Glyphosate in Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream + 'Monsanto Papers' = Very Interesting Times
By Katherine Paul
Sometimes the stars align. This is one of those times.
Not long after the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) announced that Ben & Jerry's ice cream tested positive for glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller, another story broke—one that validates the importance of finding glyphosate, even at low doses, in any food.
According to internal Monsanto documents, Monsanto forced the retraction of a critical long-term study, first published in 2012, showing that very low doses of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide—lower than those detected in Ben & Jerry's ice cream—caused serious liver and kidney damage in rats.
Shortly before the study was retracted, the editor of the journal began working for Monsanto, under a consulting contract. (The study, led by G.E. Séralini, was republished in 2014, by the Environmental Sciences Europe).
Since the New York Times first reported on OCA's testing findings, the news about Ben & Jerry's has been picked by thousands of media outlets, including TV stations, in the U.S. and internationally, including in Germany, the U.K., France, Mexico, Portugal and Japan.
Why Consumers Need to Force Ben & Jerry's to Go Organic https://t.co/X5bVEw141d @OrganicLiveFood @OrganicLife— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1501023307.0
No surprise, it didn't take long for critics to come out of the woodwork—mostly the usual suspects who defend Monsanto. Their criticisms focused largely on the amounts of glyphosate detected in the ice cream, and how they fall below the U.S. Food & Drug Administration's (FDA) "allowable safe levels"—levels that don't take into account the latest research.
That latest research, in addition to the Séralini study, includes a peer-reviewed study published in January, in Scientific Reports. Led by Dr. Michael Antoniou at King's College London, the Antoniou study found that low doses (thousands of times below those declared "safe" by U.S. and international regulators) of Roundup weedkiller, administered to rats over a two-year period, caused non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is now reaching epidemic proportions, can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, a life-threatening condition.
OCA's news, and the latest revelations about Monsanto's efforts to bury the truth about Roundup's true toxicity have Ben & Jerry's (and parent company Unilever) sweating. As for Monsanto, company officials weren't too pleased when their internal emails went public. The New York Times reported that one Monsanto scientist wrote this in an internal email in 2001:
"If somebody came to me and said they wanted to test Roundup I know how I would react—with serious concern."
The email was uncovered in what EcoWatch reported are more than 75 documents, including intriguing text messages and discussions about payments to scientists, which were posted for public viewing early Tuesday by attorneys suing Monsanto on behalf of people alleging Roundup caused them or their family members to become ill with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer.
Just Released Docs Show Monsanto 'Executives Colluding With Corrupted EPA Officials to Manipulate Scientific Data' https://t.co/aCYVEIWPSn— Mark Ruffalo (@Mark Ruffalo)1501631043.0
Monsanto told the New York Times "It was outraged by the documents' release."
But we are the ones who should be outraged. By Monsanto knowingly selling a toxic product, and covering up that fact by attacking credible independent scientists. By government agencies that allowed, and possibly even colluded in the cover-ups and attacks. And by companies like Ben & Jerry's that profess great concern for the environment, the climate and "social responsibility," while excusing themselves from having to live up to those promises.
Ben & Jerry's Responds
In response to our finding glyphosate in Ben & Jerry's ice cream, the company told the New York Times it "was working to ensure that all the ingredients in its supply chain come from sources that do not include genetically modified organisms, known as G.M.O.s."
Rob Michalak, global director of social mission at Ben & Jerry's, told the Times:
"We're working to transition away from G.M.O., as far away as we can get. But then these tests come along, and we need to better understand where the glyphosate they're finding is coming from. Maybe it's from something that's not even in our supply chain, and so we're missing it."
Not even in their supply chain? Seriously? Ben & Jerry's is one of the, if not the biggest buyer of non-organic milk in Vermont. And the cows that make that milk? They're fed GMO animal feed.
More than 92,000 acres of Vermont farmland is planted in corn grown for animal feed, reported Regeneration Vermont. Ninety-six percent of that corn is GMO—corn grown using massive amounts of chemical fertilizers, and toxic weedkillers like glyphosate, atrazine and metolachlor.
But that's not something Ben & Jerry's, the darling brand of the progressive movement, likes to talk about—even though activists have been begging the company for more than two decades to clean up its act, and go organic. And not just because of the glyphosate in its ice cream, though that's reason enough—but because, as OCA Director Ronnie Cummins recently explained, because Ben & Jerry's support of conventional and GMO dairy is ruining Vermont's waterways, hurtling dairy farmers into bankruptcy, hurting migrant workers and perpetuating animal abuse.
We Stand by Our Test Results
Criticisms of the New York Times story on OCA's test results, and on the testing itself, don't hold up. Our tests were conducted by Health Research Institute Laboratories, an independent, 501(c)(3) non-profit analytical chemistry laboratory, using the latest methodology. We provide a full explanation of that methodology here.
As for the significance of the amounts of weedkiller detected in Ben & Jerry's ice cream, as mentioned at the beginning of this post, we point to the latest research that says these amounts are actually higher than doses known to cause serious health issues in rats, based on long-term peer-reviewed studies. You can read more about the relevance of our findings here.
Ben & Jerry's has been hiding behind its do-gooder image for far too long. We intend to keep the pressure on, until the company commits to a three-year transition to 100 percent organic, immediately.
Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association.
By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
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By Stuart Braun
"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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