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Activism Healthy Living Kids & Family Real Food Toxin Alert!

Stanford Study on Organics: Manipulating Consumers into Buying GMO Products

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This last week news reports have flooded the print, online, and on-air worlds from various outlets about the recent study conducted at Stanford University on the nutritional content of organic versus conventional food.

The study was “an extensive examination of four decades of research” comparing organic and conventional foods which found that on average, fruits and vegetables from organic sources were no more nutritious than their conventional counterparts.

In other words, they weren’t uncovering any new information. It was simply a review of past research.

Yes, these studies have been done before. And, these findings have been more than adequately countered before by various sources.

So before you decide that organic food is just an over-priced product that you shouldn’t bother wasting your money on, let’s examine why results of this study were inconclusive, too narrow, and left out valuable information that you should be aware of.

Conflicting studies

In a 2011 study, a team led by Dr. Kirsten Brandt of the Human Nutrition Research Center of Newcastle University in the UK looked at much of the same literature as researchers in the Stanford study. These findings were published in Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences and discovered something quite opposite: organic crops yielded an increase of approximately 12 to 16 percent more nutrients than conventional.

Mother Earth News featured an article about this in 2009 about The Organic Center’s reasons for why organic foods is superior nutritionally to conventional food. Here are some of the reasons:

“The FSA [Food Standards Agency] review included studies over a 50-year period: January 1958 through February 2008. The TOC team included studies published since 1980. Most studies published before 1980 were found flawed for purposes of comparing the nutrient content of today’s conventional and organic crops.

Most of the older studies used plant varieties no longer in use, and did not measure or report total phenolics or antioxidant capacity (since these nutrients were just being discovered). The older studies used analytical methods that are now considered inferior, compared to modern methods.”

The Rodale Institute has published some very extensive studies and documentation showing just how organic foods are better for our health, and how sustainable farming is not only a viable way to feed the planet, but is much safer and sustainable.

In a scientific paper, professor of agriculture at Washington State University and former chief scientist at The Organic Center, Charles Benbrook, PhD, reviewed the Stanford study and much of the associate literature, found the results misleading:

“The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more  nutritious than conventional foods.” And: “Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic resistant bacteria.”

He also stated that several well-designed previous U.S. studies revealed that organic crops consistently showed higher concentrations of antioxidants and vitamins than conventional. In crops such as strawberries, grapes, apples, tomatoes, milk, grains, and carrots, organic produce has 10 to 30 percent higher levels of various nutrients, including antioxidants, Vitamin C,  and phenolic acids in most studies.

Here are some additional sources talking about why organic food is nutritionally superior:

Tender Grassfed Meat’s Stanley Fishman: When organic tests no better, check the soil, and the bias

Why organic is better (never mind the study), New York Times

Organic food vs. conventional: What the Stanford study missed, Robyn O’Brien, author of The Unhealthy Truth

Professor Adam Carey, BSc, MB, BChir, MA, MRCOG, NTCC:

 Why organics are not only about the nutritional content of food:

  • Organic foods do not have chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, which are used in commercial and industrial farming and are linked to causing health issues such as birth defects, cancer, endocrine disruption and neurological disorders for humans and the ecology. Health effects of pesticides and other chemicals are cumulative in the human body, even if the levels of these chemicals falls below what is considered acceptable by the EPA.
  • Organic foods cannot contain hormones or antibiotics used in conventionally-raised animals and birds, which are also linked to health issues such as disease-resistant bacteria and hormonal and endocrine disruption in human beings and animals. The Stanford Study did note that there was an increased risk of consuming antibiotic-resistant bacteria – 33% higher than from organic pork and chicken.
  • Organic foods cannot be produced or grown with GMOs (genetically modified foods), found to cause many health issues.
  • Organic foods are grown in ways that use traditional farming methods that cultivate and enrich the soil, whereas commercial farming methods with chemicals only further erode and deplete minerals and good bacteria from the soil. Soil is the foundation of life. If the soil is dead, so will be the food.

Funding for the study

Who is funding these studies done by Stanford?  One source claims that that “no outside funding” was used to avoid the “perception of bias”. I read in various other news reports that the researchers made the same claim.  The Stanford School of Medicine site claims this as well:  ”The authors received no external funding for this study.”

But wording is very important. If you visit the Stanford Center for Health Policy web site, you can see that The Stanford Center for Health Policy has the following statement:

“The Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) relies on support from its friends, as well as from national and international foundations and corporations, for the funding of the Institute’s research, teaching and outreach activities.”

The Center for Health Policy is a subsidiary of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI).

So I ask once again, who’s funding this study? Don’t you agree that it would be very educational to learn the identity of these friends, national and international foundations and corporations funding the research of FSI and its subsidiary, the Stanford Center for Health Policy?

Let’s find out. According to FSI’s 2011 Annual Report (page 38, .pdf), you can see the following sponsors:

  • Agricultural giant Cargill
  • British Petroleum (BP)
  • The Bill & Malinda Gates Foundation (heavily invested in both Cargill and big-agri giant Monsanto)
  • The Ford Foundation
  • Google
  • Goldman Sachs
  • The Smith Richardson Foundation
  • Other corporate-financier, Fortune 500, and special interest organizations and corporations

All of these companies and interests are well-known supporters of Big Agricultural interests, biotechnology, and some are well-known opponents to the Proposition 37, GMO labeling initiative going on in CA which will be voted on this November.

So when Stanford claims “no outside funding” was obtained for studies coming out of this branch of their school, that is an outright lie.

The fact is, most universities do not operate independently and are not without outside donators and interests.  Like most other universities, there was actually outside funding, from a large list of sources.

We all know, even science is not without bias and the results of this study were undoubtedly affected by those who donated.

After learning this, do you still hold Stanford Medical School in high esteem?

There has also been leakage that one of the main authors of this study has been found to have ties to the Tobacco Industry: Dr. Ingram Olkin, one of the same researchers who allowed lies to be told to the public that cigarettes were not harmful to human health.

The GMO factor

Stanford also failed to take into account the negative effects of GMOs on the foods we eat when comparing organic to conventional.  Conventional foods are highly contaminated with GMOs – corn, soy, canola oil, cottonseed oil, sugar, a lot of dairy products which contain rBGH bovine growth hormone, and now some zucchini and squash, and papaya.

Organic are now also contaminated due to the issues of cross-pollination from insect, wind, and other natural means of spreading seed.  And yet, Monsanto claims that co-existence of GMO with non-GMO seed is not only possible, but not a problem for anything or anyone.

At the same time, Monsanto has repeatedly engaged in lawsuits against farmers for patent infringement whose crops were cross-pollinated by Monsanto seed that they had no knowledge of and didn’t want. Monsanto has put farmers out of business and ruined their livelihoods over something that, according to them, wasn’t even supposed to be a problem!

Monsanto also maintains that there is no reason to prove the safety of GMOs, and that they are “substantially equivalent” to their non-GMO counterparts. The company doesn’t believe it has a responsibility to prove its product is safe, and refers to its statement of “substantial equivalence” to say that the product is no different than its non-GMO counterpart.

Sounds a lot like the Stanford study results, doesn’t it? There’s no difference between GMO and non-GMO seed, and there’s no difference between conventional and organic food. They must think the consumer public are all complete idiots!

From Monsanto’s web site:

“Substantial equivalence, more technically, means that the range of concentrations for components of the GM crop falls within the typical range for the non-GM counterpart.”

“There is no need to test the safety of DNA introduced into GM crops. DNA (and resulting RNA) is present in almost all foods–the only exceptions being highly refined materials like oil or sugar from which all cell material has been removed. Thus, DNA is non-toxic and the presence of DNA, in and of itself, presents no hazard.

When a new protein (not normally found in that plant or in other commonly consumed foods) is introduced into a plant, the safety of that protein does need to be addressed. It is standard practice to use animals to test any introduced proteins. Animal testing requires very high doses of the test substance be given. These levels are, by design, many times higher than those which people would actually consume. In GM crops and foods derived from them, introduced proteins are usually present only in minute amounts. Because the levels of protein are so low, it is impossible to test high doses by feeding crops directly to animals. Instead, a purified version of the introduced protein is used in animal studies.”

These statements are ludicrous because even if the “range of concentrations for components of the GMO crop falls within the typical range for the non-GM counterpart” those elements of the GM crop are not the same as what occurs in nature.

Any thinking scientist would disagree with this since GMOs are created with an unnatural process to begin with which extracts foreign DNA and bacteria and inserts it into the seed in a laboratory. If Monsanto is confident their seeds are safe, why don’t they want labels on the products they produce?

GMO seeds are lacking in nutrition and also contain pesticides to eliminate insects on the crop such as corn or soy. This causes the digestive tract of the insect to explode when eaten. If it does this to insects, what is it doing to us?  There are no third-party studies in existence that examine the long term effect of consuming these organisms on human beings.

These statements, studies and other efforts are a way to confuse consumers and get them on the side of conventional, commercial farming and to support an anti-labeling initiative against Prop 37.  Monsanto produces the chemical herbicide Roundup. They also produced DDT and Agent Orange. We were told the last two were safe for many years. The chief funders for the anti-labeling campaign are the same ones who told us these toxic chemicals were safe.  So much for that promise.

By coincidence, the initiative to label GMO foods is coming this fall to the state of CA. Voting yes on Prop 37 would make it mandatory to label GMO foods as it is currently in many European, Asian, and other countries around the world. 

There is great opposition to this initiative. Monsanto and many large corporations are spending millions and millions of dollars to make sure labeling doesn’t happen and that consumers remain in the dark, and don’t understand how their food is produced.

In my local area there is an activist group called GMO-Free Idaho.  Jenny Easley and Leslie Stoddard, founders of the group,  have been very active over the last year doing presentations, organizing potlucks, rallies, and events to raise awareness about the issues of GMOs in our food supply.

This weekend GMO-Free Idaho featured an event to show the film The Future of Food, which highlights the issues both farmers and consumers face as a result of the increasing deregulation of GMOs in our agricultural sector and food supply.  The people involved in the sustainable food community here in my area understand what’s at stake, and we want this initiative to go through.

Voting Yes on Prop 37 means you support labeling on GMO foods which has already been implemented in the U.K. and other European countries, Russia, China, and Japan. We can’t trust big food companies to be truthful about their products. We need labeling to increase consumer awareness.

Videos/interviews:

Future of Food movie trailer, an eye-opening look at what’s really happening with GMO foods, the crooked politics and bad science behind it, and how you can make a difference

Health dangers of genetically modified foodsJeffery Smith, Institute of Responsible Technology

Watch this video of a 12-year old girl pleading with consumers to think twice about GMOs in our food and environment

GMO-Free Idaho – Fighting for our right to know what’s in our food! Interview on Chew on This, Radio Boise

Watch my interview with Kevin Brown on the Liberation Wellness site about the dangers of GMOs and the labeling initiative in CA that will be voted on this November. 

More information about GMOs:

4 ways to avoid GMOs in the foods you buy

Busting Myths about GMOs

Institute for Responsible Technology

Photo credit: Wakeup World

 

 

Activism Green Living Healthy Living Real Food

Can The Government Be Trusted To Fix The Safety Of Our Food?

www.mypicshares.com

The safety infrastructure for food in this country is failing. It’s regulated by about a dozen federal agencies implementing about 35 laws. You would think that with that much oversight and checking, something would be working right.

The public is most certainly aware of the problem, as is evident by regular media coverage of the food safety shortcomings in our system. Weekly or daily we are notified of yet more food recalls or outbreaks of foodborne illnesses:

Are these problems occurring because in general, foods are dangerous to consume – or is it perhaps the type of foods we are eating that are causing the problem? The answer is yes to both.

Will new legislation being proposed bring an end to pathogenic bacteria that are making people sick, or will it effectively hinder smaller, more sustainable farms and food operations from staying in business?

Our government has a powerful, federally regulated body called the FDA whose job is to regulate food safety. Despite the existence of this entity and thick layers of affiliate government and laws, regulators fail time and time again to prevent the repeated occurrence of food contamination problems we continue to face on an almost daily basis.

The pending bill FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, S. 510, which would give the FDA yet more more authority and control of funding for this issue was expected to come to the floor in Congress this week, but has been stalled yet again due to “more pressing issues” such as health-care reform. Multi-billion dollar conglomerate giants Tyson, Monsanto, and Cargill have shown unwavering support in their lobbying for this bill, which has also received backing by the pharmaceutical industry.

History of food regulation

Starting in the late 1800s, advancements in technology allowed the pace of food production to be stepped up beyond anything ever seen before. Never before had corporations been able to produce so many food products in so little time.

An 1886 report by the Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics claimed that “New machinery has displaced fully 50 percent of the muscular labor formerly required to do a given amount of work”.  With the advent of these mechanisms and improvements to the agricultural industry, processed and packaged cereals and canned foods became more prevalent.  Synthetic substances which replaced both natural medicines and foods began to fill the shelves of warehouses and stores, all created to make life more convenient.

In the late 1800s and into the 1900s, the appearance of systems designed to put a stop to the insidious behavior of food manufacturers who were beginning to cut corners for the sake of steam-lining their processes and to increase profit made their debut.

For awhile, those regulations halted the incidence of food safety issues, and all was well. By the 1950s, positions in meat packing plants were coveted. They were relatively safe, protected by unions, and the workers were well-compensated for their efforts. But over time as the food industry expanded even more, the food regulatory divisions of government and food industries began to develop relationships which were a conflict of interest of regulation and compliance. It became common for people in positions of authority in food industry corporations to occupy slots in government agencies as well.

When a large regulatory agency falls into bed with an industry, it becomes difficult to maintain the level of necessary transparency that allows for the public to know what’s going on – and in particular, accountability is compromised.

In 1906, Upton Sinclair published his novel, The Jungle. Although this was a work of fiction, its emergence was noted by many as a serious commentary on the state of the food manufacturing industry. The publication of this work was a primary impetus in the passage of The Pure Food and Drug Act, which occurred the same year.

More government regulations are not going to fix these problems. Small family farms not only are unable to afford all the mandatory regulation and inspection fees that large, commercial businesses pay without a backward glance, but the recalls and issues we are seeing in the food supply simply don’t originate from these sources where food is produced. Every single instance of recalling can be traced back to some large arm of the food industry.

How will the legislation serve the people?

Some people believe the Senate Committee has made some useful changes to satisfy those in support of local food. However, I am of the opinion that this bill still contains some provisions that would be detrimental for local and small family farm producers, or at the very least, will have individuals overseeing it which may not have the best interests of citizens at heart – such as Michael Taylor, Vice President of Monsanto (and the head of food safety during the Clinton Administration).

Also, according to Wikipedia, Rosa DeLauro (whose husband, Stanley Greenburg, is a political consultant who has a business relationship with Monsanto) introduced HR 875, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, on February 4th 2009. The purpose of this bill was to create a new agency within the Department of Health and Human Services to regulate food production. The problem was this measure would possibly place restrictive regulatory encumbrances on backyard gardening and small-scale organic agriculture.

While many people and sources have been labeled “paranoid” and “fanatical” for their warnings and trepidations about this legislation, this may just be one of the first of many steps in a larger process to limit our freedoms and abilities to be able to procure safe, real food.

The big player

Monsanto is the world’s biggest producer of herbicides and genetically-engineered seeds. They were responsible for the creation of Agent Orange, DDT, and the chemical Roundup – the most commonly used herbicide in the United States. Monsanto also created the genetically-engineered growth hormone rbGH under the direction of VP Michael Taylor, now administered to many cattle who are slaughtered for food and provide milk to drink.

Monsanto views themselves as environmental stewards and preservers of humanity. Their acknowledgment of the earth’s ever-growing population ignites a call to produce more and more food to sustain that mass.

“In our minds, that means we have to increase the production of food at a level that we will effectively double food production by 2050,” said Brett Begemann, Monsanto executive vice president of global commercial. “When you think about what that means, it means we have to produce more food between now and 2050 – which is a short 40-year period – than the world has produced in the previous 10,000 years combined.”

And it is precisely this attitude which grants license to a multi-billion dollar conglomeration to “feed the world”. It is done under the convincing veil of benevolence and humanitarianism, and with no revelations about the cost to human health and the environment.

Hazards of GE (genetically-engineered) foods and crops (as listed in the Food, Inc., Participant Guide):

  • toxins and poisons
  • increased cancer risks
  • allergies
  • damage to food quality and nutrition
  • antibiotic resistance
  • increased pesticide residues
  • damage to beneficial insects, soil fertility (and diversity)
  • creation of GE “superweeds” and “super pests”
  • new viruses and pathogens
  • genetic bio-invasion
  • socioeconomic hazards
  • ethical hazards

I just have to ask this question: why is that people persist in the idea that somehow if we step up government regulation – which is currently failing – these problems will cease to exist? Is this the answer we need to change the landscape of food safety?

I don’t have to tell you just how much a mega-corporation like Monsanto would benefit from the passage of the newer version of this bill (S. 510). To see what’s in this bill, read the text of H.R. 875, introduced last year (2009).

Even though web sites like Slow Food claim that there is no reason to be unnerved by this bill or anything remotely resembling it, the motives behind why such a bill would be introduced by individuals working for such a corporation really need to be called into question.

History is doomed to repeat itself

Time and time again, reports of food recalls and contamination occur within the industrial food supply realm. When are the authorities governing these arenas going to wake up and realize that what is needed is massive change in the way food is produced? The industrial food market needs to be forced to clean up its act, and we need to maintain the protection and rights of local and sustainable producers providing healthy and safe products, which means not adding monumental federal regulatory sanctions for farming that only the big, multi-billion dollar players can actually meet.

Here are some quotes by individuals in the agricultural industry:

“The hope of the industry is that over time the market is so flooded [with GMOs] that there’s nothing you can do about it. You just sort of surrender.”

Don Westfall, biotech industry consultant and vice-president of Promar International quoted in, “Starlink fallout could cost billions”, Toronto Star, 9 January 2001

“It’s important for countries around the world to adopt a uniform standard of acceptable levels of contamination.”

Biotechnology Industry Organization spokesperson, Lisa Dry quoted in, “Engineered DNA found in crop seeds“, Rick Weiss, Washington Post, 24 February 2004

“People will have [GM] Roundup Ready soya whether they like it or not.”

Monsanto spokesperson in Britian, Ann Foster, “The politics of food“, Maria Margaronis, The Nation, 27 December 1999

“Cross-pollination of the environment is an issue, and that has to be addressed. And for those countries that have very small landmass, there’s no way they can segregate GM crops from conventional crops or from organic crops, and so the likelihood of cross pollination exists.”

Prof Patrick Wall, until 2008 the Chairman of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the EU Agency mandated by the European Commission to advise on the safety of genetically modified food and animal feed for the European Union, in an interview: “We cannot force-feed EU citizens with GM food“, 2 December 2008

Source, OpEd News

Here are just some of the gross oversights occurring in our current food regulatory system (source, Marion Nestle’s Food Politics):

  • Over time, the number of facilities that actually receive inspection has decreased – the FDA inspects less than a quarter of food facilities annually
  • Of the total, 56 percent of total facilities have gone 5 years or longer without FDA inspection.
  • The number of facilities that received OAI [Official Action Indicated] classifications has declined over time. In addition, nearly three-quarters of the facilities that received OAI classifications in FY 2008 had a history of violations. Two percent of facilities that received OAI classifications refused to grant FDA officials access to their records.
  • FDA took regulatory action against 46 percent of the facilities with initial OAI classifications; for the remainder, FDA either lowered the classification or took no regulatory action.
  • For 36 percent of the facilities with OAI classifications in FY 2007, FDA took no additional steps to ensure that the violations were corrected.

Ideally, I’d like to see legislation supporting amendments that would place exemptions for small-scale and direct-marketing producers. Small farmers and food producers currently answer to state and local authority regulation, so to impose additional federal regulation upon them would at the very least hamper their abilities to produce a safe product and could very easily shut operations down completely.

I’m concerned that if the new legislation favors larger, industrial agricultural system, too much federal regulation would cause smaller, local producers to go out of business. The real answer lies in the cultivation and support of local food systems to alleviate the burden of these food safety issues.

In the states of Florida and Wyoming, state legislatures have been considering bills that would decentralize regulation of local food. This movement would be a change in the right direction to affect food safety in a positive way.

How exactly does supporting local agricultural business accomplish this, and what are the benefits?

  • Food produced near those consuming it can observe farming practices
  • In some areas, fresh, seasonal food is available all year round; in others, communities without certain types of food can purchase from neighboring communities
  • There is more accountability and ability by the consumer to be able to know how the food is produced
  • With closer proximity to customers, farmers can have relationships with those individuals and develop a better understanding of what their customers want
  • Food quality is generally higher because the nutrients in foods are not compromised due to excessive processing, packaging, and travel
  • Your food dollars go to support your local communities – not a big, bloated agribusiness giant that destroys the environment, the economy, human, and animal health by unsafe and unhealthy production and “farming” practices
  • Saves petroleum and other forms of energy and reduce pollution generated by those efforts by buying from producers and farmers who are close to where you live
  • Contribute to the success of families trying to earn an honest living
  • The use of CSAs (“subscription” programs where food growers allot certain packages of food for certain times of year to customers) helps farmers fund their efforts more evenly during the year

How can you make a difference?

  • Watch what your politicians are doing – call or write to your state senators and representatives, and let them know these issues are important to you! Put pressure on politicians at every opportunity to vote for legislation that supports sustainable farming.
  • Learn to cook at home – avoid eating out and buying packaged foods.  See our recipes section for some ideas on getting started.
  • Vote with your food dollars – that means not supporting big corporations, but buying local and regional food products to support the farmers and food growers in your area.
  • Avoid processed foods – that means, foods in boxes, packages, and cans. Buy foods that are recognizable, have the least ingredients, and create the smallest footprint.
  • Get to know the people who produce food you eat. When people have respect for one another and the work necessary to produce or create something, they gain an appreciation for life.
  • Organize forums, web discussion groups, local organizations, and news-making events around boycotting genetically-engineered foods and supporting local agricultural producers that use sustainable farming methods
  • Learn the difference between local and sustainable – local does not necessarily mean production and/or farming methods used are going to benefit human and environmental health.  Read How Well Do You Know Your Food? Find Out!
  • Learn about From Grass to Cheese – a small, family farm based in Nolan, Ohio is hoping for directors to gain enough funding by their goal – April 22, 2010 to bring a documentary to the world about the importance of supporting the sustainable family farm. Please listen to this podcast and donate your dollars to help them reach their goal of making this important film!