Sunday, July 08, 2012

Monsanto May Lose Billions in Brazil Over "Monsanto Tax"

Monsanto May Lose Billions in Brazil Over "Monsanto Tax"


By Dr. Mercola
Brazil, the second-largest producer of genetically modified (GM) crops (after the U.S.), is the latest country to take a stand against biotech giant Monsanto, which could end up handing over at least $2 billion as a result.
A war has been waging against Monsanto in Brazil for nearly a decade, virtually ever since the country legalized farming of GM crops in 2005.
Since then, Monsanto has been charging Brazilian farmers double – once for their seeds, and again when they sell their crops.

Farmers Have Had Enough With Monsanto’s Royalty Taxes and Penalties

In case you’re wondering how Monsanto has risen to the ranks of a superpower, a major reason is their patent on GM seeds, like the GM soya seeds in Brazil, which account for nearly 85 percent of the country’s total soybean crop. Each GM seed is patented and sold under exclusive rights.
Therefore, farmers must purchase the GM seeds every year, because saving seeds (which has long been the traditional way) is considered to be patent infringement. Anyone who does save GM seeds must pay a license fee to actually re-sow them.
But that’s not all.
In Brazil, Monsanto has charged farmers a 2 percent royalty fee on all of their Roundup Ready sales since 2005! And, they test all of the soy seeds marketed as “non-GM” to be sure they don’t contain any Monsanto seeds. If they are found to contain the patented seeds, the farmer is penalized close to 3 percent of his sales!
The issue with the latter penalty is that GM soy is very hard to contain, and often contaminates nearby fields. So farmers are forced to pay a penalty for having their fields contaminated with GM crops, through no fault of their own – and likely against their wishes entirely!
For years now, farmers have been taking Monsanto to court over their excessive fees and taxes, and in 2009, a group of farmers sued the company, claiming the Monsanto tax was illegal because it was impossible to keep the GM seeds away from the non-GM varieties.
A judge ruled that the tax was illegal, especially since the patents on Roundup Ready seeds in Brazil already expired. Monsanto was ordered to stop collecting all royalties … and to return all the royalties collected since 2004 – an amount that could add up to a minimum of $2 billion!
Monsanto appealed, but in June 2012 the Supreme Court dismissed it, so it looks like Monsanto is going to be getting their just deserts.

France, India Also Find Monsanto Guilty

Earlier this year, a French court found Monsanto guilty of chemical poisoning in a case involving a French farmer, who suffered neurological problems after exposure to Monsanto’s Lasso weed killer. A few years before that, a French court again found Monsanto guilty, this time of falsely advertising its Roundup herbicide as "biodegradable," "environmentally friendly" and claiming it "left the soil clean."
France has also recently asked the European Commission to suspend Monsanto's authorization to plant genetically modified MON 810 corn, citing "significant risks for the environment" shown in recent scientific studies (Germany has also banned the cultivation of MON 810 corn).
Meanwhile, India's National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), a government agency, is suing Monsanto and their collaborators, the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company, for stealing local varieties of eggplant to develop a genetically modified version.
India requires that any entity attempting to use a native plant for commercial or research purposes must first get approval; Monsanto, however, neglected to do this, opting instead to essentially steal the native plants in order to modify them for their own commercial gain
The case marks the first time a government has accused Monsanto of biopiracy, and the results could set an important precedent for the future of the food supply.

Monsanto Involved in Lawsuits Over Mass Contamination, Illnesses

Monsanto is also facing a class-action lawsuit involving tens of thousands of residents from Nitro, West Virginia, where a Monsanto chemical plant produced the herbicide 2,4,5-T, a component of Agent Orange; the suit alleges the company spread toxic substances, primarily carcinogenic dioxins, all over the city.
And in Anniston, Alabama, a Monsanto plant produced toxic chemicals called PCBs, polychlorinated biphenyls, from 1929 until 1971, and they heavily contaminated soil and waterways in the area. Even though PCBs were banned in the United States in the late 1970s, they persist in the environment for decades and possibly even for centuries. In other words, almost all of the toxic PCBs that Monsanto released are still there.
Class-action lawsuits – to the tune of $600 million – were settled and paid, and an additional $100 million went toward cleanup, but still area residents are struggling with health issues as a result. Recently, research revealed that Anniston residents, who are one of the most highly exposed populations to PCBs in the world, have a significantly higher rate of diabetes, for instance.i

It’s No Secret: Monsanto’s Behavior is Unconscionable

The cat is out of the bag, so to speak, and it is now becoming common knowledge why Monsanto is top on list of immoral and destructive corporations. City Watch recently put together a tidy list of some of the “highlights” of Monsanto’s controversial past:ii
  • “Contributed to the research on uranium, for the Manhattan Project, during WWII.
  • Operated a nuclear facility for the U.S. government until the late 1980s.
  • Top manufacturer of synthetic fibers, plastics and polystyrene (EPA’s 5th ranked chemical production that generates the most hazardous waste).
  • A top 10 US chemical company.
  • Agriculture pesticides producer.
  • Herbicide producer - herbicides 2,4,5-T, Agent Orange, Lasso, and DDT.
  • Agent Orange (used in Vietnam), had the highest levels of dioxin and contaminated more than 3 million civilians and servicemen of which only partial compensation awarded.
  • Nearly 500,000 Vietnamese children were born deformed and never compensated.
  • Lasso was banned in USA, so weed killer “Roundup” is launched in 1976.
  • A major producer of both dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which generated many law suits and environmental cleanups
  • $180 million settlement for Vietnam War veterans exposed to Agent Orange
  • Fined $1.2 million for concealing the discharge of contaminated waste water
  • Ordered to pay $41.1 million due to hazardous waste dumping
  • Paid $600 million in settlement claims to more than 20,000 Anniston residents [for PCB contamination].
  • Produced GM cattle drug, bovine growth hormone (called rBGH or rBST)
  • Acquiring seed companies from the 1990’s and forward.
  • Monsanto Filed 144 lawsuits against struggling farmers and settled out of court with 700 farmers, for reportedly violating seed patents. A full time staff of 75 Monsanto employees investigates patent infringement. They are dedicated solely to finding farms that have been contaminated by their unwanted seed. As of 2007, Monsanto was awarded in 57 recorded judgments against farmers a total of $21,583,431.99.”
Of course, Monsanto’s foray into genetic engineering is perhaps their biggest insult of all, threatening the very future of the food supply. For a concise explanation of many of the problems surrounding GM crops, watch the video below.

Monsanto Has a Firm Grip on the U.S. Government

Once you realize just how many of Monsanto's employees have shifted into positions of power within the federal government, it suddenly becomes a lot easier to see how this biotech giant managed to rake in a net income of $126 million for the first quarter of fiscal year 2012,iii despite being the mastermind behind some of the most dangerous products known to man.
Even if you have friends in high places, it never hurts to spend millions of dollars lobbying the U.S. government just to make sure legislation goes in your favor, and Monsanto does just that.
In the first quarter of 2011, for instance, Monsanto spent $1.4 million on lobbying the federal government -- a drop from a year earlier, when they spent $2.5 million during the same quarter. If we all had several million to drop solely on lobbying efforts, suffice it to say the world would be a very different place. Unfortunately, it's primarily multinational corporations like Monsanto that have this type of clout, and they use it to increase their power, wealth and control -- not only in the United States, but throughout the entire world.

FDA Eliminates 1 Million Signatures for GMO Labeling on ‘Technical’ Reasons

Mandatory labeling may be the only way to stop the proliferation of genetically engineered foods in the U.S., but simple petitions will likely fail. We strongly support state initiatives, such as California’s ballot initiative to get mandatory labeling for genetically engineered foods sold in their state. A recent story highlights why state initiatives in particular are so vitally important.
It’s a brazen example of how the FDA completely ignores the people it’s supposed to listen to and protect ... The agency actually decided to eliminate and disregard over a million U.S. citizens’ signatures and comments collected by the Just Label It campaigniv. Organizers of the campaign said they gathered more than 1 million signatures of people who want to know what’s in the foods they’re eating. But the whole effort ended up being for naught as the FDA declared that signatures on form letters don’t count.
According to the Chicago Tribunev:
“The agency says that if 35,000 people, for instance, sign their name to the same form letter it only counts as one person or “comment.” And if tens of thousands sign a petition, they are only counted as one “comment,” too.”
Therefore, under the FDA counting method, the 1 million signatures were whittled down to a measly 394 people asking for labeling ... The FDA says it’s still considering the issue, and that they would let the Just Label It group know if, and when, they make a decision on whether they would mandate labeling of genetically engineered foods.

Proof Positive that GMO Labeling WILL Change the Food Industry

Many don’t fully appreciate the strategy of seeking to have genetically engineered foods labeled in California. The belief is that large food companies would refuse to have dual labeling; one for California and another for the rest of the country. It would be very expensive, not to mention a logistical nightmare. To avoid the dual labeling, many would likely opt to not use genetically engineered ingredients in their product, especially if the new label would be the equivalent of a skull and crossbones.
This is why we are so committed to this initiative, as victory here will likely eliminate most genetically engineered foods from the US.
Powerful confirmation of this belief occurred in early 2012 when both Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo Inc. chose to alter one of their soda ingredients as a result of California’s labeling requirements for carcinogensvi:
“Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. are changing the way they make the caramel coloring used in their sodas as a result of a California law that mandates drinks containing a certain level of carcinogens bear a cancer warning label. The companies said the changes will be expanded nationally to streamline their manufacturing processes. They've already been made for drinks sold in California.”
This is a PERFECT example of the national impact a California labeling mandate can, and no doubt WILL, have. While California is the only state requiring the label to state that the product contains the offending ingredient, these companies are switching their formula for the entire US market, rather than have two different labels. According to USA Today:
“A representative for Coca-Cola, Diana Garza Ciarlante, said the company directed its caramel suppliers to modify their manufacturing processes to reduce the levels of the chemical 4-methylimidazole, which can be formed during the cooking process and as a result may be found in trace amounts in many foods. "While we believe that there is no public health risk that justifies any such change, we did ask our caramel suppliers to take this step so that our products would not be subject to the requirement of a scientifically unfounded warning," Garza-Giarlante said in an email.”

Learn More about Genetically Engineered Foods

Due to lack of labeling, many Americans are still unfamiliar with what genetically engineered foods are. We have a plan to change that, and I urge you to participate and to continue learning more about genetically engineered foods and helping your friends and family do the same.
To start, please print out and use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, created by the Institute for Responsible Technology. Share it with your friends and family, and post it to your social networks. You can also download a free iPhone application, available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.
Your BEST strategy for now, however, is to simply buy USDA 100% Organic products whenever possible, (as these do not permit genetically engineered ingredients) or buy whole fresh produce and meat from local farmers. The majority of the genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) you're exposed to are via processed foods, so by cooking from scratch with whole foods, you can be sure you're not inadvertently consuming something laced with altered ingredients.
When you do purchase processed food, avoid products containing anything related to corn or soy that are not 100 percent organic, as any foods containing these two non-organic ingredients are virtually guaranteed to contain genetically engineered ingredients, as well as toxic herbicide residues.
To learn more about genetically engineered foods, I highly recommend the following films and lectures:

Important Action Item: Support California's Ballot Initiative to Label GMO's!

In 2007, then-Presidential candidate Obama promised to "immediately" require GM labeling if elected. We’re still waiting...
Fortunately, 24 U.S. states have (as part of their state governance) something called the Initiative Process, where residents can bring to ballot any law they want enacted, as long as it has sufficient support. California has organized just such a ballot initiative to get mandatory labeling for genetically engineered foods sold in their state. Michigan and Washington are also starting similar campaignsvii. Since California is the 8th largest economy in the world, a win for the California Initiative would be a huge step forward, and would likely affect ingredients and labeling nation-wide.
A coalition of consumer, public health and environmental organizations, food companies, and individuals has already submitted the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Actviii to the State Attorney General. They needed 800,000 signatures to get the Act on this year's ballot, and they succeeded! The next step is the campaigning. Remember, if California can get the law passed in November, it’s going to have the same impact as national law, because large companies are not likely going to label their products as genetically engineered when sold in California, but not when sold in other states. Doing so would be a PR disaster. So it’s going to have an impact on national labeling, even if other states do not create initiatives of their own.
Thousands of volunteers have already been enlisted, but more are needed. It’s going to be an enormous battle, as the biotech industry will outspend us by 100 to 1, if not more, for their propaganda.
Needless to say, the campaign needs funds. So if you have the ability, I strongly encourage you to make a donation. But they also need more volunteers, because that’s how we’re going to win this battle. The biotech industry may outdo us in funding ability, but we as consumers still outnumber them. Pamm Larry, the California grandmother who created the initiative, is correct when she says we need to reach every single California community—large and small.
I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can. Be assured that what happens in California will affect the remainder of the U.S. states, so please support this important state initiative, even if you do not live there!
  • If you live in California and want to get involved, please contact LabelGMOs.org. They will go through all volunteer requests to put you into a position that is suitable for you, based on your stated interests and location
  • No matter where you live, please help spread the word in your personal networks, on Facebook, and Twitter. For help with the messaging, please see LabelGMOs.org’s “Spread the Word!” page
  • Whether you live in California or not, please donate money to this historic effort, either through the LabelGMOs.org, or the Organic Consumers Fund
  • Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the California Ballot. It may be the only chance we have to label genetically engineered foods.
  • Distribute WIDELY the Non-GMO Shopping Guide to help you identify and avoid foods with GMOs. 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. You can also download the free iPhone application that is available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.
  • For timely updates, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
  • Look for in-depth coverage of the issue at the Institute for Responsible Technology, subscribe to Spilling the Beans, and check out their Facebook or Twitter.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

'NAFTA on Steroids': The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a Global Corporate Coup D'Etat

we face a race against time—much of the TPP text has been agreed on. Will the banksters, Big Pharma, Big Oil, agribusiness, tobacco multinationals and the other usual suspects get away with this massive assault on democracy? Will the public wake up to this threat and fight back, demanding either a fair deal or no deal? The Doha Round of WTO expansion, the FTAA and other corporate attacks via “trade” agreements were successfully derailed when citizens around the world took action to hold their governments accountable. Certainly in an election year, we are well poised to turn around the TPP as well. To learn more and get involved, go to tpp2012.com.

Monday, July 02, 2012

The Dark Side of Recycling - Rendering Plants

The Dark Side of Recycling - Rendering Plants

The Dark Side of Recycling - Rendering Plants
from Earth Island Journal
(Don't read if you have a weak stomach)

"The rendering plant floor is piled high with ’raw product’: thousands of dead dogs and cats; heads and hooves from cattle, sheep, pigs and horses; whole skunks; rats and raccoons --all waiting to be processed. In the 90-degree heat, the piles of dead animals seem to have a life of their own as millions of maggots swarm over the carcasses.
"Two bandanna-masked men begin operating Bobcat mini-dozers, loading the ‘raw’ into a 10-foot-deep stainless-steel pit. They are undocumented workers from Mexico, doing a dirty job. A giant
auger-grinder at the bottom of the pit begins to turn. Popping bones and squeezing flesh are sounds
from a nightmare you will never forget.

"Rendering is the process of cooking raw animal material to remove the moisture and fat. The rendering plant works like a giant kitchen. The cooker, or ‘chef,’ blends the raw product in order to maintain a
certain ratio between the carcasses of pets, livestock, poultry waste and supermarket rejects.

"Once the mass is cut into small pieces, it is transported to another auger for fine shredding. It is then cooked at 280 degrees for one hour. The continuous batch cooking process goes on non-stop 24 hours a day, seven days a week as meat is melted away from bones in the hot 'soup.’ During this cooking process, the soup produces a fat of yellow grease or tallow that rises to the top and is skimmed off. The cooked meat and bone are sent to a hammermill press, which squeezes out the remaining moisture and pulverizes the product into a gritty powder. Shaker screens sift out excess hair and large bone chips. Once the batch is finished, all that is left is yellow grease, meal and bone meal.
"As the American Journal of Veterinary Research explains, this recycled meat and bone meal is used as ‘a source of protein and other nutrients in the diets of poultry and swine and in pet foods, with lesser amounts used in the feed of cattle and sheep. Animal fat is also used in animal feeds as an energy source.’ Every day, hundreds of rendering plants across the United States truck millions of tons of this ‘food enhancer’ to poultry ranches, cattle feed-lots, dairy and hog farms, fish-feed plants and pet-food manufacturers where it is mixed with other ingredients to feed the billions of animals that meat-eating humans, in turn, will eat.
"Rendering plants have different specialties. The labeling designation of a particular ‘run’ of product is defined by the predominance of a specific animal. Some product-label names are: meat meal, meat by-products, poultry meal, poultry by-products, fish meal, fish oil, yellow grease, tallow, beef fat and chicken fat.
"Rendering plants perform one of the most valuable functions on Earth: they recycle used animals. Without rendering, our cities would run the risk of becoming filled with diseased and rotting carcasses. Fatal viruses and bacteria would spread uncontrolled through the population.
"Death is the number one commodity in a business where the demand for feed ingredients far exceeds the supply of raw product. But this elaborate system of food production through waste management has evolved into a recycling nightmare. Rendering plants are unavoidably processing toxic waste.
"The dead animals (the ‘raw’) are accompanied by a whole menu of unwanted ingredients. Pesticides enter the rendering process via poisoned livestock, and fish oil laced with bootleg DDT and other organophosphates that have accumulated in the bodies of West Coast mackerel and tuna.
"Because animals are frequently shoved into the pit with flea collars still attached organophosphate-containing insecticides get into the mix as well. The insecticide Dursban arrives in the form of cattle insecticide patches. Pharmaceuticals leak from antibiotics in livestock, and euthanasia drugs given to pets are also included. Heavy metals accumulate from a variety of sources: pet ID tags, surgical pins and needles.
"Even plastic winds up going into the pit. Unsold supermarket meats, chicken and fish arrive in styrofoam trays and shrink wrap. No one has time for the tedious chore of unwrapping thousands of rejected meat-packs. More plastic is added to the pits with the arrival of cattle ID tags, plastic insecticide patches and the green plastic bags containing pets from veterinarians.
"Skyrocketing labor costs are one of the economic factors forcing the corporate flesh-peddlers to cheat. It is far too costly for plant personnel to cut off flea collars or unwrap spoiled T-bone steaks. Every week, millions of packages of plastic-wrapped meat go through the rendering process and become one of the unwanted ingredients in animal feed.
"The most environmentally conscious state in the nation is California, where spot checks and testing of animal-feed ingredients happen at the wobbly rate of once every two-and-a-half months. The supervising state agency is the Department of Agriculture's Feed and Fertilizer Division of Compliance. Its main objective is to test for truth in labeling: does the percentage of protein, phosphorous and calcium match the rendering plant's claims; do the percentages meet state requirements? However, testing for pesticides and other toxins in animal feeds is incomplete.
"In California, eight field inspectors regulate a rendering industry that feeds the animals that the state's 30 million people eat. When it comes to rendering plants, however, state and federal agencies have maintained a hands-off policy, allowing the industry to become largely self-regulating. An article in the February 1990 issue of Render, the industry's national magazine, suggests that the self-regulation of certain contamination problems is not working.
"One policing program that is already off to a shaky start is the Salmonella Education/Reduction Program, formed under the auspices of the National Renderers Association. The magazine states that ‘...unless US and Canadian renderers get their heads out of the ground and demonstrate that they are serious about reducing the incidence of salmonella contamination in their animal protein meals, they are going to be faced with...new and overly stringent government regulations.’
"So far, the voluntary self-testing program is not working. According to the magazine, only about 20 per cent of the total number of companies producing or blending animal protein meal have signed up for the program. Far fewer have done the actual testing.
"The American Journal of Veterinary Research conducted an investigation into the persistence of sodium pentobarbital in the carcasses of euthanized animals at a typical rendering plant in 1985 and found  virtually no degradation of the drug occurred during this conventional rendering process and that the potential of other chemical contaminants (e.g., heavy metals, pesticides and environmental toxicants, which may cause massive herd mortalities) to degrade during conventional rendering needs further evaluation.’
"Renderers are the silent partners in our food chain. But worried insiders are beginning to talk, and one word that continues to come up in conversation is ‘pesticides.’ The possibility of petrochemically poisoning our food has become a reality. Government agencies and the industry itself are allowing toxins to be inadvertently recycled from the streets and supermarket shelves into the food chain. As we break into a new decade of increasingly complex pollution problems, we must rethink our place in the environment. No longer hunters, we are becoming the victims of our technologically altered food chain.
"The possibility of petrochemically poisoning our food has become a reality."
That article is one of the most disgusting things we have ever read.
"In the U.S., plants process billions of pounds of protein from dead cows, sheep, pigs, chickens and other animals into animal feed each year.
Farmer Carter doesn’t mention this, but reporters Satchell and Hedges do: "Chicken manure often contains campylobacter and salmonella bacteria, which can cause disease in humans, as well as intestinal parasites, veterinary drug residues, and toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. These bacteria and toxins are passed on to the cattle and can be cycled to humans who eat beef contaminated by feces during slaughter."
If they’re not being fed on rendered by-products or chicken manure, according to the Satchell and Hedges article, "Animal-feed manufacturers and farmers also have begun using or trying out dehydrated food garbage, fats emptied from restaurant fryers and grease traps, cement-kiln dust, even newsprint and cardboard that are derived from plant cellulose. Researchers in addition have experimented with cattle and hog manure, and human sewage sludge. New feed additives are being introduced so fast, says Daniel McChesney, head of animal-feed safety for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, that the government cannot keep pace with new regulations to cover them."
Cattle and hog manure and human sewage sludge as possible foods for the animals eaten by human beings.
Words fail me.