Category Archives: food supply

GMOoooooops

There was a pretty robust discussion about GMOs over here on a recent Good News Friday thread where some longtime friends of the blog likened my anti-GMO stance to the anti-vaccine hysteria we’ve seen take root among less educated segments of the population.

So imagine my surprise to hear this story discussed on the radio today:

GMOSeralini.org welcomes the news of the republication of the chronic toxicity study on the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup and a commercialized genetically modified (GM) maize, Monsanto’s NK603, led by Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini. The republication restores the study to the peer-reviewed literature so that it can be consulted and built upon by other scientists.

The study found severe liver and kidney damage and hormonal disturbances in rats fed the GM maize and low levels of Roundup that are below those permitted in drinking water in the EU. Toxic effects were found from the GM maize tested alone, as well as from Roundup tested alone and together with the maize. Additional unexpected findings were higher rates of large tumours and mortality in most treatment groups.

The study was first published in Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) in September 2012 but was retracted by the editor-in-chief in November 2013 after a sustained campaign of criticism and defamation by pro-GMO scientists.

Now the study has been republished by Environmental Sciences Europe. The republished version contains extra material addressing criticisms of the original publication. The raw data underlying the study’s findings are also published – unlike the raw data for the industry studies that underlie regulatory approvals of Roundup, which are kept secret. However, the new paper presents the same results as before and the conclusions are unchanged.

The republished study is accompanied by a separate commentary by Prof Séralini’s team describing the lobbying efforts of GMO crop supporters to force the editor of FCT to retract the original publication.

GMOSeralini.org editor Claire Robinson commented: “This study has now successfully passed no less than three rounds of rigorous peer review.

I believe this is the study I mentioned in comments on the GNF post that was derided as being not peer reviewed, pulled by the publisher for sloppy work, etc. Turns out it was pulled due to intensive Monsanto-generated pressure.

Dr Jack A Heinemann, Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics, University of Canterbury New Zealand, called the republication “an important demonstration of the resilience of the scientific community”. Dr Heinemann continued, “The first publication of these results revealed some of the viciousness that can be unleashed on researchers presenting uncomfortable findings. I applaud Environmental Sciences Europe for submitting the work to yet another round of rigorous blind peer review and then bravely standing by the process and the recommendations of its reviewers, especially after witnessing the events surrounding the first publication.”

I continue to maintain that treating the earth like a petri dish with these genetically-modified crops simply for fun and profit is playing with fire.

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Your Food Now Fetus-Free

Seriously, WTF Oklahoma?

An Oklahoma lawmaker files a bill to ban the making and selling of food or products that use aborted human fetuses.

State Senator Ralph Shortey says he’s done research and found reports that companies have used stem cells in the research and development of food.

“I don’t know if it is happening in Oklahoma, it may be, it may not be. What I am saying is that if it does happen then we are not going to allow it to manufacture here,” says Shortey.

The lawmaker that represents Oklahoma County couldn’t give any specific examples.

Well, thank God for Oklahoma. Because just when you think Tennessee has become a national laughingstock for stuff like, I dunno, filing a bill that would take away the courts’ ability to declare a state law unconstitutional, along comes Oklahoma to do something even crazier.

Here’s a thought for legislators: just because you read something in Newsmax or Wingnut Daily, that doesn’t mean you need to pass a law about it. Sometimes these folks — I know, hard to believe — are yanking your chain.

For his next trick, State Senator Ralph Shortey will outlaw Bonsai Kittens.

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Filed under food, food supply, Republicans, stem cell research

Pizza Is A Vegetable & Other GOP Job Creating Ideas

Mr. Beale was thrilled to learn that House Republicans have reclassified pizza as a vegetable. After all, I’m constantly nagging at him to eat his vegetables and reminding him of all the health benefits of adding fresh, organic produce to his diet. Now he just needs to wave that slice of meat lovers, stuffed-crust pizza in my face — with extra cheese. Ha ha!

Thanks a lot, House Republicans.

Seriously, this is some crazy shit right here. I realize it’s for the purposes of school lunches. But if you’re sending your kids to school and don’t want them saddled with diabetes and heart disease by the time they’re 20, I don’t think telling them the vegetable of the day is pizza is the way to do it. Maybe it’s just me.

Okay, raise your hand: who thinks this wasn’t just the House Republicans’ “fuck you” to Michelle Obama? I do. It’s just modern-day hippie-punching, with a twist.

I’m old enough to remember when Ronald Reagan classified ketchup as a vegetable. Well, who says Republicans don’t like recycling? We laughed then and we’re laughing now. Okay, first of all, tomatoes are a fruit, technically — not a vegetable. But second of all, by the time it’s been processed with liberal doses of sodium and corn syrup and turned into ketchup or pizza sauce, only an idiot would try to pretend it’s a vegetable.

Can’t believe I’m even bothering to explain this. Le Sigh.

Which brings to mind something else: Republicans are always lobbying against things like junk food taxes and laws mandating posting calorie counts in fast food restaurants. Their argument is, “well, everyone knows McDonald’s and KFC are bad for you! Personal responsibility, people!” But then they go ahead and tell everyone pizza is a vegetable? A little hypocritical, don’tcha think?

I’m not shocked that people might be confused about the dubious health benefits of a Taco Bell Fiesta Taco Salad (770 calories, 42 grams of fat, and a whopping 1,350 mg. of sodium and 74 grams of carbs. Yeesh.) It says “salad” in the name!

No wonder people are confused: they tune into a popular TV show like The Biggest Loser and see eight-time Olympic Gold Medalist Apolo Ono hawking Subway sandwiches — featuring chemically-laden, processed meats and genetically modified ingredients! I read Ono’s autobiography, and I promise you when training for the Olympics (in which he lost a pound a week and got down to 2% body fat) he did not eat processed meats and genetically modified foods.

Oh yeah, all this shit at the local strip mall is sooo healthy! And good for the planet, too! Yeah, Big Food has caught on to what the public wants, but instead of changing the way they do things, they’ve just changed advertising slogans. Free hand of the market, my ass.

Case in point: have you seen this ad from Chipotle, the fast food chain that claims to be so healthy and sustainable? I saw it at the movie theater. It’s got so many liberal dog whistles, from the Willie Nelson soundtrack to depiction of mechanized agri-business, that I immediately knew I was supposed to feel all warm and fuzzy toward Chipotle. Instead, I felt manipulated and offended, since I know Chipotle hawks the same genetically-modified crap as everyone else:

Pizza is not a vegetable and Subway is not health food and Chipotle is not dishing up sustainable burritos. But no wonder people are confused: it’s how the food industry wants it:

Q. On your blog you say, “confusion is one of the tried and true tools of the processed foods industry.” Can you say more about the subtle and not-so-subtle ways these companies confuse us?

A. I think one of the main ways the processed food industry is trying to grow and defend their business is by funding self-serving research. The goal of these studies isn’t to uncover “the truth” or to improve public health. Instead, the research is carefully constructed to create sound bites and statistics to help market their products or combat potential regulation. This is one of the primary ways we end up with conflicting studies that confuse consumers on what they should eat or drink.

Is this purposeful misdirection? Intent is always tough to prove, especially if you don’t have firsthand knowledge. Research tends to be the work of a select few within processed food companies, and I was never part of one of those groups. That said, if you dig into these studies and their methodology, you can usually find the telltale signs of how they have “stacked the deck” in their favor.

[…]

Q. What are three things you think every consumer should know about Big Food?

A. Big Food is profit-driven. Don’t be fooled into thinking a brand or the food company that owns it cares about you or your health.

Think critically. Most claims and advertising by Big Food companies are meant to manipulate you, not educate you. Read your labels and do your research.

There is no free lunch. Over the long-term, you always get what you pay for. Cheap food is very expensive once you add up the true costs — like the taxes you pay to subsidize Big Food companies, health consequences like obesity or diabetes, the devastating harm to our environment, and the inhumane treatment of animals raised within the industrialized food system.

Amen to that. I’m so fucking tired of being manipulated by Corporate Food and their minions in Congress, and then having everyone tell us we should know better. You know, we would know better if you didn’t constantly lie to us across a dizzying array of media platforms.

Obesity is a huge problem in this country and it is affecting the national health and welfare. But it goes way beyond obesity. These Frankenfoods that the corporate food industry is shoving down the American gullet are everywhere, even in supposed “health foods.” And the corporate food industry is purposely confusing us so we’ll just shut up and eat our cruel gruel like good little robots.

Well, I’m not shutting up. And I’m not buying your fake food, either.

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Filed under corporations, food, food supply, obesity, rants

Today In Cheap Labor

I’m sure all of Georgia’s pesky little labor problems would be solved if only they could bring back slavery:

ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal offered a provocative solution Tuesday for farmers who claim workers have been scared away by a crackdown on illegal immigration: Hire people on probation to toil in the fields instead.

The Republican governor offered his remarks after an unscientific survey showed roughly 11,000 job openings in the state’s agricultural economy. He requested the survey after growers warned that a new Georgia law targeting illegal immigrants was scaring away workers needed to harvest labor-intensive crops like peaches and berries that are easily damaged by machines.

Wow! Nobody could have anticipated that demonizing immigrants would have any repercussions in the labor force! [/sarcasm] Thank goodness Convict Nation has a ready supply of strapping young bucks ready to harvest your berries and tomatoes on the cheap!

Because, despite Georgia’s nearly 10% unemployment rate, Georgia’s farmers just can’t find anyone to hire:

Farmers say they can find few U.S. citizens willing to work in hot, dusty fields and criticize a federal guest work program as expensive and cumbersome.

“It’s hard work,” said Sam Watson, the owner Chill C Farms in Moultrie, who wants more workers and is considering hiring probationers. “It’s hot. It’s a lot of bending, can be long hours.”

Oh yeah, sure, that’s it. That’s what keeps U.S. citizens from taking those jobs! The “hot, dusty fields” and all of that bending! This story makes zero mention of the wages migrant laborers are paid, which last I checked is around $5 a day. You find me an American citizen who can make ends meet on $5 a day, please. If you do find them, send ’em on down to Moultrie, Ga.

Meanwhile:

Watson said he could only hire two-thirds of the 60 workers he would have wanted to harvest squash, cucumbers and zucchini from his 300-acre farm. He blamed the state’s new law targeting illegal immigrants for driving away Hispanic workers. The lack of labor forced him to leave 13 acres of squash to rot in his fields.

“We’ve got to come up with something,” Watson said. “There’s no way we can continue if we don’t have a labor source to pull from.”

I’m sorry, Farmer Watson, but you’re an asshole. We are the wealthiest nation in the world, yet people go hungry every day. Yes, even in rural areas. And you’d rather let your squash rot in the fields? Haven’t you read in Leviticus about allowing the poor to glean from your fields? Or did you just read the part about teh gaii?

I wonder how many farm subsidies Farmer Watson got? Yes, mah tax dollahs! I guess you have to wear a tricorn hat to get away with complaining about this stuff.

I’m sorry, but this whole thing really pisses me off. Where are all the good Christians? Why does the AP write about this issue and overlook the obvious elephant in this story (and no, the elephant is not failed Republican policies, though that’s part of it)?

Look, it’s really simple. Georgia has 10% unemployment. People are pissed off and blame the brown people and pass racist laws. The brown people stay away, and no one is left to take their crappy, low-wage jobs that pay $5 a day. So the governor decides convict labor is the way to go.

Stop me if you’ve seen this movie before.

The obvious solution here is to raise your fucking wages, assholes! But no, we can’t do that, because then a Big Mac wouldn’t cost $3 and change, it would cost a helluva lot more. But we’re paying those costs anyway! We’re paying them in indirect ways, in high unemployment and high incarceration rates and poverty and malnutrition and everything else.

But let’s go on our merry way pretending we can have something for nothing, we can have the good life without paying for it, that our nation wasn’t built on cheap labor and exploiting the poor. Let’s pretend we don’t continue to have an exploitive economy so a few people can live the good life and wave the flag and talk about how great we are.

It’s the American way.

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Filed under food supply, poverty, rants, wages

Scary Bananas

I guess I’m the last one to find this out but I just learned those PLU numbers on produce means more than just an item’s price. They tell you if you’re eating Frankenfood.

Conventionally grown produce is a four-digit number, usually beginning with the number 4. A conventional banana is labeled 4011 for example.

Organic produce is a five-digit number, beginning with the number 9. So organic bananas are labeled 94011.

And five-digit numbers beginning with an 8 are (cue “Psycho” music) genetically modified. 84011 in the case of a Frankenbanana, a scary banana with a rice gene bioengineered into its DNA to help it fend off a fungus.

GAH! DOAN WANT!!!!!

Apparently this is necessary because bananas haven’t had sex in 10,000 years, and if you’d like to know how a $12 billion a year crop could come from a mutant plant with three sets of chromosomes in which every plant comes from trees living 10,000 years ago, well, good luck figuring that out.

Perhaps bananas are not the best proof that God exists, though they do seem to provide an example of what happens when something doesn’t evolve. But I digress.

Anyway, I’m sympathetic to the plight of the banana, which can’t seem to evolve defenses on its own. But I still don’t want to eat bananas with rice genes, or apples with fungus genes or Roundup-resistant soy (which is 91% of all soy beans grown in America). Call it ignorance, call it hysteria, call it whatever you want, but my instinct tells me this Frankenfood is a really, really bad idea and 20 years from now we’re going to wonder what the hell were we thinking?

Meanwhile, I think back to my many trips to the grocery store, and all of those PLU codes beginning with the number “8” I am praying I didn’t swipe through the self-scanner. Please tell me I didn’t. Please tell me I’m remembering it wrong.

GMO foods are supposed to feed the world, but guess what, we already have enough food to feed the world, the problem isn’t growing enough food it’s getting the food we have to the people who need it. The problem is humans, not plants.

Near as I can tell, GMO food hasn’t lived up to its promises. Even the first GMO to be sold in U.S. grocery stores, the “FlavrSavr” tomato, genetically modified to increase its shelf life, has been a big dud.

Good luck, Mexico, keeping GMO corn from cross-pollinating with your native maize, no matter how many “centers of origin” you establish. Do you really think its worth the risk?

And as for the banana, well, I just refuse to believe that bananas will be wiped off the face of the earth by a fungus. They’ve been around for 10,000 years, the fungus has been around for those same 10,000 years. The parasite will not kill its host.

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>USDA Orders Largest-Ever Beef Recall

>Oh, urp. Torture of “downer” cattle–animals too sick or injured to walk into the slaughterhouse on their own–has led to the USDA’s largest-ever beef recall:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the largest beef recall in its history Sunday, calling for the destruction of 143 million pounds of raw and frozen beef produced by a Chino slaughterhouse that has been accused of inhumane practices.

However, the USDA said the vast majority of the meat involved in the recall — including 37 million pounds that went mostly to schools — probably has been eaten already. Officials emphasized that danger to consumers was minimal.

[….]

The action came nearly three weeks after the Humane Society of the United States released a video showing workers at the plant using forklifts and water hoses, among other methods, to rouse cattle too weak to walk. In addition to issues of animal cruelty, the video raised questions about whether so-called downer cattle were entering the food chain in violation of federal regulations.

”Downer” cattle might carry disease (Mad Cow among them) that could spread to humans. That’s why the USDA has the rule that if an animal is unable to walk into the slaughterhouse on its own, it can’t be turned into food.

My question is, where was the USDA while water hoses and forklifts were being used to push sick and injured cattle into the slaughterhouse? Why did it take an undercover operation by the Humane Society to protect our food supply?

And then there’s this:

Although the Humane Society said at least four non-ambulatory cattle had been slaughtered for food, the USDA had repeatedly said it had no such evidence. On Sunday, federal officials said for the first time that they had evidence such cattle from Hallmark had been processed for food.

Again, we have the denials from the government, the “everything’s OK” assertions, and then the inevitable acknowledgment that maybe things aren’t as hunky-dory as the government has claimed. I just wrote about a similar situation last week when the government finally admitted its FEMA trailers are making people sick.

I know all of this nicely supports the Republican view that government doesn’t work and should therefore be drowned in the bathtub. But I don’t buy that line. I think Republican government doesn’t work.

Yes, there have been problems at the USDA under both Republican and Democratic administrations, but I think when you go into government with the mind-set that it doesn’t work, you’re handicapping your ability to make it function. You’ve got the wrong mind-set.

As far as the food supply is concerned, the fact that much of this ground beef was sent to schools is very troubling. According to the Los Angeles Times, meat from this plant also was sold at CostCo, In-N-Out Burger and Jack In The Box on the West Coast.

I’m a meat-eater, and I’m not ready to go vegetarian. I buy organic meats in the grocery store, but I don’t know from a slaughterhouse perspective if those animals enter the food supply any differently from the regular kind.

Buyer beware.

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