Connecting the Dots: GMOs and Our Food Future

Monarch_Butterfly_Danaus_plexippus_Milkweed

The recent New York Times editorial, which argues against labeling genetically modified foods (GMOs), is shocking in its shortsightedness. The thrust of the argument is that GMOs pose no risk to consumers; the editorial reads, “there is no reliable evidence that genetically modified foods now on the market pose any risk to consumers.”

But the previous day, the Times published an article noting a startling decline in monarch butterflies — the most in recent decades — which the article attributes to changing weather patterns and changed farming practices. More specifically, the article quotes experts who say that the decline is a result of “the explosive increase in American farmland planted in soybean and corn genetically modified to tolerate herbicides.” The article goes on to say:

“The American Midwest’s corn belt is a critical feeding ground for monarchs, which once found a ready source of milkweed growing between the rows of millions of acres of soybean and corn. But the ubiquitous use of herbicide-tolerant crops has enabled farmers to wipe out the milkweed, and with it much of the butterflies’ food supply.”

Much like bees, the monarch butterfly provides essential pollination for many of our food crops — this pollination is the foundation of our food supply. According to a study by researchers at UC Berkeley, one third of the world’s food supply is dependent on pollinators. Chip Taylor, director of the conservation group Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas said that, “If we pull the monarchs out of the system, we’re really pulling the rug out from under a whole lot of other species.”

To say that GMO crops pose no threat to consumers when their use is clearly debilitating this vital butterfly species, is a careless misrepresentation of the long-term effects these novel crops are having on our food systems and perhaps the very foundation of a secure food future. With greater foresight we must more thoughtfully connect the dots between harm to our environment and harm to ourselves.

 

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post

Prop 37 Fails: Why We Can’t Rely on Policy to Change Our Food System

On Tuesday, Californians voted on Proposition 37, which if passed, would have required the mandatory labeling of genetically-modified foods (GMOs). Ultimately, the proposition failed by a relatively narrow margin: 46.9 percent to 53.1 percent. This indicates that close to half of all California voters (or more than four million people) would like GMOs labeled and greater transparency on the part of the food industry. As for those who voted no, many were likely swayed by the aggressive marketing (read: propaganda) efforts of the Big Food companies that poured more than $45 million dollars into the “No on 37″ campaign.

According to public health lawyer Michele Simon, Big Food companies like Monsanto, Coca-Cola, ConAgra, Nestle, and Kraft, which donated funds to “No on 37″ engaged in lying, scare tactics, misrepresentation, and various dirty tricks to protect their profits and keep California voters uninformed about their food choices.

None of this should surprise anyone who has been paying attention to the power that Big Food corporations wield and the deception they employ to encourage consumers to buy products that are causing harm to their health, the environment and their communities.

The problem with the tactic employed by proponents of Prop 37 is that the food movement attempted to directly confront Big Food in a legislative, policy-based battle. Prop 37 proponents worked in the arena that Big Food controls. Our governmental food agencies are strongly influenced by Big Ag and Big Food through lobbying and PAC donations. As Americans, we function under a state of corporate socialism and in no situation is this more apparent than when it comes to our food.

Engaging a government with deep ties to Big Food was a valiant and courageous effort, but the proposition’s failure shows that the food movement should rely more on itself and less on the government. This is the same government that appointed former head of public policy at Monsanto, Michael Taylor, as deputy commissioner of foods at the FDA. This is also the same government that continually hands out subsidies to the producers of the largest commodity crops like corn and soy, which are predominately (upwards of 90 percent) GMO. The federal government also determines the content of school lunches across the country and exhibited its allegiance to Big Food corporations when Congress voted to keep the designation of pizza as a vegetable in school meals — much to the pleasure of Big Food companies like ConAgra and Schwan’s, which manufacture and sell these products to schools.

Tom Philpot pointed out recently that if that food movement wants to make this bold of a move, it had better be ready for a fight. Or put more pithily, Philpot quotes Omar of The Wire, “‘Come at the king, you best not miss.'”

The real answer to usurping power from corporations like Monsanto, Kraft and Coca-cola lies in navigating terrain these corporations aren’t already deeply entrenched in. The “Yes on Prop 37″ campaign raised nine million dollars to get its message out but was outspent fivefold by Big Food. The food movement learned a valuable lesson in the failure of Prop 37: We can’t outspend Big Food and we can’t out campaign them — but we can outsmart them.

This is precisely why the food movement should be operating with more stealth, savvy and direct-action style engagement. One example of this and an immediate solution to the lack of labeling on GMO foods is for consumers to label foods themselves (visit labelityourself.com). This site provides ready-made warning labels for GMO foods and advocates for guerrilla-style tactics. “Label It Yourself is a decentralized, autonomous grassroots campaign born out of our broken food system,” according to the site. “We have been asking our government to label food products so we can make educated decisions about what we eat. The government has ignored our requests and so we are taking matters into our own hands.”

Mandating the labeling of GMOs in California would have been an enormous victory for the food movement but the fact that Prop 37 failed indicates that we need to speak louder and with more ferocity. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it has become abundantly clear that time is of the essence. Big Ag is the second largest contributor to climate change and it accounts for roughly a third of emissions globally. We can’t wait to be saved from the devastation that climate change is bringing to our communities.

Localizing our food supply and minimizing the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides presents a viable alternative to Big Ag’s devastating forms of food production and has the potential to create truly sustainable and resilient communities. But let’s not wait for legislation or for the government to cut ties with Big Food — let’s cut those ties ourselves as we develop, build, and connect the localized food communities that are forming all over the country. We can create an alternative food infrastructure. It’s time for the “food movement” in its myriad and infinite permutations, to coalesce into a force to be reckoned with. This didn’t happen with Prop 37 or a legislative battle but it can be done. What are we waiting for?

Written by Kristin Wartman and Erika Lade, also published on The Huffington Post

Downsizing Soda: A Drop in the Bucket

The controversy surrounding New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s recent plan to ban sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces ranges from praise for taking on “America’s expanding waistline” to deriding him as a “nanny” for infringing on our personal choices and freedoms. But what’s largely missing from the debate is a real critique of the true villain in this battle—Big Food.

Those who favored the decision heralded Bloomberg: The Washington Post, in an editorial, writes, “The country need [sic] innovative leaders with a similar determination to take on America’s expanding waistline.” Frank Bruni writes in The New York Times, “Cry all you want about a nanny state, but as a city and a nation we’ve gorged and guzzled past the point where a gentle nudge toward roughage suffices. We need a weight watcher willing to mete out some stricter discipline.”

Those who feel our ability to buy a 32-ounce container of Coca-Cola has become the stand-in for civil liberties, such as the Center for Consumer Freedom, placed an ad in New York City newspapers, featuring Bloomberg as a “nanny” with a tagline that reads: “You only thought you lived in the land of the free.” Jon Stewart did a bit last Thursday lamenting the fact that he agreed with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, who said Bloomberg was taking away our personal freedoms. And a New York Times editorial claimed the Mayor was overreaching, writing: “[T]oo much nannying with a ban might well cause people to tune out.”

In the meantime, Big Food still has free reign to produce and market harmful products with virtually no regulation or oversight. So far, the government has been incredibly weak on regulating food producers and advertisements. Last year, the Obama administration proposed voluntary guidelines for the types of food advertised to children. The guidelines were extremely modest, allowing for two-thirds of processed foods to remain unchanged and placed mostly insignificant caps on the allowance of sugar, fat, and sodium in products marketed to kids. Even these voluntary guidelines were called “unworkable and unrealistic” by one prominent industry group.

This is not the case in Europe. In 2007, the French government ordered all food advertisements to carry warning labels telling consumers to stop snacking, exercise, and eat more fruits and vegetables. These warning labels are found in advertisements on television, radio, billboards, and the Internet for all processed, sweetened or salted food and drinks. Other European countries have taken similar measures. In Sweden and Norway, all food and beverage advertising to children is forbidden. In Ireland, there is a ban on TV ads for candy and fast food and the ban prohibits using celebrities and sports stars to promote junk food to kids. According to Pamela Druckerman, author of Bringing Up Bebe, snacking is generally discouraged in France and children eat three meals a day with one small snack around four in the afternoon.

Regulations like those in Europe are the kind that could help to encourage new cultural norms around food in this country—and they don’t target the consumer by banning or taxing particular foods but rather they force corporations to label their unhealthy products and abide by advertising regulation.

Professor and author of Weighing In, Julie Guthman, had this to say about the ban: “Ultimately, I would prefer to see regulation at the point of production. If we as a polity think that sugary drinks are detrimental to public health, we shouldn’t allow them to be produced,” she said in an e-mail. This would surely be a more radical solution since it would place the burden on the corporations rather than the consumer. Guthman said the ban is a better idea than a soda tax because, “A regressive soda tax punishes those who have the least ability to pay.” But she’s weary of the ban since it still targets consumers and  “focuses on the size of the drink which would seem to suggest that individual consumers can’t make good decisions. That is terribly paternalistic,” Guthman said.

The idea of a super-size soda ban is a broader variation of Bloomberg’s proposed plan last year to disallow the purchase of soda with food stamps. Critics of this initiative felt it was also paternalistic and stigmatized the poor who would not be able shop like other consumers. The difference with the current soda ban is that all New Yorkers would be affected and it is here that the ban may potentially bring benefit by creating new cultural norms around food and beverage choice.

A 2010 study completed by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity found that the barrage of fast food advertising makes kids think processed, junk foods are “normal and expected.” The same can surely be said for the increase in portion sizes. As long it is “normal” and culturally accepted to drink a 20, 32 or 64-ounce soda along with that burger and fries people will continue to do so.

As Ronald Bayer, a professor at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia put it in The New York Times, “The behaviors that harm our collective health are not, by and large, the result of bad or foolish individual choices. These “bad habits” are shaped by our culture, social arrangements and commercial interests.”

Ultimately, this ban may prove ineffectual since consumers will still be able to buy the equivalent of the larger size sodas in other ways, like buying two bottles or going to restaurants where refills are free. And of course, sodas are not the only problem when it comes to our unhealthful diets.

Mayor Bloomberg is brave to go head-to-head with Big Food by limiting portion size and trying to create a new norm but this tactic might further distract from the underlying problem of our virtually unregulated toxic and super-sized food supply. If nothing else, the proposed ban highlights the deeply complex and troubling conundrum that our current food system presents. Something clearly must be done—it just seems that regulating and curtailing the powers of Big Food would be a better place to focus our attention rather than merely capping the portion size for one of many sugary, addictive, non-nutritious substances at our never-ending disposal.

Spring is Here! Are You Ready to Occupy Big Food?

Occupy Big Food was on Heritage Radio Network last week with Chef Erica Wides click here to listen to Lets Get Real.

Here’s what host Chef Erica Wides wrote about the show:

In tonight’s episode — Big Foodiness Gets Occupied — I get real about how to snatch food back from the jaws of corporate foodiness with Occupy Big Food co-founder Kristin Wartman; why the McDonalds and Applebee’s crowd or the garden burger and protein bar crowd should care about how their chicken fingers or their Tofu Chik’n Fingers are produced; Wartman’s theory that the Sarah Palin chocolate chip cookie defenders identify with their corporate food kidnappers a la the Stockholm Syndrome; and whether the Occupy Big Food message can realistically get out to the mainstream in time to save food for the future or if real food is going to be permanently replaced by foodiness like Facebook has replaced friends and reality shows have replaced talent.

And this afternoon Occupy Big Food talked with Richard Hill of the Organic Farm Report live on WPKN, which you can listen to here.

Remember this? It’s a picture from our rally at the end of last year in Liberty Park. We are working on new ideas and actions now and will have updates soon. Thanks for tuning in and get ready to Occupy Big Food. Real change is brewing, can’t you feel it?

Warning! May Contain GMOs

February 27th is the Global Day of Action to Occupy Our Food Supply. Occupy Big Food is very concerned about the failure by corporations and our government to label our foods properly. As it stands now, food corporations are not required to label foods that contain ingredients that come from GMO crops. This is largely due to the fact that corporations know warning labels on foods might turn customers off, or will at least spark questions in their minds — questions like, what’s a GMO? Should I be eating it? We believe our government should require GMO foods to have mandatory labels so that consumers can begin to make more informed decisions about what they’re putting into their bodies. Until then, what can we do? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Our food coop in NYC (the largest food coop in the country), with the help of the Non-Gmo Project, is taking another approach and is now requiring that foods be labeled “Non GMO” when free of GMO crops. Grocery stores across the nation could better serve their consumers and communities by doing the same.

We as consumers have a right to know. #F27 is only the beginning, spread the word.

Retailers click here for more information
Consumers click here

Did you know?

  • Most processed and packaged foods contain GMOs, the most recent estimate is 70 percent
  • GMO foods are required to be labeled in 15 European Union Nations as well as Russia, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand. The US is one of the only major food-producing countries in the world that doesn’t require labeling GMO foods
  • GMO crops have shown they carry significant and new environmental harms, including transgenic contamination of natural crops, wild plants, and massive increases in pesticide use
  • Scientists warn that GMOs may: Set off allergies, increase cancer risks, damage soil fertility, produce antibiotic resistant pathogens, damage food quality, harm Monarch butterflies and beneficial insects such as ladybugs, create super-pests, super-weeds, and new plant viruses, produce dangerous toxins, increase the use of toxic pesticides, contaminate organic and non-GMO crops

 Monsanto: The world’s largest GMO company

Monsanto a Near Monopoly

  • Monsanto is the planet’s largest seed vendor: 87 percent of the acreage dedicated to genetically engineered crops contained crops bearing Monsanto traits
  • Monsanto controls more than 95 percent of the nation’s sugar beets, 94 percent of the soybeans, and 88 percent of the corn grown in this country
  • Corn and soy are in everything. They’re in the animal feed in industrial farms and they’re in nearly every packaged and processed food and beverage
  • Next time you pick up a package, if you see corn, soy, cottonseed oil, canola oil, or sugar and they are not organic, you can be pretty certain these are GMO crops
  • Almost any food with oil in it is either Monsanto GMO soy, Monsanto GMO canola, or Monsanto GMO cottonseed oil The bottle that says pure “vegetable oil” is usually 100 percent GMO soy
  • Soy protein (GMO, unless organic) is used in a variety of foods such as salad dressings, soups, imitation meats, beverage powders, cheeses, non-dairy creamer, frozen desserts, whipped topping, infant formulas, breads, breakfast cereals, pastas, and pet foods
  • Soy protein is also used for emulsification and texturizing. Specific applications include adhesives, asphalts, resins, cleaning materials, cosmetics, inks, pleather, paints, paper coatings, pesticides and fungicides, plastics, polyesters, and textile fibers

Monsanto and US Government Ties

  • The biotech industry has spent over half a billion dollars on GMO lobbyists in the last decade, and Michael Taylor, the FDA deputy commissioner for foods, was once vice president for public policy at Monsanto
  • As of April 2011 81 Transgenic crops have been approved by the USDA and not a single request has been denied
  • Monsanto gave $186,250 to federal candidates in the 2008 election cycle through its political action committee (PAC) – 42% to Democrats, 58% to Republicans. For the 2010 election cycle they have given $72,000 – 51% to Democrats, 49% to Republicans

Monsanto’s Creations

  • Monsanto’s genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST) is now owned by Eli Lilly and has come under fire from Breast Cancer Action for links between the consumption of hormone-tainted animal products and rates of breast, colon, and prostate cancer
  • Monsanto brought Agent Orange to the world, a highly toxic, cancer-causing herbicide used in the Vietnam war. Veterans who were exposed to this herbicide have suffered terrible consequences such as rare cancers, skin diseases, multiple sclerosis, birth defects in their children and psychological disorders
  • Monsanto invented polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). PCBs are such toxic chemicals that their production has been banned virtually worldwide and according to EPA data, Monsanto consistently ranks as one of the largest corporate generators of toxic emissions into the US environment. Meawhile PCBs continue to endanger the health of marine mammals, birds, humans and even entire eco-systems
  • Monsanto has made Roundup, its most successful herbicide. Human exposure to Roundup has resulted in nausea, skin and eye inflammation, bronchial constriction and nervous system disorders
  • Monsanto made Alachlor, a pesticide, which the Environmental Protection Agency considers a carcinogen, has caused lung, stomach and nasal tumors in lab animals and has contaminated over 46,000 US drinking water wells

 Monsanto and the Environment

  • The Mississippi River has suffered from the company’s pollution. Its Illinois plant discharges an estimated 34 million pounds of toxins annually into the river. Its Iowa plant which produces alachlor and butachlor, releases at least 265,000 pounds of chemicals per year directly into the Mississippi
  • In 1991, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office fined Monsanto one million dollars for illegally discharging 200,000 gallons of acid-laden wastewater from a plant and failing to report the release immediately
  • In 1990, Monsanto paid 648,000 dollars to settle charges that it allegedly failed to report significant risk findings from health studies to the EPA as required under the Toxic Substance Control Act
  • In 1988, Monsanto agreed to a 1.5 million dollar settlement in a chemical poisoning case filed by over 170 former employees of the company’s Nitro, West Virginia facility
  • Monsanto is responsible for more than 50 United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund sites, attempts to clean up Monsanto Chemical’s formerly uncontrolled hazardous waste sites

A sampling of common foods that most likely contain GMO ingredients

Kellogg’s: Rice Krispies // Corn Flakes // Frosted Flakes // Special K // Apple Jacks // All Bran // Pops // Crispix // Froot Loops // Mini Wheats // Raisin Bran // Pop Tarts // Eggo Waffles // Morning Star Veggie Burgers // Morning Star Vegan Veggie Burgers // Morning Star Chik’n Nuggets // Morning Star Veggie Sausage // Keebler Chips Deluxe // Famous Amos Cookies // Carr’s Table Water Crackers

Kraft/Nabsico: Chips Ahoy Cookies // Capri Sun // Boca Burgers // Cheez Whiz // Cool Whip // Corn Nuts // Crystal Light // Country Time // Honey Maid Graham Crackers // Jell-O // Kool-Aid // Kraft Singles // Lunchables // Maxwell House Coffee // Miracle Whip // Fig Newtons // Oreos // Oscar Mayer // Philadelphia Cream Cheese // Planters Nuts // Polly-O //Ritz Crackers // Snackwell’s // Teddy Grahams // Triscuits // Velveeta // Wheat Thins //

Frito-Lay: Lay’s Potato Chips // Doritos // Tostitos // Cheetos // Fritos // Sun Chips // Cracker Jack // Rold Gold Pretzels // Ruffles // Munchies // Stacy’s Pita Chips // Smartfood Popcorn //

Quaker Oats: Quaker Oats Oatmeal // Life Cereal //Oat Bran // Quick Oats // Instant Oatmeal // Natural Granola // Chewy Granola Bars // Rice Cakes // Grits // Wheat Germ//

Nestle: Nesquick // Butterfinger // Crunch Bars // Kit Kat // Nescafe // Buitoni  // Lean Cuisine // Hot Pockets // Stouffer’s // Coffee-mate // Carnation // Juicy Juice // Nestea // Dreyer’s // Haagen-Das // Nestle Ice Cream Campbell’s Soup: Condensed Soups // Chunky Soup // Select Harvest // Healthy Request // Pace // Pepperidge Farm // Prego // Swanson // V8

What are you doing to Occupy Our Food Supply on F27? Let us know!

Farmers vs Monsanto Rally at Foley Square: Re-Cap

We were so proud to stand with Food Democracy Now and Occupy Wall Street Food Justice to support the farmers in their first preliminary hearing against Monsanto this past Tuesday down at Foley Square in Manhattan. The setting was beautiful, the weather strangely warm and the fervor of support was buzzing! We estimate that around 200 people were there to greet the farmers when they came out of the courthouse after their hearing. We collaborated to create an amazing timeline of the atrocities that Monsanto has committed over the years, from 1901-2011 and had comrades hold them in a visual sign of solidarity. This was a great opportunity for people to see what Monsanto has been up to the last century, from helping to create and push Agent Orange to patenting life.

What’s next for the farmers? Well, the hearing went relatively well, but we are told that Monsanto’s lawyers really played up their corporate victimhood and made themselves seem as if they were being attacked. The judge has until March 31st to make a decision on whether or not this case will go forward. We can only hope that the obvious and just decision will be made: It is time for the organic farmers to be able to farm without the fear of Monsanto’s heavy-hand hovering over them.

On a final note, we want to remind everyone that the best way to avoid GMO (genetically modified organisms) foods is to eat organic, and if that is not possible, the next best thing is to focus on eating less processed, packaged foods and more whole foods.

We will of course keep you posted on what is happening next with the Monsanto case. And stay tuned as we begin to plan the National Day of Food Action that will take place on February 27th, 2012 across the country. We have some great things in the works.

In Solidarity,
Erika and Kristin

Occupy Big Food
 

Stand in Solidary with Farmers & Against Monsanto

Paula Deen: From Big Food to Big Pharma

Paula Deen’s public admission that she has Type 2 diabetes and her follow-up announcement that she is also a paid spokesperson for the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, and its diabetes drug, Victoza, has sparked an interesting debate about the deeper issues surrounding our food system—especially the impact it has on the many people diagnosed with diabetes. And according to Deen’s comments on the Today show, she implies to her millions of fans, that the primary ways to deal with this largely diet-related disease are through personal responsibility and pharmaceuticals.

Indeed, when Al Roker, asks her if she is going to change the way she eats and the foods she cooks, Deen says, “Honey, I’m your cook, I’m not your doctor. You are going to have to be responsible for yourself.” Evading the question, Deen puts the onus back on the individual to decide what foods to eat or not, despite the fact that she promotes unhealthful and processed foods on TV. The one comment she does make about food choice is “moderation,” one of the most meaningless and confusing bits of nutrition advice. In fact, this is what the industry giants often use as their defense for harmful, unhealthful foods.

Personal responsibility and consumer choice are solutions heralded by conservatives and liberals alike—the idea being that ultimately good health comes down to what we choose to buy and eat. But it’s not that simple.

There are three main issues when it comes to the myth of personal responsibility about food choice and they get at the root of our nation’s health crisis: The public’s confusion about nutrition; the lack of time and knowledge about real home cooking; and the promotion of quick fixes like drugs, diet foods, and fads in lieu of addressing underlying causes. The Paula Deen diabetes story manages to hit on every single one of these issues.

Americans suffer from nutrition confusion, thanks to an array of conflicting and often inaccurate public health messages, misleading labels and claims on packaging, and a lack of nutrition knowledge by many doctors, dietitians, and other health care providers.

Deen’s cooking, and now her public diabetes announcement, only adds to this confusion. During the Today show interview she repeatedly mentions the amount of fat in her recipes, as do many in the media reporting on the story. “For 10 years, wielding slabs of cream cheese and mounds of mayonnaise,” a New York Times article begins, “Paula Deen has become television’s self-crowned queen of Southern cuisine.”

But real, unprocessed cream cheese and mayonnaise are not the problem. The issue that mainstream media has largely overlooked is that Deen uses the processed, packaged versions of these foods, which are full of chemicals, additives and trans-fats. Actual home cooking would require whipping these foods up herself in her kitchen using real ingredients. And that is the real story behind Deen’s diabetes diagnosis: Her health problems are largely due to her reliance on packaged, processed foods that are the foundation for many of her recipes.

Even though her cooking show is called Paula’s Home Cooking, there’s a lot going on in her kitchen that is as far removed from home cooking as you can get. Many of her recipes include “ingredients” like Krispy Kreme doughnuts, biscuit mixes, cans of mushroom soup, and sour-cream-and-onion flavored potato chips. This is processed food cooking, not home cooking.

Heaping the blame on all the “fat” she cooks with only serves to confuse the public further. A New York Daily News article also cites fat as one of the main culprits in Deen’s cooking and her diet. But the most recent research indicates that when it comes to diabetes, fat is not the problem. The problem foods are sugar, refined white flour, chemical additives, artificial sweeteners and flavors, trans-fats, and the various other chemicals and additives found in the processed foods that abound in Deen’s recipes.

Now Deen is pushing the idea that taking medicine is the real solution to diabetes. On the Today show, she says, “Here’s what I want to get across to people, I want them to first start by going to their doctor and asking to be tested for diabetes. Get on a program that works for you. I’m amazed at the people out there that are aware they’re diabetic but they’re not taking their medicine.”

According to Deen, the reason she waited three years to go public with her diagnosis was because she didn’t have anything to give her fans. “I could have walked out and said, ‘Hey ya’ll, I have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.’ I had nothing to give to my fellow friends out there. I wanted to bring something to the table when I came forward.” So what is she bringing to the table? A sales pitch for a diabetes drug that costs $500 per month and has some seriously troubling side effects, including thyroid cancer, as Tom Philpott reports.

Just think of the kind of influence she could have wielded had she come out with a new cooking show that focused on using fresh, real food ingredients that cut way back on sugar and refined carbohydrates. In fact, if she had done so and eaten this way for the past three years she might have reversed her own diabetes diagnosis, which is entirely possible given the right diet.

But instead, Deen is getting paid to leave that task to a drug company. This isn’t her first corporate sponsorship (here she peddles Smithfield ham) and I doubt it will be her last. Diabetic and diet foods can’t be far behind in products she’ll attach to her name.

Alas, we can’t fairly discuss personal responsibility without taking into account the under-regulated advertising industry that pushes cheap, convenient, and processed foods on an overworked and cash-strapped population. Add to this the diminishing knowledge on how to shop for, cook, and prepare foods from scratch and we have a serious problem.

As Deen now joins the 25.8 million other Americans suffering with diabetes, she “brings to the table” the ideas of moderation, personal responsibility, and the drug Victoza as the solutions. She could do so much more with all the power she wields.

Anthony Bourdain put it squarely when he said of Deen, “If I were on at seven at night and loved by millions of people at every age, I would think twice before telling an already obese nation that it’s OK to eat food that is killing us.” And this was before her diabetes announcement. Bourdain has also said that Deen is the “worst, most dangerous person to America.” He might have a point.

A Citizen’s Assembly in Support of Family Farmers vs. Monsanto Jan. 31, 2012, NYC

New York, New York – January, 16 2012 –  We wish to assemble free and peaceful citizens outside the Manhattan District court in an effort to present the important message to family farmers that millions of Americans stand behind them as they seek their day in court. In the past two decades, Monsanto’s seed monopoly has grown so powerful that they control the genetics of nearly 90% of five major commodity crops including corn, soybeans, cotton, canola and sugar beets. This has resulted in onerous costs to farmers through high technology patent fees for seeds as well as burdensome litigation costs in defending themselves against lawsuits asserted by Monsanto. 
In many cases organic and conventional farmers are forced to stop growing certain crops in order to avoid genetic contamination and potential lawsuits. Between 1997 and April 2010, Monsanto filed 144 lawsuits against American farmers in at least 27 different states, for alleged infringement of its transgenic seed patents and/or breach of its license to those patents, while settling another 700 out of court for undisclosed amounts. As a result of these aggressive lawsuits, Monsanto has created an atmosphere of fear in rural America and driven dozens of farmers into bankruptcy.

The lawsuit OSGATA (Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association) et al vs. Monsanto was filed on behalf of 300,000 organic and non-GMO farmers and citizens to seek judicial relief in “protect[ing] themselves from ever being accused of infringing patents on transgenic (GMO) seed”. The judge has requested and agreed to hear oral argument in order to make a decision of whether or not to allow the farmers’ case to move forward in the courts after Monsanto filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
“We are family farmers and we are headed to court in New York City on January 31 to let the judge know that our survival as farmers depends on this lawsuit. We’re not asking Monsanto for one penny. We just want justice for our farmers and we want court protection from Monsanto.”
- Jim Gerritsen, OSGATA President and Wood Prairie Farm, ME
 “I don’t think it’s fair that Monsanto should be able to sue my family for patent infringement because their transgenic seed trespasses onto our farm and contaminates and ruins our organic crop. We have had to abandon raising corn because we are afraid Monsanto wouldn’t control their genetic pollution and then they would come after us for patent infringment.  It’s not right.”
-Bryce Stephens, Stephen’s Land and Cattle Co.- Jennnings, KS

We are encouraging supporters of farmers’ rights to grow food without fear and intimidation to assemble outside the courtroom in a peaceful manner to support the farmers in their claims, recognizing that these injustices affect us all and that this case is deserving of the court’s time and attention on January 31, 2012.

Due to limited space, only a small number of individuals will be able to enter the courtroom and listen to the proceedings. We respectfully ask that farmers and plaintiffs in the case be given priority to hear this case in person as each plaintiff has traveled many miles and put a great deal on the line to be a part of this case.
In the spirit of peaceful assembly and respect for the courts, we request that you adhere to the following principles:
 
Principles for Citizens’ Assembly
1. Assemble outside the court in a show of support for family farmers and their right to grow food without the threat of intimidation, harassment or loss of income.
2. Assemble peacefully to present a positive message that America’s citizens stand behind family farmers and support their rights of legal protection under the Constitution.
3. Bring signs that portray messages of:a. Hope b. The positive impacts of sustainable and organic agriculture c. Solutions to our current crisis in food, agriculture and society d. Support for farmers who seek justice in the courts
4. Be respectful of court security requests and follow them faithfully.
5. Maintain a respectful distance from the court entry on Pearl Street, making sure not to block access for foot traffic or vehicles.
6. Maintain a tone of respect for the court and the sanctity of our legal process as the judge hears the merits of this important case.
7. Cell phones, cameras and tape recorders are prohibited inside the courthouse. Those who enter the courthouse must conform to court security protocols.
8. No signs, t-shirts with slogans or other disruptions, visual or otherwise, are appropriate or allowed in the courtroom.
9. No chanting or loud noises allowed outside the courthouse as all must maintain their conduct in ways that are respectful to the judicial process and in accordance with the seriousness of the case.
10. Please follow the instructions of designated assembly captains who will continue to update you as the events of the day unfold.
As advocates for farmers and supporters of a citizen-based democracy we greatly appreciate your support for family farmers and your agreement to act in accordance with these principles in order to guarantee farmers’ rights to grow food without fear and intimidation.
 
Location to Hear Plaintiffs and Attorney Comment After Hearing
Once oral arguments are heard in the court, farmers, plaintiffs and lead attorney Dan Ravicher of the Public Patent Foundation will be available for comments to supporters and the media, at the Southwest Corner on 500 Pearl Street, at Pearl Street and Cardinal Hayes Place.
For those planning on assembling at 9 am, Pearl Street has been recommended to gather respectfully and overflow can gather at Foley Square.
*If link does not work, Google: 45 Cardinal Hayes Place, New York, NY for location of assembly, which is the intersection of Pearl Street and Cardinal Hayes Place.
 
Click here to RSVP to attend the Citizen’s Assembly.
 

From OSGATA: The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association is a not-for-profit agricultural organization made up of organic farmers, seed growers, seed businesses and supporters. OSGATA is committed to developing and protecting organic seed and it’s growers in order to ensure the organic community has access to excellent quality organic seed free of contaminants and adapted to the diverse needs of local organic agriculture. www.osgata.org

Monsanto vs. Organic Farmers — In NYC Court

Jim Gerritsen -- one of the family farmers suing Monsanto

Will Organic Farmers See Their Day in Court?
Judge to consider oral argument in lawsuit against Monsanto

NEW YORK – December 29, 2011 – In a development celebrated by the organic plaintiffs, Judge Naomi Buchwald announced yesterday that oral arguments on Monsanto’s motion to dismiss the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al v. Monsanto will be heard in federal district court January 31, 2012 in Manhattan. Judge Buchwald’s decision will establish if organic farmers are to see their day in court.

The eighty-three family farmers, small and family owned seed businesses, and agricultural organizations comprising the organic plaintiff group represent over 300,000 individuals.  The landmark lawsuit, filed in March 2011, challenges the validity of Monsanto’s transgenic/GMO patents and seeks court protection for innocent family farmers who may become contaminated by Monsanto seed.

“We are grateful that Judge Buchwald has agreed to our request to hear oral argument on the motion,” said Jim Gerritsen, President of lead plaintiff OSGATA. “Last August we submitted our written rebuttal and it made clear that Monsanto’s motion was without merit. Our legal team, from the Public Patent Foundation, is looking forward to orally presenting our position.  The family farmers deserve their day in court. We are anxious that this case go to trial as soon as possible so that our innocent farmers may receive Court protection.”

OSGATA is a membership organization composed primarily of farmers and seed businesses. Their mission is to develop and protect the organic seed industry along with their growers. In an effort to raise funds, OSGATA has launched a “Farmers Travel Fund” enabling family farmers from the plaintiff group to attend the court proceedings and related events.

Background information on the OSGATA v. Monsanto lawsuit may be found at www.osgata.org .

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