By Ronnie Cummins
"The Green New Deal we are proposing will be similar in scale to the mobilization efforts seen in World War II or the Marshall Plan … Half measures will not work … The time for slow and incremental efforts has long past [sic]." - Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, then-candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, Huffington Post, June 26, 2018
"Just transitioning 10 percent of agricultural production to best-practice regenerative systems will sequester enough CO2 to reverse climate change and restore the global climate. Regenerative Agriculture can change agriculture from being a major contributor to climate change to becoming a major solution." - Andre Leu, international director, Regeneration International, "Reversing Climate Change with Regenerative Agriculture," October 9, 2018
The 'Great Climate Awakening' of 2018
The final months of 2018 will likely be remembered as the decisive moment when the global grassroots awakened to the life-or-death threat posed by global warming. With violent weather and climate disasters becoming the norm, and international scientists finally shedding their customary caution to report that we must drastically slash (by at least 45 percent) global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, hundreds of millions of ordinary people across the world seemed to simultaneously wake up.
Young climate activists under the banner of the Sunrise Movement in the U.S., and the Extinction Rebellion in the UK and other countries, sat in at politicians' offices. They blocked streets and roadways. They demanded immediate and bold action.
The Green New Deal Is Born
In the U.S., an insurgent slate of newly elected members of Congress, inspired by the Sunrise Movement and led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have generated headlines and popular support by calling for a Green New Deal (GND), a 21st Century upgrade of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal carried out during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Given the severity of the climate crisis, and the deterioration of the U.S. and global status quo (economic, political, health and environment), it's no exaggeration to state that the GND is perhaps the most significant blueprint for system change in 100 years.
The GND's call for a mass conversion to renewable energy and zero emissions of greenhouse gases in the U.S. by 2030, is in line with what most scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change.
But what's new, and long overdue in this evolving manifesto is that the GND also calls for the greening, "just transition" and elimination of greenhouse gas emissions from our multi-trillion-dollar food and farming system as well. That call is long overdue, especially given that our degenerative food system generates 44 to 57 percent of all global greenhouse gases.
The GND draft statement calls for "eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacturing, agricultural and other industries, including by investing in local-scale agriculture in communities across the country." It also calls for funding "massive investment in the drawdown of greenhouse gases."
Beyond offering comprehensive energy and agricultural solutions for our climate emergency, what is truly game-changing and revolutionary about the GND is that it calls for system-wide economic regeneration as well: full employment, $15/hr. minimum wage, universal health care, free public education and economic justice for all—policies extremely popular with the overwhelming majority of the body politic, including students, working class communities and low-income groups.
By bringing together the concerns of youth, food, farmer, environmental and climate activists, with the bread-and-butter concerns of workers and frontline communities, the GND offers nothing less than a contemporary roadmap for survival and regeneration.
As Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director of the Organic Consumers Association, pointed out in a recent email urging groups to sign on to the GND, it is economic injustice, the lack of money in the pockets of workers and consumers, the 80 percent of ordinary people who live from paycheck to paycheck, that has, in large part, held back the greening of America:
"Who wouldn't drive a Tesla, put up solar panels, or buy an energy efficient home in a walkable neighborhood with great public transportation? Everyone wants these things. We all want to enjoy good health, breathe clean air and drink pure water. There aren't many families who would have to be convinced to eat locally grown organic health food if it were available and they could afford it. The problem is we've got student debt. Our mortgages are under water. We've got medical bills and childcare to pay for. And many of us have been too poor to go to college, buy a house or start a family. Our country's struggling family farmers have the same problem. Sure, they'd love to go organic and pay their workers fairly. They want to do what's best for their families, their communities and their environment. They just have to figure out how to avoid foreclosure and bankruptcy first."
Support grows quickly for the GND, but so do attacks
With unprecedented speed, Ocasio-Cortez, insurgent Democrats and the Sunrise Movement have stimulated massive media coverage and generated significant public support for the GND, putting radical change on the national agenda. More than 45 members of Congress, five U.S. Senators, leading 2020 presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, hundreds of local officials, and more than 600 activist organizations have already endorsed the GND.
In late 2018, polls indicated that 81 percent of Americans support full employment, economic justice and renewable energy, as outlined in the GND.
Yet despite initial strong support for the GND among activists and the general public, establishment politicians (both Democrats and Republicans) and the corporate media have launched a massive counter-attack, denouncing the GND (and Ocasio-Cortez and her allies) as "utopian," "radical," "impractical" and even "dangerous."
The unfortunate truth is that Congress and the mass media are infected and dominated by powerful climate emergency deniers and establishment politicians taking money from fossil fuel companies, climate-destructive industrial agribusiness and Wall Street. Yet with global scientists sounding the alarm that the onset of runaway global warming (with atmospheric CO2 levels of 450 ppm or higher) is not 80 years away or even 50 years away, but more like a dozen years away unless we drastically change course, it can hardly be called "utopian" to organize around a bold emissions-reduction, drawdown and economic development plan that can avert catastrophe, and improve the lives of everyday people at the same time.
Painting Ocasio-Cortez and the Sunrise Movement as "radical" is not likely to derail the growing insurgency. Because a radical emergency more serious than anything humans have ever faced in our 200,000-year evolution demands a radical solution. As Cortez said in an interview on 60 Minutes on Jan. 6 (watched by 11 million people), she admits to being a "radical"—not unlike previous "radicals" in American history, including Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, who likewise confronted severe crises demanding radical solutions.
Is It Possible to Achieve Zero Emissions in the U.S. by 2030?
On the same 60 Minutes show, Ocasio-Cortez was pressed on the practicality of zero fossil fuel emissions by 2030. The host tried to trip her up by asking if zero emissions meant that all of us would be driving electric cars within a decade. She responded by saying that there are technological breakthroughs on the horizon that we can't even imagine yet.
Although it's undoubtedly true that there are technical breakthroughs in renewable energy and electric cars on the horizon, I wasn't fully satisfied with Ocasio-Cortez's answer (even though I admit she's my favorite political leader of all time). Here's how I would have answered that question:
"Millions of Americans are going to be driving electric cars in 2030. But you're right, a lot of us will still be driving our old gasoline-powered vehicles. If you read the details of our proposed Green New Deal carefully, you'll see that we're not just talking about rapid reductions in fossil fuel emissions, the CO2 and other greenhouse gases we put up into the sky by burning fossil fuels. We're also talking about drawing down these same greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, utilizing climate-friendly farming practices that qualitatively increase plant photosynthesis, soil fertility and natural carbon sequestration. These regenerative practices include farming organically, holistic grazing, improving soil health, and restoring our forests, grasslands and wetlands. In other words, we can and must reach zero net emissions in 2030 by drawing down as much atmospheric carbon as we're still putting up.
"The Green New Deal aims to change not only our climate-destructive energy, manufacturing and transportation systems, but also our degenerative food and farming systems. The Green New Deal is designed to raise the living standards for all Americans, including low-income workers in both rural and urban communities, so that all of us can choose and afford healthier and more climate-friendly lifestyles. In the next decade we must facilitate a just transition away from climate-destabilizing factory farms and fossil fuel-intensive agriculture, at the same time as we switch, as rapidly possible, to 100 percent renewable energy. With renewable energy and regenerative food, farming and land use working in synergy, there is no doubt that we can reach zero net emissions by 2030, significant negative net emissions by 2050, and literally, along with the rest of the world, reverse global warming and avert climate catastrophe."
We know what to do. The best practices and practitioners in alternative energy, infrastructure rebuilding and regenerative food and farming are already visible in or near our local communities. We simply need to mobilize politically to scale up these practices utilizing the power of a GND. But we're running out of time unless we can quickly build a massive united front, elect new GND supporters to Congress and the White House in 2020, and pass federal legislation for a GND starting in 2021, as Ocasio-Cortez puts it, "similar in scale to the mobilization efforts seen in World War II or the Marshall Plan."
The time to join the GND Revolution is now. On Feb. 5, hubs and homes across the country will host parties to tune into a Sunrise Movement livestream detailing the 2019 GND strategy. Anyone can host a party to grow the movement. These house parties will unite communities to build the people power we need to make the GND happen. To host a party click here.
Could a Green New Deal Boost the Farm and Food Justice Movement? https://t.co/xOLkdPPcqM #ClimateJustice #environment #WednesdayWisdom— John Lundin 🌊 (@John Lundin 🌊)1545837895.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
- 81% of Voters Support a Green New Deal, Survey Finds - EcoWatch ›
- What Are the Implications of Election Results on the Food Movement? ›
Three non-profits have sued sandwich chain Pret A Manger for labeling certain breads and baked goods as "natural" when they tested positively for glyphosate, Beyond Pesticides announced in a press release Wednesday.
"Consumers expect Pret's food to be free of synthetic pesticides, including glyphosate. Glyphosate, patented as a chelator and an antibiotic, is linked to adverse health effects including cancer, infertility and non-alcoholic fatty liver and kidney diseases. Glyphosate shouldn't be present in the food system at all, but a company that willfully misrepresents its products needs to be held accountable," GMO Free Executive Director Diana Reeves said in the press release announcing the suit.
The suit comes as glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's widely-used Roundup weedkiller, has come under increased scrutiny after a California jury ruled in favor of a former groundskeeper who claimed that constant use of Roundup caused his cancer.
Two of the groups involved in this suit, Beyond Pesticides and OCA, settled a similar suit against General Mills in August when the company agreed to stop calling the oats in its Nature Valley granola bars "100% natural" when they also tested positive for glyphosate, Reuters reported.
The Pret suit asks the company to either accurately label the presence of glyphosate in its products or work to make them actually glyphosate-free.
"Consumers want truthful information on product ingredients, with labeling and advertising that is transparent about production practices and residues of toxic materials. Given the widespread use of pesticide-intensive practices, this lawsuit establishes the responsibility of purveyors of food products to know the origins of their product ingredients before making a 'natural' claim," Beyond Pesticides Executive Director Jay Feldman said in the press release.
Enough Roundup has been sprayed to cover every acre of cultivable land with half a pound of the weedkiller, The Guardian reported.
Kim Richman, a partner in the law firm behind the suit, said these suits were an attempt to make restaurants and companies work harder to reduce and control the use of glyphosate.
"While glyphosate is indeed ubiquitous, it doesn't need to be—and the campaign to put food producers and restaurants on notice about the issue is an important step in getting them to take glyphosate reduction seriously," Richman told The Guardian.
Richman's firm has filed another, similar lawsuit against Pret on behalf of Samara Daly and Linda Virtue in New York's Eastern District.
Pret was censured in April by the UK's Advertising Standards Authority for claiming its sandwiches where natural when they contained three common food additives, the lawsuit said.
Human Exposure to #Glyphosate Has Skyrocketed 500% Since Introduction of #GMO Crops https://t.co/pm677uxAWk @OrganicConsumer @GMWatch— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1508953776.0
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
What's the dirtiest crop on the planet? You may be wearing it.
Cotton earned the title "dirtiest crop" because it's sprayed with some of the worst pesticides, including: Bayer's aldicarb, which was banned in the U.S. in 2010, but reapproved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2016; Syngenta's paraquat, a highly toxic pesticide banned in the European Union but not in the U.S.; and Monsanto's glyphosate, classified by the World Health Organization as a "probable" human carcinogen.
Those and other toxic chemicals associated with cotton production pollute waterways and damage the health of farmworkers. They also contaminate consumer products.
GMO cotton isn't just used to make clothes, bedding, towels and other textile products. Cottonseed oil and other cotton crop waste products also end up in hundreds of processed foods.
Consumers should be just as concerned about wearing GMO cotton (or drying off with it or sleeping on it) as they are about ingesting it.
The best way to avoid GMO cotton textiles? Buy certified organic.
Here are nine reasons to choose organic clothing, bedding and other products:
1. Protect the Oceans From Microfiber Pollution
Conventional cotton used for clothing and textiles is usually combined with synthetic fabrics such as acrylic, fleece and polyester. Research shows that during washing, these synthetic fibers are released into our waterways, in the form of microfibers.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources estimates that around 1.7 million tons of microfibers enter the ocean each year, threatening marine species and sensitive coral reef ecosystems.
Don't want to contribute to the problem? Avoid synthetic fabrics altogether, including conventional cotton blends. Instead, choose clothing and textiles made from 100 percent pure and organic cotton.
2. Protect the Livelihoods of Cotton Farmers
In 2002, Monsanto introduced in India a pest-resistant cotton, genetically engineered with a gene from the bacteria Bacillus thurengiensis or Bt. Bt cotton plants produce a toxin that kills the bollworm, one of the crop's primary pests.
According to Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, Monsanto promised that its Bt cotton would reduce the amount of pesticides farmers needed to buy, and increase yields and farm income by reducing crop losses due to pest attacks.
But GMO cotton failed in India. Farmers found that:
- Bt cotton yields declined
- Secondary pests emerged, forcing increased pesticide use
- The price of cotton seed rose
- Farmers lost the option to buy non-GM cotton seed.
The failure of Bt cotton took a heavy toll on farmers, and was widely blamed for a staggering increase in Indian farmers suicides.
3. Conserve Global Water and Energy Resources
It takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce enough cotton for a pair of jeans. In fact, the water needs of cotton are so high that cotton production has contributed to the draining of the Aral Sea in Central Asia.
Organic cotton has a much lower environmental footprint. Production of organic cotton takes 71 percent less water and 62 percent less energy than production of conventional GMO cotton.
4. Reduce Your Exposure to Hazardous Insecticides and Pesticides
Conventionally grown GMO cotton is one of the most toxic crops in the world. It makes up only 2.5 percent of global cropland, and yet it accounts for up to 25 percent of the world's use of insecticides.
In addition to being responsible for the use of toxic chemicals such as aldicarb and paraquat, GMO cotton is sprayed with large amounts of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, was classified as "probably carcinogenic to human," by the World Health Organization. Glyphosate has been linked to metabolic syndrome, obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, cancer and depression.
Organic cotton farmers use only organic-approved fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides from plants, animals and minerals to prevent pests and diseases. This slashes your risk of health issues, while also protecting farmworkers and reducing environmental pollution.
5. Help Keep the Food Supply Pesticide-Free
According to Rodale Institute, most consumers aren't aware of the following facts about conventional cotton's effect on our food:
- Although cotton is not a food, cottonseed oil is produced for human consumption.
- Cottonseed oil is used to produce Vitamin E.
- Cottonseed oil is the primary ingredient in Crisco.
- Cottonseed meal is fed to animals for dairy and meat production.
- Leftover cotton cellulose fibers that are too short to be spun into textiles are used as food additives.
- Cellulose from cotton fibers is added to a wide range of foods to thicken and stabilize the products.
- Cellulose is used as a filler to extend serving sizes without increasing calories. Humans can't break down or digest cellulose, so it's being used to meet the demand for low-calorie, high-fiber foods.
- Cellulose, which is basically a plastic, has migrated into numerous foods including cheese, cream, milk powder, flavored milks, ice cream, sherbet, whey products, processed fruits, cooked vegetables, canned beans, pre-cooked pastas, pre-cooked rice products, vinegars, mustard, soups, cider, salads, yeast, seasonings, sweeteners, soybean products, bakery items, breakfast cereals, including rolled oats, sports drinks and dietetic foods as a non-caloric filler.
- Some brands of pizza cheese consist of cellulose coated cheese granules combined with silicon to aid in melting.
Making sure these derivatives come from organic cotton prevents toxic pesticides and herbicides from contaminating the food supply.
6. Reduce Your Exposure to Harsh Chemicals Used in the Cotton Manufacturing Process
A variety of toxic chemicals are used in the manufacture of conventional cotton clothing, depending on where the garments are made and what characteristics the manufacturer wants to achieve.
For example, "easy care" garments that are marketed as antimicrobial, anti-odor and anti-wrinkle may be saturated in formaldehyde.
Azo-aniline dyes are also commonly used. These dyes can cause mild to severe skin irritations, especially where there is friction between your skin and the fabric.
Organic cotton products don't use any of these chemicals, and use only low-impact and fiber-reactive dyes to get a lasting color.
7. Help Provide Better Working Conditions for Cotton Farmers
The conventional cotton industry has been linked to numerous human rights violations.
In Uzbekistan, Environmental Justice Foundation found widespread environmental and human right abuses in the cotton industry, including state-sponsored forced child labor. One-third of the Uzbekistan population works for the government-owned cotton industry. Workers have no access to protective gear or even a clean source of drinking water.
Buying products made of organic cotton promotes a safer work conditions for cotton farmers, by eliminating workers' exposure to dangerous chemicals.
8. Support Regenerative Agriculture
Responsible and sustainable organic cotton production provides a variety of environmental benefits, including reduced soil inputs such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, decreased fertilizer runoff, lower field emissions and less irrigation.
9. Increase Your Peace of Mind
Choosing products made with organic cotton gives you peace of mind by knowing that the items you wear or use are nontoxic to you and the environment, and don't contribute to human rights violations.
You can also feel good about using your purchasing power to make a difference. By supporting the organic cotton industry, you can influence other brands and manufacturers to consider switching to a more regenerative supply chain.
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- Blue Jean Fibers Found Polluting Arctic Ocean, Great Lakes - EcoWatch ›
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By Julie Wilson
We know that humans increasingly test positive for residues of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller. For example, in tests conducted by a University of California San Francisco lab, 93 percent of the participants tested positive for glyphosate residues.
In the European Union, when 48 members of Parliament volunteered for glyphosate testing, every one of them tested positive.
In October 2017, Time magazine reported on a study involving 50 Californians who were tested between 1993-1996 and again between 2014-2016. Scientists found that not only did the number of people who tested positive for glyphosate residues increase, but so did the amounts of the residues detected.
Humans are exposed to glyphosate via the food they eat, the air they breathe, the water they drink and the lawns, gardens, parks and other environments they frequent. If humans are contaminated with glyphosate, it stands to reason that their pets are, too.
In fact, a recent pilot study shows that animals are likely to have even higher levels—up to 50 percent higher—of glyphosate in their bodies.
"In a pilot study, we noticed that dogs' glyphosate levels were, on average, 50 times higher than people's," said Dr. John Fagan, chief scientist at HRI Labs and former researcher at the National Institutes of Health. "Recent biomedical research suggests harm to health at these levels, and even lower," he added.
To follow up on the pilot study, HRI Labs has launched a citizen science research project whereby the lab will work with pet owners to determine why animals have such a high exposure to glyphosate.
The project, launched on Tuesday, May 8, aims to identify the primary route by which pets are exposed to the weedkiller. The outcome is expected to give pet owners the information they need to protect their loved ones from a potentially deadly toxin—one that has already been found in disturbingly high levels in dogs.
Pets may be more vulnerable to toxins because they are lower to the ground, have unprotected paws and may eat foods laced with glyphosate, says Dr. Karen Becker, a veterinarian known for her Healthy Pets blog.
Pet owners throughout North America can participate in the study by requesting a collection kit, sending a sample of their pet's urine to HRI Labs and completing an online survey about their pet's diet, health and lifestyle. Learn more about the study here.
Studies Link Lawn Chemicals to Canine Cancer
New research suggests that exposure to pesticides may affect canines similarly to how it affects humans. Scientists have increasingly been able to link lawn chemicals, particularly 2,4-D, to canine cancer.
"Studies found that lawn chemicals travel to neighboring yards and inside homes, and chemicals have been found in the urine of dogs whose owners did not spray their lawns," reports Think About Now.
"Chemicals were detected in the urine of dogs in 14 of 25 households before lawn treatment, in 19 of 25 households after lawn treatment, and in 4 of 8 untreated households. Chemicals were commonly detected in grass residues from treated lawns, and from untreated lawns suggesting chemical drift from nearby treated areas."
Other studies have also linked herbicides containing 2,4-D to CML, which is reported to have "a similar histology and epidemiology" as non-Hodgkin lymphoma—also linked to 2,4-D exposure.
Recent reports say glyphosate may alter the human microbiome—a complex ecosystem made up of microorganisms that control a range of important processes including immune system function and brain health—and at levels considered "safe" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
If glyphosate is capable of wreaking this much havoc on human health, then what impact is it having on the health of our pets?
The scientists at HRI Labs aim to find out.
''The citizen science movement makes it possible to carry out rigorous scientific research on topics that are not necessarily of interest to corporations and government agencies that typically fund most research," HRI Labs stated in a recent press release.
To learn more about the study or to participate, click here.
California Court Ruling Ends Decades of State Pesticide Spraying https://t.co/Wus6twhgFU @wwwfoecouk @greenpeaceaustp— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1520158805.0
Julie Wilson is communications associate for the Organic Consumers Association.
- Monsanto Bullies EPA on Glyphosate Ruling ›
- Chemical Dumping Linked to California Sea Lions’ High Cancer Rates - EcoWatch ›
By Ronnie Cummins
Consumers know if the tomatoes they buy in the supermarket were imported from Mexico. They know if the sweater they purchased was made in Vietnam.
They also know if the chicken they toss in their grocery cart was imported from another country. Under Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) laws, these products are required to carry labels that tell you if the product was imported from another country.
But beef and pork? Those products are exempt from COOL laws. That means consumers have no idea where their steak and bacon came from, unless the producer chooses to label it.
U.S. cattle ranchers say the failure to require COOL labels on beef is hurting their industry. That's especially true for ranchers serving the fast-growing grassfed segment of the beef industry said Will Harris, president of the board of directors of the American Grassfed Association (AGA) and a fourth-generation cattleman.
The grassfed industry suffers the most because, as Harris told us:
"The U.S. leads the world in the production of grain-fed beef. This production advantage primarily exists because grains and soy are so heavily subsidized under the USDA federal farm program. Grassfed beef producers in America are unsubsidized.
"The subsidies on grain permits our domestic grain-fed beef products to be marketed below the pricing thresholds that would allow stiff competition from imported product. The big winners in the repeal of COOL are the multinational meat companies. This has allowed them to shop for meat in the cheapest markets in the world, and bring it into the best market in the world, and sell it to consumers as 'Product of the USA,' even though the animal had never drawn a single breath of air in the United States."
Harris, who estimates at least 75 percent of the grassfed beef consumed in America comes from Australia, New Zealand or Uruguay, said American consumers are being intentionally misled. Millions of pounds of beef, imported from other countries, are being wrongly labeled as "Product of the USA," Harris said.
Mike Callicrate of Ranch Foods Direct agreed. He told us that:
"U.S. grassfed producers can't come close to competing with cost of production of South American, Australian and New Zealand imports, especially considering producers in the exporting countries are similarly being exploited, forced to produce below cost, by the same multinational packers.
"The loss of COOL was a huge hit on the cattle price, especially grassfed prices due to extremely low cost of supposedly 'grassfed' imports, which allow importers and retailers to make ridiculous margins.
"I just returned from a ranch tour in Argentina. They think it's funny that most South American beef is considered 'grassfed.' They said that may have been true 20 years ago, but not today. Their highest-quality cattle prices were 30 percent below the U.S. at the time of my visit. South American beef has also been falsely considered organic by default."
Ranchers and other advocates of COOL are hoping a revamped North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will help them restore COOL labels on beef—but time may be running out.
Why Are Beef and Pork Exempt From COOL Labeling Laws?
COOL was first established under the Tariff Act of 1930 which required that, "unless excepted, every article of foreign origin (or its container) imported into the U.S. shall be marked with its country of origin."
Over the years, COOL, as applied to meat, has evolved with a convoluted history.
Under COOL, imported beef and pork were required "to bear a label denoting the foreign country-of-origin of the beef all the way to the consumer, unless the beef undergoes a substantial transformation in the United States."
That sounds clear enough, but the "undergoes substantial transformation" in the U.S., along with exemptions under the law for some agricultural commodities, led to a series of changes in the law. According to the National Agricultural Law Center:
The requirements for listing the country of origin for beef and pork specifically were outlined in the COOL law, but were altered through the evolution of the proposed regulations and litigation with the World Trade Organization. In the original regulations, if the product had not undergone a substantial transformation in the United States, its country of origin was the one that was declared to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. 7 C.F.R. § 60.200(f). However, if the product underwent a substantial transformation in the United States, the product must have been labeled as "product from [the country it was imported from], and processed in the U.S." 7 C.F.R. § 60.200(g)(2). If commodities were sold together, with only a part of it undergoing a substantial transformation in the United States, all the countries of origin must have been disclosed. 7 C.F.R. § 60.200(h). Similarly, commodities that had different countries of origin and/or methods of production could still be sold together, as long as all the countries and methods were listed, pursuant to 7 C.F.R. § 60.300(d).
That's more or less how the law worked, with some tweaks here and there, until December 2008. That's when Canada and Mexico sued to overturn COOL requirements for beef and pork, arguing that the law violated international trade law because it discriminated against Canadian and Mexican livestock.
After much back and forth with rulings and appeals, in May 2015, the World Trade Organization (WTO) determined that the U.S. COOL requirements did in fact violate international trade law. The WTO also said the countries could impose $1.01 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods.
Soon after the WTO's ruling, in December 2015, Congress repealed COOL and Agricultural Sec. Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would no longer enforce the labeling law on beef and pork products. The repeal was a part of the $1.4-trillion omnibus spending bill, which was signed by President Barack Obama.
The USDA justified its decision by arguing that imported beef is a product of the U.S. even if it comes from a different country, as long as the country of origin has food safety standards similar to that in America.
U.S. ranchers rise up in defense of COOL
Ever since COOL was repealed in 2015, U.S. cattle ranchers, including those in the grassfed beef industry, have been vocal on the need to reestablish the labeling law.
According to a lawsuit filed in June 2017, by American ranchers and cattle producers against the USDA and Sec. of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, millions of pounds of beef are now being imported from various countries and labeled as "Product of the U.S.A," despite only undergoing repackaging in the U.S. The lawsuit alleges that this practice violates the Tariff Act of 1930.
While the lawsuit makes its way through the courts, Kenny Graner, president of the U.S. Cattlemen's Association, is looking for an opening in the recent NAFTA negotiations to strike a deal with Canada and Mexico that restore the labels on beef. (The WTO governs global trade, while NAFTA resolves trade disputes that erupt between only Canada, Mexico and the U.S.)
In a written statement, Graner said:
As talks continue on a modernized NAFTA, U.S. cattle producers remain disappointed in the lack of discussion on a WTO-compliant country-of-origin labeling (COOL) program. Country-of-origin labeling remains an important issue for cattle producers across the U.S. and consensus must be reached on how to best respond to consumer demand for accurate information. USCA continues to work toward truth in labeling on all fronts, and we hope the administration will do the same.
Graner cited industry figures showing that in 1994, the year NAFTA was implemented, the U.S. ran a surplus of $226.7 million in beef and a deficit of $978.8 million with Canada and Mexico combined. By 2016, the surplus in beef had become a deficit of $710.4 million, and the combined deficit in cattle had grown to $1.55 billion.
Political commentator Tomi Lahren expressed similar concerns in a Fox News Insider report, saying that U.S. ranchers and cattle producers have been "squeezed, poked and prodded by the meat packing industry." She went on to say:
They [the foreign beef producers and the big meat packers lobbyists] control the market. They control the price. They buy this cheap foreign beef, and your American ranchers are going under—and not because they can't compete in quality, but because that can't compete with mystery meat brought in from who knows where.
If the repeal of COOL is hurting the beef industry, it's even worse for grassfed producers, Harris told us. In an email he wrote:
"I was among the earliest of the American cattle producers who embraced the grassfed protocol. I have seen steady increases for demand of this product for the last 25 years. In the last few months, I have seen most of the necessary-for-production margin premiums eroded by imported grassfed beef."
U.S. cattle producers continue to lobby to get COOL reinstated, as they believe it will help create competition in the beef market, put a stop to consumer deception, reduce market manipulation, enable price discovery and support America's rural economy.
As Carrie Balkcom, executive director of American Grassfed Association, said:
"Consumers want to know when they go to the market that the grassfed meats they are buying are from these farms and farmers. Farmers that are restoring and regenerating their farms. Farmers and farms that are preserving and restoring their rural economies. Farmers and farms that are saving a way of life by allowing these farms to survive so the next generation can be supported.
"Feeding Americans with American products without the worry of whether or not other countries will or will not provide us with food. COOL provides these consumers with the knowledge that they are helping with these efforts. We cannot allow marketing and food conglomerates to decide what goes on a label."
If you want to support American-grown grassfed meat and dairy, buy directly from a trusted farmer near you or look for products that bear the American Grassfed Association logo to ensure that your food is truly a "Product of the U.S.A."
Many people believe that if you just focus on soil health, everything else will follow. This principal is prominently featured in a recent New York Times Magazine article, "Can Dirt Save the Earth?" which examines the practicality of regenerative agriculture.
Moises Velasquez-Manoof begins his lengthy piece with John Wick and his wife, Peggy Rathmann, two decades after they bought a ranch in Marin County, California, and began a quest to learn how to sequester carbon in the soil. The couple met with rangeland ecologist Jeff Creque back in 1998, after they noticed their land was quickly losing its vitality and an invasive weed was taking over. Creque suggested that the couple focus on cultivating what they wanted on their land instead of fighting against what they disliked.
Creque also suggested that Wick and Rathmann hire some cows to graze their grasslands. Within weeks after the cows arrived, Wick was amazed at how the animals had already transformed the land. It made him realize what a mistake it had been to send away the neighbor's dairy cows when the couple first bought the land.
By summer's end, when Wick returned the cows to their owner, the animals had collectively gained about 50,000 pounds. Wick wondered where all the extra weight came from. In his article, Velasquez-Manoof explains:
Creque had an answer for him. The carbohydrates that fattened the cows had come from the atmosphere, by way of the grass they ate. Grasses, he liked to say, were like straws sipping carbon from the air, bringing it back to earth. Creque's quiet observation stuck with Wick and Rathmann. It clearly illustrated a concept that Creque had repeatedly tried to explain to them: Carbon, the building block of life, was constantly flowing from atmosphere to plants into animals and then back into the atmosphere. And it hinted at something that Wick and Rathmann had yet to consider: Plants could be deliberately used to pull carbon out of the sky.
This concept, now finally baked into the minds of Wick and Rathmann, is what took the couple on the path to learn just how much carbon they could actually sequester in their soil. They contacted Whendee Silver, an ecologist at University of California, Berkeley. Silver agreed to measure the changes in their land to see if the soil carbon levels had changed since the cows' summer stay. After completing that task, for the next many years, Wick and Rathmann began studying how different techniques, including spreading compost on the land, could put carbon back into the ground.
"Regenerative food, farming and land use, including planned, rotational 'mob grazing' on restored pasturelands and grasslands is not only the next, more advanced stage of organics, but indeed our last and best hope for drawing down and sequestering enough carbon and methane in our living soils to reverse global warming and re-stabilize the climate," said Ronnie Cummins, international director for Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a founding member of Regeneration International (RI) in response to the New York Times Magazine piece,
Velasquez-Manoof shares two other success stories of regenerative farmers who put their faith into restoring the soil to not only benefit their land and produce healthy products, but to increase their return on investment through a more efficient and cost-effective way to farm.
Darin Williams, who lives near Waverly, Kansas, used to be a contractor. When his work dried up after the 2007 financial crisis, Williams decided to take a gamble and see if regenerative farming could turn around his family's land. Seven years later, he was glad he did.
"Had I not found this way to farm," he told Velasquez-Manoof, "we would not be farming."
Velasquez-Manoof described what he saw when he visited Williams farm last fall:
In one of his fields, we walked down a lane he had mowed through his warm-weather cover crops—plants grown not to be harvested, but to enrich the soil—which towered over us, reaching perhaps eight feet. They included sorghum, a canelike grass with red-tinted tassels spilling from the tops, mung beans and green-topped daikon radishes low to the ground. Each plant was meant to benefit the earth in a different way. The long radishes broke it up and drew nutrients toward the surface; tall grasses like sorghum produced numerous fine rootlets, adding organic material to the land; legumes harbored bacteria that put nitrogen into the soil. His 120-strong herd of British white cattle—he introduced livestock in 2013—would eventually eat through the field, turning the plants into cow patties and enriching the soil further. Then he would plant his cash crops.
By focusing on soil health, Williams says he has reduced his use of herbicides by 75 percent and fertilizers by 45 percent. He doesn't use pesticides—he relies instead on beneficial insects for pest control—and he saves money by not buying expensive genetically modified, herbicide-resistant seed. He estimates that he produces a bushel of soybeans for about 20 percent less than his conventionally farming neighbors. Last fall, he claims, his yields ranked among the highest in the county. While doing all this, he has so far raised the amount of soil organic matter, a rough predictor of soil carbon concentrations, from around 2 percent to 3.5 percent in some fields.
North Dakota rancher and farmer Gabe Brown, who embraced the principles of regenerative agriculture in the 1990s, has more than tripled the carbon in his soil. An official with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service confirmed for Velasquez-Manoof that "the amount of carbon in Brown's soil—what his farming has pulled from the atmosphere—was between two and three times as high as it was in his neighbors' land."
The bottom line? Williams and Brown found ways to increase carbon in their soil while reducing their overall expenses, including inputs such as fertilizer and pesticides.
Unfortunately, Williams and Brown are still in the minority among farmers, and the regenerative farming methods they use are not yet the norm.
"More than 90 percent of the meat, dairy and eggs that Americans now consume come from cruel, unhealthy, highly-polluting, climate-destabilizing factory farms or animal prisons, where the confined animals are stuffed with pesticide-contaminated GMO grains and routinely dosed with dangerous levels of antibiotics and growth hormones," OCA's Cummins said.
"We can either have factory farms and so-called cheap food (not so cheap when you tally up the damage to human health and the environment), or else we can have a livable planet. We can't have both. Consumers need to choose healthy, humane, climate-friendly organic and regenerative foods today and everyday."
But there's hope. Fortunately for consumers, and the health of the planet, regenerative agriculture is taking off worldwide—thanks in part to the work of Regeneration International, a nonprofit whose mission is to facilitate the global transition to regenerative agriculture and land-use practices and systems by communicating the important contribution of soil and its management as climate solutions, and by building bridges that bring together and promote best practices.
"Having the Velasquez-Manoff article in the New York Times Magazine is a breath of fresh air," said Precious Phiri. Phiri is founder of Earth Wisdom and a member of the RI steering committee working on behalf of RI in South Africa. "We are finally getting out the urgent message of hope."
"From an African perspective, where about 80 percent of food comes from smallholder farmers, this write-up is critical," she explained. "We do not and cannot afford the luxury of high-input agriculture that has devastated most grasslands of the world, Africa included.
"We have to continuously and carefully incorporate ourselves into these living systems, learn closely from them and be a part of the life cycle, while regeneratively ploughing back. We have so much hope as humans, now more than ever, using the many solutions that have been discovered and can be applied in different contexts.
"The seed will sprout to many colors as the message of soil health has finally knocked on new doors," Phiri said.
Beyond Organic: How Regenerative Farming Can Save Us From Global Catastrophe https://t.co/KJt6fzXKTB @SoilAssociation @eatsustainable— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1496611503.0
By Ronnie Cummins
Factory farming and fish production are now a multi-trillion-dollar monster with a growing and devastating impact on public health, animal welfare, small farmers and farmworkers, rural and fishing communities, ocean marine life, water quality, air pollution, soil health, biodiversity and last but not least, global warming.
Worldwide, two-thirds of all farm animals are now inhumanely imprisoned on highly-polluting factory farms, fed pesticide- and chemical-contaminated grains and GMOs, often supplemented with contaminated fish meal and oils, and routinely dosed with antibiotics and hormones.
In the U.S., 90-95 percent of all dairy, meat and poultry come from industrial-scale factory farms, while more than half of all fish consumed comes from factory-scale fish farms.
The U.S. industrial agriculture and fishing industry is an out-of-control system based on cruel, filthy, disease-ridden and environmentally destructive animal prisons and fish pens; labor exploitation; false advertising (most food items in grocery stores, and at least one-third of fish items on restaurant menus are falsely advertised); corporate corruption of government; and the use of massive amounts of dangerous pesticides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones and growth promoters.
The production of factory-farm meat, dairy, poultry and fish is the number one cause of water pollution, soil degradation, greenhouse gas emissions and chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, reproductive defects, hormone disruption and obesity.
World Water Day was celebrated globally on March 22. On this day the Organic Consumers Association, along with other public interest groups, sounded the alarm on the seriously degenerated state of our global waters and marine life and called, not only for a change in public policies, but for a consumer boycott of factory-farmed foods, which are number one source of water pollution in the U.S. and around the world.
What a lot of consumers may not understand, however, is that most of the fish sold in grocery stores and served up in restaurants today in industrialized nations is also factory-farmed. For example, one of the most popular fish items on restaurant menus in the U.S. is factory-farmed salmon (along with equally-destructive farmed shrimp).
Factory-farmed salmon and fish not only threaten wild salmon and other marine species by spreading disease (and now GMO-related risks ), but also by contaminating coastal waters and the ocean with the toxic chemicals and feed used on fish farms.
Salmon and other fish farms also pose a major threat to human health. In fact, according to Mercola.com, farmed salmon is perhaps the most toxic food that Americans consume.
Laboratory studies have shown that mice fed factory-farmed salmon become obese and develop diabetes. The likely cause of these diseases, rampant among super-sized humans as well, includes the pesticides and antibiotics that are routinely doused on fish farms, along with the feed that the fish eat, heavily contaminated with PCBs (a by-product in the fish feed), dioxins and other toxic chemicals. Unfortunately, PCBs, pesticides and other toxic chemicals tend to concentrate in the fatty tissues of fish and other animals.
Farmed fish, including salmon, have anywhere from three to six times the fat content of wild fish. This is why farmed salmon is five times more toxic than any other food regularly consumed by Americans.
Farmed salmon also differs substantially from wild salmon, not only because it contain 3-6 times more fat overall, but also because farmed salmon contains substantially less healthy omega-3 fats than wild salmon.
The now common advice from natural health experts is to avoid all factory-farm fish and larger fish (who have had more time to absorb toxins), and to consume only wild Alaskan salmon, along with smaller fish species, such as anchovies, sardines and herring. For more information on what fish to consume and to avoid, see: https://www.seafoodwatch.org/seafood-recommendations.
Another reason for conscious consumers to stop buying or consuming salmon and other factory farmed fish, as well as other large or endangered ocean species, is because our over-consumption of industrially harvested or farmed fish threatens the food security of more than three billion people across the world. Eight hundred million small fishermen and fisherwomen harvest 25 percent of the world's fish, struggling to make a living and/or to provide a significant portion of the protein for themselves and more than 3 billion people. The other 75 percent of fish are unsustainably harvested (or produced on fish farms) by large corporations in a supply chain that often wastes or throws overboard 50 percent of the catch.
While 91 percent of fish stocks in the oceans are now over-exploited by industrial trawlers, small fishermen struggle to catch just 6 percent of what their ancestors were able to catch a hundred years ago.
Consumers need to start acknowledging the relationship between our degenerative agricultural and fish production systems and consumption patterns and the other life-or-death problems that we are facing: deteriorating public health; the degeneration of our soils, forests, oceans and surface waters; greenhouse gas pollution and climate destabilization; and the economic justice impact of our consumption habits on the three billion-plus low-income people living in developing countries, and even in the U.S., especially small farmers and fisher people.
Many contemporary consumers have become more conscious—for health, ethical and environmental reasons—about what we purchase in grocery stores or supermarkets. This is why organic and natural foods now constitute more than 10 percent of our grocery store sales in the U.S. Unfortunately, many of us seem to forget about these concerns when we sit down in a restaurant, where we spend, on the average, one-half of all food dollars in the U.S.
We are what we eat. This means, among other things, we need to be just as concerned about fish and seafood as we are about the other items on our plate.
So ask your restaurant waiter if the vegetables are organic, and better yet local and organic, and put your money where your values lie. But don't forget to ask whether the meat, dairy or eggs are organic or grass-fed, or whether they are coming off the food service truck from factory farms. And last but not least, don't forget to do the same thing for the items on the fish menu.
The nation that destroys its soil, freshwater and oceans is the nation that will eventually destroy itself. Let's make every day World Water and Buy Organic Day. Cook organic, not the planet. Buy organic and regenerative food and other products today and every day.
Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association.
Are you confused on what's healthy to eat? If so, Dr. Mark Hyman, who has been studying nutrition for 35 years, brings clarity to what you should be putting in your mouth and what you shouldn't in his book Food. What the Heck Should I Eat?.
Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has been touting for more than 20 years the importance of eating a diet that supports organic and regenerative agriculture to improve human health, advance fair trade/fair labor practices, protect the environment and combat global warming. Dr. Hyman's new book outlines so many of these same principals.
We had a chance to ask Dr. Hyman a few questions regarding the importance of being a conscious consumer and how switching to a regenerative farming system can reverse climate change. Here's what he had to say:
OCA: Can you explain why you think our forks are the most powerful tools to transform our health and change the world?
Dr. Hyman: Food and the way we produce and consume it is the nexus of most of our world's health, environmental, climate, economic and even political crises. That's why it is our fork, and what we decide to put on it every single day that is of the utmost importance. I truly believe that when we choose organic, grass-fed, local, sustainable foods, we are voting for a healthier planet.
OCA: I love the food is medicine connection you make in your book. Can you elaborate on what you mean by this?
Dr. Hyman: Food contains information that speaks to our genes, not just calories for energy. We are learning from research in the field of nutrigenomics, that good "talks" to our DNA, switching on or off genes that lead to health or disease. Every bite of food regulates your gene expression, hormones, immune system, brain chemistry and even your microbiome. What you eat programs your body with messages of health or illness. This is what I mean by food is medicine.
OCA: How is the current industrial food system responsible for chronic diseases and epidemics like diabetes, obesity and allergies?
Dr. Hyman: The food industry includes seed producers, factory farmers, food growers and the processed food and fast food industries. These organizations spend millions of dollars each year on lobbying to influence our Department of Agriculture. And there's a huge problem with this. Our dietary guidelines are actually created by the Department of Agriculture, the same agency that is in charge of deciding which crops our tax dollars subsidize! Seems like a big conflict of interest to me.
This results in subsidies that support commodity crops—corn, wheat and soy—which get turned into high fructose corn syrup, white flour and soybean oil. Even though more than half our diet comes from these three crops which are the building blocks of sugar-sweetened drinks and processed foods, they are definitely not what we should be eating. Yet, 99 percent of the government's food subsidies go to support these crops, while only 1 percent goes for "specialty" crops—fruits and veggies. If these are "specialty crops," then why does the government tell us to eat 5-9 servings a day? The truth is that our government is funding our chronic disease epidemic.
And the food industry heavily markets poor-quality foods designed to be addictive.
OCA: Can you explain how the health of our soil impacts the health of humans?
Dr. Hyman: Because of depleted soils from modern industrial farming and hybridization techniques, the animals and vegetables we eat have fewer nutrients. Crops like wheat, rice and corn are typically grown as monocultures, meaning that a single crop is planted repeatedly on the same land, season after season. Monocultures farmed with tilling deplete the soil of its nutrients, and as a result they require huge amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Damaged soil leads to erosion and runoff, which contaminates the water supply with pesticides. When you purchase organic and grass-fed, you are voting for healthier soil. Organic matter in the soil holds water and sequesters carbon. Our modern farming techniques result in droughts, floods and climate change.
OCA: Thank you for touching on crop desiccation in your book. Can you explain how this process—the spraying of the herbicide glyphosate just before harvest to increase yield—impacts human health?
Dr. Hyman: Glyphosate aka Roundup, made by Monsanto, although it didn't exist until 1974, is now the most heavily used weed killer in global agriculture. (It's also the second-most popular herbicide for home use). It is sprayed on wheat crops to exfoliate them to make the wheat easier to harvest. Those residues end up in our wheat products. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it's safe for us, but there's evidence suggesting it may have something to do with the rise in celiac disease and other gluten sensitivities. Glyphosate exposure has been associated with increased risk of cancer, kidney disease, lymphoma, reproductive difficulties and damage to our gut bacteria.
OCA: I've heard that you're a big supporter of regenerative agriculture. What role does regenerative farming play in the future of food and the health of people and planet?
Dr. Hyman: Early research has shown that regenerative farming may be the future of meat that is healthy for us as well as the environment, and humane for the animals, too. For example, well-managed grazing operations can actually offset or even completely compensate for methane and other greenhouse gases linked to beef production by trapping carbon in the soil. The grass soaks up and stores, or sequesters, carbon, preventing carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere. These operations also involve regularly moving the animals to fresh pasture and keeping them away from streambeds, which can help prevent water pollution. For the most part, pasture-raised cattle do not rely on irrigated crops for feeding, which lessens the amount of water required to produce meat. By choosing grass-fed meat from small, sustainable farms, we also support the fair treatment of workers and livestock.
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By Julie Wilson
So-called "modern" food, produced through industrialized, chemical-intensive farming practices, is causing a host of chronic, hard-to-diagnose and hard-to-treat health problems in children and adults, say Michelle Perro, MD and Vincanne Adams, PhD, authors of What's Making Our Children Sick?
The book explores the impact chronic exposure to toxins in our food—pesticides, hormones and antibiotics—is having on children, many of whom suffer from myriad health problems that are often linked to an impaired gut and overtaxed immune system.
The book also explores the power of ecomedicine—medicine that focuses on clean, healthy food.
Children who primarily depend on a Western diet, consisting of processed foods and industrially produced meat and dairy are struggling with a new wave of chronic health problems that simply did not exist decades ago, say the book's authors.
The U.S., for example, is witnessing the rise of a number of chronic diseases in children including food allergies and food sensitivities, asthma, eczema, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn's disease, celiac disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), obesity, autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other debilitating mental disorders.
One in 13 American children is reported to have a serious food allergy. That's a 50-percent increase over the last two decades, according to the book. About 9 percent of children have asthma and one in 10 children have Crohn's disease. One in five children is obese and one in 41 boys or one in 68 children have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.
Food-Based Chemical Toxins
Perro and Adams report that doctors faced with an epidemic of complex, chronic symptoms can do little aside from minimizing the symptoms. As for the cause, the authors say that industrial food, and the toxins used to produce it, are the main culprits.
"Eating processed foods that are high in carbohydrates, sugar and hollow calories is the first problem ... but it is not the main problem. The more insidious danger is foods that are full of pesticides, hormones and antibiotics."
Perro and Adams draw a correlation between the development of agrochemical technologies, including genetically modified (GM) foods or crops designed to either produce or withstand heavy applications of toxic crop chemicals, and the rise in chronic disease.
They point out that what the biotech industry considers to be "advancements" in food production are systematically exposing children to more toxic chemicals than any generation before them.
Sick Kids and the Politics of Knowledge
What's Making Our Children Sick? is the result of a unique collaboration between a food-focused pediatrician (Perro) and a medical anthropologist (Adams). Perro has practiced medicine for 35 years, the last 15 of which she has spent in pursuit of integrative strategies that work to help children suffering from diseases caused by food-based chemical toxins.
Perro said she has witnessed a "steady stream of ailing children, from infants to teenagers," who could not be helped with the training she received in medical school. Her frustration led her to the field of functional medicine, homeopathics and herbal medicine where she started to examine the link between what her patients were eating and drinking and the effect it was having on their gut health.
Adams has a background in Asian medicine, which recognizes that food can both cause and treat disease—a concept noticeably absent from western medicine.
While studying recovery efforts in post-Katrina New Orleans, Adams investigated what she called the "uneasy relationship between large corporations that controlled basic resources needed for human health and the most vulnerable members of the public who suffered from being denied access to these resources."
Adams said she began to see similar patterns of inequality in our agro-industrial food production systems, where large corporations held a monopoly not only on the products farmers needed for growing food but also on the science that was being produced to endorse use of these products.
Working in tandem, Perro and Adams began to tie together the connections between really sick kids and the politics of knowledge around GM foods. They consulted with microbiologists, biochemists, geneticists, pediatric experts and farmers. They attended workshops on organic food and interviewed activists working on the front lines of agroecology.
The result is a well-researched book that offers insight into the underlying cause of chronic disease and its connection to an industrialized, chemical-intensive farming system.
Julie Wilson is communications associate at Organic Consumers Association.
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By Julie Wilson
Our connection to nature is sacred, dating back to the beginning of our existence. It's no wonder then that our health is intimately intertwined with the earth—from the soil beneath our feet, to the food we eat, to the water we drink and to the air that fills our lungs.
In other words, nature determines our health, upon which much of our well-being—and even our happiness—depends.
This philosophy is the foundation for Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein's book, "The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from Soil." Shetreat-Klein is a pediatric neurologist, herbalist, naturalist and urban farmer based in New York City, where she raises chickens (a lifelong dream) and grows organic fruits and vegetables.
Her New York Times bestselling book has been translated into 10 languages.
I was fortunate to meet Shetreat-Klein a few weeks ago in Houston, Texas, where she spoke at an event co-hosted by the Organic Consumers Association and the Organic Horticulture Benefits Alliance, a non-profit that educates individuals, gardeners, homeowners, landscapers and schools on the real-world application and benefits of organics.
Shetreat-Klein described her residency as a medical student and the complete lack of emphasis on nutrition and whole-body health. As a young medical student she was appalled to learn that it was the norm to prescribe multiple medications—sometimes up to six or seven different drugs—for children who, despite all those prescriptions, remained chronically ill.
Shetreat-Klein's experience as a pediatrician, and as the mother of a chronically ill child, led her down an alternative path where she began to explore the causes behind the widespread chronic illness we see in children today.
Her journey took her back to nature where she realized the importance of healthy soil and the tiny, microscopic organisms (microbes) living within it. These microbes, which until recently we've been told were bad and should be avoided, are actually the key to good health both in soils and our bodies.
The human microbiome, made up of trillions of microbes such as bacteria, fungi and protozoa, is often referred to as our "second brain," regulating a variety of processes including digestion, immune system function and brain function. Shetreat-Klein believes that it's our exposure (or lack thereof) to these microbes that plays a pivotal role in human health.
In her book, Shetreat-Klein writes:
Gut, immune and nervous system—and the many microbes therein—are a direct reflection of the food we eat and where that food comes from, from the soil it's grown in to the water it swims in to the synthetic chemicals that it's bathed in.
Fresh food, microbes (that's right, germs) and elements of nature—soil, sunshine, water, and fresh air—make children resilient and prevent or reverse their illness.
In "The Dirt Cure," Shetreat-Klein reveals the shocking contents of children's food and how it's greatly harming their bodies. She also offers solutions, including an organic diet rich in fruits and veggies, and how to encourage your child to get out in nature and play in the dirt.
Kids have the natural ability to be healthy, we just have to give them the tools to do so, she says.
To learn more about Shetreat-Klein's recipe for good health, sign up here for her newsletter.
Let's Make 2018 the Year We Rise Up and Regenerate! https://t.co/ENeJv7mmJQ @GreenpeaceUK @GreenpeaceAustP @globalactplan— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1515320409.0
Julie Wilson is communications associate for the Organic Consumers Association.
Ready for some inspiration? Check out this video of a press conference that took place earlier this month in Iowa.
The conference begins with the powerful voice of Diane Rosenberg, executive director of Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors. Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors is a member of the Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture, a coalition of 27 state, community and national organizations that addresses everything that's wrong with factory farms, or as Big Ag calls them, confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
"We are pro agriculture. We support responsible, respectful and regenerative livestock production that poses no harm to communities and the environment. And we call for a moratorium on new and expanding CAFOs until there are less than 100 water impairments in Iowa. We are here today to support and announce a slate of bills introduced by Sen. David Johnson to close many of the loopholes that weaken protections for people and the environment from factory farms."
After Rosenberg spoke, a local farmer whose family farm is under threat thanks to two new CAFOs in her neighborhood, explained how her community did everything to stop these factory farms, but "the system in Iowa failed us. The DNR regulations failed us. All we want is clean air and water. We want to continue to live on our family farms."
After a few more community members shared their personal stories, Iowa state Rep. Sharon Steckman explained how "Iowa has more hogs than North Carolina and Minnesota combined. More than 23 million hogs producing 10 billion gallons of liquid manure a year. That is enough manure to equal what is produced in the UK, France and Canada combined."
She told the crowd that the state needs to get a handle on Iowa's water quality and the matrix before any new construction can be considered.
Another speaker spoke passionately of how in a few short years he's witnessed the loss of 94 percent of independent pig farmers:
"In its place we have explosive growth of industrial feeding operations moving in, which has caused massive health, environmental and quality of life issues across the state and we're looking at hundreds of thousands, if not millions of hogs, increasing every year. They are saying maybe 30 million by 2020. Enough is enough."
The video concludes with an enduring speech by Bill Stowe, Des Moines Water Works CEO.
"We are here today to support Sen. Johnson and Rep. Steckman, and moving forward to protect the waters of this state. Iowa will not be a sacrifice state. We are not guinea pigs for industrial agriculture to continue to practice harmful impacts on our environment. Let's work together as Iowans to constructively move forward with responsible agriculture to protect our public health and protect our state."
Inspired? Want to get involved? Want to help Iowans and family farmers in all states where CAFO's pollute the environment?
Here's how: Boycott factory farms.
"Boycott factory-farm meat, dairy and poultry, i.e. everything that isn't labeled or marketed as organic or 100% grass-fed or pastured. We need to stop the overconsumption of CAFO meat and animal products in general. Americans consume on the average 10 ounces a day of meat, whereas natural health experts recommend three, none of which should come from factory farms.
"Factory farming, a trillion-dollar industry, is the lynchpin of the GMO industry and the primary driver of deteriorating public health, environmental destruction, water pollution and global warming."
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"They say the darkest hour is right before the dawn." — Bob Dylan, 1975, Blood on the Tracks
The Darkest Hour: Degeneration
Welcome to Degeneration Nation 2018. The frightening truth is that our "profit-at-any-cost" economy and global empire, run by and for the one percent and multi-national corporations, aided and abetted by an out-of-control Congress and White House, is threatening our very survival.
Our system of democracy, global co-existence, our physical and mental health, and the health of the living Earth—our climate, soils, forests, wetlands, watersheds and oceans—is rapidly degenerating. The rhythms of nature—the atmosphere, the soil carbon cycle, the water cycle and the climate—are unraveling.
Which is more frightening? The destruction of the environment and the climate that sustain human civilization as we have known it? Or the collapse of democracy and the rise of endless war and fascism?
Even though many are still either in denial or preoccupied by the daily struggle for survival, the most serious threat that humans have ever encountered in our 150,000-year evolution is global warming and severe climate change.
A growing corps of climate experts have warned us repeatedly that we must stop burning fossil fuels. We must eliminate destructive food, farming and land-use practices. And we must draw down enough carbon dioxide (CO2) from the Earth's atmosphere through enhanced natural photosynthesis (regenerative food, farming and land use), to return us to 350 parts-per-million (ppm), or better yet to pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm.
According to the majority of climate scientists we are fast approaching the point of no return, whereby global warming and climate change will morph into runaway global warming, melting of the polar ice-caps, catastrophic sea rise, evermore deadly forest fires, climate chaos, global crop failures, famine and societal disintegration. This point of no return could arrive as soon as 25 years from now—that is if we don't stop releasing greenhouse gases and start drawing down "legacy" CO2 from the atmosphere into our soils through regenerative food, farming and land use.
As world-renowned climate scientist Dr. James Hansen wrote:
"If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current levels to at most 350 ppm…"
Global warming you ask? But what about the threat of nuclear war with North Korea or Iran? What about Trump's recently reported statement that a strategic terrorist attack in the U.S would likely enable the Republicans to maintain control of Congress in 2018?
What about the fact that 62 million Americans actually voted for Donald Trump in November 2016 (65 million voted for Hillary and 92 million were too disgusted or demoralized to vote at all), and that most of these 62 million people still support him?
Or how about the Harvard-University of Melbourne study that found "the share of Americans who think that rule by the armed forces would be a 'good' or 'very good' thing rose from one in 16 in 1995 to one in six in 2014?"
What about increasing police brutality, misogyny, homophobia, racism, threats against immigrants, mass deportations, drug addiction, a crumbling infrastructure and rampant unemployment and poverty?
And what about public health? A recent Rand Corporation study that found that 60 percent of Americans suffer from at least one chronic health condition such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and arthritis; 42 percent have two or more of these illnesses; and that these chronic diseases now account for more than 40 percent of the $3.5 trillion that people are handing over to Big Pharma and the medical industrial complex?
What about the U.S.'s endless, now trillion-dollar wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and a dozen other countries?
It's not just the U.S. and North America that have degenerated to unprecedented levels.
Up until now most of global civil society, rather than united in a common global campaign to reverse climate change, deteriorating public health, poverty, forced migration and war, remains divided by national borders, ethnic identities, single- or limited-issue organizing, and class and gender divisions.
The rise of authoritarian and fascist regimes, and the weakening of a common sense of purpose, cooperation and solidarity have brought us to a dangerous precipice.
Will global civil society wake up in time, break down the walls and issue silos that divide us, connect the dots between all of our burning issues, and unite across borders in a common global campaign for survival and regeneration?
Beyond the Darkest Hour: Regeneration
The good news is that there are a number of positive signs that people in the Americas, and all over the world, especially the youth, are waking up. These signs include:
- An emerging world view or ideology is replacing the traditional paradigms of "unlimited growth" or "sustainability." It's called "Regeneration." This new paradigm, unlike the outdated ideologies of corporate capitalism or state socialism, has the power to unite the global grassroots—farmers, consumers, businesses and policymakers—in a joint campaign to reverse climate change and restore the environment. Regenerative food, farming and land use, coupled with 100-percent renewable energy, scaled up globally on the Earth's 22 billion acres of farmland, rangeland, wetlands and forests, has the potential to not only mitigate, but to actually reverse global warming. Regenerative farming and land use can do this by drawing down through enhanced photosynthesis the 200 billion tons of excess carbon lodged in the atmosphere and sequestering it in our living soils and biota. At the same time, this global regeneration can dramatically reduce conflict and rural poverty among the world's 3.5 billion small farmers and rural villagers. Regenerative food and farming, focused on revitalizing soil and plant health, and on improving the economic situation of the world's small farmers and rural villagers, also has the power to clean up the environment and qualitatively improve the nutritional density and quality of our foods, thereby eliminating the major causes of malnutrition, chronic disease and toxic exposure.
- Every nation in the world, except for the Trump administration in Washington, DC, has signed onto the Paris climate agreement to move to zero fossil fuel emissions by 2050. Many nations have also signed on to the "4 for 1000: Soils for Food Security and Climate Initiative, a bold international policy initiative to draw down enough excess atmospheric carbon through regenerative food, farming and lan- use practices to not only mitigate, but actually reverse, global warming.
- Renewable energy has begun to replace fossil fuels. It is now cheaper to invest in wind and solar than to build new coal plants. Soon it will be more profitable to install solar and wind power than to keep existing fossil fuel plants running. Electric cars and trucks will likely replace gas-powered vehicles within the next few decades. Investors and public institutions are starting to divest billions, and eventually trillions, of dollars from the fossil fuel industry.
- A critical mass of the global grassroots is starting to wake up and resist—North, South, East and West—organizing politically, slowly but surely developing climate-friendly and equitable solutions to our most pressing problems: climate, poverty, war, deteriorating public health, forced migration, unemployment and political corruption. In the U.S., progressive and radical forces, led by youth, women and minorities, will likely soon sweep the majority of corrupt politicians from office, not only in the nation's 40,000 cities, towns and counties, but at the federal level as well. Similar trends are emerging in dozens of other countries as well, even in repressive dictatorships such as China, Russia and Iran. The bottom line is that people all over the world are fed up with corrupt politicians and greedy businessmen. There is no future for the youth, nor for any of us without fundamental change and regeneration.
- Polls now indicate that the most popular national politician in the U.S. today is democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, who will likely run and be elected President of the U.S. in 2020. Similarly polls indicate that Lopez Obrador, with politics similar to Sanders, will be elected President of Mexico in July 2018. Similar progressive leaders are emerging in many countries, many of them youth, women and minorities.
The darkest hour is indeed before the dawn. We've hit bottom here in the U.S., and in most of the countries of the world. The situation is dire. Time is short. But there's still time to turn things around. For information on the emerging Regeneration International movement click here.
Join the growing U.S. network of citizen lobbyists pushing for regenerative policies—Citizens Regeneration Lobby.