An exchange between My Senator and I about GMOs and food safety..

On May 28, 2009, at 6:31 AM, <senator@feinstein.senate.gov> <senator@feinstein.senate.gov> wrote:

Dear Mr. Saunders:

Thank you for writing to express your views on the “Global Food Security Act of 2009” (S. 384). I appreciate hearing from you on this legislation and welcome the opportunity to respond.

Like you, I believe that Congress must maintain its commitment to a robust foreign aid package designed to help develop and maintain effective food security programs worldwide. Please know that I understand and have noted your concerns about the development of genetically modified food as a means to provide for global food security.

As you may know, on March 31, 2009 the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations favorably reported S. 384 to the full Senate for consideration. Be assured that I have noted your views on how best to further global food security, and will keep your views in mind should the Senate have the opportunity to debate this bill.

Again, thank you for writing. I hope that you will continue to write on matters of importance to you. Should you have any further comments or questions, please feel free to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841. Best regards.

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Further information about my position on issues of concern to California and the Nation are available at my websitehttp://feinstein.senate.gov/public/. You can also receive electronic e-mail updates by subscribing to my e-mail list at http://feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=ENewsletterSignup.Signup.

Dear Senator,

Thanks for your reply.
As for your statement which I am perceiving as a “hinting” without verbally committing to the position of being in SUPPORT of Genetically Modifying Organisms in dangerous and wreckless ways before feeding them to ourselves despite scientific evidence and a great deal of it that suggests that it is endangering to human health and safety to do so? As a public leader it seems that you hold a tenuous position of balance between individual human rights concerns and corporate interests, and possibly without enough time to fully research the information required to make a fully responsible decision about the issue, you have my empathy on that if it is the case. It is on this issue that I urge you to draw the line on the side of human rights concerns, many of your constituency have researched enough to know that GMOs for food is a dangerous proposition, and only valuable to those who would seek to harm human life, justifying the act with statistics, and junk-science. When this comes up on the floor for debate, what will your position be on the issue of GMO’s? You reply that you have noted mine, and neglected to inform me of your position. Am I mistaken in my assumption that you and I have differing views on this issue?

As always, I appreciate you and your efforts,

Stephen Saunders

Don’t Believe the Hype — Fructose Truly is Worse Than Glucose

The average American is in the form of added sugars – the majority of which comes from high fructose corn syrup addictHFCS. As scientists learn more about the problems associated with HFCS, more consumers are seeking products with traditional fruit sugars or sucrose table sugar. The ever powerful corn lobby and its associated industry trade groups have responded by launching an aggressive advertising campaign claiming HFCS is as safe as its natural competitors. But new studies confirm previous studies and indicate a diet high in fructose, as compared to glucose, gained more of the dangerous belly fat that has been linked to a higher risk for heart attack and stroke.

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When Local Goes Industrial

locallygrownThe local food movement is gaining enough popularity to capture the interest of big business. Some of the biggest corporate food companies are looking for ways to greenwash their products. Although it sure beats sourcing their crops from overseas and is a step in the right direction, the following marketing claims can be misleading since the actual processing of these often factory-farm grown products may be anything but local:

–Frito-Lay North America owned by PepsiCo is trying to portray Lay’s potato chips as a local food in the regions where the potatoes are grown.

–ConAgra is trying to say that because Hunt’s canned tomatoes are mostly grown within 120 miles of its processing plant in Oakdale, California, that makes them “local” for Oakdale, and maybe even Californians.

–Kraft is trying to figure out whether people in Wisconsin will buy more pickles if they know the cucumbers that go into a jar of Claussen’s are grown there.

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New Survey Finds a Number of ‘Organic’ Soy Food Brands Importing Beans from China — “Silk” Soy Milk Abandons Organic Ingredients Altogether

“Health conscious shoppers should no longer associate Silk with organic, and should seek the green USDA Certified Organic seal when purchasing soy products… The good news in this report is that consumers can easily find, normally milkwithout paying any premium, organic soy foods that truly meet their expectations.”

Source: Charlotte Vallaeys, a researcher at Cornucopia Institute and the primary author of a new report that ranks mainstream soy brands based on how much they source their beans from U.S. Farmers.

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BRAIN CANCER AND MARIJUANA

Web MD – The active chemical in marijuana promotes the death of brain cancer cells by essentially helping them feed upon themselves, researchers in Spain report. Guillermo Velasco and colleagues at Complutense University in Spain have found that the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, causes brain cancer cells to undergo a process called autophagy. Autophagy is the breakdown of a cell that occurs when the cell essentially self-digests. . . The findings appear in the April 1 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Ganja from my garden

Food Can Kill

eagbmeywexjlhii-58x43-croppedIf you’re looking for reasons why modern agriculture is bad for you, look no further than Sustainable Food blogger Natasha Chart’s post this week examining the negative effects of industrial agriculture on our health. From herbicides linked to cancer to industrial pesticides that cause sexual abnormalities, Natasha asks: Is modern day food going to kill us?

(Read more)

19 MILLION TONS OF DRUGS DUMPED INTO NATION’S WASTE STREAM EACH YEAR

Washington Post – The average American takes more than 12 prescription drug annusally, with more than 3.8 billion prescriptions purchased each year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The most commonly cited estimates from Environmental Protection Agency researchers say that about 19 million tons of active pharmaceutical ingredients are dumped into the nation’s waste stream every year.

The EPA has identified small quantities of more than 100 pharmaceuticals and personal-care products in samples of the nation’s drinking water. Among the drugs detected are antibiotics, steroids, hormones and antidepressants. Last year, [it was] reported that trace amounts of drugs had been found in the water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas; water piped to more than a milllion people in the Washington area had tested positive for six pharmaceuticals.

The EPA does not require testing for drugs in drinking water and has not set safety limits on allowable levels. While the minute quantities now being detected appear not to pose an immediate health risk, according to federal authorities, “there is still uncertainty about their potential effects on public health and aquatic life” over the long term, the EPA’s water chief, Benjamin Grumbles, told a Senate committee last year. But the impact of long-term exposure of drugs on humans as well as on other species is less clear. Hormone-disrupting pharmaceuticals, for example, are one possible cause of a high incidence of “intersex” fish in the Potomac River basin: male smallmouth bass producing eggs, females exhibiting male characteristics.

Until recently, federal guidelines recommended that surpluses of highly toxic medications be flushed down the toilet; the same advice applied to drugs with a high potential for abuse or “diversion” — the industry’s word for what happens, for example, when kids help themselves to the OxyContin or Percocet in their parents’ medicine cabinet. For other drugs, consumers have been directed to adulterate the medication by mixing it with an unpalatable substance — such as cat litter or coffee grounds — and put it out with the household trash.

But this spring, concerns about pharmaceuticals in the water supply led the Office of National Drug Control Policy to amend its advisory, telling consumers to avoid flushing unless the label or patient information specifies that method of disposal. The new guidelines still describe the cat-litter method of putting drugs in the trash, but they also encourage consumers to make use of community drug take-back programs.

COULD IT BE FACTORY FARM FLU?

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F. William Engdahl, Global Research – What are the symptoms of this purported Swine Flu? That’s not at all clear according to virologists and public health experts. They say Swine Flu symptoms are relatively general and nonspecific. ‘So many different things can cause these symptoms. it is a dilemma,’ says one doctor interviewed by CNN. ‘There is not a perfect test right now to let a doctor know that a person has the Swine Flu.’ It has been noted that most individuals with Swine Flu had an early on set of fever. Also it was common to see dizziness, body aches and vomiting in addition to the common sneezing, headache and other cold symptoms. These are symptoms so general as to say nothing.

The US Government’s Center for Disease Control in Atlanta states on its official website, ‘Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that causes regular outbreaks in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen. Swine flu viruses have been reported to spread from person-to-person, but in the past, this transmission was limited and not sustained beyond three people.’ Nonetheless they add, ‘CDC has determined that this swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, it is not known how easily the virus spreads between people.

How many media that have grabbed on the headline ‘suspected case of Swine Flu’ in recent days bother to double check with the local health authorities to ask some basic questions? For example, the number of confirmed cases of H1N1 and their location? The number of deaths confirmed to have resulted from H1N1? Dates of both? Number of suspected cases and of suspected deaths related to the Swine Flu disease?

According to Biosurveillance, itself part of Veratect, a US Pentagon and Government-linked epidemic reporting center, on April 6, 2009 local health officials declared a health alert due to a respiratory disease outbreak in La Gloria, Perote Municipality, Veracruz State, Mexico.

They reported, ‘Sources characterized the event as a ‘strange’ outbreak of acute respiratory infection, which led to bronchial pneumonia in some pediatric cases. According to a local resident, symptoms included fever, severe cough, and large amounts of phlegm. Health officials recorded 400 cases that sought medical treatment in the last week in La Gloria, which has a population of 3,000; officials indicated that 60% of the town’s population (approximately 1,800 cases) has been affected. No precise timeframe was provided, but sources reported that a local official had been seeking health assistance for the town since February.’ What they later say is ‘strange’ is not the form of the illness but the time of year as most flu cases occur in Mexico in the period October to February. . .

Then, most revealingly, the aspect of the story which has been largely ignored by major media, they reported, ‘Residents believed the outbreak had been caused by contamination from pig breeding farms located in the area. They believed that the farms, operated by Granjas Carroll, polluted the atmosphere and local water bodies, which in turn led to the disease outbreak. According to residents, the company denied responsibility for the outbreak and attributed the cases to “flu.” However, a municipal health official stated that preliminary investigations indicated that the disease vector was a type of fly that reproduces in pig waste and that the outbreak was linked to the pig farms.’

Since the dawn of American ‘agribusiness,’ a project initiated with funding by the Rockefeller Foundation in the 1950’s to turn farming into a pure profit maximization business, US pig or hog production has been transformed into a highly efficient, mass production industrialized enterprise from birth to slaughter. Pigs are caged in what are called factory farms, industrial concentrations which are run with the efficiency of a Dachau or Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. They are all conceived by artificial insemination and once born, are regularly injected with antibiotics, not because of illnesses which abound in the hyper-crowded growing pens, but in order to make them grow and add weight faster. Turn around time to slaughter is a profit factor of highest priority. The entire operation is vertically integrated from conception to slaughter to transport distribution to supermarket.

Granjas Carroll de Mexico (happens to be such a factory farm concentration facility for hogs. In 2008 they produced almost one million factory hogs, 950,000 according to their own statistics. GCM is a joint venture operation owned 50% by the world’s largest pig producing industrial company, Smithfield Foods of Virginia. The pigs are grown in a tiny rural area of Mexico, a member of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and primarily trucked across the border to supermarkets in the USA, under the Smithfields’ family of labels. Most American consumers have no idea where the meat was raised.

Now the story becomes interesting.

The Times of London interviewed the mother of 4-year-old Edgar Hernandez of La Gloria in Veracruz, the location of the giant Smithfield Foods hog production facility. Their local reporter notes, ‘Edgar Hernández plays among the dogs and goats that roam through the streets, seemingly unaware that the swine flu he contracted a few weeks ago – the first known case – has almost brought his country to a standstill and put the rest of the world on alert. ‘I feel great,’ the five-year-old boy said. ‘But I had a headache and a sore throat and a fever for a while. I had to lay down in bed.”

The reporters add, ‘It was confirmed on Monday (April 27 2009-w.e.) that Edgar was the first known sufferer of swine flu, a revelation that has put La Gloria and its surrounding factory pig farms and ‘manure lagoons’ at the centre of a global race to find how this new and deadly strain of swine flu emerged.’

That’s quite interesting. They speak of ‘La Gloria and its surrounding factory pig farms and ‘manure lagoons.” Presumably the manure lagoons around the LaGloria factory pig farm of Smithfield Foods are the waste dumping place for the feces and urine waste from at least 950,000 pigs a year that pass through the facility. The Smithfield’s Mexico joint venture, Norson, states that alone they slaughter 2,300 pigs daily. That’s a lot. It gives an idea of the volumes of pig waste involved in the concentration facility at La Gloria.

Significantly, according to the Times reporters, ‘residents of La Gloria have been complaining since March that the odor from Granjas Carroll’s pig waste was causing severe respiratory infections. They held a demonstration this month at which they carried signs of pigs crossed with an X and marked with the word peligro (danger).’ There have been calls to exhume the bodies of the children who died of pneumonia so that they could be tested. The state legislature of Veracruz has demanded that Smithfield’s Granjas Carroll release documents about its waste-handling practices. Smithfield Foods reportedly declined to comment on the request, saying that it would ‘not respond to rumours.’