. Officials claim the body part probably belongs to a woman, saying it was well manicured. http://www.organicconsumers.org/toxic/wendys.cfm
MCDONALD'S: A McDonald's restaurant in Russia's Pushkin Square has officially become the busiest in the world, serving 30,000 customers per day. The fast food chain is also Russia's biggest corporate landowner, serving the standard menu items with the addition of cabbage pie and other traditional Russian foods.
BURGER KING has won the Center for Science in the Public Interest's "Booby Prize," for containing the highest level of hydrogenated fat in its french fries. News of the prize arrived on the heels of a New England Journal of Medicine report that reveals, for the first time in history, U.S. life expectancy is expected to drop. As a result of the obesity epidemic increasing risks of cancer, diabetes and heart disease, the average U.S. lifespan is dropping by as many as five years. http://www.organicconsumers.org/toxic/obesityo5.cfm
KRAFT: In Organic Bytes issue #22, the Organic Consumers Association reported that Kraft Foods was sourcing fewer genetically modified ingredients in its products. But the world's largest packaged food producer is once again changing course on its food policy with the guidance of new CEO, Roger Deromedi. Speaking at Reuters Food Summit in Chicago last week, Deromedi said, "We believe that over time genetically modified ingredients will play a very important role both nutritionally and environmentally in terms of reduction of pesticide use around the world." http://www.organicconsumers.org/Kraft/nutritious031605.cfm
GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CROPS REQUIRE MORE PESTICIDES
"While the discovery and adoption of GE crop technology has changed American agriculture in many ways, reducing overall pesticide use is not among them. The average acre planted to glyphosate-tolerant crops [Monsanto's Roundup] requires more and more help from other herbicides, a trend with serious environmental and economic implications."
Source: Benbrook Consulting 2004 Technical Paper on USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service
GLOBAL GE NEWS TIDBITS
U.K.: A recently released government commissioned comparison study of genetically engineered (GE) crops vs. traditional crops showed the former has a far greater negative impact on the environment (reducing butterfly and bee populations).
EASTERN EUROPE: A sixth province in Poland announced last week it is banning genetically engineered (GE) crops, resulting in roughly half of the agriculture of the nation now being GE-free. In the meantime, Eastern Europe governments have announced the implementation of the world's largest organic research budget. According to Janez Potocnik, the EU Commissioner for Research, "I believe that the importance of research into organic and low-input food production can be a perfect example of how science can unlock potentials for human well-being."
AFRICA: Stakeholders in Tanzania are appealing to the government to continue the country's ban on GE crops for the next ten years.
JAPAN: Nearly a quarter of a million petition signatures opposing GE farming in Hokkaido, Japan have been submitted to the local government. Of the 5,000 farmers in the region, only ten (along with backing from the Monsanto Corporation) support GE crops.
U.S.: Vermont is holding public hearings on a bill that, for the first time in U.S. history, would hold biotech companies liable for damage to non-GE crops due to drifting GE pollen. Meanwhile, in Missouri, the USDA is on the brink of approving field tests of rice engineered with human genes.
NEW STUDIES SHOW SUSTAINABLE FARMING CREATES NUTRITIONALLY SUPERIOR FOOD
"High nitrogen levels make plants grow fast and bulk up with carbohydrates and water. While the fruits these plants produce may be big, they suffer in nutritional quality, whereas organic production systems [which use slow-release forms of nitrogen] produce foods that usually yield denser concentrations of nutrients and deliver consumers a better nutritional bargain per calorie consumed." [Agriculture expert Charles Benbrook, Ph.D. explains why conventional produce has lower nutrient values than organic produce.]
Eggs from free-range hens contain up to 30% more vitamin E, 50% more folic acid and 30% more vitamin B-12 than factory eggs, while the yolk holds higher levels of antioxidant carotenes.
Beef from cattle raised in feedlots on growth hormones and high-grain diets has lower levels of vitamins E, A, D and betacarotene and twice as much fat as grass-fed beef.
UK SCHOOLS GOING ORGANIC
Due to overwhelming pressure from parents of school-age children in the U.K., Prime Minister Tony Blair has announced the establishment of a new government based "School Food Trust," wherein junk foods will be removed from schools while organic "made-from-scratch" meals will be instituted. According to Blair, "If changes are made it will only be a matter of months before British health, education and farming could be affected for the better. It could be one of the biggest food revolutions that England has ever seen." http://www.organicconsumers.org/organic/blair032105.cfm
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