Musings about our farm, organic farming, regional foods and markets.

Plus, what's in the news about foods, systems and regulations around the world.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Dr. Oz Flip-Flops as High-Profile Attacks on Organic Food Intensify

In the ongoing struggle to uphold and communicate the true benefits of organic food and farming, here is a response by Katherine Paul [2], Ronnie Cummins [3] to the latest onslaught from the mainstream corporate agenda.

Published on Alternet (
December 5, 2012   
This article was published in partnership with [4].

“So you’re being told organic food is no more nutritious than conventional and it’s not worth your extra money. Well I’m here to say that it is worth the investment. Why do I say that? Pesticides.” -- Dr. Oz, Oct. 19, 2012

Less than two months after telling [5] millions of TV viewers that organic food is “worth the investment,” America’s most popular TV doctor is singing a different tune. In the December issue [6] of Time magazine, Dr. Oz described organic foodies as “elitist” – part of the 1% - and claimed that conventional foods are nutritionally equivalent to organic foods. According to Dr. Oz:
The rise of foodie culture over the past decade has venerated all things small-batch, local-farm and organic - all with premium price tags. But let's be clear: you don't need to eat like the 1% to eat healthily.

Suddenly, the pesticides Dr. Oz was so concerned about a couple of months ago, the ones he warned viewers were “one of the greatest threats to your kids’ health,” no longer matter. What’s more, if you’re spending extra money to avoid them, you’re a food snob – instead of a responsible, health-conscious parent.

Dr. Oz’s flip-flop is just the latest in a series of highly-publicized mass media attacks on organic food and farming. It follows on the heels of a much-ballyhooed, controversial Stanford University study [7], released in September. The Stanford study concluded that fruits and vegetables labeled organic were, on average, no more nutritious than their conventional – and far less expensive – counterparts.

Ironically, it was this same study that Dr. Oz bashed on his October 19 television show [5] for ignoring the obvious: Conventional food is loaded with toxic pesticides, which makes it not only less healthful, but downright dangerous. Especially for children.

At a time when the health of Americans is rapidly deteriorating – skyrocketing obesity, childhood diabetes, ever-increasing cases of asthma, allergies, autism, and cancer – there appears to be a concerted and insidious effort to smear organics, to convince consumers that there’s no connection between their poor health and the low-grade chemical food on their plates. Food routinely grown in nutrient-deficient soil, sprayed with toxic pesticides, pumped full of antibiotics and hormones, and genetically modified in Monsanto’s laboratories.

Instead, anti-organic forces are pushing the message that cheaper food is better for your wallet. And just fine for your health. Both the Stanford Study and Dr. Oz’s Time article focus on cost to consumers at the checkout counter. Neither addresses the long-term cost of poor health caused by toxic chemicals, or the long-term cost to the planet of chemical-intensive, climate-disruptive, unsustainable agricultural practices.

That Stanford study, which was highlighted by major media outlets including the New York Times, Associated Press, and CBS News, didn’t address pesticides and their proven link [8] to health problems, especially in children. It didn’t address waterways polluted by tons of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. The study was limited to fruits and vegetables, so it didn’t have to address the growing public health crisis of antibiotics and hormone residues in meat and dairy, nor the millions of annual food poisoning cases attributed to filthy meat and animal products coming out of the nation’s factory farm feedlots and slaughterhouses.

The Stanford study also completely ignored the horrendous damage to the environment [9] by non-organic industrial farms and feedlots, including the devastating consequences to the planet of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions from chemical fertilizers and huge factory farm operations. Recent statistics [10] indicate that the direct (greenhouse gas pollution) and indirect (tropical deforestation) impacts of industrial food and farms are the largest contributor to global warming.

What the Stanford study did, thanks to a huge public relations push, was spread the message that organic fruits and vegetables are expensive, and conventional fruits and vegetables are just as good but cheaper. No doubt, the authors hope that consumers will carry over that message from fruits and vegetables, to all things organic.

It’s no surprise that the Stanford study would focus on cost. As it turns out, the study was produced by Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute, which gets millions in funding from agribusiness giant Cargill, the world’s largest agricultural business enterprise, and foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which have deep ties to agricultural chemical and biotechnology corporations like Monsanto. These giant corporations are all part of the same cabal that contributed at least half of the $46 million spent between October 1 and November 6 to defeat Prop 37 [11], the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act. Just a coincidence that the Stanford study and the mass media propaganda barrage that accompanied it was released during the election season, when voters were still weighing their options on the high-profile California GMO labeling law that was making national headlines?

The motives behind the Stanford study and the Freeman Spogli Institute are obvious. What caused Dr. Oz to flip-flop is anyone’s guess – and just might make for a good story someday. Informed sources behind the scenes have told us that Dr. Oz is under tremendous pressure from the biotech industry after airing a segment earlier this fall that supported GMO labeling. He’s also getting pressure from Big Pharma and federal regulatory agencies for his previous exposures of industry malpractices.

Consumer demand for organics is rising steadily. Last year, organic foods accounted for $31.4 billion in sales, according to a recent Obama administration report. Compare that with just $3.6 billion in 1997, and it makes sense that multinational junk food companies, like Pepsi, General Mills, Coca-Cola and others, are buying up organic brands. But these companies also know that there’s more money in the $50-billion “natural” foods market, an unregulated market with higher profit margins and lower barriers to entry, than there is in certified organics. That explains why these same multinational companies pitched in the other half of the $46 million to defeat Prop 37. After all, if passed, the initiative would have banned the use of the word “natural” on any product containing genetically modified foods. That would have forced companies to use more expensive, certified organic ingredients in their highly profitable “natural” products.

Estimates are that if Prop 37 had passed, it would have triggered a multi-billion dollar increase in the sales of organic and non-GMO foods, and a corresponding decrease in the sales of so-called “natural” foods. Could it be that Big Ag and Big Pharma, who supply the drugs for non-organic factory farms, are feeling threatened by the fact that the market for organics is growing ten times faster than the market for conventional foods? The bottom line is that the real 1%, America’s giant food processors and supermarket chains, are alarmed by the fact that consumers are wising up - and rising up - in greater numbers than ever before to demand transparency in labeling, and greater access to organic, locally-sourced, humanely-produced, nutritious food.

In a struggling economy, the quickest way to grab the attention of consumers is to promise them short-term savings. Messages like the ones transmitted by the Stanford study and Dr. Oz’s recent article grossly oversimplify the issue of organics versus conventional foods, while propping up an unsustainable but highly profitable factory farm and processed food industry. They miss the point, intentionally, that pesticides, drug residues, and filthy factory farms damage public health and raise U.S. medical costs, which are already the highest in the world.

But no matter how hard Big Ag and the mass media try to misinform consumers, they are fighting a losing battle. There is mounting scientific evidence [12] that genetically engineered foods are hazardous to human and animal health, and are severely damaging the environment and the climate. This is the reason why millions of Americans are turning to certified organic food, which bans GMOs, synthetic pesticides, and animal drugs. The big lie is that cheap chemical and GMO food isn’t really cheap, if you take the long view.

Shame on you Dr. Oz, and the rest of the mass media for perpetuating this big lie.

No matter how many universities pump out however many studies, no matter how many famous TV personalities - including those wearing scrubs - try to tell us otherwise, our current systems of food and agriculture are unsustainable. That’s why the organic food and farming movement is growing by leaps and bounds. That’s why organic foods and agriculture will soon become the norm, just as they once were for thousands of years, not just the alternative.

About the authors:
Katherine Paul is director of development and communications at the Organic Consumers Association.

Ronnie Cummins is founder and director of the Organic Consumers Association. Cummins is author of numerous articles and books, including "Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers" (Second Revised Edition Marlowe & Company 2004).

Learn more:


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Californians Say No To Prop 37 (GMO Labeling), Or Do They?

I must say I was sickened to my stomach when waking up to the news this morning that Proposition 37 in California advocating labeling of genetically-modified foods has gone down in flames. This represents an historic spurned opportunity on the part of a large and very powerful populace to achieve transparency through freedom of choice.

Somehow, this noble proposition was fated to be foiled. Despite polls noting almost overwhelming support from Californians just a month ago, once the big crushing wheels of influence started turning, once the big guns started hurling dirt and money, lies and deceit at the issue, there was only going to be one winner – the forces of power and greed – and one loser, individuals and small companies upholding beleaguered truth, which ultimately got trampled under the crushing weight. Ultimately most impacted in all this, however, is the general public, or least all those who care enough about their health to want to know what’s in their food.

What does this say about the will of Californians, who had the chance to send out a clear unambiguous message about their freedom to choose what is contained in their food? After all, they can choose whether to buy organic or not, nutritionally dense, or not, with unpronounceable additives, or not. Why not the choice to buy genetically-modified food, or not? Where is the extra cost or harm for consumers in that? And, if consumers would choose to pay a premium for non-GMO food (as they often do for certified organic food), so be it. And yet, no. This is all about the unfettered power of corporations. The Monsantos, Dow Chemicals, DuPonts, even Pepsicos, Coca-Colas of this world could not possibly contend with any such measure that might affect their bottom-line one iota. Let them eat GMO cake, but let’s not let on. Meantime, in the privacy of their swanky mansions, luxury yachts, elite hotels, five-star restaurants, the rich and powerful are wont to chow down on the choicest organic fare they want the masses to eschew.

This is as much a battle about scale as it is about obfuscation. Big corporations want a clear unobstructed path to obscene profit, devoid of regulation, to hell with any health consequences. To do this they need to maximize market share, even monopolize the market. They operate by blinding the masses with their own bogus in-house "research" that, unsubstantiated by independent review, masquerades as "science". They pay off the messenger and have the mainstream media promote it. Many (just over half of Californians, for example) are prepared to just suck it all up. And yet, consumer awareness has certainly been awakened by the tireless efforts of rights advocates like the Organics Consumers Association, health practitioners like Dr. Mercola, and alternative media like Natural News. Progress is being made, just not enough, yet, for truth to prevail, at least in California or the rest of the United States and Canada. In Europe, China, India, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, yes, the people are awakened by government oversight and regulation to truth and transparency through GM labeling of foods; they are free to effect their health through ethical food choices.

Meantime, it becomes more critical than ever for organic farmers to grow organic food and provide it to the public directly through farmers markets and through selling to small-scale food purveyors, secure in the knowledge that certified organic produce and products are the consumers’ only guaranteed route to GMO-free food. Our collective good health depends on it.


As reported by Jon Rappoport at Natural News:

….. As of 2:30PM today, Thursday, November 8th, two days after the election, many votes in California remain uncounted.

I tried to find out how many.

It turns out that the Secretary of State of CA, responsible for elections in the state, doesn't know.

I was told all counties in California have been asked, not ordered, to report in with those figures. It's voluntary.

So I picked out a few of the biggest counties and called their voter registrar offices. Here are the boggling results:

Santa Clara County: 180,000 votes remain uncounted.

Orange County: 241,336 votes remain uncounted.

San Diego County: 475,000 votes remain uncounted.

LA County: 782,658 votes remain uncounted.

In just those four counties, 1.6 million votes remain uncounted.

The California Secretary of State's website indicates that Prop 37 is behind by 559,776 votes.

So in the four counties I looked into, there are roughly three times as many uncounted votes as the margin of Prop 37's defeat.

And as I say, I checked the numbers in only four counties. There are 54 other counties in the state. Who knows how many votes they still need to process?

So why is anyone saying Prop 37 lost?.......

Learn more: 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Bitter Seeds of Monsanto's Legacy: Debt, Death, and Global Destruction

I have just watched a documentary movie called Bitter Seeds and found it deeply moving - beautiful for the dignified dress and bearing and determination of the people involved, but also intensely disturbing for the deception perpetrated on these same poor subsistence farmers by controlling corporate interests, namely Monsanto and their network of local agents in India who now monopolize the seed supply with their genetically-modified Bt cotton. In doing so, they continue to drive hundreds of thousands of farmers into debt, depression, and often death at their own shamed hand. Genetically-modified crops threaten to not only disturb, but destroy nature as we have known it. They need to be reined in, continuing with mandatory labeling of foods across North America, such as exists in most countries of the world. All people around the world deserve the right to choose the food they and their families eat by being made aware of the nature of the ingredients.

Article By Dr. Mercola
Posted October 27 2012 
Bitter Seeds is the last film in the Trilogy produced by Teddy Bear Films. The first two, Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town, and China Blue were released in 2001 and 2005 respectively. So far, the films have won 20 international awards, aired on over 30 television channels and screened in more than 100 film festivals.
The aim of the trilogy is to generate debate about public policy and consumer choices in the face of overpowering global economic forces. Says the films' Director, Micha X. Peled:
"I believe Globalization has become the overarching theme of our times. It clearly has many positive aspects that have improved our lives. But mostly, the dynamics of Globalization are working for the rich and powerful, for those who make the rules, enabling multinational corporations to expand their reach and governments to extend their control.
My Globalization Trilogy focuses on the current and emerging economic superpowers: U.S., China and India. The Trilogy begins with us here in the West, and then journeys back down the production-consumption chain, each film peeling off another layer."
Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town focused on consumerism in the U.S., while China Blue investigated the sweatshop labor conditions in the manufacturing of the clothes we all buy. Bitter Seeds looks at the beginning of the supply chain – the raw materials – shedding much-needed light on the crisis created by Monsanto's genetically engineered Bt cotton.
Buried in debt and struggling against the rising cost of GE seeds and the chemicals required, combined with failing yields and GE-created super weeds and resistant pests, Indian farmers have taken to suicide at a frightening rate. Over the past 16 years, a quarter-million of India's farmers have been driven to suicide by Monsanto's false promises and ruthless global monopolization tactics. It's estimated that one Indian farmer now commits suicide every 30 minutes. Most end their lives by drinking pesticide...
Rounding out his "Globalization Trilogy" with another affecting, character-driven portrait designed to indict corporate opportunism, Micha X. Peled exposes the issues underlying a rash of farmer suicides in "Bitter Seeds."  Variety 9/5/11

A Timely Reminder: Educated Consumers Can Make a Big Difference, But First We Must Be Allowed to Know the Truth!

Bitter Seeds raises critical questions about the human cost of genetically modified agriculture and the future of how we grow our food and other essential crops. The film couldn't be more timely, as California stands poised to decide the fate of Proposition 37, which would require genetically engineered foods to be identified on the label, on November 6.
A major problem facing Americans is forced ignorance. Even though many are undoubtedly concerned about the environment and the future of their children, they can't opt to avoid GE foods even if they want to, simply because the U.S. refuses to label them.
This must change.
And while GE food labels may seem unrelated to the plight of India's GE cotton farmers, it's really not, because the U.S. is a major consumer of all manner of GE crops, and Americans cannot alter their consumer habits unless they're informed about what they're buying. Many still don't even know that genetically engineered crops exist, let alone that they're in the food supply, or that these crops are decimating soils and destroying the livelihood of farmers across the globe.
While labels for GE cotton in clothing may be a long way out, you can ensure you're not buying GE cotton by making sure it's certified organic cotton. Clothing manufacturers virtually never keep certified organic a secret! While you will probably pay a bit more, you're actively participating in a movement to support traditional, sustainable farming that does not involve the death and destruction of the environment and its inhabitants in the process.
"Here is a documentary that shows what is really happening because of GMOs," VonBreck says. "When I saw it, I knew this is such an important issue to raise awareness on. I knew we were doing important work."  Boulder Weekly, 2/16/12
Similarly, without GE labeling, the only way to avoid GE foods is to only buy certified organic foods. You cannot settle for "all-natural." The "natural" label is worthless – many all-natural brands are actually using GE ingredients, and are now donating millions of dollars to the campaign to defeat Prop. 37, to keep you in the dark about what's really in your favorite all-natural brands!
We only have less than two short weeks left to really shift the tide against genetically engineered foods in the U.S., and we need your help. Monsanto and their minions have raised $40 million to defeat Proposition 37, which has bought them a big swing in the polls. The pro-labeling side has shrunk from 68 to 48 percent – a testament to the power of well-crafted, misleading propaganda. But 48 percent is holding fast to the principle that we have the right to know what's in the food we buy, and it only takes 51 percent to win the vote.
We need your contributions now more than ever, so please, make a donation today!

When the Price of False Advertising Means the Death of Millions...

The film features Manjusha Amberwar, an 18-year-old Indian village girl who wants to become a journalist in order to expose the severity of the problems caused by Monsanto's seed monopoly scheme. Farming debts claimed the life of her own father, a respected village leader. Manjusha interviews several families of local farmers who resorted to drinking pesticide. One of the village elders tells her:
"In my time there were no suicides. Even the poor could survive by working hard. But there are no other seeds available now. Traditional seeds have disappeared. We farmers are illiterates. We follow false advertising like a dog follows bread."
What many still do not know is that farming has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Seeds have traditionally been saved and shared between farmers from one harvest season to the next. You rarely ever had to buy new seed. Nature, when left alone, provides you with the means to propagate the next harvest in a never-ending cycle.
In the 1970's, hybrid seeds were introduced into India, promising better yields using chemical fertilizers and insecticides. But it didn't take long before yields began to drop as the agricultural chemicals took their toll on the soils. Farm debts began driving Indian farmers to suicide in 1997, and it hasn't stopped since. In fact, matters have quickly gotten worse in the decade since Monsanto introduced its revolutionary genetically engineered Bt cotton, which cannot be saved or shared from season to season, but must be continually repurchased. Genetically engineered seeds also require expensive agricultural chemicals, and more water – a commodity few farmers have access to unless it rains.
"Poignant and insightful look into the human suffering caused by agricultural bioengineering, features an unlikely but appealing protagonist to tell its story about a global phenomenon... One of my favorite things about the movie is that director Micha Peled does not resort to doomsday talk or hysterics. This is not a dreary film: Underneath it all is a strong sense of humanity." – San Francisco Chronicle 10/4/12
"Films like this can change the world." – Alice Waters

India Supreme Court Recommends 10 Year Moratorium

Recent news is encouraging, however. On October 18, Mail Online India1 reported that "the fate of genetically modified (GM) food crops in India has been virtually sealed," as a panel of experts appointed by the Supreme Court of India has recommended placing a decade-long moratorium on field trials of all genetically engineered foods, and the termination of all currently ongoing field trials.
Additionally, the panel has asked that the safety of all GE crops either being considered or already approved for field trials be reviewed by independent biosafety experts. According to Mail Online India:
"At present, several food crops are being tested in open fields by an array of Indian and multinational companies. All such trials will have to end if the court accepts recommendations of the technical panel which was appointed with concurrence of the government.
Jairam Ramesh as environment minister had imposed an indefinite moratorium on the commercial release of the first transgenic food crop, Bt brinjal, in February 2010. ... Representatives of both pro and anti-GM lobbies were heard by the panel. The committee's recommendations fly in the face of the stand taken by the scientific advisory committee to the PM in favour of the current regulatory system. "

Passing Prop 37 is Key to Expanding Sustainable Agriculture in North America

It's quite evident that we have no real champions for food safety and labeling of genetically engineered foods within the federal government. But right now we do have a great opportunity to change this situation by circumventing Monsanto's posse entirely.
Although many organic consumers and natural health activists already understand the importance of Proposition 37, it cannot be overemphasized that winning the battle over Prop 37 is perhaps the most important food fight Americans – not just Californians – have faced so far. But in order to win this fight for the right to know what's in our food, we need your help, as the biotech industry is spending tens of millions of dollars for their propaganda.
Please remember, the ONLY reason they're spending this amount of cash to "inform" you in this debate is because they want to PREVENT you from ever knowing that the foods you buy contain genetically engineered ingredients – and this includes trusted organic and all-natural brands! Ask yourself WHY?
Could it be because dozens of studies have now provided scientific evidence that GE foods cause severe health problems, including multiple organ damage, and massive cancerous tumors in the first-ever lifetime feeding study?
The failure or success of this ballot initiative is wholly dependent on your support and funding! There are no major industry pockets funding this endeavor. In order to have a chance against the deep pockets of Big Biotech and transnational food corporations, it needs donations from average citizens.
So please, I strongly encourage you to make a donation to this cause. You can also contact EVERY person you know that lives in California and encourage them to view some of these videos and get educated on the issues so they can avoid succumbing to the propaganda, as Monsanto and company are paying tens of millions of dollars to deceive the voters in California. We need EVERY vote we can to win next month.
The election is only TWO weeks away.
It's important to realize that getting this law passed in California would have the same overall effect as a national law, as large companies are not likely going to label their products as genetically engineered when sold in California (the 8th largest economy in the world), but not when sold in other states. Doing so would be a costly PR disaster. So please, I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can, regardless of what state you live in.
·              Whether you live in California or not, please donate money to this historic effort, through the Organic Consumers Fund.
·              If you live in California and want to get involved, please contact They will go through all volunteer requests to put you into a position that is suitable for you, based on your stated interests and location.
·              No matter where you live, please help spread the word in your personal networks, on Facebook, and Twitter. For help with the messaging, please see
·              Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the California Ballot. It may be the only chance we have to label genetically engineered foods.
For timely updates, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Myths About Industrial Agriculture

Dr. Vandana Shiva is - in my view - the world's most visionary and inspiring authority on food and farming issues. Here is her latest commentary:

Posted at on Friday, September 7th, 2012
by Dr Vandana Shiva

Organic farming is the "only way to produce food" without harming the planet and people's health.

Reports trying to create doubts about Organic Agriculture are suddenly flooding the media. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, people are fed up of the corporate assault of toxics and GMOs. Secondly people are turning to organic agriculture and organic food as a way to end the toxic war against the Earth and our bodies. At a time when industry has set its eyes on the super profits to be harvested from seed monopolies through patented seeds and seeds engineered with toxic genes and genes for making crops resistant to herbicides, people are seeking food freedom through organic, non-industrial food. The food revolution is the biggest revolution of our times, and industry is panicking. So it spins propaganda, hoping that in the footsteps of Goebbels, a lie told a hundred times will become the truth. But food is different. We are what we eat. We are our own barometers. Our farms and our bodies are our labs, and every farmer and every citizen is a scientist who knows best how bad farming and bad food hurts the land and our health, and how good farming and good food heals the planet and people.

One example of an industrial agriculture myth is found in "The Great Organic Myths" by Rob Johnston, published in the August 8 issue of The Tribune. It tries to argue:

Organic foods are not healthier or better for the environment – and they’re packed with pesticides. In an age of climate change and shortages, these foods are an indulgence the world can’t afford.

This article had been published in the Independent and rebutted, but was used by the Tribune without the rebuttal.

Every argument in the article is fraudulent.

The dominant myth of industrial agriculture is that it produces more food and is land saving. However, the more industrial agriculture spreads, the more hungry people we have. And the more industrial agriculture spreads, the more land is grabbed.

Productivity in industrial agriculture is measured in terms of “yield” per acre, not overall output. And the only input taken into account is labour, which is abundant, not natural resources which are scarce.

A resource-hungry and resource-destructive system of agriculture is not land-saving, it is land-demanding. That is why industrial agriculture is driving a massive planetary land grab. It is leading to the deforestation of the rainforests in the Amazon for soya and in Indonesia for palm oil. And it is fuelling a land grab in Africa, displacing pastoralists and peasants. Industrial agriculture is responsible for 75% biodiversity erosion, 75% water destruction, 75% land degradation and 40% greenhouse gases. It is too heavy a burden on the planet. And as the 270,000 farmers’ suicides in India show, it is too heavy a burden on our farmers. The toxics and poisons used in chemical farming are creating a health burden for our society. Remember Bhopal. Remember the Endosulfan victims in Kerala. And remember Punjab’s Cancer train.

Navdanya’s forthcoming report “Poisons in our Food” is a synthesis of all studies on the health burden of pesticides which are used in industrial agriculture but not in organic farming.

UNEP’s Global Chemicals Outlook, released on 6th Sept 2012 highlights the major economic burden caused by chemical hazards, particularly in developing countries.
The report reveals that the estimated costs of poisonings from pesticides in sub-Saharan Africa now exceeds the total annual overseas development aid given to the region for basic health services, excluding HIV/AIDS.

Between 2005 and 2020, the accumulated cost of illness and injury linked to pesticides in small-scale farming in sub-Saharan Africa could reach USD $90 billion.  

Industrial agriculture is an inefficient and wasteful system which is chemical-intensive, fossil fuel-intensive and capital-intensive. It destroys nature’s capital on the one hand and society’s capital on the other, by displacing small farms and destroying health. It uses 10 units of energy as input to produce one unit of energy as food. This waste is amplified by anther factor of ten when animals are put in factory farms and fed grain, instead of grass in free range ecological systems. Rob Johnston celebrates these animal prisons as efficient, ignoring the fact that it takes 7 kg of grain to produce one kg of beef, 4 kg of grain to produce 1 kg of pork and 2.4 kg of grain to produce 1 kg of chicken. The diversion of food grains to feed is a major contributor to world hunger. And the shadow acres to produce this grain are never counted. Europe uses 7 times the area outside Europe to produce feed for its factory farms.

Small farms of the world provide 70% of the food, yet are being destroyed in the name of low “yields”. 88% of the food is consumed within the same eco-region or country where it is grown. Industrialization and globalization is the exception, not the norm. And where industrialization has not destroyed small farms and local food economies, biodiversity and food are bringing sustenance to people. The biodiversity of agriculture is being maintained by small farmers. As the ETC report states in "Who Will Feed Us",  “peasants breed and nurture 40 livestock species and almost 8,000 breeds. Peasants also breed 5,000 domesticated crops and have donated more than 1.9 million plant varieties to the world’s gene banks. Peasant fishers harvest and protect more than 15,000 freshwater species. The work of peasants and pastoralists maintaining soil fertility is 18 times more valuable than the synthetic fertilizers provided by the seven largest corporations” (ETC Group, “Who Will Feed Us”).

When this biodiversity-rich food system is replaced by industrial monocultures, when food is commoditized, the result is hunger and malnutrition. Of the world’s 6.6 billion, 1 billion are not getting enough food; another billion might get enough calories but not enough nutrition, especially micronutrients. Another 1.3 billion who are obese suffer the malnutrition of being condemned to artificially cheap, calorie-rich, nutrient-poor processed food.

Half of the world’s population is a victim of structural hunger and food injustice in today’s dominant design for food. We have had hunger in the past, but it was caused by external factors – wars and natural disasters. It was localized in space and time. Today’s hunger is permanent and global. It is hunger by design. This does not mean that those who design the contemporary food systems intend to create hunger. It does mean that creation of hunger is built into the corporate design of industrial production and globalised distribution of food.

A series of media reports have covered another study by a team led by Dena Bravata, a senior affiliate with Stanford’s Center for Health Policy, and Crystal Smith-Spangler, MD, MS, an instructor in the school’s Division of General Medical Disciplines and a physician-investigator at VA Palo Alto Health Care System, who did the most comprehensive meta-analysis to date of existing studies comparing organic and conventional foods. They did not find strong evidence that organic foods are more nutritious or carry fewer health risks than conventional alternatives, though consumption of organic foods can reduce the risk of pesticide exposure.

This study can hardly be called the “most comprehensive meta-analysis; the researchers sifted through thousands of papers and identified 237 of the most relevant to analyse. This already exposes the bias. The biggest meta analysis on Food and agriculture has been done by the United Nations as the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). 400 scientists from across the world worked for 4 years to analyse all publications on different approaches to agriculture, and concluded that chemical industrial agriculture is no longer an option, only ecological farming is. Yet the Stanford team presents itself as the most comprehensive study, and claims there are no health benefits from organic agriculture, even though there were no long-term studies of health outcomes of people consuming organic versus conventionally- produced food; the duration of the studies involving human subjects ranged from two days to two years. Two days does not make a scientific study. No impact can be measured in a 2-day study. This is junk science parading as science.

One principle about food and health is that our food is as healthy as the soil on which it grows is. And it is as deficient as the soils become with chemical farming.

Industrial chemical agriculture creates hunger and malnutrition by robbing crops of nutrients. Industrially-produced food is nutritionally empty mass, loaded with chemicals and toxins. Nutrition in food comes from the nutrients in the soil. Industrial agriculture, based on the NPK mentality of synthetic nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium based fertilizers leads to depletion of vital micronutrients and trace elements such as magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron.

David Thomas, a geologist turned nutritionist, discovered that between 1940 and 1991, vegetables had lost – on average – 24 percent of their magnesium, 46 percent of their calcium, 27 percent of their iron and no less than 76 percent of their copper (Ref: David Thomas ‘A study on the mineral depletion of the foods available to us as a nation over the period 1940 to 1991′. Nutrition and Health 2003; 17: 85-115)

Carrots had lost 75 percent of their calcium, 46 percent of their iron, and 75 percent of their copper. Potatoes had lost 30 percent of their magnesium, 35 percent calcium, 45 percent iron and 47 percent copper.

To get the same amount of nutrition people will need to eat much more food. The increase in “yields” of empty mass does not translate into more nutrition. In fact it is leading to malnutrition.

The IAASTD recognizes that through an agro-ecological approach “agro-ecosystems of even the poorest societies have the potential through ecological agriculture and IPM to meet or significantly exceed yields produced by conventional methods, reduce the demand for land conversion for agriculture, restore ecosystem services (particularly water), reduce the use of and need for synthetic fertilizers derived from fossil fuels, and the use of harsh insecticides and herbicides.”

Our 25 years of experience in Navdanya shows that ecological, organic farming is the only way to produce food without harming the planet and people’s health. This is a trend that will grow, no matter how many pseudo-scientific stories are planted in the media by the industry.

Dr Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecofeminist, philosopher, activist, and author of more than 20 books and 500 papers. She is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and has campaigned for biodiversity, conservation and farmers' rights - winning the Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize) in 1993.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Debunked: Ridiculous Study Claims Organic Same as Conventional

by Anthony Gucciardi
September 3, 2012

The latest study to demonize foods free of GMO ingredients and mercury-containing high-fructose corn syrup ultimately once again fails to accurately address key aspects of the conventional verses organic debate and even falls short of properly addressing the limited scope of concerns it does attempt to analyze. You can see even from the comments on many of the mainstream reports that readers quickly saw through the erroneous ‘organic is the same as conventional’ headlines and began highlighting the many inaccuracies of the research. 

As I outline in the video, the study completely fails to account for key factors such as the presence of GMOs, artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose, mercury (such as that admittedly contained in high-fructose corn syrup), BPA, and much more. It also does not even properly address the two topics it seeks to address concerning the presence antibiotics and chemical residue. The researchers fail first of all to reveal the difference between the organic food and conventional food pesticides, and then go on to state that organic food actually does have lower pesticide levels. 

They then state that it doesn’t matter that conventional foods have higher pesticide, herbicide, and insecticide levels because they don’t ‘exceed legal limits’. They then fail to mention that Roundup, Monsanto’s best-selling herbicide, has been linked to DNA damage, infertility, and over 29 other associated diseases. Yet they insist that there is no real difference. That is not even taking into consideration the thousands of other studies on pesticides and insecticides, such as the 3 pieces of mainstream peer-reviewed research linking pesticide exposure to lower IQ. 

Apparently these factors don’t matter to the Stanford researchers, who utterly ignored them as they compiled their analysis that actually contradicts itself over and over again. 

The report also admittedly states that organic foods have a drastically lower percentage chance of containing antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the kind that produces mutant superbugs that cannot be treated with antibiotics. The very same kind that have evaded all antibiotics and ‘super drugs’ and are virtually untreatable by mainstream medicine. A new strain of resistant tuberculosis known as the ‘white plague‘ has even started to spread that is the result of rampant antibiotic use across the globe. 

Conventional farm animals are dosed up with these antibiotics to prevent them from dying as a result of the serious illnesses they come down with. The animals are stricken from both eating a poor diet often full of genetically modified grain as well as sitting stationary in a claustrophobic area for years. Around 30% of cows in the United States are also injected with Monsanto’s genetically modified synthetic hormone known as rBGH, which is banned in 27 countries worldwide. Apparently the fact that the genetically engineered rBGH uses molecules and DNA sequences that are the result of molecular cloning doesn’t matter to the Stanford researchers. 

The list could go on and on. Overall, it seems quite apparent that the researchers really have no idea what the word ‘health’ entails. While even the very few aspects they examine seem to heavily favor organic food items, the hundreds of other essential factors are wildly overlooked in the report that does nothing but push back the general public’s notion of what true health is by about 30 years. 

Read more:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

California voters to decide on GMO labeling announces the following huge step towards mandatory labelling of genetically engineered foods:

Polls show overwhelming support for historic labeling initiative

(First reported June 12, 2012)  Last night, the California Secretary of State’s office announced that the Right to Know initiative to label genetically engineered foods will be on the state’s November ballot. The historic initiative would be the first law in the United States requiring labeling of a wide range of genetically engineered foods.

“We’re thrilled that Californians will have the opportunity this November to vote for the right to know what’s in our food,” said Stacy Malkan, a spokesperson for the California Right to Know campaign. “This initiative is pretty simple. It's about our fundamental right to make informed choices about the food we eat and feed our families.”

The initiative requires labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – which are plants or meats that have had their DNA artificially altered by genes from other plants, animals, viruses, or bacteria, in order to produce foreign compounds in that food. This type of genetic alteration occurs in a laboratory and is not found in nature.

Polls show nearly unanimous support across the political spectrum for labeling of genetically engineered foods. Nine out of ten voters in the U.S. and in California back labeling, according to recent polls (see Mellman 2012Reuters 2010Zogby 2012). An April poll by San Francisco TV station KCBS found 91% backed labeling.

The California Right to Know initiative is backed by a broad array of consumer, health and environmental groups, businesses and farmers. Major endorsers include Public Citizen, Sierra Club, American Public Health Association, United Farm Workers, California Certified Organic Farmers, Organic Consumers Association, Consumer Federation of America, Nature’s Path, Lundberg Family Farms, Organic Valley, Dr. Bronner’s, Eden Foods,, Center for Food Safety, Food Democracy Now! and the California State Grange.

Grant Lundberg, CEO of Lundberg Family Farms in the Sacramento Valley, noted that the United States stands out as one of the few developed nations that does not provide consumers with simple labels to inform them if their food has been genetically engineered. “More than 40 other countries - including all of Europe, Japan and even China - already label genetically engineered food. Californians deserve to be able to make informed choices too," Lundberg said.

"As a doctor committed to the health of people and the environment, I strongly believe that people have a right to know, and to choose for themselves, whether to eat foods that have been genetically engineered," said Robert Gould, MD, president of the SF-Bay Area chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Susan Lang, a Sacramento mother of two who was one of thousands of volunteers who worked to place the initiative on the ballot, said passing the Right to Know initiative is in the best interests of everyone in the state. "I want to know whether the food I’m buying contains genetically engineered ingredients. All the parents I know want to have this information too,” Lang said. 

The California Right to Know initiative is widely regarded as the best chance to achieve GMO labeling in the United States, and the campaign has generated significant national interest in the growing movement for transparency in our food system, as reported in a recent front-page New York Times story.

In March, more than one million people submitted comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on a petition for mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods, more than any other petition in FDA history. Twenty states have tried to legislate GMO labeling, but none have succeeded due to intense opposition from corporate special interests.

“All eyes are on California, and the voters of this state will support our right to know what’s in our food when they vote this November,” said Stacy Malkan from the Right to Know campaign.

More info: Contact Stacy Malkan, 510-542-9224;

For more information about the California Right to Know campaign, see

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Poppies, daisies, and a rainbow

It has been a challenging spring. After the balmy winter came sudden heat in late March, followed by a spate of frosts in April, generous warmth in May, and now a series of heavy downpours in early June. It is no wonder that some crops struggle to adjust to this mixed bag of offerings from above. Farmers are having to contend with poor seasons for asparagus and fruits like apples and  peaches, the fruits not having set because of the frosts. Salad greens and starter plants in the greenhouses performed miracles early on, then flagged in the sudden onset of extended heat. Early markets saw healthy sales of arugula, baby kale, Swiss chard, beet tops, and lovely baby spinach and baby lettuce mix. The greenhouses then over-heated, and so began the annual anxious wait for the transition to field production to materialize. It is never smooth and recent washout rains have set things back significantly. So, sorry to Riverdale farmers market customers for not yet putting in an appearance. And sorry to restaurant buyers ready to roll with our tardy fresh local organic field greens.

As for us on the farm, life remains sprinkled with blessings – a cherished visit from my sister Jill who lives in Berlin and hadn’t been here to share our home in the hills before; birthdays prompting a happy spring fling with friends on a delightful holiday weekend evening; and now, after yet another thunderstorm brought buckets more rain, we are treated to the sight of poppies and daisies enveloped in a late afternoon rainbow. Now, let the sun shine in and the rows of greens, herbs and root crops explode into growth. Alongside these we have lavender, garlic, sunflowers and tomato season to look forward to. We have a lot of work to do to bring it all to market, with local help coming this year from Ray, Arie, Anne, and Jocelyn.