By Julie Wilson
It's great when consumers take responsibility for using less plastic, and for cleaning up plastic waste in their communities.
But wouldn't it be better if the corporations that put all that plastic into the marketplace and environment had to take responsibility for cleaning it up?
The Break Free From Plastic Act of 2020 aims to curb plastics pollution by shifting the responsibility from consumers to the companies that produce plastic.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), would hold major plastic polluters, such as Nestlé, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, accountable for their pollution by requiring them to finance waste and recycling programs.
The Break Free From Plastic Act would also place an all-out ban on certain single-use plastics that are non-recyclable, and prohibit plastic waste from being shipped overseas to developing countries.
Consumers should shop responsibly, sure. But it's time we held the biggest plastic polluters responsible for the damage they cause to the environment and human health.
Find out more about the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act Here.
Reposted with permission from the Organic Consumers Association.
- The Story of Plastic: New Film Exposes the Source of Our Plastic ... ›
- Coke and Pepsi Are The World's Top Consumer Plastic Polluters ... ›
- Coca-Cola Says It Won't Break Free From Plastic Bottles - EcoWatch ›
- 10 Worst Plastic Polluting Companies Found by Global Cleanups ... ›
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.
- Pro Surfer Kelly Slater Launches Clothing Line Made From Ocean ... ›
- The Environmental and Human Cost of Making a Pair of Jeans ›
- Blue Jean Fibers Found Polluting Arctic Ocean, Great Lakes - EcoWatch ›
- The Best Reusable Cotton Rounds for Your Skincare Routine - EcoWatch ›
- 2021 Best Organic and Natural Mattress: Guide & Reviews ›
Basak Gurbuz Derman / Moment / Getty Images
Your body's immune system is the natural, front line defense to protect you against harmful pathogens and infections. You can boost the effectiveness of your immune system through diet and exercise, but did you know that certain multivitamins can aid your immune system and promote general wellness? Here are our recommendations of the top supplements to help boost your immune system.
What is the Immune System?
There are two main aspects to the immune system: the innate and the adaptive immune system. The innate immune system is one you are born with, and it is the body's rapid response system. It works to attack antigens or invaders in the body. The adaptive or acquired immune system builds antibodies to protect your body from certain microbes, or germs, it encounters in the environment.
Did you know that your immune system keeps track of each germ it has ever defeated? This way, if your body encounters a germ it has fought in its immune system before, it can recognize and protect your body from it more effectively.
Your immune system's memory of the germs it encounters is stored in white blood cells. The white blood cells move through the blood and tissue in your body and attack harmful invaders such as viruses and bacteria.
Fortunately, you can support and improve the effectiveness of your immune system by maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, drinking alcohol in moderation, and getting a proper amount of sleep. Taking melatonin can help you get better sleep, which will in turn support immune health.
A daily vitamin subscription is a great way to promote overall wellness, which includes your immune system. Your skin also plays a role in your immune system, and you can take certain vitamins and supplements for dry skin to help it stay hydrated and healthy. Additionally, the microbiome found in your digestive system is important to proper immune function. Probiotics and digestive enzymes can both help improve your digestion and boost your immune system.
Our Top 5 Supplements to Boost Immune Health
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall - Nested Naturals Elderberry Gummies
- Best Vitamin Bites for Immune Health - GEM Immunity Support
- Best Probiotic for Immune Health - Care/of Pocket Protector
- Best Gummies for Immune Health - Bulletproof Immune Gummies
- Best Immune Spray - Beekeeper's Naturals B.Immune Throat Spray
- Best for Vitamin C - NutraOne Immune One
- Best Zinc Supplement - Global Healing Liquid Zinc
- Best Herbal Option- Vital Plan Daily Herbal Supplement
Vitamins and Minerals that Support the Immune System
It's no secret that certain vitamins and supplements can aid your immune system to fight off potentially harmful infections. Here are some that stand out.
- Elderberry: There are around 30 different types of elder plants and trees globally. Sambucus nigra is the type that helps with healing and immune health. Elderberry consists of many vitamins and antioxidants.
- Vitamin C: Your body doesn't naturally produce Vitamin C. However, it has proven to have immense health benefits. Vitamin C helps the immune system's white blood cell production.
- Zinc: This supplement helps produce new immune system cells in your body.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps to regulate the body's immune system.
- Vitamin E: This antioxidant is fat-soluble and helps protect cells from harmful 'free radicals' which are unstable atoms that can cause damage to cells; this response can lead to illness.
- Reishi mushrooms: There are three molecules in reishi mushrooms that are responsible for their health effects: triterpenoids, polysaccharides, and peptidoglycans. Studies have found that reishi mushrooms may be able to change the inflammation pathways in white blood cells.
Best Overall: Nested Naturals Elderberry Gummies
These Nested Naturals Elderberry gummies include a vegan blend of vitamin C and Zinc to ensure thriving immune health. The blend of elderberry extract, vitamin C, and zinc can also provide wellness during travel and during the change of seasons.Why buy: We like these Elderberry gummies because they contain around 100 mg of elderberry extract per gummy, and are vegan, gluten-free, and go through a four-part lab testing process. They also taste great and contain less than a gram of sugar each.
Best Vitamin Bites for Immune Health: GEM Immunity Support
GEM Immunity Essentials daily vitamin bites are an easy and delicious way to help boost your immune system. Each vitamin bite is made with real food ingredients including turmeric, pumpkin seeds, black pepper, chicory root, ginger root, stone fruit, oranges, and lemons.
Why buy: We love that these GEM vitamin chews provide a complete immune-boosting vitamin profile from natural, plant-based ingredients. GEM also offers a sustainable subscription model that sends you a reusable tin with your first order and refills in compostable pouches.
Best Probiotic for Immune Health: Care/of Pocket Protector
Care/of Pocket Protector is a travel-ready probiotic powder that allows you to boost your immune system anywhere, anytime. It contains 3 billion CFUs of good bacteria strains for your gut to help support proper immune system functioning.
Why buy: We like that this probiotic powder is designed for on-the-go immune support, and that it comes in a red berry flavor. This immune-boosting probiotic powder is also non-GMO, gluten-free, and vegetarian.
Best Gummies for Immune Health: Bulletproof Immune Gummies
If you don't like swallowing pills or powders, try these Bulletproof Immune Gummies instead. They contain key nutrients like vitamin C, zinc, elderberry extract, and echinacea extract to support your immune system in a sugar-free Raspberry and Elderberry flavor.
Why buy: We like that these vitamin gummies for immune support contain high concentrations of vitamin C and zinc. They are also vegan and sugar-free, with only 5 calories per gummy, but taste great from natural flavors and stevia-leaf extract.
Best Immune Spray: Beekeeper's Naturals B.Immune Throat Spray
A unique way to boost your immune system, Beekeeper's Naturals B.Immune Throat Spray harnesses the power of bee propolis extract. This is a substance bees make out of tree and plant resins to help protect their hive from germs and infections, and it contains over 300 different nutrients, antioxidants, and minerals.
Why buy: We like that this spray offers a fast and natural way to help enhance your immune system. You can also use it to soothe a sore throat. It's made from all-natural ingredients and is certified keto and paleo-friendly.
Best for Vitamin C: NutraOne ImmuneOne
5 Star Nutrition has an array of quality vitamins, minerals, and supplements. For immune health, we recommend the ImmuneOne supplement. It's formulated with vitamin C, elderberry, and echinacea to help improve overall wellness, with the added benefit of supporting lung health.Why buy: ImmuneOne includes 1000 mg of vitamin C, as well as elderberry, Zinc, and vitamin A. We like that this supplement is made with natural ingredients like cinnamon, echinacea, and ginseng, without any artificial additives.
Best Zinc Supplement: Global Healing Liquid Zinc
Every cell in your body uses Zinc, and it's an effective mineral to boost your immune system. It also helps the digestive system, and even encourages cell growth. Zinc is also great for skin complexion, sexual health, and supporting normal blood sugar.
Why buy: Global Healing Plant-Based Zinc is vegan, certified USDA organic, gluten-free, and is not tested on animals. We like that this Zinc is plant based and all natural. The Zinc is extracted from organic guava leaves, and comes with a one-year money-back guarantee.
Best Herbal Option: Vital Plan Daily Herbal
The Daily Herbal blend by Vital Plan is a unique herbal supplement created by Dr. Bill Rawls. His formula "works at the cellular level to address the modern-day stress factors associated with accelerated aging." The blend includes medicinal mushrooms, as well as Rhodiola and Turmeric extract.Why buy: Daily Herbal includes five adaptogenic ingredients designed to support cell resilience, immune response, and microbiome balance. It can also boost energy and endurance because of the Rhodiola extract. The product is gluten and dairy free, and is also tested at a third-party lab for ingredient purity verification.
How to Choose an Immune Supplement or Multivitamin
There are a few key aspects to look out for when shopping for immune supplements. Below is a list of what to look for when shopping for a supplement to help boost your immune system.
What to Look For
When comparing different brands of immune supplements, look for these things before you buy.
Clinical Research: Many immune supplements will inform you if they're clinically researched formulas, or formulated by doctors.
Transparency: Some supplement brands list all of the vitamins and minerals they use in the formula of their supplement. It's important to know exactly what you're ingesting, and where it came from.
Lab Testing: To guarantee what you're consuming is pure, and safe, look too see if a brand had their product tested at a third-party lab.
Non-Artificial Ingredients: Immune supplements with natural, non-artificial ingredients that are plant-derived or organic are always a good choice. If the brand uses animal products, check to see that they are sourced ethically and sustainably.
How to Read Labels
When reading the label of your supplement, be sure to notice the serving size. Oftentimes, the recommended serving size for a supplement is larger than simply taking one capsule or multivitamin. Some labels will specify the best time of day to take the supplement as well. Also take note of the ingredient list, and how much of the recommended daily intake it fulfills for certain vitamins and nutrients
It's also important to double check that the supplement was tested in a third-party lab for safety and quality. Note if the supplement is non-GMO, vegan, or gluten free. Many supplements will also tell you if it is free from certain allergens like soy and dairy.
Safety & Side Effects
Ingesting the right oral immune boosting supplements may be beneficial to your overall health. However, there are a few minor side effects to be aware of. Some common side effects of immune boosting supplements may include:
- Intense abdominal pain
Other, infrequent side effects may include:
- Pain in arms or legs
- Chest pain
- Abdominal bloating
Sometimes, when certain vitamins are ingested without food can cause stomach pain. Be sure to read the label to see if you should take an immune supplement with food and to be sure that you do not take more than the recommended amount. Most side effects from vitamin supplements are a result of taking too much at one time.
Certain vitamin and mineral supplements can interact with prescription medications. If you take prescription medicines, or are undergoing prescribed treatment for a condition, consult with your doctor before taking any additional supplements.
There are number of ways to help boost wellness and support a healthy immune system, and adding an extra immune-boosting supplement may help. Use our guide to find the best multivitamin or supplement to boost your immune system, and learn whether or not you should consider a supplement for immune health.
Audrey Nakagawa is the content creator intern at EcoWatch. She is a senior at James Madison University studying Media, Art, and Design, with a concentration in journalism. She's a reporter for The Breeze in the culture section and writes features on Harrisonburg artists, album reviews, and topics related to mental health and the environment. She was also a contributor for Virginia Reports where she reported on the impact that COVID-19 had on college students.
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."
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.
- Study: Eating Highly Processed Foods Linked to Increased Cancer ... ›
- Can Food-Focused Medicine Cure Food-Related Disease? ›
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.
- Lead in Grape Juice: FDA's Proposed Limit Won't Protect Children ›
- Study: Eating Highly Processed Foods Linked to Increased Cancer ... ›
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."
- Organic Valley, Whole Foods and Others Blast USDA for Not ... ›
- USDA Proposes Significant Cuts in Pork Processing Regulation ›
Trump has dumped family farmers.
That's right, President Trump, who once claimed he's "fighting for our farmers," is passing policies that mostly benefit the big agribusiness corporations—not small farmers, and certainly not rural communities.
Robert Reich, professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, recently sat down with [see video above] Michael Pollan to discuss food and agriculture policy and inequality under the Trump administration. He also talked about how far food corporations will go to protect their brands' images.
Pollan, a food policy expert and author of several books including The Omnivore's Dilemma, didn't mince words when it comes to Trump's impact on food and ag policy, or where the president's loyalties lie. Pollan explained how Trump is rolling back anything initiated under the Obama administration, including Michelle Obama's standards for school lunch. So instead of nutritionists deciding what kids should eat, we're back to allowing the food companies to decide.
So basically, we're back to anything industry wants, Pollan said.
Pollan pointed out the irony in Trump's agricultural initiatives, noting that the rural vote helped get him elected, but now he's taking steps that will be a disaster for American farmers. He talked at length about NAFTA and how if Trump pulls out of this trade agreement it will greatly impact the industrial farming industry.
Pollan didn't discuss the impact NAFTA has on small, independent and/or organic farmers or workers, but dairy farmer Jim Goodman from Wonewoc, Wisconsin, sure did in this recent blog post. He sums it up this way:
"Anyone who supports the continuation of NAFTA without questioning who actually benefits really has no concern for the best interests of farmers or workers in the U.S., Canada or Mexico."
After talking a lot about what's gone wrong with our food system, Reich shifted the conversation in a more positive direction, asking Pollan what gives him hope. Pollan said he's "taking a lot of encouragement from some new developments in the labor movement around food." He spoke about the work of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and their Fair Food Program that has helped Florida tomato growers obtain humane wages and safe working conditions.
In explaining how the program got started, Pollan said:
"They tried negotiating with the growers, they got nowhere. They marched across Florida, they got nowhere. They had a hunger strike, they got nowhere."
Finally, Lucas Benitez, a farmworker who helped start the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, said, as Pollan related:
"Then we found the door in the castle wall. That door was the brand of the big companies, the consumer-facing big companies, that bought the tomatoes from the growers, everybody from Whole Foods to McDonalds and Burger King, and they went after the brands with boycotts and threats of boycotts. What they did was they created a pledge, called the Fair Food Pledge and they basically said you will sign this or we will shame you. One by one all the big brands in food signed it. And it's working."
Reich and Pollan agreed that big companies are spending a fortune on brand image and, now more than ever, if you organize or threaten a consumer boycott you can have a real impact. Pollan said:
"It's the Achilles heel of American capitalism. They are not afraid of the government anymore, but they are afraid of their consumers attacking their brand."
By Julie Wilson
We're only beginning to learn the importance of healthy gut bacteria to our overall health—and the relationship between healthy soil and the human microbiome.
We know that the human microbiome, often referred to as our "second brain," plays a key role in our health, from helping us digest the food we eat, to boosting our brain function and regulating our immune systems.
Similar to animals, plants and soil, our bodies contain trillions of microbes—microscopic living organisms, such as bacteria, fungi and protozoa. The microbes in each person's body are unique, but not random. They colonize in the body, beginning from birth, depending on the microbes passed on by the mother. Over our lifetimes, they evolve according to our unique exposure to the outside world in order to protect us from disease such as cancer, diabetes and even autism.
What happens when our microbial community is disturbed? New research suggests that exposure to environmental toxins, such as pesticides, may alter the human microbiome, leaving us more vulnerable to sickness and disease.
A second new study suggests that the most widely used herbicide on the planet—Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller—could be causing more damage to our gut microbiome and overall health than we thought. Not only does the weedkiller contain glyphosate, but in its complete formulation, it also contains toxic levels of heavy metals, including arsenic.
Glyphosate and Its Unintended Effects
The study, published by Prof. Gilles-Eric Séralini at the University of Caen, France, raises new alarms about glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the world despite mountains of research pointing to the weedkiller's damaging impacts on human and environmental health.
Glyphosate, the key active ingredient in Roundup, is destructive to the environment. A recent article by GM Watch details the editor of No-Till Farmer, a magazine that advocates for the use GM crops and glyphosate herbicides in no-till systems, is changing his thinking.
John Dobberstein, No-Till Farmer's senior editor, recently wrote that "there may be trouble on the horizon for glyphosate," citing research showing that glyphosate lingers in the soil—and in high amounts—long after it has been applied.
Citing other researches, including Robert Kremer, a retired research microbiologist with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service and adjunct professor at the University of Missouri, Dobberstein wrote that glyphosate quietly lingers in soil years after it's been sprayed, damaging non-target crops and suppressing beneficial mycorrhizal fungi, which help plants obtain nutrients from the soil while offering protection against disease.
The herbicide also harms beneficial soil organisms such as small insects and earthworms, while leaving behind chemical residues that wind up in our waterways, Dobberstein wrote, as reported by GM Watch.
Microbes Prove Their Value in Humans
While some microbes cause disease, the majority of these cells assist us with everyday processes, such as digesting food and keeping harmful bacteria at bay.
According to an article published this month by Mercola.com, 70 to 80 percent of your immune function resides within your gastrointestinal tract or "gut." Poor gut health is associated with autism, behavioral disorders, diabetes, gene expression and obesity.
If, as this recent article in the Atlantic claims, "The microbial community in the ground is as important as the one in our guts," then the new Séralini study doesn't bode well for us humans—especially if we keep dousing the world's soils with glyphosate, and consuming glyphosate-contaminated foods.
Arsenic and Old Monsanto
As if there aren't enough reasons to be worried about glyphosate, one more reason emerged last week when scientists reported that glyphosate-based herbicides, including Roundup, contain toxic levels of heavy metals, including arsenic.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup has been the subject of intense scrutiny and controversy. Documents recently made public as a result of multiple lawsuits filed against Monsanto by people who blame exposure to Roundup for their non-Hodgkin lymphoma suggest Monsanto has known for decades about the health risks related to glyphosate.
Some countries have banned its use.
But as the authors of this latest study point out, glyphosate is not the only ingredient in herbicides like Roundup—it's one of multiple ingredients. Those other ingredients make glyphosate-based herbicides even more dangerous than we thought—and should lead to a global ban on all glyphosate-based herbicides.
According to Prof. Gilles-Eric Séralini, one of the authors of the study:
These results show that the declarations of glyphosate as the active principle for toxicity are scientifically wrong, and that the toxicity assessment is also erroneous: glyphosate is tested alone for long-term health effects at regulatory level but the formulants—which are composed of toxic petroleum residues and arsenic—are not tested over the long term. We call for the immediate transparent and public release of the formulations and above all of any health tests conducted on them. The acceptable levels of glyphosate residues in food and drinks should be divided immediately by a factor of at least 1,000 because of these hidden poisons. Glyphosate-based herbicides should be banned.
We can only hope.
By Katherine Paul and Alexis Baden-Mayer
The Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) Rule was the result of a 14-year effort by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to tighten up animal welfare rules for organic egg producers.
The OLPP was set to be enacted in January 2017. But under the incoming Trump administration's regulatory freeze, the rule was delayed multiple times. Now the USDA wants to throw it out completely.
If the OLPP is thrown out, "fake organic" egg producers will get to keep their production costs low. This will allow them to continue underselling smaller organic producers who follow the rules. At the same time, they capture a big share of the organic egg market by selling their eggs under the USDA Organic seal.
In other words, it's a great way to feather their nests.
These practices not only make it more difficult for smaller organic egg farmers to compete, they also cheat consumers who believe certified organic means higher animal welfare standards. Instead consumers are unknowingly buying eggs from producers who run nothing more than industrial-scale operations indistinguishable from factory farms apart from the type of feed they use. The result are eggs of inferior nutritional quality. (Studies show that authentic certified organic eggs have a deeper yoke color which translates into higher levels of Vitamin A, Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin E and beta carotene).
Better nutrition and better animal welfare standards aren't the only benefit for consumers who buy authentic certified organic eggs. Organic eggs produced by ethical farms where hens have real access to pasture, including organic regenerative poultry systems, have far less impact on the environment than those that come from factory farm-type egg operations that pollute with impunity.
Who are the "Big Organic" egg producers? Cal-Maine Foods and Herbruck's, which was the subject of a Washington Post exposé last year. Herbruck's sells some of its eggs under the Eggland's Best brand. But the bulk of the eggs sold by these producers end up on store shelves under private label (store brand) names.
In fact, most retail grocery chains that sell "organic" eggs under their own label (think Aldi's Simply Nature, Whole Foods 365 Organic, Trader Joe's, Kroger Simple Truth, Costco, Walmart, etc.) get their eggs from huge factory farm-type operations that routinely violate USDA National Organic Program (NOP) rules.
Lobbyists for the Cal-Maine and Herbruck's claim they'll have to get out of the organic market if the new OLPP rule is allowed to stand. Christopher Nichols, third-generation egg farmer in California told the Los Angeles Times that's bunk:
"Don't let them fool you. They knew darn well that they were building these buildings out of compliance. And they knew that when this day came, that they were going to have to face this decision. But they probably figured that they had the money and the political muscle to overrule it."
Smaller producers, Nichols told the LA Times, "just don't have that."
Is there still time to keep the USDA from scuttling the new rule? Maybe.