California legislature passes bill protecting farmers against Monsanto lawsuits

More good news from the US. This is a major step forward, considering California is the 8th largest economy in the world.A landmark piece of legislation protecting California‘s farmers from devastating lawsuits was passed through both legislative houses at the end of August.  Bill AB 541 is headed to the Governor’s desk for signature.  AB 541 is the first bill passed by the California legislature that brings much-needed regulation to genetically engineered crops.

AB 541 enacts protections against lawsuits brought against California farmers who have not been able to prevent the inevitable – the drift of GE pollen or seed onto their land and the subsequent contamination of their non-GE crops. Currently, farmers with crops that become contaminated by patented seeds or pollen have been the target of harassing lawsuits brought by biotech patent holders, particularly Monsanto. The bill also establishes a mandatory crop sampling protocol to prevent biotech companies that are investigating alleged violations from sampling crops without the explicit permission of farmers.

A copy of the bill can be downloaded at:


Mounting scientific evidence of uncertainty, risk, and dangers of GM

Peter Melchette, director of the UK’s Soil Association, said in his article “Don’t believe the GM apologists” in The Independent on August 21:

Twenty years ago, GM promised unbelievable wonders – fruit that would never freeze, crops needing no fertilizer or sprays and food with vitamins and medicines engineered in. All food would soon be GM. Geneticists would engineer anything we wanted, taking a gene from a fish here, a pig there, adding a bacteria gene and maybe a bit of a virus.

The greatest coup by the GM companies, and their greatest scientific fraud, was to ensure no GM food had to be tested for safety. GM maize could have added virus and antibiotic resistance genes, and a gene that makes it express an insecticide in every leaf, stem and root – but to the US government it looks and grows like maize, so it is safe to eat. GM crops face mounting scientific evidence of uncertainty, risk and danger. But now, because of rising food prices, the GM industry’s claim that GM is needed to feed the world is suddenly newsworthy again. However, a key reason for soaring food prices – higher oil costs leading to higher fertilizer prices – also presents a massive threat to GM crops. All current and planned GM crops depend on artificial, oil-based fertilizer to grow, and all need to be treated with pesticides to survive.

Experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) say there is no evidence that currently available genetically engineered crops strengthen drought tolerance or reduce fertilizer use. Nor do they increase crop yields.  According to Margaret Mellon, director of UCS’s Food and Environment Program in June/July issue of The Organic & Non-GMO Report: 

Increased energy prices, harsh weather, and trade policies are largely to blame for the recent spike in food prices, none of which have much to do with crop breeding technologies.  The biotech industry’s claims about genetically altered crops are perennially overstated. In truth, agricultural biotechnology has almost nothing to offer to the world food crisis in the short term. Let’s be clear: There are no crops on the market today genetically engineered to directly maximize yields.  There are no crops on the market engineered to resist drought. And there are no crops on the market engineered to reduce fertilizer use. Not one.

In 2006, the USDA admitted that “currently available GM crops do not increase yield potential,” a point already made by a 2004 UN Food and Agriculture Organization report which acknowledged that “GM crops can have reduced yields”. A recently published UN report, the work of more than 400 international scientists, concluded that GM crops do not have much to

Prince Charles warns of environmental disaster with GMOs

And if they think it’s somehow going to work because they are going to have one form of clever genetic engineering after another, then again count me out, because that will be guaranteed to cause the biggest disaster environmentally of all time.  —Prince Charles, speaking about the risks of genetically engineered foods.

Great Britain’s Prince Charles recently warned that companies developing genetically modified crops risk creating the biggest environmental disaster of all time.  In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the Prince of Wales strongly denounced the development of GM crops, accusing biotech companies of conducting a “gigantic experiment I think with nature and the whole of humanity which has gone seriously wrong.”

 Prince Charles also said that relying on “gigantic corporations” to mass produce food would result in “absolute disaster.”  He continued:

That would be the absolute destruction of everything…and the classic way of ensuring there is no food in the future.  What we should be talking about is food security not food production—that is what matters and that is what people will not understand.  If they think this is the way to go….we [will] end up with millions of small farmers all over the world being driven off their land into unsustainable, unmanageable, degraded and dysfunctional conurbations of  unmentionable awfulness.

Prince Charles, who has an organic farm on his Highgrove estate, argued for more sustainable agriculture methods.

It’s not going backwards. It is actually recognizing that we are with nature, not against it. We have gone working against nature for too long.

Prince Charles’ comments come at a critical time, as there is intense pressure to develop more GM crops because of the world food crisis, despite the fact that GM crops have not been shown to produce more food.  Source: The Daily Telegraph as quoted in The Organic & Non-GMO Report

Patent Grab


In Geoffrey Lean’s article in The Independent, “Biotech Giants Demand a High Price for Saving the Planet: Companies Accused of Profiteering as They Attempt to Patent Crop Genes,” he found, through a Canadian organization’s report (ETC Group) that biotech companies are filing hundreds of monopoly patents on genes that help crops resist climate change.  The new investigation has concluded that nine biotech firms have filed at least 532 patents around the world on about 55 different genes offering protection against heat, drought, and floods.

If granted, the companies would be given control of crucial natural raw material needed to maintain food supplies in an increasingly hungry world.

The ETC Group report says some of the applications are sweeping. One would cover more than 30 crops from oats to oil palms, triticale to tea, and potatoes to perennial grass—“in other words, virtually all food crops.”  The report also asserts that the “corporate grab on climate-tolerant genes” means that “a handful of transnational companies are now positioned to determine who gets access to key genetic traits and what price they must pay.”

Small farmers in developing countries will be particularly hard hit by such “climate-change profiteering.”  Patenting will make the crops expensive and ensure that poor farmers have to buy them every year by prohibiting them from saving seeds from one harvest to grow for the next.

We typically think of drought resistance, salt resistance, and bio-fortification related only to GE crops.  However, the real breakthroughs in agriculture in 2007 were in sustainable and organic farming, not genetic engineering. Conventional, non-GMO breeding techniques are making remarkable progress in developing crops that can tolerate heat, floods and drought.

Some of the non-GMO breakthroughs include: 

  • salt-tolerant wheat to bring life to “dead” farmland

  • improved corn harvests

  • drought-resistant corn

  • beta carotene-rich sweet potatoes

  • allergen-free peanuts

  • iron-fortified corn

  • solutions for fuel, and more.  

The non-GMO solutions also bring with them none of the uncertainties that surround GMOs. 

The ETC Group report claims that “the patent grab is sucking up money and resources that could be spent on affordable, farmer-based strategies for survival.”  It concludes:

These patented technologies will ultimately concentrate corporate power, drive up costs, inhibit independent research, and further undermine the rights of farmers to save and exchange seeds.

If the biotech industry is now patenting all the “climate change” traits allowable, then the non-GMO farmers would not be able to use “their” traits for drought resistance, etc., and produce non-GMO solutions. 

Time and time again, we can connect the dots and the biotech industry’s motivation is clear.  Seems so obvious, yet much of the public still has no idea what is really going on.


“If food processors decide to stop accepting GMO crops, the ag biotech industry is basically done”


We need to know we are being played and that we have the power to end agricultural biotech by putting pressure on food processors and manufacturers. 

 If food processors decide to stop accepting GMO crops, the ag biotech industry is basically done. 

This was said by Dr. Thomas J. Hoban, professor of sociology and anthropology, NC State University, during a presentation in 2006 to the Association of Agricultural Production Executives (he gave the same presentation to the USDA’s Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology, as well as to other organizations). 

With a background in sociology, Hoban’s work has focused on “how people understand and respond to controversial changes and environmental issues” such as biotechnology.  He was a member of the USDA’s Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology and the US government’s (taxpayer funded) National Science Foundation even funded his team to the tune of $99,940 to conduct a survey about public attitudes and biotechnology. 

What did Hoban learn about U.S. attitudes toward biotechnology? 

  • More consumers are opting out of the industrial food system in favor of booming organic market

  • Growing sense among consumers and food industry that risks are not being addressed in open manner

  • Confidence in U.S. government has dropped significantly in recent years

  • Animal cloning and biotech will further undermine consumer confidence

What strategies does he suggest to U.S. governmental agencies, food organizations, and the biotech industry to reduce GMO backlash with U.S. consumers? 

  • Spend more time and money educating  consumers and the food industry about biotech
  • Recognize that many consumers now have concerns over biotechnology

  • In order to promote consumer demand  (instead of just holding off rejection) he says one message should be used — tell people “Biotechnology reduces the use of chemical pesticides.

In a blog post in March, I asked,  

Why is it that people continue to mistakenly assume genetically engineered crops feed the world and help the environment by reducing pesticide use?  Perhaps because the government and the biotechnology industry expend questionable efforts to “educate” consumers, the media, and politicians with propaganda championing GE food as safe and necessary. 


In reality, genetically engineered crops have led to a large increase in pesticide use and have failed to increase yield or tackle world hunger and poverty, states a report by Friends of the Earth and the Center for Food Safety. 

How does Hoban suggest the U.S. government and biotech industry prevent further rejection of biotechnology?   To be profitable, he says they must respect the needs and concerns of the food chain (not consumers, but food processors).

  • The food processing, retail and service sectors have significantly more market clout than the agricultural and biotechnology sectors combined

  • So far, biotech has only meant headaches and costs for the industry (no real benefits in sight for years)

  • If food processors decide to stop accepting GMO crops, the ag biotech industry is basically done

Because there had been consumer resistance due to labeling and information available in Europe, many of the same companies that use GE ingredients in the U.S. are GE-free in Europe:  Coke, General Mills, Kelloggs, Heinz, Hershey, Kraft, McDonalds, Burger King, Nabisco, Nestle, Pepsi, and others.  We, too, can be GE-free if there is enough consumer awareness of GE food.   

Another case of consumers making a difference in the U.S. is with rBGH:

As of March 2008, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced that its store brand milk in the U.S. would come exclusively from cows not treated with GE cow growth hormones (rBGH). 


Grocery chain Kroger Co., with 2,500 stores in the U.S., began in February selling only milk produced without the use of rBGH.  Safeway Inc., with more than 1,700 stores, switched its in-store brands to non-rBGH milk and back in January, Starbucks has only used non-rBGH milk in its stores. 


As the largest grocery retailer in the U.S. with more than 4,000 locations, however, Wal-Mart was the “big get” for consumer advocates.  The retailer said that its change was prompted by consumer demands. 


As consumers become aware, big changes can happen.  Your dollars and your voice wield the most influence. The U.S. government and the biotech industry know this.  


Stop buying GE foods and contact food processors and manufacturers and let them know we do not want GMOs in our food.   


Hoban is right, “If food processors decide to stop accepting GMO crops, the ag biotech industry is basically done.”  You choose with your money spent AND when you voice your opinion to food companies.  You can make a difference.


US, Canada, Australia the only countries that won’t endorse international hunger project


I mentioned in a previous blog post that Monsanto, Syngenta, and BASF withdrew from a major international project to plan the future of agriculture because the initiative failed to endorse GE crops as a means to reduce poverty and hunger.   


That project is the United Nations’ International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), which focused on the problem of how to feed the world’s growing population.  It was a four-year, $10-million project based on the work of 400 scientists and experts from around the world.


In April 2008, governments and scientists from around the world gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa to debate this project and the final report. 


Adopted by more than 60 countries, the final report calls for a fundamental change in the way we do farming to address rising food prices, hunger, social inequities, and environmental disasters.  

The final IAASTD report acknowledges that GE crops will not play a substantial role in addressing the key problems of climate change, biodiversity loss, hunger and poverty. 

According to Jan van Aken, Greenpeace International sustainable agriculture campaigner who attended the UN’s IAASTD meeting, in Taking stock of agriculture,

The agriculture of the future is one that works with nature and the people—not against them.  Millions of farms on all continents already prove that ecological and sustainable agriculture can provide sufficient food, increase food security, replenish natural resources and provide a better livelihood for farmers and local communities.

Today’s chemical-intensive agriculture is more like mining than farming. While it may provide short-term gains in production, it is not sustainable in the long term and compromises the dwindling agricultural area upon which our future food supply depends.


It also fails to meet the needs of local communities for livelihoods, food security and a healthy, diverse diet.…This means [we need to divert] funding away from GE crops and industrial farming towards more sustainable farming techniques.

Conspicuously, the only three countries at the meeting that refused to endorse the report were the U.S. (home of the biotech industry), Canada, and Australia.


Chris Gupta, Canadian health researcher and educator had this to say:

…We have today and have had for many years, not some time in the future, known how to literarily double our food growth in half the foot print—to do it organically, produce clean free energy as a byproduct, do it sustainably, and clean up the environment to boot!


All this and more using tried and true time proven permaculture and biodynamic methods already in public domain—so who is stopping us? 

Australia, the US, Canada and their cronies…. Could it be stealing markets from fossil fuels, cleaning environment and an abundance of nutrient rich foods that keep us healthy are a little too threatening for the predatory corporations? They have usurped our tax dollars to deliberately create unconscionable wars and scarcity and environmental damage for personal gain…

GE crops have never been about feeding the world, helping consumers, reducing pesticides, and sustainability.  As I go into detail in Shedding Light on Genetically Engineered Food, the U.S. government and the biotechnology industry expend questionable efforts to “educate” consumers, the media, and politicians with propaganda championing GE food as safe and necessary. 


Yet, in 2006, the USDA acknowledged that GE crop yields are not greater than those of conventional crops.  In addition, a compelling number of studies by independent scientists demonstrate that GE crop yields are lower than, or at best equivalent to, yields from non-GE varieties.


In the meantime, your health has been unnecessarily risked by this unproven technology.  GE food has NEVER been proven safe for human consumption.  According to independent scientists, human health effects of consuming GE foods can include toxic and allergic reactions, antibiotic resistance, immune suppression, and other serious illnesses.


It’s no wonder the report representing more than 400 scientists from around the world does not endorse GE crops as a means to reduce hunger and poverty.  Even less surprising is that the U.S. government does not agree with IAASTD’s report.


You will not hear about this in the mainstream media.

Food Matters: the film

Please check out the compelling trailer of “Food Matters,” a documentary that was released on May 30th.  Food Matters is a culmination of teachings from leading authorities in nutrition and natural healing from around the globe.

From the Food Matters blog:

With nutritionally-depleted foods, chemical additives and our tendency to rely upon pharmaceutical drugs to treat what’s wrong with our malnourished bodies, it’s no wonder that modern society is getting sicker. Food Matters sets about uncovering the trillion dollar worldwide ‘sickness industry’ and gives people some scientifically verifiable solutions for curing disease naturally.

In what promises to be the most contentious idea put forward, the filmmakers have interviewed several world leaders in nutrition and natural healing who claim that not only are we harming our bodies with improper nutrition, but that the right kind of foods, supplements and detoxification can be used to treat chronic illnesses as fatal as terminally diagnosed cancer.

The focus of the film is in helping us rethink the belief systems fed to us by our modern medical and health care establishments. The interviewees point out that not every problem requires costly, major medical attention and reveal many alternative therapies that can be more effective, more economical, less harmful and less invasive than conventional medical treatments.

Anita Wilson, Executive Director of the Gerson Institute in San Diego was kind enough to forward the link to me and mentioned that it had footage of Charlotte Gerson. 

While you can see the trailer for Food Matters, you can watch the film online (a one-time view) for $4.95 or you can purchase the DVD for $29.95. 

I think it’s a film done very well–and that it most certainly supports the Gerson Therapy and Orthomolecular Medicine (nutritional therapeutics) in general.  

It makes a strong case, to put it mildly, for anyone not convinced (or possibly on the fence) that nutrition is needed to get healthy vs the pharma disease model that just plain does not work regarding health and prevention.  

Charlotte Gerson’s comments made a strong impression, as well as references to Max Gerson and the Gerson therapy.  I’d say the majority of the weight of the film was given to Andrew Saul, and he is a terrific, factual, clear speaker. 

While I already understand the message of the film and speaking to me was speaking to the choir (and didn’t need to be sold on it), it was still interesting to hear/see the information–framed in the way it was and to hear some of the statistics that were given.  It’s nice to see a film done like this that supports what we have known all along. 

And it is one that will be a bridge to those who are now ready to hear it.

1st Place (Gold) Winner: “Outstanding Book of the Year – Most Progressive Health Book”

I am thrilled and honored for Shedding Light on Genetically Engineered Food to have been recognized and awarded by the Independent Publisher Book Awards as this year’s 1st Place (Gold) WINNER for “Outstanding Book of the Year — Most Progressive Health Book.” 

According to the Independent Publisher Book Awards website:

The Independent Publisher Book Awards have been conducted annually to honor the year’s best independently published titles.

This year’s contest attracted 3,175 total entries–books came from 49 U.S. states, D.C., and U.S. Virgin Islands; 9 Canadian provinces, and 16 countries around the world: Trinidad to Thailand, Croatia to Czech Republic, and France to Finland.

The “IPPY” Outstanding Book of the Year Awards reward those who exhibit the courage and creativity necessary to take chances, break new ground, and bring about change, not only to the world of publishing, but to our society…These nominees were chosen from our regular entries for exemplifying this daring spirit and this list represents the cutting edge of independent thinking and expression.

Outstanding Book of the Year–Most Progressive Health Book

Gold:  Shedding Light on Genetically Engineered Food, by Beth H. Harrison, PhD (iUniverse)

The world food “crisis” for many, “opportunity” for multinationals

John Nichols’ article “The World Food Crisis” appeared in the May 12 edition of The Nation. He quoted a Wisconsin dairy farmer who said,

So, they finally figured out, after all these years of pushing globalization and genetically modified seeds, that instead of feeding the world we’ve created a food system that leaves more people hungry. If they’d listened to farmers instead of corporations, they would’ve known this was going to happen.

But hunger isn’t just a new, “current” issue.  Hundreds of millions of people were starving and malnourished last year, even 11% of Americans were “food insecure” according to recent statistics. The only change is that as the scope of the crisis has grown and it has become more difficult to “manage” the hunger that the failed food system accepts, rather than feeds.

The current global food system, created by US-based agribusiness multinationals like Monsanto, Cargill, and ADM and forced into place by the US government and its allies at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization, has, according to Nichols,

…planted the seeds of disaster by pressuring farmers here and abroad to produce cash crops for export and alternative fuels rather than grow healthful food for local consumption and regional stability.

The result? Bush called on Congress at the beginning of May to approve $770 million in food aid, a “solution” touted to help alleviate escalating food prices that threaten hunger and increasing social unrest around the world.

According to the Associated Press the money is actually being included in a broader $70 billion Iraq war funding measure for 2009, which means it isn’t helping the crisis at hand; it won’t reach those in need until late next year.  In addition, something else (you won’t hear from the mainstream media) was slipped into that $770 million aid package:  It would direct the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which is taxpayer-funded, to spend $150 million of the total aid package on development farming, which includes GE crops.

As I mentioned in Shedding Light on Genetically Engineered Food, US taxpayer dollars are being used for foreign assistance programs to subsidize the export of GE products to the Third World and to finance GE research. According to their website, USAID’s “training and awareness raising programs” provide companies such as Monsanto opportunities for technology transfer and to “enhance public knowledge and acceptance of biotechnology.”

Multinational agribusinesses are enjoying massive profits out of the world food crisis that is driving millions of people towards starvation. In “Multinationals Make Billions in Profit Out of Growing Global Food Crisis” in The Independent, Geoffrey Lean reported that in April, Monsanto reported that its net income for the three months up to the end of February this year had more than doubled over the same period in 2007, from $543 million to $1.12 billion. Cargill’s net earnings soared by 86% from $553 million to $1.030 billion over the same three months.

The “fix” for what ails the global food system, according to John Nichols, is not more of the same globalization and genetic gimmickry, which has left 37 nations with food crises. 

However, for the multinationals that influence (and determine) public policy, it is business as usual.  What a business opportunity for corporations like global grain giant Cargill, that harvests an 86% rise in profits and Monsanto, that reaps record sales from its herbicides and seeds.  If corporations make a profit, that’s one thing.  But when we taxpayers subsidize these private corporations that make insane profits at the expense of health and the environment, something has to change. 

Keep in mind, food security problems exist, and they are not and never have been solved with GE food. The USDA has acknowledged that GE crop yields are not greater than those of conventional crops and a compelling number of studies by independent scientists demonstrate that GE crop yields are lower than, or at best equivalent to, yields from non-GE varieties.  In addition, GE crops have led to a large increase in pesticide use and have failed to increase yield or tackle world hunger and poverty.

We, the American taxpayers, support the multi-billion dollar biotech industry by massively funding GE crop subsidies, state initiatives, and tax breaks for biotech companies, while biotech crops are exported for foreign aid, and other biotech support is doled out by the US government.

There might be little or nothing you can do about how your tax dollars are spent, but as a consumer, your dollars wield the most influence.  Stop buying GE food, which contributes to multinational corporations that are only interested in profits.  Tell food manufacturers you don’t want GMOs.  Go to local farmers’ markets.  Find out about local Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs).  A CSA is a way for the food buying public to create a relationship with a farm and to receive a weekly basket of produce. Find a CSA near you. 

You choose with your dollars–and you can make a difference.

$300 billion farm bill and continued big ag $ubsidies

According to Carolyn Lockhead in the San Francisco Chronicle, a conference committee approved most of a nearly $300 billion farm bill that will lock in the nation’s food policy and environmental stewardship on millions of acres of private land for the next five years.

Instead of cutting subsidies, Congress increased spending, raised taxes, and “engaged in budget acrobatics to make everything appear to fit.” Farm bills come around just once every five years and usually go in under the radar of most lawmakers and the public, making it easy for Congress to tout the bills as “aid to family farmers,” when in reality subsidies are about supporting large agribusinesses.

Pelosi offered a ban on payments to farm couples earning more than $2 million; at the same time, she backed a 50% increase in the actual amount of money each “farmer” could get. The bill would spend about $5 billion a year on automatic payments, once again, mostly to farmers of five crops (many of them GE)—corn, cotton, soybeans, wheat, and rice—giving 2/3 of the money to the top 10% of growers, not small family farms.

As I mentioned in Shedding Light on Genetically Engineered Food, Pelosi’s motivation is to “preserve the re-election prospects of freshman Democrats in rural districts who toppled Republicans and helped secure Democrats their House majority and Pelosi the speakership. Nine of the freshmen sit on the House Agriculture Committee. Several said they feared any vote to reform farm programs would endanger their political prospects.”

To secure votes on this bill, negotiators also added a $93 million write-off for thoroughbred racehorses at the behest of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and Arkansas Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln.  What??

Pelosi threatened to blast Bush for killing the food-stamp increase if he vetoes the bill, issuing a statement urging Bush to sign the legislation to “ensure that 38 million Americans – especially children – have improved access to basic nutrition.”

Source: Carolyn Lockhead, San Francisco Chronicle (May 4, 2008), “Farm bill upends normal political order