Friday, October 29, 2010

Chuck Palazzo

   I dig this cat.

   From Veterans Today:

   Chuck Palazzo: "Marine Combat Veteran, served with 1st and 3rd FORCERECON. RVN 1970-1971. Currently living, writing and working in Da Nang, Vietnam. Agent Orange and Unexploded Ordinance activist and researcher."

   Chuck is paying attention to the chemical industries and is trying to get the word out.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Most Difficult Time Of The Year

   I imagine seasons go by for some folks as little more than a change in the weather. Some have yard work, some have professional challenges that change with the season. When I lived on the SE coast, fall was the beginning of the end of tourist season and the start of college season, meaning a significant shift in material as an entertainer. In the NW, it means the end of the outdoor season and more business for entertainment.

   Trying to eat locally and live sustainably, it's a whole new world. This is the time of year when the ant and the grasshopper begin to haunt a person. This year's growing season was not great and optimists like myself were caught off-guard as September passed. Fortunately we had access to local produce. We were able to use our garden to supplement canning projects as we had no real excess of our own. We also made a point to stock up on basics like beans, rice, flour, pasta, sugar, and salt for a few bucks.

   Still, there is much to be done. I harvested a couple cords of hardwood for the woodstove, but we still need more -- preferably some seasoned fir or other softwood for kindling. Onions and carrots in the garden need to be harvested for beef stew to be canned. Egg production has dropped off dramatically with the hens as the days grow shorter and darker. The maple tree will continue to dump leaves for the compost pile for a while. The freezer needs re-stocked either from the butcher shop (and the cushion fund was spent on vacation earlier this month) or by elk or late deer season. The latter, of course, just requires a serious time commitment (and a bit of luck). At this moment, I don't really care about Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas. I just want to stock the pantry.

   Of course, by January it will all be out of my hands. We'll take stock of what we have and live accordingly because there's really nothing else we an do until spring.

   That is when I'll be able to relax.

Friday, October 15, 2010

CDN judges rule against Wal-Mart in two separate union cases

From Money:

A judge in Saskatchewan ruled Walmart employees have the right to union representation Thursday, just days after a Quebec judge ruled the retail giant acted illegally when it closed a unionized store in that province, United Food & Commercial Workers Canada said.

A Saskatchewan Court of Appeal judge upheld a lower court ruling Thursday allowing a UFCW Local 1400 bargaining unit at the Weyburn, Sask. Walmart store.

“This is a victory for workers rights and the principle that no company is above the law,” said Norm Neault, the president of UFCW Canada Local 1400.

UFCW accuses Walmart of doing everything in its power to prevent workers from getting a collective agreement.

“But the time for stalling is over. Let’s get back to the bargaining table and start talking,” Neault said.

Local 1400 first applied to represent Weyburn Walmart workers in 2004.

Earlier this week, a Quebec Supreme Court judge ruled Walmart had acted illegally when it shut a store in Jonquiere, Que. shortly after workers there formed a union.

Some Walmart workers in other parts of the country are working with a union agreement already, including those in Gatineau and Saint-Hyacinthe, Que.


Despite problems with superweeds, Obama and USDA firmly support GMOs

From Food Integrity Now by Matt Spaeth on October 11, 2010:

Superweeds, a side-effect of growing Roundup-Ready genetically modified (GM) crops, are a growing problem. Roundup-Ready crops, engineered to tolerate weedkiller, are the most popular variety of GM crop today. However, many native weeds have evolved their own defense to weedkiller and now occupy 10 million acres of US farmland. Despite this issue being a direct result of growing GM crops, the Obama administration and USDA recently made it clear, they firmly stand beside biotechnology.

Ann Wright, a deputy undersecretary at the USDA, told a House oversight subcommittee last week:

This administration and USDA see biotechnology as being a very important tool for farmers to use in addressing some very important issues, globally and domestically. All the options we look at have to be supportive of that.

Yes, you read that right. In finding a solution, the Obama administration and USDA will only consider options supporting the same technology that created the problem.

Wright also stated the USDA did not have authority to regulate weedkiller-tolerant crops leading to superweeds.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Ohio democrat and former presidential candidate, corrected her by stating the department can impose restrictions on weedkiller-tolerant crops under its authority to control noxious weeds. Kucinich advocates creating a moratorium on genetically modified organisms and is holding a series of hearings on the superweed issue.

The USDA statement came amidst reports that Monsanto’s shares are down 42% and on the eve of the first official Non-GMO month.

Monsanto, the creators of Roundup (a weedkiller also known as glyphosate), is the world’s largest supplier of genetically modified seeds. They alter the DNA of crops to resist weedkiller, then sell both the seed and weedkiller to the farmer. It is supposed to make a farmer’s life easier, as it allows an entire field to be blanketed with weedkiller. The GM crops survive, and the weeds die. It was touted to be more environmentally friendly than the old method of tilling weeds under. But as the years went on, the weeds around the crops grew resistant to weedkiller as well, erasing the benefits of the GM crop.

This news reinforces President Obama’s appearance as a politician determined to facilitate biotech world domination. Since winning the presidency, he has made it his mission to fill his administration with a team of biotech all-stars:

December 17, 2008, then-President-elect Barack Obama nominated Tom Vilsack, a politician well-known for his preference of large industrial farms and genetically modified crops, as US Secretary of Agriculture. Vilsack originated legislation prohibiting local communities from regulating where GM crops could be grown. He was also the founder and former chair of the Governor’s Biotechnology Partnership, and was named Governor of the Year by the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

July 7, 2009, President Obama appointed Michael Taylor, Monsanto-man and poster boy for revolving door politics, as “senior advisor” to the FDA Commissioner. Taylor began his career as staff attorney for the FDA before moving to a law firm representing Monsanto. He later returned to the FDA as Deputy Commissioner for Policy, where he lead the approval for using Monsanto’s rBGH growth hormone in dairy cows without labeling. From there he moved to the USDA as Administrator of the Food Safety & Inspection Service, before becoming Monsanto’s Vice President for Public Policy.

September 24, 2009, President Obama appointed Roger Beachy, “the father of GM foods”, as Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Beachy was the founding president of the Danforth Plant and Science Center, a non-profit arm of Monsanto, where he is still a trustee and member of its scientific advisory board. A part of the USDA, NIFA was developed as a result of a task force chaired by William H. Danforth and appointed by then Secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman. Veneman herself has a history in biotech, having served on the board of directors for Calgene Inc, a biotech company later purchased by Monsanto.

November 10, 2009, President Obama nominated Rajiv Shah, GMO and vaccine proponent, as Administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Before this, Shah was Chief Scientist at the USDA (also appointed by Obama), where he worked on launching NIFA. Shah used his USDA position to promote genetic engineering to Congress and direct millions towards GMO research. Prior to his involvement in government, Shah was the agricultural programs director for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, along with the Danforth Plant and Science Center, is one of Monsanto’s key non-profit partners.

January 13, 2010, President Obama re-appoints Michael Taylor, this time to Deputy Commissioner of Foods for the FDA.

April 2, 2010, President Obama appointed Islam A. Siddiqui, a registered biotech lobbyist, as Chief Agricultural Negotiator in the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Siddiqui is a former VP for Science and Regulatory Affairs at CropLife America, a biotechnology industry consortium. His credentials include lobbying against mandatory labeling of GMO foods in Japan and criticizing the European Union’s precautionary rejection of importing GMOs. Siddiqui is the former Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at the USDA, where he oversaw the National Organic Program’s standards. These standards initially allowed both irradiated and GM foods to be labeled as organic, but were later revised due to public opposition.

It’s no wonder 86% of US farmland is planted with GM crops, a good ‘ol boys network is writing our nation’s agricultural policy!

Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the agricultural spectrum, the First Lady created an organic garden where she grows produce for the White House kitchen as well as local charities and soup kitchens. She also uses the garden to educate local elementary school children about organic gardening. In addition, the First Lady hosted diplomat spouses of world leaders at the UN General Assembly to a luncheon tour of a local NY farm specializing in seed diversity, local farming and sustainability.

You may be baffled, so am I. Is Michelle Obama just a front? Does the President really believe he is helping the world? Or, is he a puppet in the hands of wealthy campaign financiers?

Clearly, the government has ignored the growing number of studies which indicate GM food is unsafe for human or animal consumption. A paper released by The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) shows more than a causal association between GMOs and adverse health effects.

According to the AAEM,

…several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system.

Another study, lead by Professor Andrés Carrasco of the Laboratory of Molecular Embryology at the University of Buenos Aires Medical School, demonstrated that glyphosate (Roundup) causes birth defects at far lower doses than those used in agricultural spraying and well below maximum residue levels in products approved by the European Union. The study was initiated because of widespread reports of human malformations in Argentina beginning in 2002. This was two years after farmers began widespread aerial spraying of Roundup on their GM soy crops.

Even the President’s own Cancer Panel suggests reducing your risk of cancer by “giving preference to food grown without pesticides, chemical fertilizers and growth hormones.” In other words, eat organic.

We are faced with a mountain of problems linked to genetically modified organisms and they continue to build: South African farmers were devastated in 2009 when genetically modified maize from Monsanto failed to produce kernels; GM soy has been linked sterility and infant mortality in hamsters; and insecticide-producing GM corn is polluting streams, lakes and rivers. What will be next?

The biotech lobbyists have succeeded in preventing GM foods from being labeled thus far, but many are seeking for that to change. This Washington Post public poll clearly shows the public wants to know if they are eating GMOs. But, the biotech industry knows they would have no industry if that was the case. Watch for this issue this coming election and ask your candidates where they stand on GMO Food Labels.

Congressman Kucinich seems to be one of the only people in Washington taking a stand for integrity and common sense. Let’s hope he still has a job come November.

Negotiators agree on international accord on damage from GM crops

From The Mainichi Daily News:

NAGOYA (Kyodo) -- Negotiators at biological diversity talks in the central Japan city of Nagoya have agreed on a supplement to the biosafety protocol that would address compensation for damage caused to ecosystems by genetically modified crops, officials involved in the talks said Tuesday.

A group of experts is currently working out a final draft for adoption by member countries on Friday, the final day of the fifth meeting on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which began Monday as the official start of three weeks of international talks on the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The "Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress" would set new rules for allowing importing countries to call on business operators who brought in genetically modified organisms that caused damage to implement necessary restorative measures or pay for the costs of such measures.

At a working group meeting on Tuesday, participants discussed various issues faced by developing countries in ensuring biosafety, including capacity-building by countries with little know-how on the handling of living modified organisms and without relevant domestic laws.

They also discussed the importance of creating common standards to assess the environmental impact of such organisms.

Talks on compensatory measures for damage caused to ecosystems by genetically modified crops began in 2004 as the potential damage to biological diversity was unknown.

(Mainichi Japan) October 13, 2010 -- READ THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ten Days on the East Coast

   Today I find myself back home across the Sound from Seattle after ten days on the coast of North Carolina. From sunny, humid mid-80's to overcast, drizzly mid-50's -- a stark reminder that I do not yet have enough firewood for the winter. The storm windows have been closed over the screens for winter and the woodstove has been slowly bringing the house back up to a comfortable 68 degrees. Someone stole several pumpkins from the garden while we were away, leaving us with only one small pumpkin. I believe we are missing some squash as well. As I've said before, it's been a disappointing year in the garden, but we were still able to harvest carrots, cabbage, and onions for tonight's dinner. The chickens seem to be doing fine, though they were very happy to be moved out from behind the shed and back onto the now overgrown lawn. I am perfectly fine letting them handle the mowing for the time being. The neighbor's maple tree has started to blanket the side yard with leaves that will become the foundation of next year's compost pile while this year's pile continues to break down for use as winter mulch and later for spring planting. It seems the summer -- such as it was -- is conclusively over. Despite all efforts to prepare before leaving home, I find that I have returned to a backlog of projects.

   It's been two years since I've been back to coastal Carolina. While I have several good friends there and it is great to be able to spend time with them once again, my trip reminds me of the reasons I jumped at the opportunity to return to the Pacific Northwest. During our ten-day visit just about everyone commented on how lucky we were to be there after the summer heat had finally let up. I was still uncomfortable any time I had to be outside except for the afternoon we spent at the beach, swimming in the ocean. It's just hot there and I have never been comfortable in the heat.

   Besides the heat and humidity, I find it very difficult to eat responsibly in the south eastern United States. It took a while living in North Carolina for me to understand that part of this is because of pigs. Pork production, processing, and packing make up a huge chunk of North Carolina's industry. In fact, North Carolina is the largest pork producer in the U.S. (according to the EPA). As a result, big business has had big influence on state agriculture and, ultimately, on consumer options.

   Just a quick comparison of Washington State and North Carolina: in 2008, Washington had 697 certified organic operations totaling 96,166 acres. NC had 156 certified organic operations totaling 5,243 acres. Washington had 39,500 farms while NC had 52,500. Washington's total agricultural area in 2007 was approximately 42,540,079 acres while North Carolina's was 31,113,828 acres. Possibly the most staggering figure is that of those total agricultural acres, 4,775,287 were pastureland in Washington while only 941,609 were pastureland in NC. Read those numbers again and then realize that chickens and hogs are North Carolina's top commodities and second only to tobacco in exports while Washington's top commodity is apples. Meat ranks fifth in the state's exports behind fruits, vegetables, "other" (most likely hops), and wheat. In general, Washington and North Carolina go about producing food very differently. (All of these stats come from the USDA)

   When we lived in North Carolina, we were members of a local food co-op where we shopped regularly. We were also lucky to have a farmer's market where we could get fresh, local food. When one is traveling it is not as easy to avail one's self of these options. Traveling on a budget presents another hurdle as the worst food is almost always the cheapest and easiest. We were fortunate to have hosts with which to stay during most of our trip and thereby have the capacity for food storage and prep, but we were also dependent one the good will of said hosts to get around the sprawl of town. Since the co-op was on the far side of town and we were not in town on Saturday during the farmer's market, we had to make due with what we could find in the grocery stores. I soon I found I just had to let it go, make the best of it, and be thankful to the good friends we have for putting us up, driving us around, and opening their homes and kitchens to us. We tried to spend what little money we had in a direction to support healthy and responsible food systems.

   Today I am glad to be home with the chickens, the garden, the produce markets, and the local butcher. I do miss my friends back east. I hope they can come visit soon.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Industrial Agriculture and Human Survival: The Road Beyond 10/10/10

This is an excellent article by Ronnie Cummins about why we must change the system. It was originally published by Organic Consumers Association, October 7, 2010. :

Despite decades of deception and mystification, a critical mass at the grassroots is waking up. A new generation of food and climate activists understands that greenhouse gas-belching fossil fuels, industrial food and farming, and our entire global economy pose a mortal threat, not just to our present health and well being, but also to human survival. Given the severity of the Crisis, we have little choice but to step up our efforts. As 35,000 climate activists at the historic global climate summit in April of 2010 in Cochabamba, Bolivia shouted, “We must change the System, not the climate.”

“Changing the System,” means defending our selves, the future generations, and the biological carrying capacity of the planet from the ravages of “profit at any cost” capitalism. “Changing the System,” means safeguarding our delicately balanced climate, soils, oceans, and atmosphere from the fatal consequences of fossil fuel-induced climate change. “Changing the System” means exposing, dismantling, and replacing, not just individual out-of-control corporations like Monsanto, Halliburton, and British Petroleum, and out-of-control technologies like gene-altered crops and mountaintop removal; but our entire chemical and energy-intensive industrial economy, starting, at least for many of us, with Food Inc.’s destructive system of industrial food and farming. “Changing the system,” means going on the offensive and dismantling the most controversial and vulnerable flanks of our suicide economy: coal plants, gas guzzlers, the military-industrial complex, and industrial agriculture’s Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and factory farms.

Frankenfoods and Industrial Agriculture

Highly subsidized GM crops - comprising 40% of U.S. cropland, and 10% of global crops - and the junk food and unhealthy processed foods and beverages derived from them, are the most profitable and strategically important components of industrial agriculture. Taxpayer subsidized GMOs and factory farms allow Food Inc. (corporate agribusiness) to poison the public and pollute the atmosphere and environment. Subsidized GM and monoculture crops - along with cheap soy, corn, and chemical additives - allow the McDonald’s, Cargills and Wal-Marts of the world to sell junk food, meat, and beverages at much lower prices than healthy, non-chemical foods. GMO crops and their companion pesticides and chemical fertilizers are the cash cows and vanguard of a global farming and food distribution system that consumes prodigious amounts of fossil fuels and emits tremendous amount of climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases. GMOs provide the ideological and technological foundation for the factory farms and mono-crop plantations that are destroying the climate, the soils, and the planet. Either we bring them down, or they will bring us down.

According to Monsanto and the global war on bugs,war on biodiversity, chemical farming lobby, patented GMO seeds, crops, biofuels, animals, and trees can miraculously kill pests, reduce pesticide use, boost yields, alleviate world hunger, reduce petroleum use, and help farmers adapt to drought, pestilence, and global warming. As a growing "Millions Against Monsanto" corps understand, the Biotech Bullies are dangerous liars. Industrial agriculture, GMOs, and so-called cheap food have destroyed public health and wrecked the environment. Genetically Modified (GM) crops have neither reduced pesticide use, nor chemical fertilizer use. They kill pests, but they also give rise to superweeds and superpests. GM crops, like all industrial monoculture crops, use vast amounts of fossil fuel and water. GMO and their companion chemicals (pesticides and chemical fertilizers) destroy the greenhouse gas sequestering capacity of living soils and kill off non-patented plants, trees, and animals. Most GM crops, 90% of which are derived from Monsanto’s patented seeds, are genetically engineered to boost the sales of toxic pesticides such as Roundup, and thereby increase toxic pesticide residues in foods. GM crops do not produce higher yields, nor provide more nutritious foods. GM soybeans, the most important industrial agriculture crop, along with corn, consistently have lower yields, while chemical-intensive GM food crops contain far fewer vitamins and essential trace minerals than organic foods. Nor has gene-splicing (unlike organic farming) produced plant or tree varieties that can adapt to global warming. Nonetheless GM crops remain Food Inc.’s propaganda “poster child.”

The unfortunate bottom line is that 65 years of chemical and GM agriculture, a literal World War Three on public health, rural communities, and the environment, have nearly killed us. Humans and our living environment have been poisoned, not only by pesticides, nitrate fertilizers, greenhouse gas pollution, and contaminated factory-farmed food, but also by the mutant organisms and patented chemical residues that accompany these genetically modified foods and crops. Either we make the Great Transition to a relocalized economy whose foundation is renewable energy and solar-based (as opposed to GMO and petroleum-based) organic food and fiber production, or else we are destined to burn up the planet and destroy ourselves.

Despite mass media brainwashing (“Better living through chemistry… Monsanto can feed the world… GMO crops and trees can reduce fossil fuel use and climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases…”), consumers and farmers are seeing through the lies. Defying the efforts of the powerful industrial agriculture/biotech lobby, a growing number of activists and concerned citizens are connecting the dots and taking action. As a consequence Monsanto has become one of the most hated corporations on earth.

A critical mass of research reveals that genetically engineered crops, now covering almost 40% of U.S. cropland (173 million acres of GM crops) and 10% of global farm acreage (321 million acres), pollute the environment, kill essential soil micro-organisms, generate superweeds and pests, decrease biodiversity, aid and abet seed monopolization, encourage massive use of toxic pesticides and chemical fertilizer, spew out massive amounts of climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases, and seriously damage animal and human health.

Injecting genetically engineered hormones into dairy cows to force them to give more milk is reckless and dangerous. Monsanto’s genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone rBGH, now marketed by Eli Lilly, increases the risks of breast, prostate, and colon cancer for those who consume the milk. It also severely damages the health of the cows. Residue levels of Monsanto’s toxic herbicide, Roundup, found routinely in non-organic foods, destroy animal and human reproductive systems.

Haphazardly ramming indeterminate amounts of patented foreign DNA, bacteria, and antibiotic-resistant genes into the genomes of already non-sustainable energy and pesticide-intensive crops and foods (corn, soy, cotton, canola, sugar beets, alfalfa) in order to increase the sales of Monsanto or Bayer's GMO companion herbicides or to facilitate monopoly control over seeds by the Gene Giants is not only non-sustainable, but criminal.

Rejection of this out-of-control GM technology is a major driving force in the rapid growth of organic food and farming, as well as the growing demand for mandatory safety testing and labeling of GMOs. In the EU, where GM-tainted foods must be labeled, GMO crops are almost non-existent (although large quantities of GM animal feed are still being imported into the EU from the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and Argentina).

Local and organic food production is now growing faster than GMO/industrial food and farming; improving public health and nutrition, reducing fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas pollution, sequestering billions of tons of CO2 in the soil (up to seven tons of CO2 per acre per year), and providing economic survival for a growing number of the world’s 2.8 billion small farmers and rural villagers. The growth of organic agriculture and relocalized food and farming systems are encouraging, but obviously organics are still the alternative, rather than the norm.

As we enter into the Brave New World of global warming and climate chaos, many organic advocates are starting to realize that we need to put more emphasis, not just on the health and pollution hazards of GMOs; but rather we need to broaden our efforts and mobilize to abolish the entire system of industrial food and farming. As we are now learning, industrial agriculture and factory farming are in fact a primary (if not the primary) cause of global warming and deforestation. Even if were able to rip up all of Monsanto’s GMO crops tomorrow, business as usual, chemical-intensive, energy-intensive industrial agriculture is enough to kill us all. On the other hand, if we’re going to take down industrial agriculture, one of the best ways to leverage our efforts is to target the most hated corporation in the world, Monsanto.

Besides contaminating our food, destroying the environment and moving, by any means necessary, to gain monopoly control over seeds and biodiversity, Monsanto and their Food Inc. collaborators are guilty of major “climate crimes.” These crimes include: confusing the public about the real causes of (and solutions to) global warming; killing the soil’s ability to sequester greenhouse gases; releasing massive amounts of greenhouse gases (CO2, methane and nitrous oxide) into the atmosphere; promoting bogus industrial corn and soy-derived biofuels (which use just as many fossil fuel, and release just as many greenhouse gases as conventional fuels); monopolizing seed stocks and taking climate-friendly varieties off the market; promoting genetically engineered trees; and last but not least, advocating dangerous geoengineering schemes such as massive GM plantations of trees or plants than reflect sunlight.

The negotiators and heads of state at the December 2009 Copenhagen Climate negotiations abandoned the summit with literally no binding agreement on meaningful greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, and black carbon) reduction, and little or no acknowledgement of the major role that industrial food and farming practices play in global warming. Lulled by the world’s leaders vague promises to reduce global warming, and still believing that new technological breakthroughs can save us, the average citizen has no idea how serious the present climate crisis actually is. A close look at present (non-legally binding) pledges by the Obama Administration and other governments to reduce GHG pollution shows that their proposed, slightly modified “business as usual” practices will still result in a disastrous global average temperature increase of 3.5 to 3.9 C by 2100, according to recent studies. This will not only burn up the Amazon, the lungs of the planet, but also transform the Arctic into a region that is 10 to 16 degrees C warmer, releasing most of the region’s permafrost carbon and methane and unknown quantities of methane hydrates, in the process basically putting an end to human beings’ ability to live on the planet.

We are literally staring disaster in the face. In the follow up to the Copenhagen Climate Summit this year, which is to be held in Cancun, Mexico (Nov. 29-Dec. 10) we, as members of global civil society, must raise our voices loud and clear. We must make it clear that we are years, not decades away, from detonating runaway feedback mechanisms (heating up and burning up the Amazon and melting the Arctic permafrost) that can doom us all.

Industrial Food and Farming: A Deadly Root of Global Warming

Although transportation, industry, and energy producers are obviously major fossil fuel users and greenhouse gas polluters, not enough people understand that the worst U.S. and global greenhouse gas emitter is “Food Incorporated,” transnational industrial food and farming, of which Monsanto and GMOs constitute a major part. Industrial farming, including 173 million acres of GE soybeans, corn, cotton, canola, and sugar beets, accounts for at least 35% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (EPA’s ridiculously low estimates range from 7% to 12%, while some climate scientists feel the figure could be as high as 50% or more).

Industrial agriculture, biofuels, and non-sustainable cattle grazing - including cutting down the last remaining tropical rainforests in Latin America and Asia for GMO and chemical-intensive animal feed and biofuels - are also the main driving forces in global deforestation and wetlands destruction, which generate an additional 20% of all climate destabilizing GHGs.

In other words the direct (food, fiber, and biofuels production, food processing, food distribution) and indirect damage (deforestation and destruction of wetlands) of industrial agriculture, GMOs, and the food industry are the major cause of global warming. Unless we take down Monsanto and Food Inc. and make the Great Transition to a relocalized system of organic food and farming, we and our children are doomed to reside in Climate Hell.

Overall 78% of climate destabilizing greenhouse gases come from CO2, while the remainder come from methane, nitrous oxide, and black carbon or soot. To stabilize the climate we will need to drastically reduce all of these greenhouse gas emissions, not just CO2, and sequester twice as much carbon matter in the soil (through organic farming and ranching, and forest and wetlands restoration) as we are doing presently.

Currently GMO and industrial/factory farms (energy and chemical-intensive) farms emit at least 25% of the carbon dioxide (mostly from tractors, trucks, combines, transportation, cooling, freezing, and heating); 40% of the methane (mostly from massive herds of animals belching and farting, and manure ponds); and 96% of nitrous oxide (mostly from synthetic fertilizer manufacture and use, the millions of tons of animal manure from factory-farmed cattle herds, pig and poultry flocks, and millions of tons of sewage sludge spread on farms). Black carbon or soot comes primarily from older diesel engines, slash and burn agriculture, and wood cook stoves.

Per ton, methane is 21 times more damaging, and nitrous oxide 310 times more damaging, as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, when measured over a one hundred year period. Damage is even worse if you look at the impact on global warming over the next crucial 20-year period. Many climate scientists admit that they have previously drastically underestimated the dangers of the non-CO2 GHGs, including methane, soot, and nitrous oxide, which are responsible for at least 22% of global warming.

Almost all U.S. food and farm-derived methane comes from factory farms, huge herds of confined cows, hogs, and poultry operations, in turn made possible by heavily subsidized ($15 billion per year) GMO soybeans, corn, cottonseed, and canola; as well as rotting food waste thrown into landfills instead of being separated out of the solid waste stream and properly composted. To drastically reduce C02, methane, and nitrous oxide releases we need an immediate consumer boycott, followed by a government ban on factory farms, dairies, and feedlots. To reduce black carbon or soot emissions we will need to upgrade old diesel engines, and provide farmers and rural villagers in the developing world with alternatives to slash and burn agriculture (compost, compost tea, biochar) and non-polluting cook stoves and home heating.

We also need to implement mandatory separation and recycling of food wastes and “green garbage” (yard waste, tree branches, etc.) at the municipal level, so that that we can reduce methane emissions from landfills. Mandatory composting will also enable us to produce large quantities of high quality organic compost to replace the billions of pounds of chemical fertilizer and sewage sludge, which are releasing GHGs, destroying soil fertility, polluting our waters, and undermining public health.

Nearly all nitrous oxide pollution comes from dumping billions of pounds of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and sewage sludge on farmland (chemical fertilizers and sludge are banned on organic farms and ranches), mainly to grow GMO crops and animal feed. Since about 80% of U.S. agriculture is devoted to producing non-organic, non-grass fed meat, dairy, and animal products, reducing agriculture GHGs means eliminating the overproduction and over-consumption of GMO crops, factory-farmed meat, and animal products. It also means creating massive consumer demand for organic foods, including pasture-raised, grass-fed animal products.

The fact that climate change is now metastasizing into climate chaos is indisputable: massive flooding in Pakistan, unprecedented forest fires in Russia and the Amazon, melting of the glaciers that supply water for crops and drinking water of a billion people in Asia and South America, crop failures in regions all over the globe, record heat waves in the U.S. and Europe, methane leaking from the Arctic tundra and coastlines, killer hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and Central America, and steadily spreading pestilence, crop failures, and disease. The realization that every time we eat non-organic processed food, we are ingesting unlabeled, hazardous GMO foods and pesticides is indeed alarming. But the impending threat of industrial food and farming detonating runaway climate change (i.e. moving from our current .8 degree Centigrade average global rise in temperature to 2-6 degrees) is terrifying. Either we rein in industrial food and farming and GMOs, out-of-control politicians and corporations, and make the transition to an organic and green economy or we will perish.

The hour is late. Leading climate scientists such as Dr. James Hansen of NASA and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have delivered the final warning. “Business as usual” equals unimaginable disaster.

Leading greenhouse gas polluters (namely the US, Canada, Europe, Japan, Russia, India, and China) must slash CO2, methane, soot, and nitrous oxide emissions by 20-40% as soon as possible, 50% by 2010, and 80-90% by the year 2050. Continued business as usual, especially in the strategic GM and industrial food and farming sector, means we will inevitably burn up the Amazon and remaining tropical forests; acidify and kill the oceans; generate mega-drought, violent floods, crop failures, endless resource wars, melt the polar icecaps, precipitate a disastrous rise in ocean levels, and finally bring about the coup de grace that will kill us all, releasing massive amount of methane from the frozen tundra and shallow ocean floors of the Arctic.

Of course dismantling industrial agriculture and transitioning our food and farming system to one which is local and organic is not the only thing global civil society must do (since this will only take care of 50% of global greenhouse gas pollution), but it is the most crucial and effective measure we can take as food consumers and farmers. While we retool industrial food and farming, the global grassroots must also step-up our struggles in the other energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) sectors: stopping the construction of coal plants; stopping the deforestation in the Amazon, Indonesia, and Malaysia; changing the electrical grid from being powered predominately by coal to solar, wind, and geothermal; drastically reducing oil consumption in the transportation and housing sectors; and last but not least, dismantling the trillion dollar military-industrial complex. Let me repeat this last point. Until the U.S. and EU get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and drastically slash U.S. and world military spending, we will never be able to free up sufficient resources to build an organic and green economy.

Either we radically reduce CO2, as well as methane, nitrous oxide, and soot pollution (the so-called C02e--carbon dioxide equivalents) to 350 ppm (currently at 390 parts per million and rising 2 ppm per year) or there is no future. As scientists warned at the Copenhagen Climate Summit, “business as usual” and a corresponding 2-6 degree Celsius rise in global temperatures means that the carrying capacity of the Earth in 2100 will collapse to one billion people. Under these conditions, billions will die of thirst, cold, heat, disease, war, and starvation. Those who don’t die may wish that they had.

Organic Farming and Ranching Can Reverse Global Warming

The currently catastrophic, but largely unrecognized, GHG damage from GMO crops and industrial food production and distribution must be reversed. This will involve wholesale changes in farming practices, government subsidies, food processing and handling. In the U.S. it will require the conversion of a million chemical farms and ranches to organic production. It will require the establishment of millions of urban backyard and community gardens, and the restoration of prairielands, forests, and wetlands.

If consumer rebellion and grassroots mobilization cannot force U.S. factory farmers to change the way they farm, process, and ship their products it will be almost impossible to deal with catastrophic U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

On a very hopeful note, however, if farmers do change, stop planting GMOs, and make the transition to organic farming, farm and ranch land can become a significant sink or sequestration pool for greenhouse gasses, literally sucking excess greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and the ozone layer and sequestering them safely in the soil, where they belong. The overly saturated global atmosphere now contains 800 billion tons of carbon. (For climate stability purposes it should only contain 700 billion tons or less or carbon). This is why the weather is changing. This is why we are experiencing a climate crisis. If we are to survive, we not only need to keep the remaining 3.2 trillion tons of carbon in the soil, where it is now (instead of allowing it to be released into the atmosphere as collateral damage from industrial agriculture), but we must also capture and sequester (through organic soil and land management) at least 100 billions tons of excess carbon that are currently over-saturating the atmosphere.

Before the onslaught of industrial agriculture in the 1940s, U.S. farm and forest soils contained and sequestered twice as much climate-destabilizing carbon organic matter as they do today. Instead of the one or two percent organic carbon matter of industrial agriculture’s farmland or rangeland today, traditional farm and ranch lands often had two to four percent or more. With organically managed farms and ranches, a green urban landscape, and nationwide reforestation we can literally suck excess greenhouse gas pollution out of the sky and put it back where it belongs, in the living soil.

Planet Earth has five pools or repositories where greenhouse gases are absorbed and stored: the oceans (which contain 40 trillion tons of carbon), the atmosphere (800 billion tons), the soils (3.2 trillion tons), plants and forests (650 billion tons), and hydrocarbon/fossil fuel deposits (4 trillion tons). Obviously we are doomed if we burn up the remaining fossil fuels on the Earth and release the prodigious amounts of greenhouse gases currently stored in the soil, oceans, plants, and forests.

Because U.S farm and forest soils are so degraded from chemical-intensive, mono-crop farming practices and over-logging they are only able to absorb and store half (or less) of the carbon matter than they would be capable of if they were organically managed. As a result of this reckless mismanagement, the atmosphere and the oceans are absorbing the bulk of the greenhouse gases that normally would be absorbed by farmland, rangeland, and forests. This has led to a catastrophic excess of GHGs in both the oceans and the atmosphere. This excess has caused changes in climate and extreme fluctuations in weather; including droughts and torrential flooding. It also causes oceanic acidification, oceanic dead zones, and dramatic declines in fish and crustacean populations.

Unfortunately, when they evaluate agricultural pollutants, pro-industrial farming, pro-biotech government bureaucrats in the EPA and USDA do not include many of the greenhouse gas emissions. They do not take into account the transportation, cooling, freezing, and heating of farm products as agricultural GHG emissions, even though our food travels an average of 1500-2000 miles to our tables and is routinely frozen and cooled to ensure its deliverability. They don’t count the CO2 and “black carbon” particle emissions from trucks, tractors, combines, and other equipment used on farms. They don’t count the emissions from fertilizer manufacture or use, wasteful packaging, sewage sludge spread on farm and range land, or the methane emitted from factory farms and the billions of tons of rotting, non-composted food in our landfills and garbage dumps. Instead, they lump--and thereby conceal--all these farm and food related GHG emissions under the categories of industrial manufacture, transportation, or electrical use. As a result, the public spotlight never shines on mounting agricultural, food, garbage, and sludge pollution.

Because government officials deliberately fail to evaluate the real farm and food-derived greenhouse gas emissions, they are free to act as if the emissions coming from GMO crops and industrial food and farming are not significant compared to the U.S. total, even though they represent more than one-third of the total pollutants. Consequently, most lawmakers and the public don’t realize how urgent it is to regulate and drastically curtail factory farm and Food Inc.’s emissions.

But for those of us who do understand all this, it’s time to move beyond polite discussion and say it out loud: we must take down and dismantle Monsanto and Food Inc. We must get political and get organized. We must declare our independence from the Food-Biotech-Industrial Complex and build a new, relocalized, organic, and sustainable society.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Europe Stands Up Against Genetically Modified Potatoes

From Bikyamasr:

"Following a decision by the European Commission to authorize the cultivation of BASF’s antibiotic-resistance genetically modified potato, Hungary, Austria and Luxembourg launched a legal challenge to the European Court of Justice. The three countries have now been joined by France and Poland."

"The Commission authorized the GM potato in March. The product is intended for the paper industry and to be used as animal feed, although the application also said it would be impossible to keep Amflora out of the human food chain. The Commission granted BASF permission to contaminate human food by up to 0.9%. Trouble flared during BASF’s first Amflora growing season: the company accidentally mixed in seed from an untested GM potato known as Amadea, raising more doubts as to how controllable GM crops are."

The article says that, despite the World Health Organization and the European Medicines Agency stating that these potatoes are important for fighting disease, over one million Europeans have petitioned to put an end to GM foods.

The United States could take a cue from Europe on this.



Thursday, October 7, 2010

The A2 Milk Debate

Some Kind of Survivalist, Revisited

Back in March I was asked if I was "some kind of survivalist" and I wrote about it here. I was later turned onto the work of James Wesley, Rawles, and for a brief time had a link up here to his SurvivalBlog. I took the link down after only a couple days as I realized that it was a little extreme for me personally and more or less the essence of what I defending myself against in my own blog post.

I'm a big fan of balance. I feel we don't have enough of it in this world and certainly not in American culture. Too often we look to technology but forget nature, progress while forgetting history, quantity and not quality. I am not against technology, progress, and abundance, but I do feel we could afford more nature, history, and quality -- in a word, balance.

I bring all of this up because an article on James Wesley, Rawles' blog was brought to my attention and I appreciated what it had to say. The article is titled In Defense of Prepping: When Disaster Doesn't Strike by A.S.D. and not only discusses reasons to prepare for disaster, but actually makes the point that those who do prepare do not actually want disaster to come. I realize that part of my own desire to distance myself from "The Survivalist" image is that it brings with it a stereotype of rednecks in bunkers with stockpiles of ammunition and MREs just waiting for the day they get to play real-life war games.

Another part is this issue of balance. While I can get behind saving up for a rainy day, I can't imagine devoting my entire life to an event that may or may not come. Gardening, canning, and freezing food makes sense to me because I believe large-scale factory-farming has compromised our food supply. Also, it makes sense to stock up food and supplies in the event of an emergency. It only takes a few days for store shelves to empty when supply lines shut down (as our family experienced first hand). It's always better to have a spare tire and not need it than need it and not have it. At the same time, I don't know about spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on gear and infrastructure that I would have to store and maintain but never use unless some worldwide catastrophe hits.

Everyone has to find their own balance and I understand there is an argument for being prepared for anything. I can't say I agree with everything in A.S.D.'s article, but I appreciate it just the same and it is with respect to him and James Wesley, Rawles that I reference them now.

Check it out. See what you think.

Prep talks start on GM crop redress accord | The Japan Times Online

Perhaps we should be paying attention to this:

"Preparatory talks started Wednesday on an international accord on compensation for damage caused by genetically modified crops to biodiversity and human health, kicking off three weeks of biodiversity talks in Nagoya."

Prep talks start on GM crop redress accord | The Japan Times Online

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Transgenic crops’ built-in pesticide found to be contaminating waterways

From Grist:

Well, after years of denial, Monsanto finally admitted recentlythat superbugs, or pests that have evolved to be able to eat the Bt crops, are a real and growing concern. And now, researchers at the University of Notre Dame have shown that the Bt from genetically engineered maize is polluting waterways in Indiana (the study area). They found Bt toxin in almost 25 percent of streams they tested, and all the streams that tested positive were within 1,500 feet from a cornfield.
The fun part? No one has any idea yet of the effects of long-term, low-dose exposure to Bt on fish and wildlife. Perhaps it's high time somebody did a study on that since, as the researchers dryly observed, the presence of Bt toxin "may be a more common occurrence in watersheds draining maize-growing regions than previously recognized." Apparently.
So. Not only do genetically engineered crops have worse yields than conventionally bred crops, cost more, lead to pesticide resistance, contaminate other plants with their transgenes, possibly cause allergies and even organ damage, but now we also learn that the plants themselves are possibly poisonous to the environment.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Why is the Gates foundation investing in GM giant Monsanto?

From The Guardian:

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is sponsoring the Guardian's Global development site is being heavily criticised in Africa and the US for getting into bed not just with notorious GM company Monsanto, but also with agribusiness commodity giant Cargill.

Trouble began when a US financial website published the foundation's annual investment portfolio, which showed it had bought 500,000 Monsanto shares worth around $23m. This was a substantial increase in the last six months and while it is just small change for Bill and Melinda, it has been enough to let loose their fiercest critics.

Seattle-based Agra Watch - a project of the Community Alliance for Global Justice - was outraged. "Monsanto has a history of blatant disregard for the interests and well being of small farmers around the world… [This] casts serious doubt on the foundation's heavy funding of agricultural development in Africa," it thundered.

But it got worse. South Africa-based watchdog the African Centre for Biosafety then found that the foundation was teaming up with Cargill in a $10m project to "develop the soya value chain" in Mozambique and elsewhere. Who knows what this corporate-speak really means, but in all probability it heralds the big time introduction of GM soya in southern Africa.

The two incidents raise a host of questions for the foundation. Few people doubt that GM has a place in Africa, but is Gates being hopelessly naïve by backing two of the world's most aggressive agri-giants? There is, after all, genuine concern at governmental and community level that the United State's model of extensive hi-tech farming is inappropriate for most of Africa and should not be foist on the poorest farmers in the name of "feeding the world".


Garden Notes, End of September 2010

A disappointing year in the garden. Temperatures stayed right around 70 dF with only a few exceptions of days into the 80's and 90's.

Still, here's something to show for it:


We either need a larger fermenting crock or, better yet, more smaller ones because these cukes got too big while we we fermenting our first batch of dills. They are still yummy and we'll share what we can't eat fresh with friends and neighbors.

 Green tomatoes. 

A whole lotta green tomatoes this year. I think we harvested less than five ripe tomatoes this year, but we pulled in just over 30 pounds of green tomatoes. I said earlier I was torn between trying dill pickled green tomatoes and green tomato salsa -- I had enough to do a LOT of both and still had some left over...

Dill green tomatoes and green tomato salsa.

More dill green tomatoes and still more green tomatoes!
Green tomato relish.

Not that one might presume from appearances, but the last of the green tomatoes went into this relish. The red color comes from the red cabbage -- another crop of which we had abundance. 

We still need to can some staples like chicken soup broth (we have everything we need, we just need to do it) and beef stew (hopefully the carrots in the garden will still be useful when we are able to get the meat and potatoes and time).

Considering what we had to work with this season, I think we have done just fine.

More to come...

Be Prepared

From The LA Times, a testament about how it pays to be prepared:

Missing hiker found alive after 6 days in Joshua Tree National Park

Ed Rosenthal, a prominent real estate broker from Culver City and an experienced hiker, was alert and able to talk and walk when found but was dehydrated and is in fair condition...

Rosenthal set out Friday from Black Rock campground on a day hike...

He told his wife and rescuers that he lost the trail and made a wrong turn. He ended up in East Wide Canyon, which descends to the park's southern border. He was found Thursday morning, about seven or eight miles from where he left the trail, in a ravine near the canyon. He was spotted by a helicopter from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office when he waved a shiny, Mylar-like material...

For someone on a day hike, Rosenthal was very well-equipped. Joe Zarki, a park ranger, noted that he had three or four liters of water, snack food, a space blanket, a whistle and flares.

He hiked for about a day and a half, descending almost 2,000 feet down the canyon, and then he ran out of food and water.

"At that point, he realized he was in some difficulty," Zarki said. "Once he found his spot, he thought he was better off staying there and that's what you're supposed to do."

Rosenthal whistled, but no one heard. He tried to light flares, but they did not work...



My best wishes to Mr. Rosenthal and his family and I am glad he made it home alive. Still, his story is a stark example of why it's important to be prudent.

It's better to have it and not need it, but only if it works and you know how to use it.

Friday, October 1, 2010

High-fiber, low-fat diets cultivate healthier intestinal microbes, study suggests

From ScienceNews, it seems that the way people ate 10,000 years ago might be healthier than the way we eat in western culture.

Really?!? It's not good for us to eat processed foods and be obese?

Okay, okay, it's not exactly that simple. And because it is not that simple the solution can't be simple. In fact, in one of the closing paragraphs this article suggests the answer will come in pill form.

Are. You. Serious. ?. !. ?. 

Screw nature!

Thank the Pharmaceutical Industry for being such a selfless non-profit to look out for our well being!

Sorry -- just had a cool-aide flashback...

I'm gonna go out on a limb here. How about we all try to eat better? (!?) Eat less of the processed, factory-farmed, genetically-modified, mono-cultured, homogenized, subsidies-based pseudo foods and eat some of what nature produces for no profit?

I know, it's just too radical to ask that we take a step back and consider what got us this far. Who gains from that?

(besides the next generation...)

Read the ScienceNews article here.