March against Monsanto: NYC version


models

First off, if you’re going to have a protest about how we’re all being poisoned, you need to have it led by healthy, well-fed, good-looking people.

Second, you need music and what better music to have than the Occupy Wall Street All-No-Star Band with special guest, Zuccotti Park Sax Guy.

Saturday’s March against Monsanto was everything I expected it to be. The one thing I didn’t expect was how the protest stayed on point. In almost every protest I’ve participated in since the 1970s, there were always groups pimping their own causes(s) which took away from the actual issue of the protest. This one didn’t.

One of the reasons may be this isn’t really an issue that resonates with the wider progressive movement. Or maybe it was just a problem of outreach.

I missed the rally, but I did arrive in time to catch the march to Washington Square where there would be a teach-in where people could discuss the issue in groups. What that meant was let’s stand around looking serious and nod our heads knowingly in agreement. Washington Square was a sea of signs plastered with all the bad science and misinformation and surprisingly, I had very few Woody Allen-Marshall McLuhan moments.

My first encounter was with a guy who had a button that read, Stop Monsanto. Ask me why. I did and he wouldn’t tell me. Seriously. I said, “You have a button that says ask me, so I am.” He sheepishly smiled and responded, “That’s just what the button says.” Then he scurried away.

My next little chat was with a woman manning(?) a table. She was actually very nice and claimed to be a nurse. She echoed the talking points about weed resistance, mono cropping etc. I explained that weed resistance was an age-old problem and farmers have always had to stay one step ahead of the weeds. It wasn’t just a gmo problem. That’s where I got my first dog head tilt.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I asked her if gmos were so dangerous, why were they so popular among farmers? “Well, they want to make a profit, right? Next!

Meandering around and listening in on the discussion groups it dawned on me, every discussion was one talking point after the other. It was like listening to the gmo rerun channel.

I came across a how to detoxify from gmos discussion. It was more a pitch for Isogenics than a real discussion. But even though the audio in this short video is bad at times due to the wind, what I want you to see is the guy at the beginning.  He is rambling on about the new proposed strain of gmo wheat that will eat your liver and kill your kids. He makes another appearance later.

I saw a trio holding signs, one of with the usual gamut of the dangers of gmos. Where did she get her information? “Have you ever heard of the Institute for Responsibility Technology?  I’m not sure if I actually physically cringed, but I had to explain to her the history of Jeffrey Smith.  Second dog head tilt of the day or maybe it was blank stare.

They were thinking of taking their protest show on the road and join some others in Times Square. I warned them that might not be such a good idea because the cops don’t “take kindly to protesters going off the Rez.”  They could wind up in the jail for the holiday weekend.

One guy said, “I’ll ask that cop over there. Here hold this.”  And he handed me his sign. Not wanting to seem like a party pooper, I took it. The result was this damning photo taken at my request.

monsantomonopoly

Finally, I came across Vegan Guy.  He had a nice little crowd.  As I walked up I heard him saying, “Don’t take my word for it. Look it up yourself. Look at the ingredients in vaccines…” I immediately spoke up and asked if he was anti-vax.  He stopped mid-sentence and looked at me, eyes wide and smiled a toothy, Vegan grin,

“I”m not taking about vaccines right now but that is a conversation we can have privately.”

“But are you anti-vax?”

He ignored it and continued talking as I said, “Oh, so you are,” getting a slight giggle from the crowd.

That’s when I noticed Liver Guy standing next to me. I had to talk to this guy. He said he was pro-vaccine which I said was a good thing. I asked him why he called gmos contamination. He told me that just because it’s created in a lab doesn’t mean it’s not contamination.

The conversation turned to pesticides and I asked why Bt was okay when sprayed by organic farmers and not okay when one of the genes was engineered in the plant. I explained Bt was weak and degraded quickly in the environment due to rain and sunshine which necessitates more spraying… Well, you can listen to part of it here.

Now, this was that guy from the earlier video who was talking about the gmo liver, kid killing wheat and he tells me that I should have brought my sources with me? The last line of that audio cracked me up. I told him yes, and his last words to me were, “I’m moving over there,”  and then skedaddled. The audio at that point is weak. I really wanted to post that.

I  didn’t get a chance to ask him if he had his sources with him about the child-killing gmo wheat, but he was gone in a flash. I should have led with that.

So, what did we learn? We learned that although many people had signs about tumerous rats etc, very few them knew who Seralini is and weren’t familiar with his study. Around the same number didn’t know who Jeffrey Smith is.

Among those who did know, there were many head tilts when I mentioned Seralini and Smith were frauds who refuse to publicly debate scientists who want to challenge them.

Probably the biggest eye-opener was that for the first time, the real agenda was out in the wide open. It’s not just about labeling. The end goal is to eliminate gmos. There were no Just Label It signs. It was all about ridding the world of the poison of gmos and sending Monsanto packing. It’s about the misguided notion that if you bring down Monsanto, you eliminate the technology of gmos.

It’s about time the activists running the shows in various states come clean. They’ve been allowed to dance around the issue for too long. Labeling is a red herring. If they feel gmos are so dangerous, then why stop at labeling?

The final takeaway was that, given my non-confrontational conversations, save Liver Guy, I’ve come to believe the fanatical, fire-breathing,  anti-gmo crackpots on the interwebs are just that, crazy keyboard jockeys who have no relation to  their real world counterparts. And that’s the depressing thing. (Although, I have a sneaking suspicion Liver Guy is one of those people and he escaped from the basement. Earlier in our conversation he said he wasn’t there to debate, but to “impart information. Not to discuss or debate, but impart” )

I want the anti-gmo crowd to be this one-dimensional cartoon. It would make it much easier to dismiss them.  Instead, they’re nice, friendly, smart, well-meaning dumbasses. Just the kind of people I could hang around with and well, pretty much do.

Oh, I almost forgot Illuminati Guy. I had no clue what the hell he was talking about, except the fact we were the only ones who are hearing this information. I’m not quite sure what that information is, but I am one of the lucky few outside the Illuminati that knows it.

Is organic farming the boy in the bubble of agriculture?


In their opposition to GMOs, organic farmers point to the possible contamination of their crops. The use of the word contamination in itself is hyperbole and note the qualifier, possible. What they mean is cross-pollination, a less scary sounding word. Their vocabulary is full of maybescould happens, and what ifs?

Organic farmers seem to be feel everything modern is a threat to their crops and it doesn’t even have to be that modern. Conventional farming, large-scale farming, the Moops. Everything seems to be a threat organic farming including food safety rules.

 He and other organic farmers say stricter food-safety regulations, developed after a cluster of outbreaks of bacterial contamination in spinach and lettuce in 2006, threaten the principles upon which their farms are based.

If your principles are at odds with food safety, perhaps you might want to re-think your principles.

The Organic Seed Trade Association (OSGATA) lawsuit against Monsanto is a classic example of paranoid what if thinking.  They sued to have Monsanto promise not to sue organic farmers if their crops get contaminated from neighboring gmo fields. They admitted in court filings that it hasn’t happened yet, but it might happen. 

Monsanto, in response, offered up the reasoning that why would they sue someone who isn’t using, and has no use for their seeds?

Here is an aerial view of the lead plaintiff  Jim Gerritson’s, organic farm taken from their site. Where is this contamination going to come from? Is Monsanto going to fly over his farm in planes dropping seeds so they can sue him?

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Last year, a federal court dismissed the suit. It is currently under appeal.

The latest threat  to organic farms comes to us from Shoreham, Vermont.  Raj Bhatka, is a kind of unlikable guy who was fired from the Trump reality show The Apprentice and ran an unsuccessful campaign for Congress.  He built a rye whiskey bottling plant, Whistle Pig on some farmland and wants to start distilling his own rye whiskey and his organic farming neighbors are against it.  They, you guessed it, feel the distillery might be a threat to their crops.

WCAX.com reports:

Bhatka’s neighbors, George Gross and Barbara Wilson, who own a small organic berry farm called Solar Haven Farm, have voiced concerns about potential traffic, noise and black fungal growth or BFG, which can be produced from ethanol in the fermentation and whiskey-aging process.

“We believe the ethanol could be a potential source [my emphasis] of mold on our crop,” Gross said.

The article says that both sides have spent tens of thousands of dollars in this booze fueled fight. Bhatka says he’s not a rich guy and that “In an attempt to work through the rules, there are ample loopholes for malcontent and slightly insane neighbors with a budget to slow things down.”

His neighbors claim they are not trying to stop him just to ensure he follows the rules. George Gross claims they are not trying to queer his deal. “It’s not our intention to stop WhistlePig. We want them to be compliant with the law and respect the community and neighbors they have.”

When Gross refers to the community and neighbors, he is referring specifically to his farm. The town Selectmen have no problem with Bhatka. And seemingly, neither do most people in the area.

The aptly named Geoff Green, Environmental Commission coordinator for the area said, “Even a whiskey distillery can have potential big impacts on the environment and that’s what it’s all about.”

The angle the Gross’ are using is to claim that Bhatka’s business has been running for two years without a Act 250 permit which is required since his business is not considered a farm. According to state law, to be considered a farm, 50%  of the ingredients have to be grown on the farm. Since the state says the whiskey’s main ingredient is water they don’t qualify, even though they grow rye for their whiskey, organic rye no less.

Organic farming seems to be the Boy in the Bubble of agriculture. Organic farmers are always complaining about threats to their method of farming; and that’s what it is, a method. If organic farming is so fragile, how on earth do they think it is a viable and sustainable way of farming?

After SCOTUS victory, Monsanto calls it quits


Hours after their victory in the Supreme Court, seed and chemical giant Monsanto filed for bankruptcy citing the enormous cost of “buying everybody off.”

At a hastily called press conference, Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant told assembled reporters the company never really thought through their “buying everybody off, scheme .”

“I mean, do you know how many people are in the Nation Academy of Sciences? Something like 2,000. So, a few million to a scientific body here and a few million to every independent scientist in the world there, and it begins to add up.” That’s not even including  having to pay those thousands of keyboard jockeys who defend us on internet comment boards. 

The final straws were the members of the Supreme Court. “Those bastards didn’t come cheap,” Grant sighed.

Anti-gmo activists were left slack jawed. “We just lost our boogeyman,” one activist lamented. “It’s not fair.”

Asked what was next for the bankrupt Monsanto, Grant explained that it was too early to tell, but excitedly suggested they were thinking of getting into the organic farming business.  “Man, do you know what a cash cow that racket is? I was in Whole Foods the other day and they get like 4 bucks for a freakin’ tomato. Sweet. We’ve gotta get in on that action.”

Hours after the announcement, Organic Consumer’s Association honcho Ronnie Cummins and alt-health freak Mike Adams had to be talked down off a Maharishi University rooftop after Jeffrey Smith pleaded with them saying, “Cmon guys. We can still make stuff up about gmos.”

In a related story, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said she planned to retire from the Court and buy the Bronx.

Got Typhoid? The raw milk debate.


In the early 1900’s, New York State  was ravaged by a typhoid epidemic.  One of the main culprits in spreading the disease was contaminated raw milk. (click on image to enlarge)

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New York Times 12/08/07

A year earlier in NYC

milktyphoid

New York Times 02/11/06

That second article notes that  out the 1,322 cases in the City, 51% of all typhoid cases were traced to consumption of raw milk.  Due to the epidemic, New York State implemented mandatory pasteurization.

Fast forward to the present. Communities across the country have been enacting local laws under the name of food sovereignty. What’s food sovereignty, besides a hard word to spell?

Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.  (The International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty)

Apparently, in the United States this translates to mean freedom from state and federal food safety laws, particularly regarding milk and cheese.  There is a movement to exempt milk and cheeses from pasteurization laws, which apparently is an evil tool that only benefits corporations. Yes, these brainiacs want to eat food that is exempt from safety rules.

While these same advocates holler about the safety of gmos, from which not one  illness has ever been found, they champion foods that are known to cause illness and even death…. because they’re natural. These dumbasses truly believe there is no health danger. That is seriously dumbass.

Wait,  did I say dumbass? We’re starting to wade into imbecile territory now.  This is what the Campaign for Real Milk (CFRM) , Missouri has to say

Furthermore, in many children not fortunate enough to have started life on raw milk, raw milk given later in childhood has cured autism, behavior problems, frequent infections, deafness, asthma and allergies and other serious health conditions.

But wait, there’s more

 Raw milk is actually the safest food around (my emphasis) with so much consumer oversight and also with an extremely efficient built-in anti-pathogen mechanism!

In 2012, Missouri raw milk producer,  MooGrass Farms was cited as one of the sources of an  E. coli outbreak which sickened nine people in Missouri. They are listed as one of the raw milk purveyors on the CFRM website.

One raw milk fetishist, Kim Nash quoted in the above link said, “Basically any approach that’s not hand-in-hand with pharmaceutical and big medicine is being attacked.”

According the New York State Department of  Health, since 1993 “over  70 outbreaks of human illness from consumption of raw milk have been reported nationwide, affecting over 1,500 people and causing 185 hospitalizations and 2 deaths.”  There is a proviso regarding those statistics. There is very strong evidence the New York State Department of Health is in the udders of Big Milk.

In 2012, a multi-state campylobacter outbreak was traced to a Pennsylvania farm that sold unpasteurized milk. The contamination resulted in 148 illnesses.

Elsewhere in 2012:

Listeria Found in Pennsylvania Stump Acres Farm Raw Milk

2013:

Salmonella Outbreak Launches Search For Rogue Cheesemaker

Raw Milk May Have Sickened Three in Wisconsin with E. coli

The above are just a few samples of food  illnesses linked to raw milk and cheese. In the last year, hundreds have been sickened.

Approximately 29 states have laws allowing the sales of raw milk or raw milk products.  But due to the amount of illnesses caused by these products, some states that don’t allow the sales seem to content to keep it that way.

Last month, Indiana legislators allowed two raw milk bills to die without a vote, citing  an Indiana Board of Animal Health (BOAH) report  commissioned by the General Assembly. The report cited the dangers inherent in raw milk but ultimately wrote that it was more of a political decision. 

Even with the known risks associated with consuming unpasteurized milk, some consumers are demanding legal access to raw milk. BOAH cannot quantify this demand.

BOAH believes that pasteurization is a practice that is highly effective in reducing the risk of human illness from pathogens in raw milk. Distributing raw milk for human consumption will increase the risk that someone will become ill from consuming raw milk. But the decision to authorize or not the sale of unpasteurized milk to consumers is ultimately a political decision.

It was nice to see a legislature defer to the experts to decide an issue, unlike what’s been happening with the gmo issue. Although, the fact they let it die and didn’t have a vote speaks volumes. More than likely they didn’t want to have to deal with the shrill noise that would have emanated from the raw milk crowd.

So, while the chance of another typhoid epidemic is slim, the danger of illness due to raw milk still exists.

The Turtles: Can’t You Hear the Cows

Ancient Sumerians vs. Modern Greens


One of the mantras of Greens and the Organics is how we have to work in harmony with nature instead of against it.  They also decry the idea of food as a commodity and industrial agriculture.  They would have hated the ancient Sumerians.

The Sumerians invented agriculture around 4,000 B.C.  They mono-cropped. They diverted water needed for  irrigation from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers by means of dams, dykes and canals.  They became, as we learned in school,  the Fertile Crescent.  They had a surplus of food.

The Sumerians practiced what modern day Greens despise,  industrial agriculture.  With this taming of nature, came an abundance of food which the Sumerians used in trade. Yes, they used food as a commodity.

Farmland was considered the private property of the farmer. If a farmer’s crop didn’t yield enough, he might borrow food and seed from a neighbor with the hope that the next year’s yield would be enough that he could pay his neighbor back. If that didn’t happen, the debtor farmer could lose his land to his lender or work for him as a sharecropper.

The large scale farming that led to the surplus of food meant that not everyone had to farm. This allowed time for people to develop new interests and invent new things, like the first written language and the  wheel.  

The modern day Organic/Green, (MGO) mindset is one that is at odds which the Sumerian culture. While the  Sumerians pursued modernization and progress, the MGOs want a return to some imaginary past, when nature was pristine. Nature hasn’t been pristine since humans first climbed from the slime.   They want everyone to farm. They want civilization to remain in a labor intensive pursuit.

With the advent of “modern” farming in the late 1800s to the present,  farmers have eagerly adopted new technology and methods to make their back breaking lives easier and enjoy more of the monetary fruits of their labor.  I’d be willing to bet dollars-to-doughnuts if you took a farmer from the late 1800s and brought him into the present, he would be aghast at the organic movement.  If he saw how organic farmers eschewed modern agricultural technology he couldn’t even have dreamed of in his day, he would think they were nuts.

Hell, even though they still farm by hand, the Amish use GMOs.

Ironically the loss of productivity they have due to farming entirely by hand is compensated for by the increased yield of the crop. The use of GM also allows them to not use pesticides, which they see advantageous. ”I myself like biotechnology,” said Amish farmer Daniel Dienner, “I feel it’s what the farmers will be using in the future.”

When you get “technolapped” by the Amish, as a friend on Twitter mused, it may be time to re-think your strategy.

Look at the history of farming. As modern farming started ramping up in the 1890s  it took 35-40 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels of corn.   By the 1980s it took 2-3/4 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels.

I looked for the same statistics for organic, but they were hard to come by. I did come across this article Economics of Organic Production.  The article admits that labor costs are higher, and yields lower, but those things are offset by the price commanded by the crops.

The study was done by an organization called SARE, Sutainable Agriculture Research & Education. They make a claim, which I doubt, that claims organic farming’s yields can be 90-95% of conventional farming.  An analysis of  USDA statistics by plant pathologist Steve Savage belies this claim. Anyway, the article is interesting since it looks strictly at the economics of organic farming.  Their conclusion is that although organic farming crop yields are lower than conventional, that deficit is made up in the prices organic crops command.

Yup. There it is. Organic agriculture may produce less, but the profits make up for it. So much for feeding the world.

So, back to the Sumerians.  What happened?  Until recently, the common thought was that it was their industrial agriculture methods that sealed their doom; that it created all kinds of bad environmental problems. It wasn’t. It was a drought; a drought that lasted 200 years.

Several geological records point to a long period of drier weather in the Middle East around 4,200 years ago, Konfirst said. The Red Sea and the Dead Sea had increased evaporation; water levels dropped at Lake Van in Turkey, and cores from marine sediments around that period indicate increased dust in the environment.

http://www.livescience.com/25221-drought-killed-sumerian-language.html

If the green/organic crowd had been in charge back then, we’d still be drawing pictures instead of having a written language. Oh, and no cars or the favorite of the Greens, bicycles, because there wouldn’t have been enough free time to invent the wheel.

The dark side of the anti-GMO movement


greenpeacerice

Each year in Third World countries, millions of children go blind or die from the lack of Vitamin A. Wouldn’t it be great if scientists could come up with an easy solution to this human disaster? Well, they did.

Professor Ingo Potrykus of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Peter Beyer of the University of Freiburg in Germany found a solution. They created something called Golden Rice. It is rice genetically modified to produce higher amounts of vitamin A.

Given that rice is a staple in Asia and elsewhere, this was an easy way to help poor children get the nutrients they need. This beneficial creation didn’t go unnoticed by the anti-GMO/Organic activists and they wasted no time in attacking it. They have spread all kinds of unfounded rumors and lies about Golden Rice.

When MIT researchers conducted a trial with children in China, not to determine if they rice was safe, (it is) but to see if the rice did indeed deliver adequate amounts of Vitamin A, Greenpeace launched a propaganda campaign, accusing the researchers all kinds of ethical violations and using the kids, unwittingly as guinea pigs. They made such a racket that the Chinese Government freaked out and fired the Chinese researchers involved and paid compensation to families.

Greenpeace and others have continued their assault, holding up approval of this modern life saving measure. In the meantime, millions of kids are going blind and dying.  It is unconscionable and cruel, but that’s what the anti-GMO movement has become.

Greenpeace, a $300 million a year enterprise, full of well-fed, healthy, sighted westerners is advocating denying a life saving measure to poor children because their worldview disagrees with GMOs. It’s grotesque. There should be some way to haul them into the European Court of Human Rights.  That may sound like hyperbole, but considering they are campaigning to thwart life saving measures for millions of children, they should be held accountable.

But they aren’t the only ones waging a murderous campaign. Other groups and activists like Vandana Shiva also oppose saving children and starving people because the food may be GMO. As I wrote back in January,

Needless to say she hates GMOs.  This is where her rhetoric becomes dangerous. She hates them so much that she attacked OXFAM on their GMO stance when they were engaged in cyclone relief efforts in Orissa, a state on the southeast coast of India. She tried to persuade them to not supply GMO foods writing in an open letter that “We hope your food aid will be G.E. free.”  Shiva’s groupWomen for Diversity demanded the Indian government “immediately withdraw the corn-soya blend from Orissa.” Apparently it was better for people to starve rather than eat GMO food.

She hates “golden rice,” a non-commercially developed GMO rice with higher levels of Vitamin A which can prevent blindness in children. Millions of Third World children go blind each year due to lack of Vitamin A, yet Shiva would deny these children because GM is evil bad and golden rice is a“myth” and negates, “nature’s diverse gifts and women’s knowledge of how to use diversity to feed their children and families.” 

This descent into  cruelty can be traced back to 2002 in Zambia. At the time, the country faced food shortages and people were starving. The U.S sent food to help alleviate the disaster. Then, in waltzed foreign activist groups who convinced the Zambian Government that the food was “poison.” Zambia then warehoused all the food aid and refused to distribute it to their starving people.

The president of Zambia said today that his country, which is inching toward famine, would continue to refuse relief food that may be genetically modified, calling such food ”poison” and saying it is ”intrinsically dangerous.” ”I’m not prepared to accept that we should use our people as guinea pigs,” Mr. Mwanawasa said.

“Poison.”  “Dangerous.” “Guinea pigs.” Sound familiar?

The anti-GMO movement has decided the ends justify the means. They blatantly and without remorse, peddle dangerous nonsense.  When they aren’t peddling the imagined dangers of GMOs, they are vociferously defending and trying to rehabilitate the reputation of  the anti-GMO Gilles-Eric Seralini,  whose widely discredited RoundUp studies on rats was widely condemned by the scientific community.

In his quest to prove harm, he chose rats prone to tumors and allowed them to live longer than ethically acceptable in order to be able to show hideous pictures of rats with gigantic tumors. Science ethics experts, having seen the disturbing images could tell that Seralini had crossed ethical parameters in the use of animals in experiments.

A recent report by experts in medicine, pathology, food regulation and plant science found that Seralini’s study showed a “regrettable example of failures at multiple levels during the execution and communication of research.

The study appeared to sweep aside all known benchmarks of scientific good practice and, more importantly, to ignore the minimal standards of scientific and ethical conduct in particular concerning the humane treatment of experimental animals.

The report also says that there was an “abject failure” to “treat the experimental animals in a humane manner within standards of regulatory authorities, with the aim of “propagandising”.

The ends justify the means.

UPDATE:  At a recent Academia Europaea conference at Cambridge University, the co-inventor of Golden Rice said,

“If our society will not be able to “de-demonise” transgenic technology soon, history will hold it responsible for death and suffering of millions: people in the poor world, not in overfed and privileged Europe, the home of the anti-GMO hysteria.”