SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

October 31, 2010

Bee Colony Collapse – update

What a scientist didn’t tell the New York Times about his study on bee deaths

jerry_bromenshenk.top.jpgJerry Bromenshenk, bee investigator By Katherine Eban, contributor October 8, 2010:

FORTUNE — Few ecological disasters have been as confounding as the massive and devastating die-off of the world’s honeybees. The phenomenon of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) — in which disoriented honeybees die far from their hives — has kept scientists, beekeepers, and regulators desperately seeking the cause. After all, the honeybee, nature’s ultimate utility player, pollinates a third of all the food we eat and contributes an estimated $15 billion in annual agriculture revenue to the U.S. economy.

The long list of possible suspects has included pests, viruses, fungi, and also pesticides, particularly so-called neonicotinoids, a class of neurotoxins that kills insects by attacking their nervous systems. For years, their leading manufacturer, Bayer Crop Science, a subsidiary of the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG (BAYRY), has tangled with regulators and fended off lawsuits from angry beekeepers who allege that the pesticides have disoriented and ultimately killed their bees. The company has countered that, when used correctly, the pesticides pose little risk.

A cheer must have gone up at Bayer on Thursday when a front-page New York Times article, under the headline “Scientists and Soldiers Solve a Bee Mystery,” described how a newly released study pinpoints a different cause for the die-off: “a fungus tag-teaming with a virus.” The study, written in collaboration with Army scientists at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center outside Baltimore, analyzed the proteins of afflicted bees using a new Army software system. The Bayer pesticides, however, go unmentioned.

What the Times article did not explore — nor did the study disclose — was the relationship between the study’s lead author, Montana bee researcher Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk, and Bayer Crop Science. In recent years Bromenshenk has received a significant research grant from Bayer to study bee pollination. Indeed, before receiving the Bayer funding, Bromenshenk was lined up on the opposite side: He had signed on to serve as an expert witness for beekeepers who brought a class-action lawsuit against Bayer in 2003. He then dropped out and received the grant.

Reporter: scientist “did not volunteer” funding sources

Bromenshenk’s company, Bee Alert Technology, which is developing hand-held acoustic scanners that use sound to detect various bee ailments, will profit more from a finding that disease, and not pesticides, is harming bees. Two years ago Bromenshenk acknowledged as much to me when I was reporting on the possible neonicotinoid/CCD connection for Conde Nast Portfolio magazine, which folded before I completed my reporting.

Bromenshenk defends the study and emphasized that it did not examine the impact of pesticides. “It wasn’t on the table because others are funded to do that,” he says, noting that no Bayer funds were used on the new study. Bromenshenk vociferously denies that receiving funding from Bayer (to study bee pollination of onions) had anything to do with his decision to withdraw from the plaintiff’s side in the litigation against Bayer. “We got no money from Bayer,” he says. “We did no work for Bayer; Bayer was sending us warning letters by lawyers.”

A Bayer publicist reached last night said she was not authorized to comment on the topic but was trying to reach an official company spokesperson.

The Times reporter who authored the recent article, Kirk Johnson, responded in an e-mail that Dr. Bromenshenk “did not volunteer his funding sources.” Johnson’s e-mail notes that he found the peer-reviewed scientific paper cautious and that he “tried to convey that caution in my story.” Adds Johnson: The study “doesn’t say pesticides aren’t a cause of the underlying vulnerability that the virus-fungus combo then exploits….”

At least one scientist questions the new study. Dr. James Frazier, professor of entomology at Penn State University, who is currently researching the sublethal impact of pesticides on bees, said that while Bromenshenk’s study generated some useful data, Bromenshenk has a conflict of interest as CEO of a company developing scanners to diagnose bee diseases. “He could benefit financially from that if this thing gets popularized,” Frazier says, “so it’s a difficult situation to deal with.” He adds that his own research has shown that pesticides affect bees “absolutely, in multiple ways.”

Underlying cause of bee deaths still unclear

Dr. Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist with the health group at the Natural Resources Defense Council, says that while the Bromenshenk/Army study is interesting, it fails to ask the underlying question “Why are colonies dying? Is it because they’re getting weak? People who have HIV don’t die of HIV. They die of other diseases they get because their immune systems are knocked off, making them more susceptible.” In other words, pesticides could weaken the bees — and then the virus/fungus combination finishes them off. That notion, however, is not explored in the new study.

In 2008 the NRDC sued the Environmental Protection Agency after it failed to release Bayer’s underlying studies on the safety of its neonicotinoids. The federal agency has since changed course, and NRDC researchers are being allowed to sift through the Bayer studies, an NRDC spokesman says.

The EPA has based its approval of neonicotinoids on the fact that the amounts found in pollen and nectar were low enough to not be lethal to the bees — the only metric they have to measure whether to approve a pesticide or not. But studies have shown that at low doses, the neonicotinoids have sublethal effects that impair bees’ learning and memory. The USDA’s chief researcher, Jeff Pettis, told me in 2008 that pesticides were definitely “on the list” as a primary stressor that could make bees more vulnerable to other factors, like pests and bacteria.

In 1999, France banned Imidacloprid after the death of a third of its honeybees. A subsequent report prepared for the French agricultural ministry found that even tiny sublethal amounts could disorient bees, diminish their foraging activities, and thus endanger the entire colony. Other countries, including Italy, have banned certain neonicotinoids.

Bayer v. beekeepers

As for the Bayer-Bromenshenk connection, in 2003 a group of 13 North Dakota beekeepers brought a class-action lawsuit against Bayer, alleging that the company’s neonicotinoid, Imidacloprid, which had been used in nearby fields, was responsible for the loss of more than 60% of their hives. “My bees were getting drunk,” Chris Charles, a beekeeper in Carrington, N.D., and a plaintiff in the lawsuit, told me in 2008. “They couldn’t walk a white line anymore — they just hung around outside the hive. They couldn’t work.”

Charles and the other North Dakota beekeepers hired Bromenshenk as an expert witness. Bayer did not dispute that Imidacloprid was found among the bees and their hives. The company simply argued that the amount had not been enough to kill them.

As the North Dakota lawsuit moved forward, an expert witness for the beekeepers, Dr. Daniel Mayer, a now retired bee expert from Washington State University, traveled to 17 different bee yards in North Dakota and observed dead bees and bees in the throes of what looked like Imidacloprid poisoning, he told me in 2008. He theorized that after foraging in planted fields where the seeds had been treated with Imidacloprid, the bees then brought the pesticide back to the hive, where it built up in the wax combs.

The beekeepers tried to enlist more expert witnesses, but others declined, according to two of the beekeeper plaintiffs, in large part because they had taken research money from Bayer and did not want to testify against the company. One who agreed — Bromenshenk — subsequently backed out and got a research grant from Bayer. Bromenshenk insists the two actions were unrelated. “It was a personal decision,” he says. “I, in good conscience, couldn’t charge beekeepers for services when I couldn’t help them.” He adds, “Eventually, the lawyers stopped calling. I didn’t quit. They just stopped calling.”

In June 2008 a district court judge in Pennsylvania defanged the beekeepers’ lawsuit by siding with Bayer to exclude Mayer’s testimony and the initial test results from a laboratory in Jacksonville, Fla., that had found significant amounts of Imidacloprid in the honeybee samples.

That same year Bromenshenk brokered a meeting between Bayer and beekeepers. When I interviewed Bromenshenk that year, he said that increasing frustration with the accusations against Bayer, which he described as a “runaway train,” led him to contact the company in an effort to create a dialogue between Bayer and the beekeepers. Because of his efforts, in November 2008, Bayer scientists sat down in Lake Tahoe, Nev., with a small group of American beekeepers to establish a dialogue. The issues discussed were “trust and transparency,” Bromenshenk told me. “How did Bayer do its testing, and do we trust the results?” Generally beekeepers and scientists have been highly critical of the design of Bayer’s studies and deeply suspicious over who is or isn’t on Bayer’s payroll.

After the meeting, Bayer tentatively agreed to appoint a beekeeper advisory board to help redesign studies so that beekeepers could trust the results. But many beekeepers see the advisory board and grant money as a ruse on Bayer’s part to silence its enemies by holding them close. “They have the bee industry so un-united,” says Jim Doan, once New York State’s busiest beekeeper until CCD decimated his business. “Even the researchers are off working on anything but the pesticide issue.”

Bromenshenk’s study acknowledges that the research does not “clearly define” whether the concurrent virus and fungus, which were found in all the afflicted bee samples, is “a marker, a cause, or a consequence of CCD.” It also notes uncertainty as to how, exactly, the combination kills the bees, and whether other factors like weather and bee digestion play a role. Scientists like Sass at NRDC believe the mystery is far from resolved: “We’re even concerned that based on this, beekeepers will use more pesticides trying to treat these viruses,” says Sass. To top of page

October 30, 2010

Obama’s next 2 yrs/Brooks

The Next Two Years

By DAVID BROOKS
Published: October 28, 2010

President Obama is likely to suffer a pummeling defeat on Tuesday. But the road map for his recovery is pretty straightforward.

David Brooks

First, the president is going to have to win back independents. Liberals are now criticizing him for being too timid. But the fact is that Obama will win 99.9 percent of the liberal vote in 2012, and in a presidential year, liberal turnout will surely be high. On the other hand, he cannot survive the defection of the independents. In 2008, independent voters preferred Democrats by 8 percentage points. Now they prefer Republicans by 20 points, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. Unless Obama wins back these moderate, suburban indies, there will be a Republican president in 2013.

Second, Obama needs to redefine his identity. Bill Clinton gave himself a New Democrat label. Obama has never categorized himself so clearly. This ambiguity was useful in 2008 when people could project whatever they wanted onto him. But it has been harmful since. Obama came to be defined by his emergency responses to the fiscal crisis — by the things he had to do, not by the things he wanted to do. Then he got defined as an orthodox, big government liberal who lacks deep roots in American culture.

Over the next two years, Obama will have to show that he is a traditionalist on social matters and a center-left pragmatist on political ones. Culturally, he will have to demonstrate that even though he comes from an unusual background, he is a fervent believer in the old-fashioned bourgeois virtues: order, self-discipline, punctuality and personal responsibility. Politically, he will have to demonstrate that he is data-driven — that even though he has more faith in government than most Americans, he will relentlessly oppose programs when the evidence shows they don’t work.

Third, Obama will need to respond to the nation’s fear of decline. The current sour mood is not just caused by high unemployment. It emerges from the fear that America’s best days are behind it. The public’s real anxiety is about values, not economics: the gnawing sense that Americans have become debt-addicted and self-indulgent; the sense that government undermines individual responsibility; the observation that people who work hard get shafted while people who play influence games get the gravy. Obama will have to propose policies that re-establish the link between effort and reward.

Fourth, Obama has to build an institutional structure to support a more moderate approach. Presidents come into office thinking that they will be able to go ahead and enact policies. Then they realize that they can only succeed if there is a vast phalanx of institutions laboring alongside them.

Liberals already have institutions. To be a center-left leader, Obama will have to mobilize independent institutions as well. These don’t exist in Washington, but they do around the nation. Civic organizations, local business groups and municipal leagues run from Orlando to Kansas City to Seattle. These groups are filled with local leaders who lobby for balanced budgets, infrastructure plans and other worthy causes. If Obama can mobilize these groups, he would not only build coalitions, but he would help heal the venomous rift between the White House and business, which is a cancer on his presidency.

Over the next few months, the Republicans will have their time in the sun. On Tuesday, I’ll offer some thoughts on how they can seize the moment. But if Obama is to rebound, he is going to have to suppress his natural competitive instincts. If he gets caught up in the Beltway fight club, the Republicans will emerge as the party of limited government and he’ll emerge as the spokesman for big government — surely a losing proposition.

Instead, he will have to go out and do his own thing. That means every day reinforcing the following narrative: the Republicans are only half right. They want to cut things; I want to cut but also replace things. They want to slash government; I want to restructure it. They want destruction; I want renovation.

Companies like Ford cut wasteful spending while doubling down on productive investment. That’s exactly what the nation has to do over all. There have to be cuts, the president could say, in unaffordable pension commitments, in biofuel subsidies and useless tax breaks. But there also have to be investments in things that will produce a vibrant economy for our children: a simpler tax system with lower rates on investment; more scientific research; a giant effort to improve Hispanic graduation rates; medical courts to rationalize the malpractice system and so on. Instead of being disjointed, as he has been, the president will have to reinforce this turnaround story day after day.

The problem is not that America lacks resources. The problem is that they are misallocated. If Obama can establish credibility as someone who can cut and replace, Election Day 2012 will be rosier for him than Election Day 2010

October 29, 2010

Smoking & dementia risk

Middle-age smoking raises dementia risk

By Shari Roan LOS ANGELES TIMES

LOS ANGELES —

  • Heavy smoking at middle age more than doubles the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, according to one of the first long-term studies to examine the issue.

Smoking has a clear effect on the heart and lungs, but whether it also damages the brain has been controversial. The study, published yesterday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, overcomes some of the obstacles that have made it difficult to assess such a link. For example, some previous research that suggested smoking doesn’t cause dementia had mostly examined elderly people only for a short period of time.

To get a more complete look, researchers in Finland, Sweden and the health plan   Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research followed 21,123 middle-aged Kaiser members who participated in a survey between 1978 and 1985 and then were followed for an average of 23 years. After controlling for other factors that can contribute to dementia — such as education level, race, age, diabetes, heart disease and substance abuse — the study found a significant link with heavy smoking at middle age.

Compared with nonsmokers, people who smoked two packs a day or more had a 114 percent increased risk of dementia (more than double), while people who smoked one to two packs a day had a 44 percent increased risk. Those who smoked a half-pack to one pack a day had a 37 percent increased risk.

  • Middle-age people who described themselves as former smokers did not appear to have an increased risk of later dementia.

Smoking might increase the risk of dementia by narrowing blood vessels in the brain, which leads to the well-established increased risk of stroke, said Rachel A. Whitmer, a research scientist at Kaiser Permanente. However, even people who smoked heavily at midlife and did not have any subsequent strokes had a higher risk for dementia, said Whitmer, the study’s principal investigator.    “Stroke is certainly one of the pathways that smoking causes dementia, but it’s not the only pathway,” Whitmer said. Oxidative stress and inflammation caused by smoking also may damage the brain and lead to dementia, she said.    The link between smoking and later dementia did not differ according to race, ethnicity or sex.

 

It’s true, I’ve done a few posts lately relating to Alzheimers Disease.   Indulge me please – – I’m not trying to be morbid or a fear monger, heavens forbid.  It comes from my own experience .  I know full-well the difficulty or even pain of going through losing someone with this disease.   I personally do everything in my power to guard against this taking over my life, seeing how my mother’s ended.

This article is a dramatic heads-up with regard to something we CAN have control over.   Had I known about this when I started my blog in 2008, I would have screamed it out as a paramount reason to quit as I put my plan which had worked for me down on paper and put it out there.  Yes I would have done that even tho I do not believe in guilting, intimidation, fear, force and so on – – all antithetical to successful quitting.  It must be  one’s own desire to quit for oneself.    Once you see someone you truly love “loose SELF,”  identity, memory, well, you can’t forget it.  It is a force one needs to be armed sufficiently with knowledge and understanding  in order to deal intelligently with it.    The science that was demonstrated here is helpful, inspiring and progressive.  Its a good thing.               .Jan

October 28, 2010

CARS, reliability ranks

Reliability of German car brands is slipping

By Jerry Hirsch LOS ANGELES TIMES

If you are in the market for a German luxury car, think again, Consumer Reports warned yesterday in its annual ranking of auto reliability.    “The larger (European) manufacturers, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, are among the worst automakers overall,” Consumer Reports said.

It turns out that expense and luxury don’t always equate to reliability, said Jake Fisher, senior automotive engineer with Consumer Reports. Big luxury cars come with “a lot of power equipment, electronic gizmos and complexity,” Fisher said, “and that means more chances for something to go wrong.”

In particular, Audi and BMW have introduced new high-performance engines that combine power and fuel efficiency, but the technology has been daunting, he noted.    “At the other end is the Toyota Yaris, which was Toyota’s most-reliable vehicle and is the Japanese automaker’s cheapest vehicle. There’s not much to go wrong with the car, but we don’t recommend it because it performs poorly. Performance and reliability don’t necessarily go hand in hand,” Fisher said.

Five of BMW’s 11 models scored below average.   Six of Mercedes-Benz’s 13 models were below average. Nearly three-quarters of the Audi models Consumer Reports analyzed were below average.

The A6 with the new supercharged 3.0-liter V6 was tied with the Jaguar XF for the worst reliability.    Of the major European luxury nameplates, only Porsche and Volvo did well in the magazine’s ratings, with all of their vehicles having average reliability or better. The rankings are based on surveys of owners or leaseholders of 1.3 million vehicles conducted this year.

While European luxury brands were moving down the reliability scale, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co., the two biggest U.S. auto companies, continued to improve their standings.

Despite a series of recalls in recent months, Toyota Motor Co. and American Honda Motor Co. and other Asian companies continued to dominate the reliability ratings. All of the models from Acura, Honda, Hyundai,  Infiniti,  Scion and Toyota earned average reliability scores or better. Fisher thinks that they do a better job engineering electronics and accessories, which are responsible for many of the malfunctions in modern cars.

The magazine, known for its influential auto recommendations, said that of the major domestic auto companies, only Chrysler Group, which suffers from aging models and quality issues, seemed unable to improve   its vehicles.  The gains by Ford and GM are real but will take time for car buyers to accept, said Rebecca Lindland, a senior analyst with IHS Automotive.    “It takes years and years for the sins of the past to go away,” Lindland said.

Ford remains the most-reliable American automaker, according to the magazine. The Ford Fusion Hybrid was the top-ranked family sedan. Overall, 90 percent of Ford’s models, including its Lincoln brand, have at least average reliability.

GM performance was helped by the closing of its Saturn, Pontiac and Hummer divisions as part of its bankruptcy reorganization last year. The brands were noteworthy for producing “troublesome cars,” the magazine said. The report also noted that many of GM’s latest cars, such as the Buick LaCrosse and the Cadillac SRX, are getting good reliability marks during their first year of production.    Chevrolet turned in its best showing in years, with 83 percent of its models earning average reliability scores or better.

Best and worst

Consumer Reports says Toyota and Honda tied for the most models with top scores in its annual reliability survey. Each had five. A look at the best and worst brands on the list:

MOST RELIABLE                   LEAST RELIABLE
1. Scion                                            1. Chrysler
2. Porsche                                      2. Audi
3. Acura                                          3. Mini
4. Honda                                         4. Dodge
5. Infiniti                                         5. BMW

Source:  Cars.com, Consumer Reports

October 27, 2010

HH products high in “Toxins”

Beware toxins in products, study warns

Manufacturers group denies that people are at risk

By Frank Thomas THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Chances are, there’s a product in your house that could make you sick.    It could be an air freshener, dryer sheets or your shampoo.    Even “green” products might include toxic chemicals that aren’t listed on their labels, say researchers at the University of Washington and Battelle. A study published online yesterday in the journal    Environmental Impact Assessment Review says that 25 best-selling cleaning and personal-hygiene products emit an average of 17 chemicals each. Battelle scientists tested vapors emitted by the samples, which included hand sanitizers, deodorants and dish detergents.

The researchers found 133 individual chemicals. Of those, nearly 25 percent are classified as toxic or hazardous under at least one federal law, according to the study.    “These are chemicals that can damage the brain, the lungs, the central nervous system and cause cancer,” said Anne Steinemann, a   professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington and the study’s lead author.

“And some of these chemicals have no safe exposure level. This means that not even one molecule is risk-free.” Steinemann wouldn’t say which brands they tested but said about 37 percent of American households use a laundry detergent that was examined.    And more than one-third of the products give off at least one chemical that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says is a probable carcinogen and is dangerous in even the smallest amounts, Steinemann said. One such chemical is methylene chloride, a solvent the FDA banned from cosmetic and personal-care products in 1989. It turned up in baby shampoo, she said.

Even the 11 products that claim to be “green,” “organic,” “nontoxic” or “natural” on their labels emit toxic chemicals, she said.

Neither the Consumer Product Safety Commission nor the Food and Drug Administration, which regulate these products, requires that companies list all of a product’s ingredients, Steinemann said.

“What’s misleading is they typically list some of the chemicals but not all of the   chemicals,” she said. “They usually list the benign-sounding ones.”    She said she hopes the industry does a better job of labeling and that people use more simple products to clean their houses, such as vinegar and water.   *

Brian Sansoni, a spokesman for the American Cleaning Institute, said the research is a stretch.    “There’s an implication that all of these are unsafe, and that’s just not the case,”   he said. “These aren’t just casually formulated and thrown onto the shelves.”    Sansoni said the products are safe when used properly.

A representative from the Consumer Product Safety Commission said the organization hasn’t seen the study and could not comment.

The FDA said it could not respond to the study, but said manufacturers are responsible for making safe products.  (Please read this last comment as “You Are on Your Own”!)

fthomas@dispatch.com

TOM DODGE DISPATCH    Battelle scientist Martha McCauley shows how vapors are extracted from household products for chemical analysis.(*  I know how sated one can feel with all this, but this deeply affects us all.  I do not apologize for my repeated efforts to alert you.  On a prior post when I learned that my “Tide” which I used was one of the worst offenders with regard to toxins, I immediately sent for the Soap Nuts @ Green Virgin Products and have used them ever since.  They have proved to be wonderful, smell good, get stuff clean and because they are a natural product [growing on trees], not toxic in any way AND they relieved me from the need to have to use Downey as the Soap nuts really do leave the clothes soft and nice.. . .this decision has served me well aside from the peace of mind, I am saving money.

This is a difficult problem to deal with as we are not given all the facts in order to be informed enough to make good decisions.   I have not used regular deodorant in years.  Brush with baking soda.  If we can’t trust the “Green products” – don’t know what we are supposed to do.    But I know this – we must KEEP DEMANDING  that those put there to protect us (e.g. FDA, etc) MUST be required to start doing their job to do just that. We have to keep up the pressure, we are making progress in just this last year or two.    Thanks friends for indulging me.  Jan)

October 23, 2010

Dr. Mercola on Monsanto

Filed under: GMO anything is ECO-threat,Monsanto — Jan Turner @ 4:55 pm
Tags:

(Dr. Mercola in this post today asks that all of us spread the word – post this article everywhere to friends, family, Twitter, Facebook and so on.  .  .   happy to do it – think you all know my mind on anything MONSANTO.  So here it is, just the way he presented it [except for his blog particulars].  This is well done and really shows progress!  So what we are all doing i.e., voting with our wallets in the things we won’t buy; telling others; and educating ourselves . . .  we can reach around and pat ourselves on the back.. . . . .  Jan)

Mercola.com

Good News – Evil Monsanto Finally Reaping Its Just Desserts

Posted By Dr. Mercola | October 23 2010 | 27,263 views

corn fieldMonsanto, the giant biotechnology agriculture company that created genetically modified corn, soybeans and herbicides, isn’t riding so high this year in the stocks department, as news comes in that its products aren’t working like they’d hoped.

According to the New York Times, weeds are becoming immune to Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, and its latest genetically modified, 8-gene corn is a flop, producing yields no higher than the company’s less expensive corn, which contains only three foreign genes.

“Monsanto has already been forced to sharply cut prices on SmartStax and on its newest soybean seeds, called Roundup Ready 2 Yield, as sales fell below projections,” the Times said. “And the Justice Department is investigating Monsanto for possible antitrust violations.”

“Until now, Monsanto’s main challenge has come from opponents of genetically modified crops, who have slowed their adoption in Europe and some other regions. Now, however, the skeptics also include farmers and investors who were once in Monsanto’s camp.”

Monsanto was named “company of the year” by Forbes Magazine in December. Last week, television stock market commentator Jim Cramer said it “may be the worst stock of 2010,” the Times said.

Sources:

New York Times October 5, 2010
 

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

Since the 1980s, Monsanto has become the world leader in genetic modification of seeds, succeeding in at least 674 biotechnology patents, more than any other company — and they showed no signs of stopping … until now.

It seems Monsanto’s glory days may be coming to an end, which is a refreshing turnaround from last December, when Forbes declared this evil corporation “company of the year” — for reasons that truly boggle the mind.

Now, the tide is turning, and as the Times pointed out, signs are suggesting that Monsanto’s “winning streak” is over:

  • Monsanto’s newest genetically modified (GM) product, SmartStax corn, provides no greater yields than older products, despite being more expensive
  • Weeds are growing resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup
  • The Justice Department is investigating Monsanto for possible antitrust violations

Already, shares of Monsanto’s stock have fallen 42 percent since January, and earnings for the fiscal year are expected to be well under projections.

To say this news makes me overjoyed is an understatement, as this company represents one of the biggest threats to your future health, and that of the planet.

Monsanto Monstrosities Swept Under the Rug

Why is Monsanto top on my hit list of evil corporations? Here is just a short list of the many improprieties and outright crimes committed by Monsanto:

  • Suing small farmers for patent infringement after Monsanto’s GM seeds spread wildly into surrounding farmers’ fields, contaminating their conventional crops
  • Secretly discharging PCB-laden toxic waste into an Alabama creek, and dumping millions of pounds of PCBs into open-pit landfills for decades after PCBs were banned in the US for being a possible carcinogen.
  • Being found guilty of bribery to bypass Indonesian law requiring an environmental assessment review for its genetically engineered cotton.
  • Last year, the supreme court of France found Monsanto guilty of falsely advertising its herbicide Roundup as “biodegradable” and “environmentally friendly.” Scientific evaluation discovered that glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUp, is acutely toxic to fish and birds and can kill beneficial insects and soil organisms that maintain ecological balance. Additionally, the surfactant ingredient in Roundup is more acutely toxic than glyphosate itself, and the combination of the two is even more toxic.
  • In 2007, the South African Advertising Standards Authority also found Monsanto guilty of lying when advertising that “no negative reactions to Genetically Modified food have been reported.”
  • According to one EPA scientist, Monsanto doctored studies and covered-up dioxin contamination of a wide range of its products. She concluded that the company’s behaviour constituted “a long pattern of fraud.”
  • In 1999, the New York Times exposed that Monsanto’s PR firm, Burson Marsteller, had paid fake “pro-GMO” food demonstrators to counteract a group of anti-biotech protesters outside a Washington, DC FDA meeting.

This should give you a clue as to why I’m thrilled that Monsanto appears to be falling out of favor, at least in the stock market realm.

Be Warned: Monsanto Has People on the Inside

Despite their falling stock prices, I don’t expect Monsanto to disappear from the radar. They will continue to produce as many genetically modified crops and chemicals as the world population will accept.

And they’ve got help at every turn, including from leaders in the U.S. government. Michael Taylor, a former vice president of public policy and chief lobbyist at Monsanto Company, is the deputy commissioner for foods at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Who is Michael Taylor? He is the person who “oversaw the creation of GMO policy,” according to Jeffrey Smith, the leading spokesperson on the dangers of GM foods. Smith continues:

“If GMOs are indeed responsible for massive sickness and death, then the individual who oversaw the FDA policy that facilitated their introduction holds a uniquely infamous role in human history. That person is Michael Taylor. He had been Monsanto’s attorney before becoming policy chief at the FDA. Soon after, he became Monsanto’s vice president and chief lobbyist.”

The FDA policy being referred to is the 1992 GMO policy, which stated:

“The agency is not aware of any information showing that foods derived by these new methods [genetic engineering] differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way.”

In reality, there was major concern among FDA scientists that GM foods were in fact different than natural foods, and that their creation could prompt unknown and unpredictable health problems.

Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, now the Secretary of Agriculture, is also widely regarded as a shill for biotech giants like Monsanto (he even reportedly often travels in Monsanto’s jet). There are other less noticeable connections too, such as Sharon Long, a former member of Monsanto’s board of directors who was part of Obama’s scientific advisory team during the election/campaign.

Let’s Really Give Monsanto the Boot

This could be the beginning of the end for Monsanto … if we can continue to drive the momentum that’s forming against the creation and proliferation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The first step you have already done, and that is to get informed. You can continue to spread the word further by sharing this article with your friends and family.

Next, hit Monsanto where it counts … their bottom line. By boycotting all GM foods and instead supporting organic (and local) farmers who do not use Monsanto’s GM seeds, you are using your wallet to make your opinions known.

Most people want to avoid GMOs but it is virtually impossible to do so, since the government prevents GMO labeling.

However, Jeffery Smith has compiled a resource for you to avoid the government block of information. It is the free Non-GMO Shopping Guide. We realize that with the challenging economy it is very difficult for many to donate money to help this cause, so we are merely asking for your time and connections with your family and friends.

You can really help by making this message go viral. So if you are convinced that GMO foods should not be in the US, please send this information to everyone you know; post it on Facebook and Twitter…

You can also print out the Non-GMO Shopping Guide and give it to your friends and family.

If you feel more ambitious you can also order the Non-GMO Shopping Tips brochure in bulk, and bring them to the grocery stores in your area. Talk to the owner or manager and get permission to post them in their store.

October is Non-GMO Month! Here’s How to Get Involved …

There are a number of different ways for you to get actively involved during Non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) Month … which may as well be called Non-Monsanto Month, too, given that they’re the leader in the GMO industry. Here is a list of Action Item for you to pick and choose from:

  1. Distribute WIDELY the Non-GMO Shopping Guide to help you identify and avoid foods with GMOs. Remember to look for products (including organic products) that feature the Non-GMO Project Verified Seal to be sure that at-risk ingredients have been tested for GMO content.
  2. Download the Non-GMO Shopping Tips brochure and keep it with you whenever you shop, or download the free iPhone application that is available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.You can also order the Non-GMO Shopping Tips brochure in bulk and give it to your family and friends.
  3. Urge food manufacturers to join the Non-GMO Project and become Non-GMO Project Verified. This is currently the only way for manufacturers to get around the fact that there’s no GM-labeling system.
  4. Urge your local food retailers to join the Non-GMO Project’s Supporting Retailer Program.
  5. If your budget allows support this urgent mission by generously donating to the Institute of Responsible Technology.
  6. Bring the film Hidden Dangers in Kid’s Meals to your local access TV station, or perhaps your child’s school, along with some educational material specifically designed for teachers and educators.
  7. Share Your Milk on Drugs – Just Say No!, and Jeffrey’s lecture, Everything You Have to Know About Dangerous Genetically Modified Foods with everyone you know. Post them to your Facebook page, or email the links to your network of friends and family.
  8. Join the Non-GMO Project on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.

Together, We Control the Future of Our Food

Please join us in this important campaign. Do as much or as little as you can. Maybe you can’t make a donation to IRT, but you can distribute 20 Non-GMO shopping guides to your closest family and friends.

Plus, all orders placed through Mercola.com, starting October 6th, will receive a FREE, printed 16-page Non-GMO Shopping Guide.*

No purchase necessary. You may also download the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, for free, here.

Please, support this urgent mission by donating to the Institute of Responsible Technology, a non-profit organization.

Together, we can make a difference. Together, we can reach the tipping point and push GMOs out of our food supply.

 

Related Links:

Why are Monsanto Insiders Now Appointed to Protect Your Food Safety?
France Finds Monsanto Guilty of Lying

Monsanto’s Many Attempts to Destroy All Seeds but Their O

October 22, 2010

BIG Donors fatten US Chamber

Filed under: U.S.Chamb of Commerce — Jan Turner @ 4:33 pm
Tags: ,

U.S. Chamber relies heavily on big donors

Big checks help group ramp up efforts to oppose Obama agenda

By Eric Lipton, Mike McIntire and Don Van Natta Jr. THE NEW YORK TIMES

Prudential Financial sent in a $2 million donation last year as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched an ad campaign to weaken the rewrite of the nation’s financial regulations. Dow Chemical delivered $1.7 million to the chamber last year as the group took a leading role in aggressively fighting proposed rules that would impose tighter security requirements on chemical facilities. And Goldman Sachs, Chevron Texaco and Aegon, a multinational insurance company based in the Netherlands, donated more than $8 million in recent years to a chamber foundation that has helped wage a national campaign to limit the ability of trial lawyers to sue businesses.

These large donations — none of which was disclosed by the chamber, a tax-exempt group that keeps its donors secret — offer a glimpse of the chamber’s money-raising efforts, which it has ramped up recently in an orchestrated campaign to become one of the most well-financed critics of the Obama administration and an influential player in this fall’s elections.

These contributions, some of which can be pieced together through tax filings of corporate foundations and other public records, also show how the chamber increasingly has relied on a relatively small collection of big corporate donors to finance much of its Washington agenda.      The chamber has opposed legislation in Congress that would require groups like it to identify their biggest contributors when they spend money on campaign ads.

Proponents of that measure pointed to reports that health-insurance providers funneled at least $10 million to the chamber last year, all of it anonymously, to oppose President Barack Obama’s health-care legislation. “The major supporters of us in health care last year   were confronted with protests at their corporate headquarters, protests and harassment at the CEO’s homes,” said R. Bruce Josten, the chief lobbyist at the chamber. “You are wondering why companies want some protection. It is pretty clear.”

The chamber’s increasingly aggressive role — including record spending in the midterm elections that supports Republicans more than 90 percent of the time — has made it a target of critics, including a few local chamber affiliates who fear that it has become too partisan and hard-nosed in its fundraising. As a nonprofit organization, the chamber need not disclose its donors in its public tax filings, and because it says no donations are earmarked for specific ads aimed at a candidate, it does not invoke federal elections rules requiring disclosure.

The tax returns that the chamber releases include a list of all donations of more than $5,000, including 21 in 2008 that each exceeded $1 million, one of them for $15 million. However, the chamber, as allowed by law, omits the donors’ names.      But hints can be found in obscure places, such as the corporate governance reports that some companies have taken to posting on their websites, which show their donations to trade associations. Also, the tax filings of corporate foundations must publicly list their donations to other foundations — including one run by the chamber.

These records show that while the chamber boasts of representing more than 3 million businesses, and having approximately 300,000 members, nearly half of its $149 million in contributions in 2008 came from 45 donors. Many of those donations coincided with lobbying or political campaigns that potentially affected the donors.      Prudential Financial’s $2 million donation last year coincided with a chamber lobbying effort against elements of the financial-regulation bill in Congress. A spokesman for Prudential said the donation was not earmarked for a specific issue. But he acknowledged that most of the money was used to lobby Congress.    “I am not suggesting it is a coincidence,” spokesman Bob DeFillippo said.

(How’s this grab you . . for a sense of fair play?. . . and getting things done in Washington – for the people?

Any body else getting sick of this?. . .   Jan)

Consumer Protection agcy

Advocate: Working families set up to fail

Obama appointee says credit system is hurting consumers

By Tim Feran THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Elizabeth Warren was in town on a fact-finding mission.

The consumer-credit market is broken because rules regarding credit cards, mortgages and other products are often stacked against customers, said the White House adviser overseeing the creation of a new consumer-protection   agency.

Elizabeth Warren, who is leading the effort to form the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, also said loan contracts “are designed to hide or disguise risks” and are difficult to compare, resulting in “revolving-door debt” for working families.    Warren made the comments yesterday during a fact-finding visit to Columbus.    “Right now, the consumer-credit market is broken,” she said. “It’s working for some who have built their businesses around traps and tricks,” but not for honest families.

Warren said that while she thinks there is a need for access to small loans, she doesn’t like the way some payday- style loans have been structured.    “A model that’s designed to keep those families in revolving-door debt is not good for the families and ultimately it’s not good for the economy.”    Warren’s trip to Columbus was her first fact-finding meeting outside Washington, D.C., since being named to the job by President Barack Obama last month.

Warren has spent much of the first several weeks on the job meeting with financial-industry executives, many of whom fought creation of her bureau.    “It’s been very interesting,” she said, in a talk to reporters before a roundtable discussion with consumer advocates. She said   she has tried to find common ground with the industry leaders, emphasizing her belief that “the role of regulation is not to come in and tell families what they should do, but to get a credit market that actually works.”

Warren praised Ohio Attorney General Richard Corday and his colleagues around the country who are investigating fraudulent foreclosure filings. “Over the last 20 years, there’s been a real attempt on the federal level to keep attorneys general out of consumer issues,” she said. “This agency will be more of a partnership with them. It’s ironic this (the creation of the bureau) happens just as Attorney General Cordray and others remind us how   important they are in consumer issues.”

The creation of Warren’s consumer bureau also comes in the wake of the enactment of credit-card reform, which she praised as “a step in the right direction   ,” to protect consumers against unfair or misleading practices.    Warren joined a discussion of consumer advocates hosted by the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio; Americans for Financial Reform; and Policy Matters Ohio.    The meeting, held at All Saints Lutheran Church in Worthington, was closed to press and public.    But participants said various topics were discussed, such as tax-refund anticipation loans; payday lending; lending servicer issues; and disclosure in credit and mortgage loans.    The discussion also covered credit cards and how easily consumers can get in trouble over debt from the cards.    Senior groups and credit counselors also told Warren about how some people have been harassed for old debt, some of which they can’t verify they ever had.

tferan@dispatch.com

October 21, 2010

Germany’s Immigration

Leader triggers German debate on immigration

CLEMENS BILAN DAPD VIA AP    German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared the nation’s multiculturalism a complete failure.

BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s declaration that Germany’s attempts to build a multicultural society had “utterly failed” is feeding a growing debate over how to deal with the millions of foreigners who call Germany home.    Merkel told a meeting of young members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union that although immigrants are welcome in Germany, they must learn the language and accept the country’s cultural norms — sounding a note heard increasingly across Europe as it battles an economic slump and worries about homegrown terrorism.

“This multicultural approach, saying that we simply live side by side and live happily with each other, has failed. Utterly failed,” Merkel said.    Merkel’s comments were met with applause by the more conservative members of her party, but some Germans in cosmopolitan Berlin argued yesterday that she is out of touch with the country’s daily life.    “I think her statement is very black and white and does not reflect honestly the lifestyle people are living here,” said Daniela Jonas, a German setting up a flea market in Berlin’s diverse Kreuzberg district, where immigrants and native-born Germans live among one another.

Germany and other European countries have grappled with the idea of being immigration nations, and Merkel has long been skeptical of the country’s attempts to build a multicultural society that includes its estimated 5 million Muslims. Many immigrants speak little or no German, work in low-paying jobs or live off government handouts. At the same time, the country faces an aging population and a   shortage of highly skilled workers.

“Germany needs more qualified immigration to maintain its economic advantage and deal with the demographic developments,” said Volker Beck, a lawmaker with the opposition Greens party.    Merkel acknowledged in her Saturday comments that then-West Germany in the 1960s opened its doors to Turkish laborers who helped the nation rebuild from the ruins of World War II. Yet German politicians thought those laborers would eventually return home. Instead, many have stayed and their grandchildren now are starting families here.

A European Championship soccer game between Germany and Turkey last week reflected built-up tensions.   Germany’s star player, Mesut Oezil, who is of Turkish heritage, was whistled and booed by Turkey fans, who outnumbered German supporters in Berlin’s Olympic stadium.    The 22-year-old Oezil has become Merkel’s poster child for successful integration, and Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Saturday that he supported Oezil’s decision to play for Germany instead of his parents’ native Turkey.    Gul also called on Turks living in Germany to learn to speak German “fluently and without an accent,” but he insisted it was up to German politicians to create the opportunities for its Turkish citizens to learn the language and integrate into society.

“That must begin in kindergarten,” Gul told Munich’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. “I have told Mrs.   Merkel that.”    Last week, several German universities launched departments to train imams to lead prayers in German as well as Turkish. Most imams in Germany speak no German.

October 20, 2010

Declining Beef quality – bad for all

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jan Turner @ 11:46 pm
Tags:

Declining beef sales may hurt quality

By Christopher Leonard ASSOCIATED PRESS

AINSWORTH, Neb. — In this Great Plains ranching town, cowboys still lasso steers as part of their daily routine, and cattle producers such as Bob Sears still take pride in the long tradition of raising American beef.    But Sears and many other ranchers say the market for domestic beef has withered to the point where they often receive only a single reasonable bid for their animals — a trend that could eventually mean lesser-quality meat on dinner tables across the country.

The struggle to get a competitive price, they say, is helping to push thousands of producers out of business and might put pressure on others to sell sicker, weaker cows with less-tender, less-flavorful meat and smaller rib-eyes, for example.

“When the marketplace is not profitable, the only recourse a producer has is to cut the cost and try to produce more pounds with less money,” said Bill Bullard, chief executive officer at R-CALF USA, a   Montana-based trade group that represents cattle producers.    The cash market for domestic beef has been declining slowly for years. But cattle producers in the nation’s big ranching states say they have no choice but to sell the vast majority of their cattle to one buyer.

“There’s actually no market. You either give them to these guys, or you have no market,” said Sears, who ran one of Nebraska’s biggest feedlots until declaring bankruptcy in March.    The complaints also have drawn the interest of federal regulators, who are investigating possible antitrust violations in the meat-packing industry. Sears and other cattle producers suspect that meatpackers are quietly cooperating to keep prices low in an area that centers on Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, the region that dominates U.S. cattle production.

  • Industry representatives insist there is no collusion and that the dwindling number of bids reflects broader changes in the way beef is bought and sold throughout the country.
  • Without a competitive   market, experts say, cattle producers could lose the motivation to raise high-quality meat. Some might cut corners on feed and veterinary care.

“Food-animal husbandry requires substantial expenditures,” said Peter Carstensen, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin and former Department of Justice antitrust lawyer. “If you’re not going to be compensated for that, your incentive as a farmer to produce the quality just isn’t there.”   Cattle production is divided into two stages:

  • Ranchers first raise the cattle from birth until maturity,
  • then hand them over to feedlot owners, who “finish” the animals by fattening them before selling them to meatpackers.

Since 1996, plunging profits have caused about 11,000 ranches a year to shut down, according to one industry group. That has coincided with a 27 percent drop in the number of U.S. feedlots in just 13 years.

(For me this is hugely sad.  My own maternal grand-parents farmed in a prairie province of  Canada.  My childhood was enriched with the stories my mother told of the life she knew and loved.  Most of us have some connection to this proud heritage.  It should never have been allowed to fade away for the reasons that it has done so.  For what could be  more rewarding that the rich productive feeling of doing such a great service of growing the food which help s us all survive and be healthy. . .(crops and livestock).     And of course, those reasons have been the greed of the huge corporate conglomerates which control everything and geared always to it’s own bottom line.  Meanwhile,  the soil is debased, de-mineralized,  contaminated and too toxic for man or beast let alone plants.

Most of us are aware that we can not eat the majority of the available food we find in the super-market.  The only places we can hope to get close to dense nutritive value is thru buying organic and this isn’t possible for large cross-sections of our people.   So, our soil is corrupt,  our health is undermined and our farms by the thousands are going out of business which means millions more unemployed.   And our planet suffers.

This is serious stuff.  Our supreme court has given away the candy store to the corporate entities – they already owned everything, now they have the keys to it!  Our elected senate and congress  can’t get along – – well they could of course, but they CHOOSE not to.  People like to say our government is broken – – it is NOT.  The people we are putting in Washington are ill-equipt to handle the job.  Their selfish sides are leading – – not a sense of service or love of country.

Without a capacity for compromise and negotiation, how do we fix anything?  We could “FIX” that “gift” the Supremes     recently gave away – right in congress.  We can vote on anything and change stuff.  It is not cast in stone.  If the overly biased Supreme Court can’t do it’s job in a way which SERVES THE PEOPLE, then, dear brothers and sisters, we can change it.  But we must somehow come to our senses and remember what drove us to become a country and why we love it. . .especially, the way it used to be with those verdant, rolling hills.

We can’t allow the Corporate world to also run our election processes.   This must stop.  I’m just a brassy blogger – where are the brains among us?  Does anyone agree with anything I’ve said?. . .I would kinda like to know. . .JAN)

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