Roundup Showing up in UK

 

UK bread and cereal bars found to be contaminated with glyphosate

Monday, January 13, 2014 by: PF Louis

(NaturalNews) The UK and EU populace doesn’t embrace Monsanto’s propaganda, and their governments are somewhat less dominated by Monsanto minions than the US government is. So traces of glyphosate in major British non-GMO food brands should be a huge red flag for us here in America.

UK news site The Ecologist featured a study performed by a British anti-GMO group called GM Freeze. Two major food brands contained traces of glyphosate. The research disclosed that all four cereal bars produced by Jordans and 34 out of 40 bread products sampled from Walburtons contained traces of glyhosate. These are both big name brands in the UK.

Those traces were below the EU maximum allowable glyphosate residue amounts for cereal products. But many disagree with the maximum allowable amounts, pointing out that glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor and thus shouldn’t be tolerated at any level. [1] [4]

Parsing the glyphosate RoundUp issue

So how does glyphosate show up in those biscuits and breads where GMOs aren’t grown? Well, RoundUp is such a popular herbicide that it’s used on non-GMO grain fields. Normally, RoundUp destroys all plant life that’s not grown from RoundUp Ready GMO seeds that are designed to keep the pesticide from killing those GMO corn or soy crops.

But farmers can use it on non-GMO fields before planting to get rid of or prevent weeds from choking the new crops, and they can be used just before harvesting to make combining easier. That’s how glyphosate can show up in foods from non-GMO grain sources. Only organic crops will be free of any pesticide residues.

In Europe, GMO soy and corn is allowed in most countries for livestock feed only. And that guarantees that the Monsanto herbicide RoundUp gets sold abundantly to those farmers who sign extremely binding and limiting contracts with the evil corporation.

This affects non-organic farm animals adversely. A Dutch pig farmer raised a stink beyond even his large factory farm when he compared the differences in animal health and reproduction between GMOfeeds and non-GMO feeds.

With non-GMO feeds, he experienced far less still births or spontaneous abortions and deformities among newly born piglets and less need for antibiotics among the pigs, who clearly showed better health even within the confines of a factory farm. [2]

This situation had occurred among Midwest American livestock farmers also. Several of them had reported issues of an even greater extent using GMO feed with their pigs, cows and cattle to retired Purdue professor emeritus of plant pathology Dr. Don Huber.

Huber investigated and discovered that the RoundUp pesticide was creating soil and plant issues that at least robbed the plants of nutrition and protection from disease. Huber also hypothesized that a unique and novel pathogen was developed in the process. [3]

Here’s where the glyphosate issue gets dicey

Glyphosate alone is not the most toxic pesticide ingredient, although it’s commonly considered as such.But it’s the only substance used for testing by the EPA and government agencies worldwide. So the EPA has allowed larger amounts of glyphosate usage even as it has been showing up in human blood.

RoundUp’s extreme toxicity comes from combining glyphosate with chemical adjuvants to ensure rapid plant absorption of glyphosate. Glyphosate is considered the “active ingredient,” while the adjuvants are considered “inert,” pretty much like vaccines and their toxic adjuvants.

The RoundUp adjuvants aren’t considered, while Monsanto claims proprietary rights to avoid revealing what those “inert” ingredients are. But the two-year Seralini rat study that produced premature deaths and horrific tumors after nine months did decipher what those adjuvants are. [5]

Using scientific instrumentation, the Seralini group isolated inert ingredients and noted their toxicity. RoundUp’s glyphosate combination with certain chemical adjuvants create a toxic and carcinogenic cocktail that makes it’s way up the food chain. [5a]

If the recent Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology retraction of Seralini’s work has you confused, consider these two facts: Almost 800 scientists and thousands of other professionals have petitioned objections to the journal’s condemnation of Seralini’s work, and just prior to that journal’s retraction, a former Monsanto scientist slithered into the journal’s editorial staff.

David Schubert, Ph.D. biology professor with the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, offers an excellent write-up defending Seralini’s work here (http://www.utsandiego.com).

Sources for this article include:

[1] http://www.theecologist.org

[2] Danish farmer’s pigs:
http://www.theecologist.org

[3] Video interview of Dr. Don Huber:
http://healthmaven.blogspot.com

[4] Low-dose study, within EPA range:
http://healthmaven.blogspot.com

[5] Adjuvants with glyphosate create a stew more harmful than glyphosate alone:
http://gmoseralini.org

[5a] The details of that study:
http://gmoseralini.org

Here are more sources for your perusal if you’re interested:

http://healthfreedoms.org

http://www.foodrenegade.com

http://www.responsibletechnology.org

http://www.mindfully.org

http://science.naturalnews.com

Fertile Soil Absorbs CO2

Note: Grazing animals are part of a natural system and can help soil fertility by tilling it from the top without turning it over. Overgrazing, on the other hand, is destructive. It is hard to see how grazing cattle on desertified land is going to help it rebound. Sheep are the worst grazing animals because they rip out grass roots and all.

How Grazing Cows Can Save the Planet, and Other Surprising Ways of Healing the Earth

January 12, 2014 Thanks to Mercola.com

By Dr. Mercola

Judith Schwartz is a freelance writer and author of the book Cows Save the Planet: And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth. I recently met Judy at a conference held by Allan Savory of the Savory Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

The Savory Institute helps farmers to holistically manage their livestock in order to improve soil quality and heal the environment. In fact, according to Savory, an African ecologist, dramatically increasing the number of grazing livestock is the only thing that can reverse desertification (when land turns to desert).

This was Savory’s first conference, and turned out to be quite a memorable event. Judy has summarized a big portion of what was presented in that conference in her book. But what made her hone in on the issue of soil health to begin with?

Surprisingly, it all began with an investigation into the economy. Around 2008, just before the economic downturn, she’d started writing about the transition movement:

“One of the things that transition initiatives were dealing with was local currencies,” she says“Looking into local currencies kind of helped me understand how local economies work and primed me to ask questions when the economic downturn hit, like ‘What is money? What is wealth?’

I was on that trajectory, writing about environmental economics and new economics… Basically, it’s the notion that our economy can and should serve the people the planet as opposed to the other way around.

This I fear is the scenario that we’ve kind of gotten stuck in – that people and the planet, meaning all of our natural systems, exist to serve the economy.

From that framework, I started looking at ecology and observed the disconnect between our financial system and the natural world, which just cannot be separate. That disconnect doesn’t work.”

The Environmental Impact of Conventional Farming

This led her to learn more about soil health, economical land use, and how modern agricultural practices affect our environment.

For example, did you know that our modern agricultural system is responsible for putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the actual burning of fossil fuels? Understanding this reveals an obvious answer to pressing global problems.

There are only three places for carbon to go: land, air and water. Our agricultural practices have removed massive amounts of valuable carbon from land, transferring it into air and water. By paying greater attention to carbon management, we have the opportunity to make a dramatic difference in this area, which is having major negative consequences to our agriculture, and the pollution of our water and air.

As explained by Judy, early this past summer, concentrations of atmospheric CO2 crossed the 400 parts per million-threshold—the highest it’s been in thousands of years. According to an organization called 350.org, scientists believe our CO2 levels need to be around 350 parts per million in order to maintain favorable living conditions on earth.

Carbon management is a critical aspect of environmental health and the growing of food.

That said, CO2 levels are not constantly or continuously rising in a straight line. The level rises and falls, and this is a clue to what’s going on.

“Depending on the season, depending on how much photosynthesis is happening, it dips down, and then goes up again,” Judy explains. “When we’ve got a lot of plants, as we get towards the warmer part of the year, more photosynthesis is happening, and the CO2 levels drop slightly.

That’s so important to know, because photosynthesis is key to what we’re talking about.

When I talk about bringing carbon back into the soil, I’m talking about supporting and stimulating the process of photosynthesis – in other words, growing more plants. Those plants then take in the CO2. They make carbon compounds. Those carbon compounds are drawn down, and they go into the soil.”

Sequestering carbon in the Earth’s soils is a good thing. There’s actually more carbon in our world soils than in all plants, including trees, and the atmosphere together. However, due to modern agricultural methods, we’ve lost between 50 and 80 percent of the carbon that used to be in the soil… This means there’s plenty of “room” to put it back in.

“It’s useful to understand that the notion of bringing carbon back into the soil, one thing that it does is withdraw carbon down from the atmosphere. That’s hugely important,” Judy says.

“Carbon is the main component of soil organic matter. That’s the good stuff that you want in soil anyway for fertility. It also absorbs water. When you have carbon-rich soil, you also have soil that is resilient to floods and drought. When you start looking at soil carbon, the news keeps getting better and better.”

The Importance of Holistic Herd Management

Another major factor that needs to be considered is the management of livestock. Herds raised according to modern, conventional practices contribute to desertification—turning land into desert—which, of course, doesn’t support plant life and photosynthesis, thereby shifting the equation in the wrong direction. When land turns to desert, it no longer holds water, and it loses the ability to sustain microbial life and nourish plant growth…

One of the reasons Allan Savory has become so popular is his promotion of holistic herd management, which causes desert areas to convert back to grasslands that support plant life. As explained by Judy:

“It occurred to him that the land needed the animals in the same way that the animals needed the land. He began to really observe how animals functioned on land, and came to understand the really intricate dynamics, the system, that had been naturally in operation.

Basically, when grazing animals graze, they’re nibbling on the grasses in a way that exposes their growth points to sunlight and stimulates growth… Their trampling [of the land also] did several things: it breaks any capped earth so that the soil is aerated. It presses in seeds [giving them] a chance to germinate, so you have a greater diversity of plants. [Grazing herds] also press down dying and decaying grasses, so that they can be better acted upon by microorganisms in the soil. It keeps the decaying process going. Their waste also fertilizes the soil.”

This natural symbiotic relationship between animals, soils and plants—where each benefits the other mutually—is a powerful insight. And it’s one that can be replicated with great benefit. Besides the environmental benefits, grass-fed, pastured livestock is also an excellent source of high quality meat. In fact, it’s the only type of meat I recommend eating, as raising cattle in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) alters the nutritional composition of the meat—not to mention such animals are fed antibiotics, growth promoters and other veterinary drugs.

You Can Make a Difference in More Ways Than One

As for recommendations for what we can do to get us going in the right direction with regards to improving not only animal and human health but the health of the planet, Judy says:

“Most recommendations are very simple. The simplest thing is to avoid having bare soil. Because when you have bare uncovered soil, the land degradation process begins. When you have bare soil, that means that the carbon is binding with oxygen and becoming carbon dioxide.”

We also need to shift our focus to emphasize the biological system as a whole. Soil is not a static “thing.” It’s a living symbiotic system, and soil microorganisms also play a very important role in this system. When I visited Elaine Ingham at the Rodale Institute, I learned the value of compost tea for promoting beneficial soil microbes, and I now use a vortex compost tea brewing system to revitalize my own garden. Interestingly, the better you farm or garden, the less land you need. According to Judy, a biological farmer using appropriate methods can grow on 1,000 acres the same amount of food another farmer might need 5,000 acres to produce…

Another factor is the importance of integrating animals on the land. Most biological farmers understand this, and will tell you that in order for soil to get to its highest potential of productivity and health, there needs to be animals on the land. (According to Savory, grazing large herds of livestock on half of the world’s barren or semi-barren grasslands could also take enough carbon from the atmosphere to bring us back to preindustrial levels!) But what if you’re not a gardener yet, or a farmer? How can you help achieve this much needed shift?

“I think people can make a difference in all sorts of ways that people make decisions every day, such as asking yourself how the food you’re buying was grown,” Judy says. “Because once you start asking where the food comes from, even posing that question, will lead you to make different choices.

Apart from food, what decisions are being made in your community about the use of land? Can your community save money by working with soil rather than, say, putting in an expensive waste or water treatment plant? That’s another thing, getting involved on a local level. There are all kinds of organizations that are working on different environmental and different food aspects locally and nationally, etc.”

Biological Farming Solves Many Pressing Problems

My first passion and career was being a physician, then an Internet educator, and now I’m moving into high-performance biological agriculture because I really believe it’s the next step in our evolution. We must shift the way we produce food because the current system is unsustainable. And while this information really is ancient, it’s not widely discussed. There’s only a small segment of the population that even understands this natural system, and the potential it has for radically transforming the way we feed the masses AND protect the environment at the same time.

I thoroughly agree with the recommendation to get involved personally, because it’s so exciting. For me, it’s become a rather addictive hobby. Once you integrate biological farming principles, you can get plant performances that are 200-400 percent greater than what you would typically get from a plant! What’s more, not only does it improve the quantity, it also improves the quality of the food you’re growing. These facts should really be at the forefront of everybody’s mind when they think about farming, as it’s the solution to so many pressing problems. Judy agrees, noting:

“The challenge is that we’ve been led to believe that our agricultural model, which is an extractive model, is the way it needs to be. But we can shift to a regenerative model. That’s where we need to go.”

Final Thoughts

As Judy says, there’s a lot to be optimistic about, because whether we’re talking about the degradation of the environment or our food supply, there are answers!

“Many people just sort of give up and say, ‘I can’t do anything about this.’ I was speaking to someone the other day who said that her son, who just finished college, said, ‘You know, it’s over. We’re doomed.’ To me, that is just so sad. How can we let the next generation feel that way? I think that betrays a huge lack of imagination. Because when we talk about our environmental challenges, one thing we don’t talk about is nature’s desire to heal itself. Once we ally with that natural process, it’s amazing what we can do.”

Ending the burning of fossil fuels is not the one and only way for us to turn the tide on rising carbon dioxide levels. Granted, solar energy and wind power would certainly be preferable to burning fossil fuels. But even if we didn’t stop burning fossil fuels, we can still reverse rising CO2 levels by addressing the way we farm, using sound, time-honored agricultural principles.

And—something else to consider—even if we completely stop burning fossil fuels but do not change agriculture, we’ll still be left with problems like lands turning to desert, flooding, and drought for example. In short, we really must address how we manage our lands and soils… You can learn more about biological farming by reviewing the related articles listed in the right-hand side bar on this page. I also highly recommend Judy’s book, Cows Save the Planet: And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth. It’s a great read for anyone wanting to learn more about this topic.

Where Food Comes From

FOOD” Documentary – A Revealing Look at the Sourcing of Our Modern Food Supply

 Thanks to Mercola.com
January 11, 2014

By Dr. Mercola

“Food” is a 30-minute documentary that investigates how demand for more and cheaper food has dramatically altered the entire food chain. Today, food production revolves around efficiency—the ability to produce more for less. The ramifications of this mindset are wide-ranging and far-reaching…

As KPBS’ Joanne Faryon reports, “the food chain no longer looks like it used to.” Fish no longer eat other fish, and cattle eat very little grass, which is their natural food source. Instead, cattle eat corn, chickens eat corn and fish, and fish eat cows and poultry… Similarly, fresh produce like fruits and vegetables are primarily sold to foreign markets.

California oranges, for example, are exported to far flung places like Japan, while Americans eat oranges from Australia—presumably because Americans prefer the deeper orange color of Australian oranges, and the fact that they’re easier to peel. As a result, the carbon footprint of most foods sold in your local grocery store is massive, having made its way thousands of miles from where it was grown.

The Beef About American Cattle Farming

While food prices appear to be on the rise, we actually spend less on our food today than we did a generation ago, thanks to modern food production practices. The ultimate price, however, may be greater than anyone ever expected.

For starters, modern agricultural practices are taking a heavy toll on soil and environmental health, and the way we raise animal foods, especially in the US, results in animal products that are far inferior compared to their ancestral past.

The practice of raising animals in confined feeding operations (CAFOs) is also having a major detrimental impact on our environment and is a primary source of environmental pollution and rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

Last year, 63 million tons of beef was produced worldwide.1 As stated in the film, while making up only five percent of the world’s population, Americans consume nearly 20 percent of all the beef produced globally.

But just how is all this beef produced? The film summarizes how the typical cow makes its way from birth to slaughter in the US. A generation or so ago, cattle would be mostly pasture-raised and sold for slaughter around the age of two or three. The meat would then be taken to the local market.

Today, California cows start out being raised on pasture for about six months before being sold, typically changing hands twice, before ending up in a CAFO feedlot. Feedlots, which were introduced after World War II, are large pens that house tens of thousands of cattle—some can hold herds up to 100,000 animals.

Here, they’re fattened up on a corn-based diet before being slaughtered about four or five months later. All in all, today’s beef is grown in about half the time compared to a generation ago.

Besides corn, virtually all beef sold in American grocery stores comes from cattle injected with hormones. Corn fattens the cattle, but consumers don’t like all that grizzly fat, so hormones are used to make the animal produce more lean muscle tissue. This improves profits, as it increases the animals’ growth by about 10 percent.

Ironically, as Faryon points out, it’s the corn that makes the cattle fat, so if we didn’t feed them corn, we wouldn’t have to give them hormones to minimize fat production.  Another question well worth pondering is this: with all this hormone-laced beef, along with the American corn-based processed food diet (think high fructose corn syrup), is it any surprise Americans are growing fatter, faster, as well?

Farmed Fish—Feedlots of the Sea…

Industrial fish farming, or aquaculture, is the fastest growing form of food production in the world.2 About half of the world’s seafood now comes from fish farms, including in the US, and this is expected to increase. At first glance, farmed fish may seem like a good idea to help protect wild seafood populations from overfishing while meeting the nutritional needs of an ever-expanding global population.

In reality, however, the industry is plagued with many of the same problems surrounding land-based CAFOs, including pollution, disease and inferior nutritional quality. It’s getting so bad that fish farms can easily be described as “CAFOs of the sea.” Here we see an even greater distortion of the food chain. Wild fish eat other fish, but farmed fish can be fed a concoction of ingredients they’d NEVER encounter otherwise, such as soy protein and beef or chicken byproducts, including cattle blood, bone, and chicken feathers.

The reason for this is because, as explained by Jeffrey Graham in the film, it takes about five pounds of fish to produce one pound of growth in salmon. This clearly negates the original rationale for fish farming, which is to prevent the depletion of natural fish stocks. The solution is to replace the fish meal in the diet with soy protein and other protein products…The question is, is this really a healthy solution?

Europe has banned processing byproducts from cattle due to the potential risk of spreading mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE), a neurodegenerative disease that can affect humans eating contaminated beef. While there have been no reports of humans contracting mad cow from eating farmed fish, the theoretical possibility is there. Besides that, it seems clear that a fish that eats meat byproducts opposed to its natural diet of other fish is not going to have the same nutritional makeup as wild fish.

Then there’s the increased risk of fish diseases spreading to wild fish. The close quarters where farmed fish are raised (combined with their unnatural diets) means disease can spread quickly, and because farmed fish are often raised in pens in the ocean, pathogens can spread like wildfire and contaminate any wild fish swimming past. I wrote about this last summer in the article “Salmon Confidential.”

The Unsavory Truth About Factory Farmed Chicken

Large commercial chicken facilities typically house tens of thousands of hens and can even go up to hundreds of thousands of hens who, yet again, are fed a diet consisting primarily of corn. Processing byproducts such as chicken feathers can also be added to the feed. Antibiotics are routinely used in most facilities, but hormones are not permitted in American-raised chickens. When it comes to labels such as “free-range” and “natural,” it’s buyer beware…

The definitions of “free-range” are such that the commercial egg industry can run industrial farm egg laying facilities and still call them “free-range” eggs, despite the fact that the birds’ foraging conditions are far from what you’d call natural. True free-range eggs are from hens that roam freely outdoors on a pasture where they can forage for their natural diet, which includes seeds, green plants, insects, and worms.

When you’re housing tens of thousands of chickens, you clearly cannot allow them all to freely roam and scavenge for food outdoors. At best, CAFO hens may be let out into a barren outdoor lot for mere minutes a day. Your best source for pastured chicken (and fresh eggs) is a local farmer that allows his hens to forage freely outdoors. If you live in an urban area, visiting a local farmer’s market is typically the quickest route to finding high-quality chicken and eggs.

Can We Grow a Fair and Sustainable Food System?

Many believe the answer to world hunger is further expansion of large-scale agriculture; others place their bets on genetically engineered (GE) crops. But are factory farms and large-scale GE farming really going to solve the problem? Evidence suggests the answer is a resounding NO. In fact, our modern agricultural system is the very heart of the problem…

Modern monoculture has severely depleted soils of essential nutrients and microorganisms, and poor soil quality is a core problem facing farmers across the globe. Monoculture (or monocropping) is defined as the high-yield agricultural practice of growing a single crop year after year on the same land, in the absence of rotation through other crops. (Corn, soybeans, wheat, and to some degree rice, are the most common crops grown with monocropping techniques. As discussed above, corn and soy are two of the primary ingredients in feed given to livestock, be they chickens, cattle or fish.)

The Earth’s soil is now depleting at more than 13 percent the rate it can be replaced due to our chemical-based agriculture system. Massive monoculture has also led to the extinction of 75 percent of the world’s crop varieties over the last century. Additionally, modern agriculture is extremely energy dependent. It is estimated that every consumer in the Western world eats the equivalent of 66 barrels of oil per year. That’s how much oil is needed to produce the food on your plate.

Do You Really Want to Eat Factory Farmed Animals?

If you were to grow food for you own family, my guess is that you would do so with extreme care, using the best seeds, the healthiest animals, and the least amount of chemical additives. Yet, when most people buy their food, they have no idea where it actually comes from, and conversely the people who grow this food have no idea who ends up eating it. When people are able to grow food for the faceless masses, I think it somehow justifies these terrible practices that have become commonplace: pumping animals full of hormones and drugs, dousing vegetables with chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and introducing genetically modified seeds into the environment.

If you had to see the animal you were about to eat before it makes its way to the supermarket or your dinner table, would you choose one that had lived out its days in a filthy, crowded cage? One that had been mutilated and tormented, then pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, while being fed pesticide-laden grains it was not designed to eat?

Or would you choose one that had lived a nurtured and well cared for life, free to roam on pasture, see the sunlight and breathe in fresh air? One that was fed its natural diet and nothing more? The choice is obvious, which is exactly why agri-business has done such a masterful job of concealing what really goes on from the vast majority of Americans. All you see is a cellophane-wrapped package, maybe a picture of a barn with happy cows and chickens standing near. In many cases, if you could really see how that animal was raised, you would likely shield your children’s eyes, then turn away in disgust.

Factory farms allow us to be removed from taking personal responsibility for raising our own food. There is no one to be held accountable for raising garbage food or treating animals inhumanely because the system has taken on a life of its own. By far, the vast majority of food at your local supermarket comes from these polluting, inhumane farm conglomerations. So if you want to stop supporting them, you first need to find a new place to shop.

Become Part of a Growing Movement

Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to find a humane and reliable source for your food — sources that are growing food with the health of the environment and the animals as the driving forces. At LocalHarvest.org, for instance, you can enter your zip code and find farmers’ markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, all with the click of a button. For an excellent list of sustainable agricultural groups in your area, please also see Promoting Sustainable Agriculture — this page is filled with resources for high-quality produce and meats in your area.

The more we all make it a point to only buy food from a source we know and trust, the faster factory farming will become a shameful practice of the past. Farmers and lovers of real food show us that change IS possible. But your involvement is required. Here are a few suggestions for how you can take affirmative action:

  1. Buy local products whenever possible. Otherwise, buy organic and fair-trade products.
  2. Shop at your local farmers market, join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), or buy from local grocers and co-ops committed to selling local foods.
  3. Support restaurants and food vendors that buy locally produced food.
  4. Avoid genetically engineered (GMO) foods. Buying certified organic ensures your food is non-GM.
  5. Cook, can, ferment, dry, and freeze. Return to the basics of cooking, and pass these skills on to your children.
  6. Grow your own garden, or volunteer at a community garden. Teach your children how to garden and where their food comes from.
  7. Volunteer and/or financially support an organization committed to promoting a sustainable food system.
  8. Get involved in your community. Influence what your child eats by engaging the school board. Effect city policies by learning about zoning and attending city council meetings. Learn about the federal policies that affect your food choice, and let your congressperson know what you think.
  9. Spread the word! Share this article with your friends, family, and everyone else you know.

Ag-Gag

Stunning Ag-gag Bill News

Posted: 08/05/2013 12:34 pm

 

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Amy Meyer wanted to see for herself where her food was coming from. But in the state of Utah, she discovered, that was against the law.

On February 8, Meyer drove to Dale Smith Meatpacking Company in Draper City, Utah, and took a look from the side of the road. She gasped as she peered through the barbed wire fence and saw what appeared to be a sick cow being treated like rubble as it was carried in a tractor. So she did what many people would do in this day and age. She got out her smartphone to begin recording.

For this, Meyer was arrested and prosecuted under Utah’s new “ag-gag” law.

It turns out that similar laws are now in place not just in Utah, but also in Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa, and Missouri. And many other states are considering similar legislation.

The goal of these laws, it would appear, is to keep consumers from seeing where modern meat really comes from. Considering that 94 percent of the American public believes that animals raised for food should be free from abuse and cruelty, the modern meat industry has some good reasons to fear the public finding out that Old MacDonald’s farm isn’t so happy these days.

Charges against Meyer were subsequently dropped, but Utah’s law is still on the books. And now Amy Meyer is joining with award-winning author Will Potter and a team of organizations in filing a lawsuit challenging her state’s controversial law in the courts.

Soon thereafter, in Kansas on June 28th, a photographer working for a publication not generally seen as promoting a radical agenda, National Geographic, was arrested and briefly jailed after taking aerial pictures of a feedlot for a series on food issues to be published some time next year.

George Steinmetz has taken award-winning photos in many dangerous situations, including a series depicting post-Gaddafi Libya. But it was his photographs of U.S. feedlots, taken from a paraglider in an area with hundreds of thousands of cattle, that got him put behind bars.

Kansas has its own “ag-gag bill,” called the “Farm Animal and Field Crop and Research Facilities Protection Act.” This law makes it illegal to “enter an animal facility to take pictures by photograph, video camera or by any other means.”

Apparently, the feedlot executives may have considered paragliding to be a form of illegal entry, and they wanted Steinmetz to feel the force of the law. Industry officials said they believe his actions represent a “food security issue.” Steinmetz had also parked and taken off from private property, so “trespassing” is central to the charge he now faces. But do you really think he’d have been arrested for parking there had he merely stopped to read a book?

The spread of ag-gag bills is alarming for many reasons. Aside from exposing specific incidents of animal abuse, undercover videos have also drawn attention to industry practices such as housing chickens in cramped battery cages that hasten the sickening of birds and the spread of salmonella.

Elizabeth Holmes, an attorney with the nonprofit Center for Food Safety, comments: “The reason these are public health issues, and not just animal rights issues, is that those unsanitary conditions provide breeding grounds (for disease).”

Holmes has a point. Keeping animals alive in wretched conditions requires the use of massive amounts of pharmaceutical drugs. Nearly 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the United States are given to animals, not people. The antibiotic overuse that allows meat producers to keep animals in filth and misery is spawning drug-resistant superbugs.

Earlier this year, an Environmental Working Group study found antibiotic resistant “super bugs” on 81 percent of the ground turkey and 55 percent of the ground beef in America’s supermarkets.

With antibiotic resistant bacteria costing us more than $55 billion and killing tens of thousands of people each year, you could even argue that today’s factory farms have become a form of biological weapons factory.

But don’t we have meat inspectors who monitor animal treatment? Isn’t it their job to insure that the laws against excessive animal cruelty to animals, however weak they may be, are enforced? Aren’t they being paid to look out for the public interest?

Unfortunately, thanks to the weight of agribusiness interests, even USDA meat inspectors don’t always feel free to protect animals or public health.

After 29 years as a USDA meat inspector, Jim Schrier was recently stationed at a Tyson Foods slaughter facility in Iowa where he reported clear humane handling violations to his supervisor. That’s what he was supposed to do — report the violations to his superior in the chain of command. But when Schrier presented his concerns, the supervisor reportedlybecame very angry, and a week later required Jim to work at another facility 120 miles away. Then the USDA reassigned Jim permanently to a plant in another state.

In what looks an awful lot like a form of whistleblower retaliation, after 29 years of service, Schrier must now choose between his job, and his family.

When Jim’s wife, Tammy, launched a petition on change.org exposing this story and calling for Jim Schrier to get his old job back, some of the first signers were other employees who had worked at the same plant and who corroborated Schrier’s findings. Instead of being punished, they said, he should be rewarded and the whole plant should be inspected.

The significance of all this is huge. The first amendment to the United States constitution states: “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”There are serious questions about whether ag-gag bills, and retaliation against whistleblowers like Jim Schrier, are even constitutional. But whatever the courts decide, we are already paying a terrible price for the climate of repression they institutionalize.

Shutting up people like Amy Meyer, George Steinmetz, and Jim Schrier makes it hard for any of us to know where our food comes from. Shutting them up also allows the meat industry to get away with treating animals terribly, and with jeopardizing public health by breeding antibiotic resistant bacteria. But there’s more.

Tyrants of all stripes thrive in the darkness. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “A properly functioning democracy depends on an informed electorate.”

If journalists and whistleblowers aren’t allowed to speak the truth, we’re going to have an awfully hard time retaining any semblance of a functioning democracy.
Ocean Robbins is co-author of Voices of the Food Revolution, and serves as CEO and co-host (with best-selling author John Robbins) of the 100,000+ member Food Revolution Network. Find out more and sign up for free here.

Farm Subsidies Subsidize Obesity

U.S. Farm Subsidy Policies Contribute to Worsening Obesity Red LettuceTrends

July 27, 2013 | Thanks to Mercola.
By Dr. Mercola

Agricultural policies in the US are contributing to the poor health of Americans, and, specifically, government-issued agricultural subsidies are worsening the US obesity epidemic, concluded a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.1

At the root of the issue?

Government-issued payments have skewed agricultural markets toward the overproduction of commodities that are the basic ingredients of processed, energy-dense foods,” the researchers wrote.

This includes corn, wheat, soybeans and rice, which are the top four most heavily subsidized foods.

By subsidizing these, particularly corn and soy, the US government is actively supporting a diet that consists of these grains in their processed form, namely high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), soybean oil, and grain-fed cattle – all of which are now well-known contributors to obesity and chronic diseases.

Despite this widespread knowledge, public health officials have had little to say about this agricultural practice, yet it seems quite clear that they should. With the 2013 Farm Bill set to be finalized by the end of September 2013, this could be a key time to implement important policy changes in the near future.

The Farm Subsidy Program Is Junk — Literally

The US farm subsidy program is upside down, subsidizing junk food in one federal office, while across the hall another department is funding an anti-obesity campaign. This hypocrisy shows just how broken and wasteful our regulatory system really is.

Farm subsidies bring you high-fructose corn syrup, fast food, junk food, CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), monoculture, and a host of other contributors to our unhealthful contemporary diet.

Why would a farmer choose to plant lettuce or Swiss chard when the government will essentially “insure” their corn crops, paying them back if the market prices fall below a set floor price? Likewise with wheat and soybeans, the second and third most heavily subsidized crops, respectively.

Most of them wouldn’t… and that’s why the US diet is so heavily loaded with foods based on the surplus, nutritionally devoid crops of corn, wheat and soy. One of the effects of the farm bill is creating a negative feedback loop that perpetuates the highly profitable standard American diet. The US government is, in essence, subsidizing obesity and chronic disease!

As the new study reported:2

“American agricultural policy has traditionally failed to offer incentives or support for fruit and vegetable production. Farmers are penalized for growing specialty crops (such as fruits and vegetables)

If they have received federal farm payments to grow other crops. In other words, federal farm subsidies promote unsustainable agriculture while also failing to reward good stewardship.

Further, although farmers may generate higher marketplace revenue from fresh produce, substantially lower economic security makes growing fruits and vegetables a risky proposition in an already risky industry.”

Just Eight Crops Make Up Virtually All of US Cropland

If you’ve ever wondered why corn and soy products are so ubiquitous not only in US processed foods but as feed for livestock, including cattle, you need look no further than the makeup of US cropland. It’s reported:3

“In 2004, 96% of U.S. cropland was dominated by the eight main commodity crops: corn (30%); soybeans (29%); wheat (23%); cotton (5%); sorghum (3%); barley (2%); oats (2%); and rice (1%).

According to the American Soybean Association, 70% of the fats and oils consumed by Americans are soy oil, found primarily in cooking oils, baking, and frying fats. A large percentage of cropland is cultivated on a 2-year rotation that favors soy one year and corn the next, another purported contributor to obesity.

A conservative estimate of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) consumption suggests a daily average of 132 calories for all Americans aged > 2 years, with the top 20% of consumers ingesting an average of 316 calories from HFCS per day.

Another important contribution of grains and oilseeds to the prevalence of obesity is their use as feed for livestock… As grain-fed livestock contribute to the oversupply of the commodities required to feed them, the harmful effects of grain and oilseed production are as widespread as they are indirect.”

Farm Subsidies Favor Large Corporate Farms, Force Small Farms Out of Business

Many are under the mistaken impression that farm subsidies are beneficial to small farmers, allowing them to stay afloat in years of poor harvests. Yet commodity subsidies are overwhelmingly going out to a select few mega farms — not to the small farmers who need them most! In fact, the broken farm subsidy system is responsible for not only encouraging monoculture but also for putting many small farmers out of business — while corporate-owned mega-farms grow ever larger.

Researchers continued:4

“Subsidies also have resulted in fewer farms and diminished agricultural diversity. Large farms often devote their entire capital and experience to producing one or two commodities, leaving smaller players to be regularly winnowed out at the profit of corporate farms and contractors. In 2001, large farms, which constitute 7% of the total, received 45% of federal subsidies, whereas small farms, constituting 76% of the total, received 14% of total payments.

Between 2003 and 2007, the top 10% of subsidized farmers received an annual average of $68,030, whereas the bottom 80% averaged $2312. Disproportionately allocated subsidies have contributed to forcing hundreds of small, biodiverse farms out of business at the profit of industrialized food processing.”

Farm Subsidies Are No Longer a Needs-Based System

While farm subsidies initially were created to protect staple crops during times of war, reduce crop surpluses and provide monetary support to farmers when crop prices fell, today mega-farms receive subsidies whether they need them or not. The transition away from a needs-based system came in 1996, when lawmakers developed a “market transition” payment system for farmers.

The idea was to phase out the subsidies over a seven-year transition period, during which farmers would receive an annual fixed cash payment based upon the number of acres on the farm (these direct payments were given as long as the land was not developed — even if nothing was planted). Of course, this ensures that the largest farms also receive the largest payments, and contrary to its original intent, the payments have not declined annually nor has the program gone away.  As the Environmental Working Group (EWG) explained:5

The industrial agriculture lobby has been defending the controversial “direct payment” form of taxpayer-funded subsidies ever since they were first authorized. These fixed, automatic checks go out every year to the largest growers of commodity crops, such as corn and cotton, whether farmers need them or not and despite the fact that farm household income has eclipsed average U.S. household income. Farm income for the largest operations, in particular, has soared sky high.”

And if you thought this all couldn’t get any more outrageous… it can, as it’s been revealed that under this absurd system, even dead farmers have received payments from the government. So have non-farmers who moved into residential areas that once were farmland, along with wealthy farmers who have received annual payments even when they are no longer growing the subsidized crop.

To Put It All in Perspective, Check Out Peter Jennings’ Classic Video

A classic video on the US government’s fatally flawed agricultural subsidy programs, and how they affect your nutritional choices and health, is “How to Get Fat Without Really Trying” with Peter Jennings. Although it’s several years old and Peter has passed away, the video still speaks the truth because virtually nothing has changed. If anything, the situation has, sadly, actually worsened.

Redesigning the System Could Help Fight Obesity and Protect the Environment

The time is ripe for change, and redesigning the system could help move us toward economic, and nutritional, recovery. The money is already there, but if we’re going to subsidize, let’s subsidize in a way that helps restore the health of our citizens and our land—programs that might just pay for themselves by the reduction in healthcare costs they bring about. The researchers noted:6

“A redesign of the subsidy system, rather than its elimination, is likely to yield more sustainable changes in the agricultural industry. Such revision could take the form of decoupling income supports from program-specific crops, and rewards for agricultural diversification.

The trickle-down effect of providing increased government support to farms growing sustainable, bio-diverse crops would not only help farmers reap greater economic benefits (as fruits and vegetables are among the products with the highest farm-retail value) but would contribute to large-scale efforts to address obesity by increasing the availability of fresh produce. Overall, government and public health activists should support policies that help disincentivize monocultural overproduction, not policies that fuel it.”

It sounds so logical, so obvious, doesn’t it? Yet it is the exact opposite of what is currently being done with farm subsidies. Mark Brittman of the New York Times similarly argued, back in 2011, that subsidy money, which is already IN the budget, could be redirected toward helping smaller farmers to compete in the marketplace.7 The money could be redirected, for example, in the following ways:

  • Funding research and innovation in sustainable agriculture
  • Providing incentives to attract new farmers
  • Saving farmland from development
  • Assisting farmers who grow currently unsubsidized fruits and vegetables, while providing incentives for monoculture commodity farmers (corn, soy, wheat, rice) to convert some of their operations to more desirable foods
  • Leveling the playing field so that medium-sized farms can more favorably compete with agribusiness as suppliers for local supermarkets

Help Support Small Farms with a Farm Bill That Works

If you don’t like the idea of your tax dollars lining the pockets of wealthy corporations that flood the market with sugary sodas, soybean oil and corn chips, now is the time to speak up. The Environmental Working Group has started a petition urging Congress to enact a Farm Bill that protects family farmers who help us protect the environment and public health, and you cansign it now.

But remember, you can also voice your opinion every day by voting with your wallet. Support small family farms in your area. Even if it means buying just one or two items at your local farmers market, instead of the big box store, those little purchases add up.

Return to a diet of real, whole foods—fresh organic produce, meats from animals raised sustainably on pasture, without cruelty, and raw organic milk and eggs. Say no to junk food producers by not buying it. Eating this way will earn you a long, healthy life—whereas the typical American diet may set you on the path toward obesity and chronic disease.

Thanks to Mercola.