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.
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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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Portable generators allow you to power your devices and certain appliances, even away from home or when your primary power source is taken offline. These devices are also perfect for camping or outdoor adventures. A portable solar generator can give you the power you need with a smaller ecological footprint by using solar panels. In this article, we'll outline some of the top options available in 2021.
Our Picks for the Best Portable Solar Generators
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall - Goal Zero Yeti 1500X
- Best High-Capacity - MAXOAK Bluetti EB150
- Best Expandable Power - EcoFlow RIVER Pro
- Best Compact Design - Renogy PHOENIX 300
- Best Portability - Suaoki S370
- Best for Camping - Jackery Explorer 300
- Best Price - Westinghouse iGen200s
How We Reviewed Portable Solar Generators
A good portable generator will offer you backup power in a convenient and reliable way. We have reviewed some of the top models on the market today, and arrived at a few that we think stand out from the rest.
To rank the best solar generators, we considered the following criteria:
- Size and weight. Smaller, more lightweight units offer much greater ease of use. We sought portable solar generators that aren't too challenging to lug around your home, or take with you when you go camping.
- Battery storage capacity. While your generator absorbs light through a solar panel, that energy is ultimately stored in a battery. The battery storage capacity, measured in watt-hours (Wh) determines how long you can use the generator before it requires a recharge.
- Inverter rating. Basically, inverter rating refers to the total number of watts that the solar generator can extract at any given time. Inverter rating, along with battery capacity, determine the wattage and power output of your generator.
- Expandability. Some generators come with a predetermined number of solar panels, while some allow you to add more solar panels as needed. This is an important feature to consider when looking for generators.
- Price point. Naturally, when looking for a new solar generator, staying on budget is always going to be a factor. We chose generators that are competitively priced.
The Best Portable Solar Generators
With these ranking factors in mind, here are our picks for the best portable solar generators available in 2021.
Goal Zero's line of Yeti portable power stations are well-suited for a wide range of off-grid uses, including emergency power, camping trips, and more. The Goal Zero Yeti 1500X is their most-popular large power station with enough power for everything from cell phones and laptops to medical devices like CPAP machines and even full-size refrigerators.
Why buy: The Goal Zero Yeti 1500X includes a 2000W AC (3500W Surge) inverter giving you the equivalent of a wall outlet power supply on-the-go. It also has seven different port options and a top-of-the-line app that makes it easy to monitor and manage your solar powered generator, no matter where you are.
For a high-capacity power station, check out the Bluetti EB150 from MAXOAK. Though it's not the most affordable option, you'll get a lot of features and utility for your investment. It includes a lithium ion battery capacity of 1500 Wh. When connected to three 150W solar panels, it can be recharged in about 3.5 to 4 hours.
Why buy: For a portable solar generator designed to power most household appliances under 1000W, the high-powered Bluetti EB150 is a great choice. MAXOAK also backs their product with a 24-month replacement or maintenance warranty.
EcoFlow boasts an impressive catalog of portable power stations, as well as reliable solar panels. We like the EcoFlow RIVER Pro power station because its technology enables incredibly fast recharging; you can connect it to two 110W solar panels to recharge in as little as 4.5 hours.
Why buy: The EcoFlow RIVER Pro includes a wide range of best-in-class technologies. Offering 720 Wh of power with three pure sine wave AC outlets, and weighing only 15.9 pounds, these units are well-suited for camping and hiking, as well as use around the house. You can also add an additional EcoFlow battery pack to upgrade the power of your generator as needed.
Renogy produces several different power stations and chargers, but we especially like the PHOENIX 300, a solar power solution that's extremely lightweight and compact. It comes with an easy-grip handle and only weighs 6.4 pounds, making it one of the most portable solar generators around while still offering up to 200W of AC power for off the grid activities.
Why buy: The PHOENIX 300 can provide 337 watt-hours for up to 8 hours of AC continuous power without the noise or fumes associated with gas generators. It includes a number of the most common charging ports like two AC adaptors, a USB-C, USB-A, USB, and a D-Tap port for photography equipment.
Suaoki is a company that's known for simple, functional, reliable technology. Their S370 portable solar generator isn't necessarily flashy, but it's an extremely lightweight option, perfect for camping, hiking, and other outdoor adventures. It includes 14 outlet ports and a pure sine wave inverter, making it a versatile power option.
Why buy: This is one of our top picks for camping and hiking, though it may also serve your needs as a backup power station for small appliances and electronics. A lithium-ion battery gives this generator an incredible capacity battery life, particularly in relation to its compact size.
Jackery's portable power stations are ideally suited for camping and hiking. The Explorer 300 offers great portability and fast rechargeable power at an affordable price. It includes two AC outputs, a USB-C, USB-A, USB ports, and a 12-volt car port.
Why buy: The Explorer 300 generator is a good option for those who are new to solar power, thanks to its low price and easy-to-use controls. Jackery offers a number of portable solar panel options, and the power station's MPPT technology means that it can be recharged from the sun in just 5.5 hours.
There are plenty of reasons to consider the Westinghouse iGen200s portable generator. This is one of the more affordable options on the market today, which makes it a good entry-level solar power solution. The unit offers four charging options. You can recharge with solar panels, with the power from your vehicle, with a household power outlet, or with a separate generator.
Why buy: For a simple and inexpensive solar power generator, Westinghouse makes an outstanding product. You can charge up to nine devices at a time; and, depending on how you use it, you can potentially get more than 40 hours out of your generator.
What Types of Batteries Do Solar Generators Use?
It's important to note that solar power generators may employ different kinds of batteries. The most common option is the lithium-ion battery. These tend to be more expensive than lead-acid batteries, at least on the front end. With that said, a lithium-ion battery will prove more durable, which usually makes it the smarter investment in the long run. Solar generators include charge controllers, which regulate the volts of energy coming from the solar panels to the battery to make sure the battery isn't overcharged and damaged.
The energy stored in the battery is converted from DC power into AC power using an inverter or adapter.
What Can You Power With a Portable Solar Generator?
There are different types of solar generators. A backup generator is primarily used to power your home, should your electricity go out. In this article, we focused on portable generators, which are mostly used for hiking and camping. With that said, a portable generator can also be really useful during power outages, potentially keeping your lights, electronic devices, and small devices or appliances on for several hours. Depending on the watts of power your solar system generator kit can support, you can use it to power things like phones, tablets, laptops, TVs, coffee makers, a mini-fridge, certain medical devices, and most anything you would plug into a car charger.
Some of the generators we've listed here can be charged by solar energy or via other sources, including vehicles and power outlets. These different charging solutions make a generator more versatile, though of course, solar energy is what you'll want to use if staying away from fossil fuels is your goal.
What are the Benefits of a Portable Solar Generator?
There are a number of reasons why you might consider a portable solar generator:
- These units are ideally suited for camping and hiking. The ones on our list range in weight from under 10 pounds to over 50, but they are all fairly easy to cart around as needed, or to keep in your camper or RV.
- Though they are not primarily intended to be emergency backup generators, they can certainly be used in that capacity. In particular, they can provide emergency power to important medical devices as well as phones and computers.
- Unlike gas generators, portable solar generators offer power without making a lot of noise or creating a lot of fumes. This makes them much more appealing for campsites.
- Portable solar generators are better for the environment, since they don't rely on gas or diesel fuel to run.
- Using a solar generator is ultimately more cost-effective as you will never need to purchase fuel to recharge it.
Solar Power Can Take You Further
Solar power is one of the best options for dependable, renewable energy. Not only can it help power your house, but you can use these portable generators to carry that power with you, wherever you may go.
There are clearly lots of options on the market today. We hope our guide is helpful to you as you assess our own backup power needs, and as you determine which portable solar generator will give you the greatest value. Note that you can find many of these solar power options through third-party retailers like Amazon. Do your due diligence as you seek the perfect, portable solar solution for you and your family.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
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.
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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.