from the Cornucopia website, the following. I will activate the link in their update notice for your convenience:
UPDATE: We are pleased to report that Stonyfield Organic’s Gary Hirshberg contacted us and made a personal contribution and committed to supporting the Yes on 37 California ballot initiative. We are happy to remove him from the updated Missing in Action poster. For more details, click here.
From the above linked-to article by Mark Kastel, the following:
In terms of the extra cost and value of eating organically, I have always subscribed to the adage “pay now or pay later.” While my personal experience does not provide much in terms of a scientifically legitimate sample size, in the last 30 years, after suffering from pesticide poisoning prompted my shift to an organic diet, I have exceeded my insurance deductible only once, due to an orthopedic injury. And my doctor keeps telling me how remarkable it is that I, at age 57, have no chronic health problems and take no pharmaceuticals…
They discounted many of the studies, including by the USDA, that show our conventional food supply’s nutritional content has dropped precipitously over the last 50 years. This has been attributed to the declining health of our farms’ soil, and healthy soil leads to healthy food. Organic farming’s core value is building soil fertility.
Furthermore, there are many externalities that impart risk on us as individuals and as a society, which the physicians failed to look at. For example, eating organic food protects us all from exposure to agrichemicals contaminating our water and air.
Additionally, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have become ubiquitous in processed food with an estimated 80%-90% contaminated with patented genes by Monsanto and other biotechnology corporations. The use of GMOs is prohibited in organics.
Interestingly, there have been virtually no long-term studies on human health impacts of ingesting GMOs, although many laboratory animal and livestock studies have led to disturbing conclusions. The best way to operate using the “precautionary principle,” as European regulators mandate, is to eat a certified organic diet.
Indeed. In our very negative, dark mafia capitalist system, it’s not about pulling together with everyone to make a system that works for everyone. We are in a world in which the dominant paradigm, or organizing principle, is ‘riches for the strongest’. The strong, who already dominate and possess little in the way of principles, have no issues with this way of surviving. Neoliberal capitalists invest only to the extent that they have to. If the investments that they might do are going to be of use to the wider society, later and for some time, Of what use is that to them? Even the fact that their children might benefit by their caring today doesn’t faze them. Matthew Rothschild reports that Bill McKibben recently gave a talk in which he stated: ““Reality intrudes,” he said. Amid all the focus on the political campaigns, he continued, “the most important thing that happened this year was that half the Arctic ice cap melted. One of the biggest physical features of our planet got broken.” (“Bill McKibben: Go After the “Outlaw” Fossil Fuel Companies”) Are the presidential contenders freaked about that and talking up a storm about acting now to prevent further damage to our liveable earth? No.
But you can bet that politicians have their ears bent to what their partners in the private sector have to say about an ice-free Arctic! As for politicians and elites who ‘do’ think about their kids’ futures, How critical is that thinking? Does Romney, for example, think that the money he bequeaths his sons will save them from the hell that imperfect humans have created on earth and which will only get hotter? (“Romney’s Dismissal Of ‘Dependent’ 47% In Line With Tax Policies Favoring The Country Club 1%” – Democracy Now)
So they invest only what they need to invest in order to set up whatever scammy company and scheme they calculate will bring them immediate, enormous personal benefits. After that, investments – health and safety for workers, decent wages for workers, pollution controls, etc – are seen only as negatives. Taxes are a law meant to be broken by the rich and powerful who watch, bemused, as the rest of us, the “bewildered herd,” pick up the slack, even if we have no more blood to give.
An excerpt from the above linked-to Toronto Star article by Theresa Boyle follows:
A major study questioning the health benefits of organic foods actually confirms their superiority, Canadian organic growers argue.
“I look at it and I think they found only good things about organic food,” said Beth McMahon, executive director of the Ottawa-based Canadian Organic Growers.
She pointed out that the Stanford study, published Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, confirms that organic foods reduce exposure to pesticides and to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. As well, McMahon said, there was nothing in the study to show that there was a greater food safety risk with organic products.
But the authors of the study, which has received much attention across North America, conclude there is no strong evidence that organic foods are more nutritious or carry fewer health risks than conventional alternatives.
That’s The Toronto Star’s story and they’re sticking to it, with a few exceptions. The Toronto Star is such a fake friend of the people! Heather Mallick (Toronto Star), however, offers us her opinion about the controversy, which this report has indeed become, about which, more below. I think that she may think that she was being totally honest, but when you slough off a common sense idea, namely that industrial food will be less nutritious than organic, truly natural food, with the excuse that it isn’t ‘your’ common sense, Is that honest reportage? From a professional reporter?!
“Organic food is better tasting, and better for you,” by Heather Mallick. An excerpt from that article follows:
“Scientific studies that debunk theories no rational person would hold in the first place always get the biggest headlines and thereafter win their authors more lucrative grants. Poor abused science.
“Take last week’s “Organic food ‘not any healthier’” on the BBC’s website. I yield to no one in my admiration for BBC TV and radio but its grossly misleading headline on its starved website was on the level of USA Today’s “Study sees no nutritional edge in organic food” accompanied by a less-than-gripping online video about melons, featuring a cantaloupe.”
I guess she didn’t have to specifically mention her own paper after that! She continues:
“I read the summary of the Stanford study, which the BBC didn’t even bother to link to online, always a bad sign. Call me cynical but at no time have I ever thought organic food contained more vitamins or nutrients. Why would it? The suggestion is a straw man that lazy news outlets are happy to beat into the ground with a special science hoe.
“I do assume, however, that organic food contains fewer pesticides, which is why it’s called “organic.” Since it’s a harder slog growing fruits and vegetables hand-swept for pests with baby hairbrushes than dosed with things like Bacillus subtilis, boscalid, pyraclostrobin, pyrimethanil and trifloxystrobin, I’m willing to pay more. I’m not impressed when non-organic food is lauded at “within acceptable contaminant levels.” Who decides those levels? Are they science-based or simply industry-friendly?”
“Five Ways The Stanford Study Sells Organics Short,” by Tom Philpott
An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:
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“Stanford Scientists Cast Doubt on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce,” declared a New York Times headline. “Organic food hardly healthier, study suggests,” announced CBS News. “Is organic healthier? Study says not so much, but it’s key reason consumers buy,” the Washington Post grumbled.
In reality, though, the study in some places makes a strong case for organic—though you’d barely know it from the language the authors use. And in places where it finds organic wanting, key information gets left out. To assess the state of science on organic food and its health benefits, the authors performed what’s known among academics as a “meta-analysis”—they gathered all the research papers they could find on the topic dating back decades, eliminated ones that didn’t meet their criteria for scientific rigor, and summarized the results.
In another post I’ll get to the question of nutritional benefits—the idea, expressed by the Stanford authors, that organic and conventional foods are roughly equivalent in terms of vitamins and other nutrients. What I want to discuss now is the problem of pesticide exposure, and why I think the Stanford researchers are underestimating the risks.
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Stanford scientists shockingly reckless on health risk and organics by Frances Moore Lappé (Common Dreams)
Lappé’s article covers much ground that other startled writers cover. I found it interesting that the New York Times (but not The Toronto Star!) printed important relevant material about this controversy. And Heather Mallick, of The Toronto Star, might want to note that, apparently, there ‘is’ research showing that organic food is more nutritious than industrial food as a few writers I’ve looked at here reveal. As well, Perhaps it’s been covered – there’s a plethora of articles out there dealing with this matter – but when you look at the question of nutrition, you can’t divorce that from the context of industrial farming. Reducing the number of food plant species and their varieties ‘automatically’ reduces the sum of nutrition available to humans through the food system.
An excerpt from the above linked-to article by Frances Moore Lappé follows:
“Moreover, buried in the Stanford study is this all-critical fact: It includes no long-term studies of people consuming organic compared to chemically produced food: The studies included ranged from just two days to two years. Yet, it is well established that chemical exposure often takes decades to show up, for example, in cancer or neurological disorders.
“Consider these studies not included: The New York Times notes three 2011 studies by scientists at Columbia University, the University of California, Berkeley, and Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan that studied pregnant women exposed to higher amounts of an organophosphate pesticide. Once their children reached elementary school they “had, on average, I.Q.’s several points lower than those of their peers.”…
“Finally, are organic foods more nutritious?
“In their report, Crystal Smith-Spangler, MD, and co-authors say only that “published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods.” Yet, the most comprehensive meta-analysis comparing organic and non-organic, led by scientist Kirsten Brandt, a Scientist at the Human Nutrition Research Center at the UK’s Newcastle University found organic fruits and vegetables, to have on “average 12% higher nutrient levels.”
“Bottom line for me? What we do know is that the rates of critical illnesses, many food-related –from allergies to Crohn’s Disease — are spiking and no one knows why. What we do know is that pesticide poisoning is real and lethal — and not just for humans. In such a world is it not the height of irresponsibility to downplay the risks of exposure to known toxins?”
Here’s some thoughts from Brewster Kneen on the narrowing of the genetic base of foods available to consumers:
Judging by the 15,000 items that the retailers handle and the wonderful variety of produce that is available now year ’round, one might reasonably think that diversity is actually one of the fruits of the industrial food system. Unfortunately, exactly the reverse is the case, in spite of the apparent variety of fresh foods now available in larger cities.
For example, even though there are 2000 species of potato in the genus solanum, all the potatoes grown in the United States, and most of those grown commercially everywhere else, belong to one species, solanum tuberosum. Twelve varieties of this one species constitute 85% of the U.S. potato harvest, but the one variety favoured by the processors, the Russet Burbank, is by far the dominant variety. In 1982, 40% of the potatoes planted in the U.S. were Russet Burbanks.
McDonald’s Corporation in Britain is switching from the Pentland Dell variety of potato to the Russet Burbank because, “it is a more suitable potato for our requirements.” McDonald’s uses 55,000 tons of potatoes a year in Britain.
Other major crops provide similar examples of the narrow genetic base of our food system. Although there are more than 250 varieties of wheat available, in 1981 only six varieties accounted for nearly 40% of the United States’ wheat acreage while only four varieties of rice accounted for 65% of the rice acreage; six for 42% of the soybean land; three for 76% of the snap beans planted; two for 96% of the peas; and nine for 95% of the peanuts.
In Canada, four varieties of wheat produce 75% of the crop grown on the Prairies and more than half of it comes from a single variety, Neepawa.
Appearances would give us the idea that there is a constantly increasing variety of both raw and processed food in our food system, but the fact of the matter is that the industrialized agriculture of North America has been systematically reducing genetic variety in the food system while increasing the apparent variety of what is referred to in the trade as “product”… Where once the global food supply was derived from 3-4,000 different crops, we are now dependent on 29 or 30! – pages 59 & 60 of “From Land To Mouth – Understanding The Food System,” by Brewster Kneen
If all I ever ate was potatoes, I don’t think I’d live that long. And I don’t think others, on both sides of the genetically engineered food debate, would expect me to. But how about potatoes and green beans? Who decides just when enough genetic variety is represented in my diet to meet all of my nutritional needs?
Our food system is a victim of vampire capitalism. As a result, it’s rather lifeless. Or worse.
Professionals. It’s like that funny ad for an energy company we had been listening to here in Toronto not long ago. The hapless husband reports to his disbelieving wife that while she was elsewhere, he signed them up for some fixed-price package with an energy company… because the salesperson had a clipboard. To that husband, the clipboard meant that the salesperson was a professional and, by implication, trustworthy. Special interests make good use of people’s vulnerability in this area, as Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, the authors of “Merchants Of Doubt”, explain. (I haven’t read the book yet and find it strange, or significant, that progressives aren’t reviewing it. I emailed one fellow, who I presumed to be progressive, and asked him about that. He never replied.)
For example, Big Tobacco knows it can’t effectively refute those who claim that tobacco products are bad and kill people, so they don’t try to. They do something else. The tactic they use requires the use of professionals, namely scientists who are willing to sell their souls for gain (like other professionals, including supposedly leftwing politicians). Those scientists use their positions of authority to help Big Tobacco persuade people that the case against tobacco ‘might not’ be all that solid. (Other special capitalist interests use the same tactic.) In other words, They cottoned onto the fact that, for legal and commericial purposes, all they really had to do was sow some doubt in enough minds that a solid case could not be made finding that the tobacco companies are willingly selling poison to people. (That hasn’t always worked however. And finding online info about it is hard. The Independent’s website is supposed to be able to show you Andrew Gumbel’s June 4, 2002 article about Big Tobacco being sued, but it refuses to. Fortunately, I found that article on Common Dreams’s website: “Fast Food Nation: An Appetite for Litigation”)
“Stanford’s “Spin” on Organics Allegedly Tainted by Biotechnology Funding,” by The Cornucopia Institute
An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:
“There was just no way that truly independent scientists with the expertise required to adequately answer such an important question would ignore the vast and growing body of scientific literature pointing to serious health risks from eating foods produced with synthetic chemicals,” says [Charlotte] Vallaeys.
“So we were not one bit surprised to find that the agribusiness giant Cargill, the world’s largest agricultural business enterprise, and foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which have deep ties to agricultural chemical and biotechnology corporations like Monsanto, have donated millions to Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute, where some of the scientists who published this study are affiliates and fellows.”
Stanford researchers had touted their independence by stating they had not received outside financial support for their study, but failed to delineate the close ties between their internal funding sources and industrialized agriculture and biotechnology interests.
Organic advocates also discovered that one of the study’s authors has a well-documented history of accepting research funding from the tobacco industry when a growing body of scientific literature in the 1970s pointed to serious health risks from smoking.
Dr. Ingram Olkin, a Professor Emeritus in statistics at Stanford and co-author of the organics study, accepted money from the tobacco industry’s Council for Tobacco Research, which has been described as using science for “perpetrating fraud on the public.”
“Make no mistake, the Stanford organics study is a fraud,” says Mike Adams of Naturalnews.com and Anthony Gucciardi of Naturalsociety.org, who discovered the link between the organic study author and Big Tobacco. ”To say that conventional foods are safe is like saying that cigarettes are safe. Both can be propagandized with fraudulent science funded by corporate donations to universities, and we’re seeing the same scientist who helped Big Tobacco now helping Big Biotech in their attempt to defraud the public.”
Charlotte Vallaeys works for the Cornucopia Institute.
Finally, I found this article on Cornucopia’s website to be quite interesting. It’s titled “Iconic Organic Industry Giants Missing In Action.” You saw the picture for that article at the top of my post along with Cornucopia’s memo about an update for the article. Stonyfield’s CEO, it seems, came through with support for California’s Ballot Initiative 37 (“Proposition 37, on the ballot in California on November 6, would mandate labeling of foods containing GE ingredients”). An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows. I activated the NYT story link for your convenience:
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Major agribusiness and biotechnology corporations, like Monsanto, and food manufacturers, like Pepsico and General Mills, are spending tens of millions of dollars in their effort to deny the consumer’s right-to-know what they are eating.
Numerous smaller companies and organizations involved in organic food production – which, by law, is prohibited from using GE ingredients – have responded with their own campaign in support of the right-to-know initiative, raising over $3 million. However, this amount is dwarfed by the $23.5 million raised by the agribusiness and biotechnology corporations. (A September 13 New York Times story provides more detail on this dynamic.)
But many organic industry observers are most puzzled by the failure of some of the giants of the organic industry to throw their support behind the initiative, which reflects the values held by their most dedicated customers.
“Whole Foods Market, Stonyfield, Hain-Celestial and Trader Joe’s are among the biggest manufacturers and retailers of organic food in the country, yet they have been AWOL during this epic food fight,” says Mark Kastel, Codirector of The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm and food policy research group. “These companies should be proud to stand with their health and food conscious customers and join their efforts for the right-to-know what we are putting in our mouths and feeding our children,” Kastel added.
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